CLOSE X
RSS Feed LinkedIn Instagram Twitter Facebook
Search:
FMG Law Blog Line

Archive for the ‘Employment Law Blog – GA’ Category

Did You Really Terminate That H-1B Employee?

Posted on: May 21st, 2019

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

U.S. Department of Labor Awards $43,366 Back Pay to Engineer.

In January, a Microfabrication Engineer, employed under the H-1B visa program by Minnesota-based TLC Precision Wafer Technology, Inc., was awarded $43,366.67 in back wages and interest after an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Wage and hour Division.

The employment began in October 2008 under the H-1B visa program. After a downturn in business, the company began experiencing financial difficulties. In a letter dated November 16, 2008, TLC notified the Engineer that he would be laid off effective immediately. However, TLC continued to employ the Engineer until January 2009, at which point he was advised by email that his hours would be reduced to part-time. The Engineer resigned his position in February 2010 and in the same month filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division alleging that the company had failed to pay him the required wage.

Department of Labor Regulations set the wage requirement employers must meet in employing H-1B workers. Employers must pay the H-1B employee the greater of the prevailing wage for the occupational classification or the amount they pay other employees with similar experience or qualification. The H-1B employee must be paid beginning on the date that they “enter into employment” with the employer. This condition occurs when the employee becomes “available for work or otherwise comes under the control of the employer, such as reporting for orientation or training.” H-1B employees must be paid the required wage even if they are not performing work and are in nonproductive or idle status.

In the instance case, the Administrative Law Judge found that TLC was obligated to pay the Engineer $43,000 per year starting in October 2008 until his departure in February 2010.

How can employers limit exposure?

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations address the employer’s obligations with regard to material changes to H-1B employment.

  1. Employer must notify USCIS immediately of any changes in the terms and conditions of employment which may affect eligibility under the H-1B regulations. This includes changes in position or duties, changes in job location, changes in any condition of employment such as going from full-time to part-time status.
  2. If the employer no longer employs the H-1B worker, the employer must send a letter to USCIS indicating the termination of employment. DOL considers such communication to USCIS to effectively terminate the employer’s wage obligation.

It is clear that DOL will look at the actions of the employer and communication with USCIS to determine whether the employer has abided by rules governing the employment of H-1B workers.  It is vitally important for employers to be familiar with the rules and timely communicate with USCIS when dealing with changes in employment status of foreign national employees.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws, you may contact Layli Eskandari Deal of the law firm of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

 

And The Saga Continues… EEO-1 Pay Data Likely Due September 30, 2019

Posted on: April 26th, 2019

By: Brad Adler and Brent Bean

As we have previously reported, in 2016, the EEOC adopted additional EEO-1 pay data collection requirements commanding employers to report employee wages and hours worked by race, ethnicity and sex. By way of background, companies with 100 or more employees, along with federal contractors who employ 50 or more employees, have long been required to submit to the EEOC annual Employer Information Reports, so-called EEO-1 reports. These reports disclose information concerning the number of employees a company employs broken down by job category, race, sex, and ethnicity. But with the additional pay data collection requirements, pay data also must be sorted by race, ethnicity and sex.

In August 2017, the Office of Management and Budget announced a stay of this pay data collection requirement, citing the burden imposed on businesses. In response, the National Women’s Law Center brought suit in the District Court for Washington, D.C., challenging the OMB’s basis for taking that action and seeking to reinstate the pay data collection.

On March 4, 2019, that court ruled that the EEOC must reinstate the pay and work hours reporting component of the EEO-1 Report. See National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33828 (D.D.C. Mar. 4, 2019). Since that ruling (which was a blow to employers and a surprise to everyone, including the EEOC), the EEOC and the plaintiffs have been battling with each other (and the Court) over the timeline for collection of this data.

The same District Court judge has now ruled that the EEO-1 pay data (sorted by race, ethnicity and sex) must be collected from covered employers by September 30, 2019.  The Commission advises that the portal will be open for pay data by July 15, 2019. As such, it is advisable that covered employers prepare now to submit 2018 pay data by September 30, 2019. Be advised, however, that reporting of customary EEO-1 data for 2018 is still due by May 31, 2019.

While there remains the option of an appeal of the District Court’s order, such an appeal may, or may not, have the effect of staying compliance with the order. As a result, we advise employers to start now in preparing for submission of the required pay data. In doing so, employers should work with outside counsel to identify any disparities that may draw increased scrutiny and to understand what legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons exist for their present pay practices.

FMG will keep you updated on activity by the Commission and its actions (and reactions) on this continuing saga.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Brad Adler at [email protected] or Brent Bean at [email protected].

FMG Client Headed to Supreme Court in Landmark Title VII Case to Resolve LGBT Employment Standards

Posted on: April 23rd, 2019

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review two federal circuit court decisions that reached differing conclusions as to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers sexual orientation. For approximately 40 years, the EEOC and the federal circuit courts have unanimously held that Title VII does not encompass sexual orientation. The EEOC changed its position in 2014 and determined that Title VII encompasses sexual orientation. The Seventh Circuit likewise reversed its position in 2017, and the Second Circuit changed its position in early 2018 and held in Zarda v. Altitude Express that Title VII encompasses sexual orientation. Later in 2018, the Eleventh Circuit re-affirmed circuit precedent and held in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supreme Court agreed to review Bostock and Zarda and consolidated the two cases.

Freeman Mathis and Gary, LLP represents Clayton County in Bostock and will argue that Title VII does not apply to a claim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In addition, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Sixth Circuit case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. That case raises the question of whether Title VII provides protection to transgender persons. That case is similar in some regard to the Bostock and Zarda cases, however, their distinctions are evident in that the Court did not consolidate the Harris case with Bostock and Zarda.

In granting certiorari in the Harris case, the Supreme Court may revisit a concept outlined in its 1989 decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which held that it was unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII to discriminate against employees because they do not conform to ideas of how a certain gender should behave.

These cases will be argued and decided sometime during the Court’s 2019-2020 term, which begins in October.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us at [email protected].

New Rule, Who Dis? DOL Proposes Changes to Joint Employment Regulations

Posted on: April 8th, 2019

By: Will Collins

On April 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced notice of proposed rulemaking, amending the DOL regulations addressing joint employers under the federal wage and hour law (i.e. the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)) and providing guidance and clarification long sought by employers.

The proposed changes announced last week mark the first revision to the DOL’s joint employment regulations since originally promulgated in 1958.

The proposed changes, which seek to address the situation where an employee works for his or her employer and that work simultaneously benefits another person or entity, offer a Four-Part Test to determine if an organization is a joint-employer by assessing whether that organization:

  1. Hires or fires the employee;
  2. Supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment;
  3. Determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
  4. Maintains the employee’s employment records.

The DOL’s proposed changes also makes clear that only actual actions taken, “rather than the theoretical ability to do so under a contract, are relevant to joint employer status.”

The proposed changes also clarify that certain business models (such as franchises), practices, and agreements do not make joint employment more likely.

Under the proposed changes, examples activities not indicative of joint employment include:

  • Providing a sample handbook or other forms as a part of a franchise agreement;
  • Allowing employer to operate a facility on its premises; or
  • Offering or participating in an association health or retirement plan.

And examples of agreements that do not indicate joint employment include contractual provisions requiring an employer to maintain:

  • workplace safety practices;
  • a wage floor;
  • sexual harassment policies; or
  • other measures to encourage compliance with the law or to promote desired business practice

Take Away

The proposed changes would provide welcome clarity for employers and, through its articulation of a Four-Part Test, examples of business models, practices, and agreements that do not indicate joint employment, and the list of illustrative hypotheticals addressing specific joint employment scenarios, the proposed changes would provide needed guidance and certainty to joint employment in the FLSA context.

Now subject to a 60-day public comment period, we will continue to monitor the DOL’s proposed changes to the joint employment regulations.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Will Collins at [email protected].

City of Cincinnati Joins Growing Number of States and Local Governments To Adopt Salary History Ban

Posted on: April 1st, 2019

By: Bill Buechner, Jr.

On March 13, 2019, the City of Cincinnati, Ohio adopted an ordinance prohibiting employers within the City of Cincinnati with 15 or more employees from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history (current or prior wage, benefits or other compensation) either on an application or during an interview. The ordinance also prohibits employers from relying on the salary history of an applicant in deciding whether to offer employment to an applicant or to determine the salary, benefits or other compensation for the applicant during the hiring process. The ordinance does not apply to any unit of local, state, or federal government except for the City of Cincinnati. The ordinance becomes effective in March 2020.

The City of Cincinnati’s adoption of its salary history ban is just the latest in an emerging trend of states and local governments prohibiting inquiries into the salary history of applicants. Since the beginning of 2019 alone, bans on inquiries into an applicant’s salary history have either been adopted or taken effect in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, the City of Atlanta and now the City of Cincinnati. A total of 11 states, Puerto Rico and 12 local governments have adopted some version of a ban on inquiries into an applicant’s salary history. Some bans apply only to city or state departments or agencies (New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, Kansas City and Pittsburgh), whereas other bans apply to public and private employers alike (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Albany County NY, Suffolk County NY and Westchester County NY). Some bans prohibit not only inquiries into salary history, but also reliance on any salary information inadvertently obtained (including information voluntarily provided by the applicant), whereas other bans only prohibit inquiries into salary history. Some bans have been adopted via statute, ordinance or resolution, whereas other bans have been adopted via an executive order. The purpose of these bans is to eliminate the cycle of pay discrimination on the basis of sex that may be perpetuated by employers’ reliance on an applicant’s salary history either in making hiring decisions or pay decisions for new hires.

Bucking the trend outlined above, Michigan and Wisconsin passed statutes that went into effect in 2018 prohibiting local governments from adopting salary history bans. Also, a federal judge issued an injunction in 2018 enjoining enforcement of Philadelphia’s ban on inquiries into the salary history of applicants on First Amendment grounds. That decision, however, upheld Philadelphia’s prohibition against employers relying on an applicant’s salary history information in making hiring and pay decisions.

Each salary history ban has its own nuances and exceptions. Accordingly, employers with operations in a jurisdiction that has adopted a salary history ban in some form should consult with their employment counsel concerning what conduct is prohibited and modify their application, interviewing, hiring and pay practices as needed. Employers with operations in multiple jurisdictions (some of which may have a salary history ban) should consider whether it is prudent to follow one set of rules in jurisdictions that have adopted a salary history ban and another set of rules in jurisdictions that have not, or whether it makes more sense to adopt a uniform practice throughout the organization not to inquire about or rely on an applicant’s salary history in making hiring and pay decisions.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Bill Buechner at [email protected].