January 2020 E-Update


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A New Year Means New Opinion Letters from the U.S. Department of Labor – Bonuses and Per-Project Payments

On January 7, 2020, just days into the new year, the U.S. Department of Labor issued two new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  These letters are official, written opinions by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division that respond to fact-specific scenarios posed by employers and employees alike, and represent the DOL’s official position on that particular issue. Other employers may then look to these opinion letters as general guidance.  For more, click here.

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Issues Decision Involving Joint Employer Standard

The issue of joint employer status is a particularly hot topic at this time and, in an opinion of particular interest to Maryland employers, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has weighed in on this issue in Uninsured Employers’ Fund v. Tyson Farms, Inc., in a manner that generally favors a joint employer finding.  For more, click here.

NLRB Offers Guidance on When Arbitration Agreements Interfere with Access to the Agency

This month, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) issued two decisions addressing whether arbitration agreements unlawfully restricted employees’ ability to file charges with the agency or access the agency’s processes. The Board reached different outcomes in the cases, providing further clarity as to provisions that unreasonably bar or restrict employee access to the Board.  For more, click here.


DOL’s Annual Penalty Increase. The Department of Labor has announced its annual penalty increases. Due to the passage of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, federal agencies must issue regulations annually to adjust for inflation the maximum civil penalties that they can impose.  For more, click here.

Government Contractor Update – Ban the Box, Proposed Rule on Discrimination Resolution Procedures. There were several recent developments of interest to government contractors, as follows.  For more, click here.

Interview Process May Not Have Been “Well-Considered” But Was Not Discriminatory. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit confirmed that variations in the interviewing process do not necessarily indicate discrimination.  For more, click here.

Staffing Company Can Assert Section 1981 Race Discrimination Claim Against Host Company. Many companies utilize staffing companies to provide temporary labor. In addition to concerns about whether they can be deemed a joint employer under Title VII for purposes of a race discrimination claim by a staffing company employee, host companies should be aware that they could also be sued by the staffing company for race discrimination under Section 1981. For more, click here.

Impact on Outside Job Does Not Make an Accommodation Unreasonable. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the employer offered a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious need, even though he argued the transfer offer was not reasonable.  For more, click here.

Major Changes to NJ Laws – Severance Pay Mandate and Worker Misclassification. New Jersey employers are facing expansive and onerous new laws.  For more, click here.

Reminder to DC Employers to Provide Paid Family Leave Notice. As the District of Columbia prepares for the start of paid family leave benefits in July 2020, employers must notify employees by February 1, 2020 of their rights to such benefits.  For more, click here.

TOP TIP: Coronavirus in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Employers

There has been much media attention to the coronavirus outbreak in China and its spread to other countries. At this point, there are only a few confirmed cases in the U.S., but that can be expected to rise. People are beginning to worry about exposure to the virus, including in the workplace. The question of interest to employers is what can they do with regard to protecting the workplace from coronavirus. For more, click here.