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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) EEOC Online Public Portal Goes Nationwide

Our top story this week: The EEOC launches a new nationwide EEOC Public Portal where individuals can inquire about discrimination online. Starting this month, individuals can submit inquiries and requests for intake interviews online. They can also digitally sign and file a charge prepared by the EEOC and engage with the agency as the charge progresses. The portal, which was piloted in five regional EEOC offices, aims to increase efficiency at the agency and make interaction easier for individuals. Yael Spiewak, an Associate from Epstein Becker Green, tells us what this could mean for employers:

“Individuals now can file their inquiries and set up interviews to get the ball rolling with their EEOC claims and charges online. What it means for employers is they could potentially expect to see an increase in inquiries, an increase in interviews, an increase ultimately in charges brought against them. We also expect due to the now tech savvy EEO approach that younger employees may find it easier and less of a hurdle to actually making those inquiries, setting up those interviews, and bringing charges against employers.”

Watch the extended interview here.

(2) House Members Propose Paid Sick Leave Preemption Law

Is a federal paid leave act on the horizon? Three Republican representatives have proposed a bill that would exempt employers from state and local paid sick and family leave laws if they meet minimum thresholds for paid leave and workplace flexibility. The bill would provide a solution for companies operating in multiple jurisdictions, who face the challenge of complying with a patchwork of leave laws. The proposal uses ERISA’s existing preemption mechanism to block state and local leave laws for those that opt in. The bill has a long road ahead, but if the bill is signed into law, it would be the first federal law to address paid leave.

(3)  DOL to Appeal Texas Ruling That Blocked Overtime Exemptions

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) may appeal a Texas ruling that blocked new overtime exemption thresholds. The DOL filed a notice of appeal with the Fifth Circuit, and announced that it will ask the Court to hold the appeal in abeyance while it undertakes more rulemaking on the issue. The federal judge who blocked the rule concluded that the DOL did not have the authority to make the white collar exemptions dependent on a minimum salary level. With this notice, the DOL is preserving its right to challenge this limit on its authority while it writes new regulations. If the motion to stay the litigation is granted, and the DOL publishes new regulations, it may ask the Fifth Circuit to declare the original ruling moot.

(4) New California Law Makes Contractors Jointly Liable for Their Subs’ Unpaid Wages

Beginning January 1, 2018, general contractors in California will be jointly liable if their subcontractor fails to pay wages due. Under the new law, general contractors’ liability will extend to unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and all other benefit payments or contributions. Direct contractors will have the right to request subcontractors' employee wage statements, payroll records, and project information, and may withhold as "disputed" all sums owed if a subcontractor fails to provide this information in a timely manner.

(5)  Tip of the Week

Gabrielle Lyse Brown, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the New York City Bar Association, discusses the role in-house counsel can play in increasing diversity:

“In house counsel play a critical role in increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. You can leverage the relationships with their partner firms to continue to implement the most efficient practices for diversity and inclusion. To build on our diversity benchmarking research, the city bar has collected extensive qualitative data and facilitated discussions to discover what some of these best strategies are. Among the most popular include conversations with law firms and clients to communicate goals, address blind spots and share better practices. We’ve outlined these and other practices in our 2016 diversity benchmarking report and will continue to work in the year ahead to encourage collaboration fostering these initiatives.”

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