NLRB greenlights company policy allowing searches of workers’ personal property on company premises and company devices and networks

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

It’s official: Illinois law presumes COVID-19 is a workplace injury for essential workers

Illinois officially has made it easier for certain workers who contract COVID-19 to claim it is an occupational disease for purposes of collecting workers’ compensation. On June 5, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law House Bill 2455, which amends the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/et seq.) with respect to such claims.

In April 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission passed an emergency rule creating this same rebuttable presumption, but quickly withdrew the rule after it was challenged in court.

This amendment (codified as Public Act 0633) creates a rebuttable presumption that the exposure to and contraction of COVID-19 by a “COVID-19 first responder or front-line worker” arises out of and in the course of the employee’s employment, and is causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employee’s employment. Continue Reading

California’s recent guidance for employers facing COVID-19 outbreaks

On June 16, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released guidance for employers responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace. An outbreak at a non-health care or congregate setting workplace is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period among employees who live in different households.

The guidance provides a road map for local public health departments (LHDs) and employers to use in understanding the steps that should be taken in response to an outbreak at work. In short, employers should be ready to report positive COVID-19 cases to the LHD and to collaborate with the LHD to coordinate a response to the outbreak.

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COVID-19 FAQs for New York employers

Since early May, New York State has published – across multiple platforms – a slew of materials related to business reopenings and workplace-related health and safety. We developed a FAQs based on some of the more common New York-specific questions that clients have posed to us since May. The FAQs touch on a host of issues, ranging from regional reopening status to employee screening requirements to the particulars of the State-required written health and safety plan.

Please note that this is not legal advice. To speak with a Reed Smith employment lawyer concerning any issue related to COVID-19, please contact us at rsCoronavirusEmploymentTeam@ReedSmith.com.

Are your sales employees exempt? DOL provides guidance in three new opinion letters

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.

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Update on everything you need to know about New York’s business reopening plan [Updated as of July 1]

As we previously detailed here and here, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently outlined guidelines for when Empire State businesses can reopen and return to “in-person” operations. Under the Governor’s plan, reopenings are being determined, first, on a region-by-region basis and then, once a region is eligible to reopen, on a phased industry-by-industry basis.

Since the Governor made his initial reopening announcement, the State has published a slew of materials to assist businesses as they reopen. To further assist businesses, we have created a central location – i.e., this post – from which these materials can be accessed. Following, therefore, are links to, and details regarding, these important materials: Continue Reading

Understanding the employment implications of the Supreme Court decision upholding DACA

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to continue operating. In so holding, the Court found the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not provide an adequate justification for terminating the DACA program and, thereby, violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).[1] But the Court’s decision does not resolve the matter entirely.

The Court did not rule on the legality of the DACA program itself. Instead, it merely repudiated the way DHS tried to rescind it. Although the Court held the DHS’s justification to terminate DACA was arbitrary and capricious, it recognized the DHS has the authority to rescind the program if it follows the required APA procedure. Thus, the DHS could try again to end the program by explaining more clearly its reasons for doing so.

Below, we answer two questions: (1) What is the status of the DACA program; and (2) What impact will the Court’s ruling have on DACA recipients and employers?

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Reminder to New York employers: the New York State Department of Labor will be enforcing COVID-19 regulations

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

Pursuit of pre-litigation liquidated damages no longer the DOL’s default policy

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

New York state further restricts eligibility for its paid quarantine leave

The Empire State recently announced strict measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19 by individuals returning to New York from states experiencing a spike in cases.  Specifically, on June 24 Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 205 (EO 205), which requires individuals returning to New York from a state that meets either of the following conditions to quarantine for a period of 14 days:

  • a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or
  • higher than a 10 percent test positivity rate over a seven day rolling average.

This new order comes in the wake of a recent upsurge in cases around the country and currently covers travelers returning from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas.  However, it is expected that this list will continue to grow, as more states see an uptick of new cases.  Any violation of a required quarantine may be deemed a violation of EO 205, resulting in a civil penalty of up to $10,000. Continue Reading

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