RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISION INTERPRETS ADEA TO COVER STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS OF ANY SIZE

On November 6, 2018, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, 2018 WL 5794639 (2018), and held that state and local governments of any size are covered under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.  Therefore, states and their political subdivisions are covered by the ADEA regardless of whether they have twenty employees. Read More »

BIOMETRIC HAZARDS FOR PENNSYLVANIA EMPLOYERS

As a result of numerous security issues in this day and age, employers are looking into new technological ways to counteract security risks. One such way is the use of various types of employee biometric data to confirm the identity of an individual before giving him access to the physical or intellectual property of the employer. The obvious advantages to employers are that this data is unique to the known/approved individual and may not be duplicated.  The mandatory use of such data, however, creates another, non-security-related legal issue for employers. Read More »

PEEKING INTO YOUR EMPLOYEES’ MEDICINE CABINETS

It’s natural that you do not want employees operating equipment or engaging in potentially hazardous work while they are under the influence of drugs or medications. While many employers with safety-sensitive jobs have a zero-tolerance policy and test for illegal drugs, you may be worried about the effect a legitimately-prescribed medication may have on an employee’s ability to work safely. Many commonly-prescribed medications can cause drowsiness or disorientation as a side effect. So, can you ask your employees if they are taking prescription medications or require your employees to notify you if they are? Read More »

CASES ADDRESSING EMPLOYEE PROTECTIONS UNDER MARIJUANA LAWS REMAIN INCONSISTENT

Over 30 states and the District of Columbia have legislation providing citizens access to marijuana. Some states have “de-criminalized” the substance while others have legalized it for medicinal or even recreational purposes.  No matter the form, these laws contradict the federal Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”) under which marijuana is categorized as an illegal controlled substance.  The conflict between states’ laws and federal law regarding marijuana presents a confusing crossroad for employers.  Read More »

OVERTIME CHANGES MAY COME TO PENNSYLVANIA

Employers likely recall the ill-fated federal overtime rule that was proposed during the Obama administration and was struck down last year. Even though the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime salary threshold never came to fruition at the federal level, Pennsylvania employers should be prepared for possible changes at the state level.  Read More »

THE THIRD CIRCUIT BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO HARRASSMENT CLAIMS

Employers defend harassment claims not involving a loss of tangible employment benefits (i.e., hiring/firing, promotion, reassignment, changes in benefits) with a two-prong defense.  First, they show that they exercised reasonable care to avoid such conduct and eliminate it if it occurs (an effective policy and prompt corrective action).  Second, employers show that the complaining employee failed to act with reasonable care to take advantage of the policy.  Employers are successful in obtaining summary judgments in such scenarios where the employee flounders on the second prong by either totally failing to use the policy or doing so belatedly – even as short as two to four months after the incident occurred.  Complaining employees try to keep their claims alive, often by claiming that their failure to promptly invoke the harassment policy was not unreasonable.  A generalized fear of retaliation, unsupported by specific evidence, has not carried the day for employees, and employers have successfully disposed of such cases on summary judgment. Read More »

NEW NLRB DECISION IMPACTS WHEN WEINGARTEN RIGHTS ARISE

A recent National Labor Relations Board decision – Circus Circus Casinos, Inc., 366 NLRB No. 110 (June 15, 2018) – has shed new light on what constitutes a unionized employee’s request for Weingarten assistance in an investigatory interview or disciplinary hearing.  According to the long-established precedent set forth in NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., an employee is entitled to assistance from a union representative when the employee reasonably believes that disciplinary action may result.  This right to a union representative arises “only in situations where the employee requests representation.”  Read More »

ARE YOU AFRAID OF WHAT LURKS IN THE DEEP WATER OF YOUR ERISA PLAN?

Fear of creatures that lurk in deep water is pretty universal – for confirmation, look no further than the numerous summer movies featuring unexpected attacks by fierce underwater predators with sharp teeth. Inevitably, none of the victims seem to have any tools that will actually save them.  One after another, their tools break, and their escape attempts fail pitifully.  Unfortunately, such movies give the impression that the only protection from these predators is staying out of the water altogether.  Read More »

REQUIRED READING: HARDSHIP DISTRIBUTION RULES HAVE CHANGED

Although 401(k) plans are intended to accumulate savings for participants’ retirement, the reality is that when unexpected expenses arise, participants may ask whether they can get a distribution from their 401(k) account. Federal tax rules permit a hardship distribution if (a) the participant experiences an “immediate and heavy financial need,” and (b) the distribution is no greater than the amount “necessary to satisfy the financial need.”  If a plan administrator permits a hardship distribution that does not fit within the hardship rules, the result is an operational error that must be corrected in accordance with IRS rules.  To avoid the time and expense involved with corrections, plan administrators should stay current with rules in this area.  In recent legislation, Congress has loosened restrictions on hardship distributions in some ways and tightened them in others.  Read More »