Employment Law This Week: U.S. Supreme Court Nominee, California’s Anti-Harassment Regulations, Oregon’s Minimum Wage, Whistleblower Legislation

Episode 19: Week of March 21, 2016

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Bonus Footage: An Extended Interview with Amy Messigian

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) Obama Announces His Supreme Court Nominee

Last week, President Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill Justice Scalia’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland is widely thought to be a centrist, but his reputation for deferring to agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) suggests that his decisions could favor employees if he is confirmed. See Member of the Firm Stuart Gerson's comments in SHRM.org.

(2) California Announces Broad New Anti-Harassment Regulations

Starting April 1st of this year, California employers will have to comply with regulations that impose more detailed requirements for workplace harassment and discrimination policies and training. The new regulations from the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Council require employers to develop written policies that explicitly prohibit harassment by third parties and list all protected categories under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers must also provide a mechanism for employees to complain about an issue without involving an immediate supervisor. When providing training on these issues, trainers must review the definition of “abusive conduct” used in the California code. Amy Messigian, from Epstein Becker Green, has more. 

(3) Oregon Enacts New Minimum Wage Requirements

Oregon is the latest of the many states and municipalities that have acted to raise the minimum wage. Oregon has enacted an unusual system with three distinct minimum wage rates. The highest tier covers the Portland Metropolitan Area, the lowest covers non-urban counties, and all other counties fall in the middle tier. The state has laid out a schedule for incremental increases of the wage each year. Starting July 1, 2016, the highest rate will be $9.75 an hour. This new system could prove complicated to implement for Oregon employers with locations in multiple counties. For more information, see our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

(4) Congress Attempts to Expand Whistleblower Protections

The Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Non-Retaliation (WARN) Act would expand protections for those who blow the whistle on financial crimes. The bill would also resolve a circuit court split on the definition of "whistleblower," expanding the scope of the term to specifically include employees who only report violations internally, without filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC). The WARN Act aims to broaden monetary incentives for whistleblowers and increase the scope of protected activities and prohibited retaliation. Whether or not this bill moves forward, we’re likely to see some movement soon on the circuit conflict it addresses, either by legislation or by the courts.

(5) In-House Tip of the Week

John Hamlin, Chief Employment Counsel for Marsh & McClennan Companies, offers advice on how to effectively manage a whistleblower to avoid retaliation claims.

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