Employment Law This Week®: The Year Ahead, New Labor Secretary, “Persuader Rule” Case, New York Salary Thresholds, Mental Health Discrimination

Episode 54: Week of January 10, 2017

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We invite you to view Employment Law This Week® - a weekly rundown of the latest news in the field, brought to you by Epstein Becker Green. We look at the latest trends, important court decisions, and new developments that could impact your work. Join us every Monday for a new five-minute episode! Read the firm's press release here and subscribe for updates.

This week’s stories include ...

(1) The Year Ahead: 2017

Welcome to 2017, where 19 states have new minimum wages and California alone has at least 10 new legal requirements that apply to most employers. Federally, public corporations must now disclose the ratio of CEO compensation to the “median compensation” of their employees.

(2) Trump Picks Fast-Food CEO for Labor Secretary

President-elect Donald J. Trump has nominated fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder as his Secretary of Labor. The Senate confirmation hearing is currently set to begin the week of January 16. Mr. Puzder has said that regional minimum wages “make sense” as opposed to federal minimum wage increases “that kill jobs.” He has also opposed the Department of Labor’s proposed expansion of overtime eligibility. David W. Garland, from Epstein Becker Green, has more on this nomination:

“The Secretary of Labor plays a very, very important role in setting the policy direction of the Department. We’ve seen that most recently when it comes to the administrator interpretation letters that Secretary Perez issues, both with regard to joint employment and the independent contractor versus employee classification. ... We can expect Secretary Puzder to be a strong voice in this administration, in changing those policies. ... And we’ll see him also getting involved on minimum wage, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to get involved in the debate, in the discussion, on what comes forward with the Affordable Care Act. He’s been a vocal critic of it; he’s experienced it firsthand as the CEO of restaurant chains, and he has passionate feelings about it. So I would expect that we would see some strong policy views come forward on that as well.”

Bonus: Watch the extended interview here.

(3) Persuader Case in Limbo Pending Trump Action

New leadership at Labor might spell the end of one Obama-era policy already in limbo—the so called “Persuader Rule.” A federal judge in Minnesota recently halted a case challenging the rule pending action by the Trump administration. The judge noted that it would be a waste of resources to proceed if the Trump administration plans to scrap the rule entirely—a likely scenario. The administration has until March 1 to inform the court of its plans. The controversial Persuader Rule would require both employers and consultants, including lawyers, to report activity in connection with labor union and other employment matters.

(4) New York Raises Salary Thresholds for Overtime Exemption

Another Department of Labor action currently in limbo is the new federal salary thresholds for the overtime exemption. But New York went ahead with its own increased thresholds, sealing the deal at the end of 2016. In New York City, the threshold is now $825 a week, or $42,950 annually, for an executive or administrative worker at a company with 11 or more employees. The salary thresholds will increase each year, topping out at $1,125 per week in New York City and in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties. For more on New York’s thresholds, click here: http://bit.ly/2iVTBHg

(5) EEOC Highlights Protections for Workers with Mental Health Conditions

The year 2017 will likely bring continued attention to mental health issues in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a document outlining the rights of employees with depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other mental health conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to EEOC Chair Jenny Yang, the agency’s work with disabled veterans uncovered a need for increased awareness around these issues. Mental health discrimination claims have increased in recent years—preliminary data shows that the agency resolved almost 5,000 of these charges in fiscal year 2016. For more on the EEOC’s guidance, click here: http://bit.ly/2iUWyWq

(6) Tip of the Week

Jonathan Fitzgarrald, Managing Partner of Equinox Strategy Partners, has some advice on the importance of building cross-generational teams:

For the first time in the history of our country, we have four generations in the workforce. Each of the generations have their own specific styles, preferences, incentives, and motivations. So, what can organizations do to leverage talent at all levels? The first thing they can do is to conduct a generational mapping of their workforce and of the clients and customers who they serve. ... You have to use a multi-level communication platform to connect with the generations. Each of them have different wants and wishes. So, for boomer professionals, make sure that as much of the communication as possible is in person or over the phone. Gen Xers like efficiency. If it’s more efficient to meet in person than it is to send a text message, then utilize that to your advantage. And finally, millennials love texting, as we all know, and video content. Again, the better you can customize your communication to each of the generational styles, the more productivity you will get out of them.”

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