In another victory for employers and a further retreat from Obama-era policy, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) recently ruled that employers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or the “Act”) by maintaining a policy that allows employers to monitor employees on the job by searching employees’ personal property on company premises and/or company networks and devices.

In a June 24, 2020 decision – Verizon Wireless, 369 NLRB No. 108 (2020) – the NLRB reversed an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) ruling that Verizon Wireless and its related entities’ (collectively, “Verizon”) policy permitting company searches of workers’ personal property violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act by infringing upon employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid or protection under Section 7 of the Act.  The Board also upheld the ALJ’s ruling that another portion of Verizon’s policy permitting company monitoring of company computers and devices did not violate the Act.
Continue Reading NLRB greenlights company policy allowing searches of workers’ personal property on company premises and company devices and networks

The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division recently issued three new opinion letters addressing the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) sales exemptions. Two letters address the outside sales exemption, and the third addresses the retail or service establishment exemption.

FLSA2020-6: Do salespeople who travel to different locations to sell their employers’ products using their employers’ mobile assets qualify for the outside sales exemption?

The first opinion letter, FLSA2020-6, addresses whether salespeople who use “stylized” trucks to travel to high-population areas and events to sell products fall within the outside sales exemption of the FLSA.

Ordinarily, a position will qualify for the exemption only if (a) the employee’s primary duty is “making sales” to or “obtaining orders or contracts for services” from customers; and (b) the employee is “customarily and regularly engaged” in performing duties “away from the employer’s place or places of business.”  29 C.F.R. sections 541.500(a), 541.501, 541.502. The exemption includes not only sales work itself, but also “work performed incidental to and in conjunction with the employee’s own outside sales or solicitations.” 29 C.F.R. section 541.500(b).

In FLSA2020-6, the DOL concluded that the employees satisfy both requirements and are therefore exempt.Continue Reading Are your sales employees exempt? DOL provides guidance in three new opinion letters

As we have reported, since March, New York State has implemented a variety of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect workers during the pandemic. These measures include essential business designations, limiting in-person work, paid leave for certain employees impacted by COVID-19, phased reopening of nonessential businesses, mandatory health and safety protocols, and requiring a business reopening safety plan. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) is charged with enforcing many of these measures with which all New York businesses have been and are required to comply.

With many regions now in “Phase Three” of the state’s reopening scheme, the NYSDOL will likely begin auditing employers and investigating complaints to ensure that businesses are complying with New York’s many COVID-19 regulations. For example, the NYSDOL may request from employers an explanation or documentation of the health and safety measures in place at their in-person places of business. In addition, the NYSDOL may inquire as to whether employees have contracted COVID-19 and, if so, what protocols businesses implemented as a result.
Continue Reading Reminder to New York employers: the New York State Department of Labor will be enforcing COVID-19 regulations

The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently announced it will no longer automatically pursue pre-litigation liquidated damages from employers.  WHD now takes the position that recovering pre-litigation liquidated damages should only occur in a limited number of cases and it will more selectively pursue such additional recoveries.

WHD issued this new guidance in response to Executive Order 13294.  Per WHD’s announcement, the policy shift represents an effort to help spur economic recovery.  The change also is intended to reduce the time needed to conclude Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) administrative cases to facilitate faster payment of back-wages to aggrieved employees.
Continue Reading Pursuit of pre-litigation liquidated damages no longer the DOL’s default policy

In an effort to delay litigation deadlines, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stopped issuing Right-to-Sue Letters amid the COVID-19 pandemic, unless specifically requested by an employee.  Although the EEOC has not publicly announced its new policy, it has confirmed this practice to several news outlets.

The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.  Workers who claim they have been subject to unlawful discrimination and wish to bring a claim under these federal laws must first file a charge with the Agency.  The EEOC can resolve the charge in a number of ways.  If the agency declines to bring a lawsuit itself, it issues the individual a “Notice of Right to Sue” (commonly called a “Right-to-Sue Letter”) allowing the employee to file the claim in court.  The EEOC’s issuance of a Right-to-Sue Letter starts a 90-day filing deadline for the employee to bring the lawsuit.  The EEOC’s new practice will keep this 90-day clock from starting.Continue Reading EEOC stops issuing right-to-sue letters in response to COVID-19, delaying litigation deadlines

On April 1, 2020, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that states have the option of using the National Guard to enforce stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. He compared having the National Guard deal with the coronavirus to its duties when a hurricane or another natural disaster strikes the country, saying the force would be used to curb the outbreak’s effects.

How does this affect employers? National Guard members (and National Disaster Medical System reservists) are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA, which applies to virtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size, and covers nearly all employees, including part-time and probationary employees, protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed services. Under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2002, certain disaster response work (and authorized training for such work) is considered “service in the uniformed services.” Uniformed service includes active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training (such as drills), initial active duty training, and funeral honors duty performed by National Guard and reserve members, as well as the period for which a person is absent from a position of employment for the purpose of an examination to determine fitness to perform any such duty.Continue Reading National Guard members are protected under USERRA – What employers need to know about employees in the National Guard

The California Supreme Court ruled on March 12, 2020 that an individual plaintiff’s settlement of their claims against an employer for purported wage and hour violations does not deprive that plaintiff of standing as an authorized representative in a Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA) action.

PAGA deputizes an employee to file a lawsuit for purported California Labor Code violations against their employer to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other similarly situated employees and the State of California. To pursue a PAGA action, the plaintiff must have standing as an “aggrieved employee.” PAGA defines an “aggrieved employee” as “any person who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.”

In Kim v. Reins International California, Inc., March 12, 2020, Case No. 5246911, Justin Kim, an employee of Reins International (Reins), brought a putative class action and PAGA representative action for Labor Code violations against his employer. While the case was pending, Reins moved to compel arbitration as to Kim’s individual claims and dismissed the class action claims based on the arbitration agreement. While the PAGA litigation remained in the trial court, the trial court stayed the action pending the arbitration of Kim’s individual claims. Kim ultimately settled his individual claims and dismissed them, leaving only the PAGA claim for resolution. Reins then moved for summary adjudication of the PAGA claim on the ground that Kim was no longer an aggrieved employee and his rights had been “completely redressed” by his own settlement and dismissal of his underlying claims. The trial court granted the dismissal and the Court of Appeals affirmed.Continue Reading California Supreme Court: Employees who settle their own wage and hour claims still have standing to pursue PAGA

While all employers are facing an unprecedented whirlwind of rapidly changing circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers with unionized workforces face additional challenges as they take action in response to the outbreak while trying to avoid running afoul of the requirements of their collective bargaining agreements and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Here are a few suggestions for employers to consider as they navigate this new landscape.
Continue Reading Responding to COVID-19 in a unionized workplace

On March 24, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to postpone the effective date of its final rule modifying the Agency’s regulation on union representative-case procedures, from April 16, 2020 to May 31, 2020, in order to facilitate the resolution of legal challenges.

The NLRB’s final rule, which rolled back some of the burdensome requirements of the “quickie election” rule issued under the Obama Administration, was published on December 13, 2019. Many employers argued that the original quickie election rule stripped them of the proper due process that they should have been afforded when served with a union representation petition. Further, employers complained that the rule inherently shortened the election campaign timeframe and impeded those employers that had hoped to give employees guidance about union representation, leaving such employees with substantially less time to consider important facts necessary for making a thoughtful choice during a union election.
Continue Reading NLRB extends effective date of its final rule modifying representation case procedures – Now effective May 31, 2020

On February 26, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued its final rule governing joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in the federal register. The final rule will undo a more relaxed Obama-era joint-employer test by reinstating the joint-employer standard that the Board followed for several decades prior to its 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. According to the Board, its ruling provides “greater precision, clarity, and detail that rulemaking allows,” as to what constitutes a joint employer.

The Browning-Ferris decision held that a company could be deemed a joint employer if “its control over the essential terms and conditions of another business’s employees was merely indirect, limited and routine, or contractually reserved but never exercised.” However, with its final rule, the Board will reinstate a pre-Browning-Ferris test which holds that a business is only a joint employer if it “has substantial direct and immediate control” of one or more essential terms or condition of a worker’s job such that the business “meaningfully affects matters” pertaining to the employment relationship. In its ruling, the NLRB defined those “essential terms and conditions of employment” as “wages, benefits, hours of work, hiring, discharge, discipline, supervision, and direction.” It also defined “substantial” direct control as actions that have “a regular or continuous consequential effect” on one of the eight core aspects of a worker’s job that the Board listed, while pointing out that any direct control that is “sporadic, isolated, or de minimus” is insufficient to warrant a finding of joint employment.Continue Reading The NLRB offers “clarity” on its joint-employer test by issuing its final rule