Monday, December 15, 2008

IRS Announces Mileage Rate For 2009

On Nov. 24, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that as of Jan. 1, 2009, the standard mileage rates for business miles driven will be 55 cents per mile.

The business mileage rate was 50.5 cents in the first half of 2008, and 58.5 cents in the second half, which was an adjustment based on rising gas prices.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle. However, the rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Under Labor Code section 2802, California employers need to utilize the IRS mileage rate to reimburse employees for miles driven for business purposes. If faced with a claim for failure to reimburse expenses, the burden would be on the employer to prove that its mileage reimbursement rate adequately covered all of the employee's actual costs of operating a vehicle for employment purposes.

Employers should review their mileage reimbursement policies to stay in compliance with the law.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2009 Federal Healthcare Regulations

According to a recent news release by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the U.S. Department of Labor has issued final rules under the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996. The new regulations, taking effect on December 19, 2008, apply to health insurance plans issued on or after January 1, 2009.

The rules were issued in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department. They apply to group health plans and health insurers, including businesses that are self-insured. The new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor regulate, among other things, the length of time mothers and newborn babies may stay in the hospital.

Under the “general rule”, employers can restrict the hospital stay after a cesarean to 96 hours – but cannot require that mothers leave the hospital sooner. The new federal regulations do not require that new mothers stay in the hospital that long. The regulations contain a long list of restrictions to ensure that an early discharge does not endanger the health of mother or infant. In particular, the insurance company cannot provide financial incentives to healthcare providers to require mothers leave the hospital earlier.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Arizona Minimum Wage Will Increase to $7.25 per hour Jan. 1, 2009

According to the Industrial Commission of Arizona, the minimum wage in Arizona will increase to $7.25 per hour from $6.90 per hour. The new wage will take effect in January 1, 2009.

In order to cooperate with Arizona’s Minimum Wage Initiative, the Industrial Commission is supposed to adjust the state’s minimum wage every year. According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 23-363(B), the minimum wage shall be increased on January 1, 2008 and 2009 as a result of the increasing of the cost of living.

The Consumer Price Index is a good mirror to reflect the cost of living, The increase in the cost of living shall be measured by the percentage increase as of August of the immediately preceding year over the level as of August of the previous year of the Consumer Price Index (All Urban Consumers, U.S. City, All Items) or its successor index as published by the Department of Labor or its successor agency, with the minimum wage increase rounded to the nearest five cents”.
Based on the increase of Department of labor’s Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers from 2007 to 2008, if the initiative requirement that all increase must be rounded to the nearest five cents, the new minimum wage if Arizona will be $7.25 per hour in 2009. It is expected that the minimum wage in 2009 of Arizona will continue to exceed the federal minimum wage through the first half of 2009.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Montana’s Minimum Wage to Increase to $6.90 in January 2009

Effective January 1, 2009, the Montana minimum wage will increase by 35 cents, from $6.55 to $6.90 per hour.

Montana law requires an adjustment to the state minimum wage to be calculated no later than September 30 of each year, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous 12 months. This amount is to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

The current 2008 minimum wage rate is $6.55 per hour and the CPI increased 5.4 percent from August 2007 to August 2008. So the minimum wage will increase by 35 cents, to $6.90.

“This gives those Montanans who are struggling to keep up with higher energy and food prices some much needed help, “says Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly.
According to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, more than 70 percent of the state voters supported raising Montana's minimum wage when they voted in favor of Initiative 151 that appeared on the ballot in 2006. The state's minimum wage will be the greater of either the current state or federal minimum wage. So on July 24, 2009, when the federal minimum wage increase to $7.25 per hour, which will be higher than state minimum wage $6.90 at that time, the Montana state minimum wage will increase again to $7.25 per hour.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New Federal Poster Available Online

The Department of Labor recently published a new “Workplace Poster Requirements for Small Businesses and Other Employer” poster. All the workplaces covered by Title VII or Executive Order 11246 are required to display the poster. The new poster changed the previous one slightly not dramatically. The purpose of the revision is for better clarifying employee rights and providing more specific definitions.

As for the specific time to display the updated poster, the Department of Labor has not given any official response. The Department provides electronic copies of the required posters and some of the posters are available in languages other than English.

Now the new poster is available at

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Employee Free Choice Act

In this election year, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as the Card Check bill, has been discussed in terms of its effect on worker secret ballots. The focus of this bill is to make it easier to remove obstacles to union organizing. EFCA is supported by many Democrats in Congress and President-Elect Obama. It is very likely the bill will become law early in 2009. In that case, the bill would become the most significant modification to federal labor law in the past forty years.

The first feature of the EFCA is that it seeks to eliminate an employer’s right to a secret ballot election before asking the employer to accept unionization of its workplace. Once the employers are presented with authorization cards signed by a majority of its employees, the act would require them to recognize a union.

The second important feature of the EFCA is that it allows either the employers or the employees to request mediation if they cannot reach an agreement on initial collective bargaining.

Last but not least, the EFCA would for the first time create substantial penalties for labor violations. These would apply during any period when unions are attempting to organize and during negotiations of a first contract.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

FMLA Final Rules Issued

On November 17, 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued the new final regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to replace the original 15-year-old one. The new regulations will take effect on January 16, 2009, and will require every employer to display a new version of the FMLA poster.

With regard to military leave, the new FMLA rule include:
Military Caregiver Leave: The new rule expands FMLA protections for family members caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty. These family members may take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

Leave for Qualifying Exigencies for Families of National Guard and Reserves: Under the new rule, employees with a covered family member on active duty may also take up to 12 weeks of FMLA job-protected leave for a “qualifying exigency”, which include short-notice deployments, military events and related activities, childcare and school activities, financial and legal arrangements, counseling, rest and recuperation, post-deployment activities and additional activities where the employer and employee agree to the leave

Other changes include:
The Ragsdale Decision/Penalties: The new rule removes the so-called "categorical" penalty (requiring an employer to provide 12 additional weeks of FMLA-protected leave after the employee has already taken 30 weeks of leave) and holds employers liable if an employee suffers individual harm because the employer did not follow the FMLA rules.

Waiver of Rights: The new rules state that employees may settle their FMLA claims out of court with the employer, even without departmental approval. However, prospective waivers of FMLA rights are still illegal.

Serious Health Condition: The new rules also provide guidance on the definition of "serious health condition." They clarify that if an employee is taking leave that contains more than three calendar days of incapacity plus two visits to a health care provider, the two visits must occur within 30 days of the start of the incapacity and the first visit must take place within 7 days of the first day of incapacity. In addition, according to the new rules, employees with chronic serious health conditions must visit a healthcare provider at least twice per year.

Light Duty: In at least two court cases, judges have ruled that an employee can use up his or her 12-week FMLA leave while on a "light duty" assignment. But under the new rules, time spent in "light duty" work can’t be counted toward any portion of the 12 weeks of FMLA, and if an employee is voluntarily doing light duty work, he or she is not on FMLA leave.

Perfect Attendance Awards: Under the new rules, an employer can deny perfect attendance awards to employees who take FMLA leave. But if employees on other types of leave get the perfect attendance awards, the awards must also be paid to those on FMLA leave.

Employer Notice Obligations: All employer notice requirements have been clarified in a "one-stop" section in the new regulations in order to clear up some conflicting provisions and time periods.

Employee Notice: Under the previous regulations, employees were allowed to notify their employers of their need for FMLA leave up to two business days afterwards, while under the new rules, employees must follow the employers’ usual and customary call-in procedures, unless there are unusual circumstances.

Medical Certification Process (Content and Clarification): The new rules add a requirement to make clear the group of persons who may have contact with an employee’s healthcare provider on behalf of the employer to obtain medical certifications, and an employee's direct supervisor is forbidden to have such contact.

According to Victoria A. Lipnic, Assistant Secretary for the Employment Standards Administration, these changes have been carefully weighed. “This common sense, balanced rule is the product of a two year-long transparent process involving about 20,000 public comments and reflects the careful consideration of the views of FMLA stakeholders,” said Victoria Lipnic.

The new FMLA rules will help both employees and employers better understand their rights and responsibilities. At the same time, they will speed the implementation of a new law that expands FMLA coverage for military family members.
As an employer, you will be required to post a new federal Family and Medical Leave poster and modify your current FMLA policies to stay in compliance with the new regulations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ohio minimum wage to increase to $7.30 in 2009

The minimum wage in Ohio will increase on January 1, 2009, from $7 per hour to $7.30 per hour for non-tipped employees and from $3.50 per hour to $3.65 per hour for tipped employees. The increase was announced by the Ohio Department of Commerce and will apply to employers who gross more than $267,000 per year.

The state minimum wage for employees in smaller companies (grossing less than $255,000 per year or less than $267,000 after January 1, 2009) and for 14- and 15-year-old is currently $6.55 per hour and will increase to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.
Passed by voters in November 2006, the constitutional amendment states that minimum wage in Ohio shall increase on January 1 of each year by the rate of inflation. The increase is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for urban wage earners and clerical workers for the 12-month period prior to September. From September 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008, the CPI rose 4.6 percent.

Pregnancy Discrimination Compliance Materials

According to the EEOC, pregnancy discrimination complaints increased by 65% between 1992 and this year. Part of that increase, but not all of it, may be due to an increase in the number of women with infants who work. In some areas, pregnancy discrimination complaints increased 50% between 1995 and 2006.

Companies avoid becoming the target of pregnancy discrimination claims by properly training supervisors, having strong HR policies, and using an FMLA Administrator Kit. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of serious health conditions, including pregnancy.

In addition, employers cannot discriminate against pregnant employees according to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The employer cannot set mandatory leave periods, and employees with pregnancy disability have to be treated the same as employees on other types of medical leave.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Connecticut Minimum Wage to Increase to $8.00 on January 1, 2009

The state of Connecticut will increase its minimum wage to $8.00 effective January 1, 2009, and to $8.25 effective January 1, 2010.

On June 23, 2008, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to override Governor M. Jodi Rell's veto of legislation that will increase the state's minimum wage from $7.65 to $8.00 effective January 1, 2009, and to $8.25 effective January 1, 2010.

In addition, the General Assembly also voted to override the governor's veto of a companion bill (S.B. 55) which will increase the minimum wage tip credit for bartenders and wait staff. S.B. 55 will allow hotels and restaurants to pay service employees who regularly receive tips less than minimum wage, as long as tips make up the difference.

Governor Rell said: “It is not a minimum wage increase that will support our families—it is a thriving economy, accomplished through a business-friendly environment with successful employers and reasonably priced consumer goods and services.” Connecticut's current minimum wage of $7.65 per hour is higher than the federal minimum of $6.55 per hour. Governor Rell signed the last increase in the minimum wage two years ago.

Vermont Minimum Wage to Increase to $8.06 on January 1, 2009

The state of Vermont will increase its minimum wage to $8.06 per hour effective January 1, 2009. The service or tipped employee basic wage will also increase to $3.91 per hour. The state minimum wage is subject to cost-of-living adjustments each year based on the CPI.

Governor James H. Douglas announced recently that, according to Title 21 of the Vermont Statutes, the state of Vermont will increase the minimum wage to $8.06 per hour effective January 1, 2009.

The law requires an adjustment to the minimum wage be calculated each year based on the change in the federal Consumer Price Index, US city average, not seasonally adjusted, for the 12 months ending in August, and cannot increase more than five percent per year. The 5.4% increase in the CPI-U will result in an increase of at most five percent, or $0.38, for 2009.

Workplace Injuries Reduce in 2007

On October 23, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report indicating that private industry employers have succeeded in reducing workplace injuries in 2007.

According to the BLS, approximately 4 million work-related injuries and illness occurred in 2007, a rate of 4.2 nonfatal injuries for each 100 full-time employees. Compared with 4.1 million cases altogether and 4.4 cases per 100 employees in 2006, that is a reduction of 4.5%. This is the fifth consecutive year that the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses declined.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., said, “The injury and illness results demonstrate that OSHA’s balanced approach to workplace safety encompassing education, training, information sharing, inspection, regulation and aggressive enforcement is achieving significant reductions in workplace injury and illness throughout the country. This report shows that employees are now safer in the workplace than ever before. This success validates our efforts, and we are redoubling this commitment to make workplaces even safer.”

“The 21 percent decline in the workplace injury and illness rate over the past 6 years, and the 4.5 percent decline over the past year, show the effectiveness of the strategy of targeted enforcement coupled with prevention through compliance assistance to promote a culture of safety at the workplace,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
Safety figures for 2008 will not be released until November 2009.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Employment situation Summary

According to the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 240.000.The unemployment rate rose to 6.5 in October from 6.1 of September. The number of jobless persons went up to 10.1million, increasing 603.00.

In the last 12 months, the number of unemployment persons has increased by 2.8 million.

Among the unemployment increasing rate, the adult men account for 6.3 percent, which was ranking number one. Secondary to adult men, adult women is 5.3 percent. The unemployment rate for whites increased 5.9 percent while Hispanics rose 8.8 percent.

In October, the number of long-term unemployment is 2.3 million, increased by 249.000. Among the total unemployment, the number of long-term unemployment is 22.3 percent.

In this month, the number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons rose to 6.7 million. The persons who would like to work full time but were not given the chance are included in this category.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Florida Minimum Wage to Increase to $7.21 in 2009

The state of Florida will increase its minimum wage from $6.79 per hour to $7.21 per hour effective January 1, 2009, according to a recent announcement from Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation ("AWI").

On November 2, 2004, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment which created the state’s minimum wage; it applies to all employees in the state who are covered by the federal minimum wage. Florida law requires the Agency for Workforce Innovation to calculate a new minimum wage each year based on the Consumer Price Index, and publish the new minimum wage on January 1.

Florida employers should note that federal law requires businesses to pay the higher of either the federal minimum wage or the Florida minimum wage. The Florida minimum wage will be higher than the federal minimum wage until July 24, 2009, when the federal standard will increase to $7.25.

Holiday Shutdowns and Exempt Employees

Many employers are considering giving workers additional unpaid time off during the holidays because of the current economic crisis. The day after Thanksgiving and/or the day after Christmas are in many cases now being included as holidays. Some employers are considering giving employers an entire week between Christmas and New Years.

There are two kinds of employees who are not required to be paid during these holiday closures. One kind is hourly employees, and the other is non-exempt salaried employees.

However, the regulations regarding paying salaried exempt employees are more complex. According to Angela Stone of the SHRM, “if an exempt employee works any portion of a workweek, he or she must be paid for days in which they are ready, willing and able to work.” Stone also indicates that a deduction cannot be made for time when no work is available.

In California, the regulations regarding holiday shutdowns require that employers give notice to employees at least 90 days in advance if they will be required to use vacation or personal time for such closures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DOLE Plan for Workers Who May Lost Job

The department of labor and Employment (DOLE) said they had made a contingency plan for helping the local and overseas Filipino workers who may lose jobs due to the global financial crisis.

According to Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque, the plan made a set of interventions for workers who may be fired due to the current international economic crisis. However, it is not to say that the crisis has already caused a massive displacement of workers.

Once the displacement occurs, the DOLE would immediately implement its contingency plan for affected local workers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The interventions consist mainly of helping affected OFWs find employment in other overseas destinations or set up livelihood or business enterprises for those who no longer want to work abroad, and the fund from the livelihood program shall be set aside for assistance to displaced OFWs, according to Sec. Roque..

The DOLE is trying their best to open new employment opportunities for OFWs in other courtiers to offset job losses in the labor markets that could be hit adversely by the financial crisis.

Registered Apprenticeship Programs Revised

The National Apprenticeship System provides millions of American workers with rigorous, industry-driven job training and high-wage employment in the nation’s most competitive industries.

On October 29, 2008, the Labor Department announced that it has revised regulations to update labor standards for the nation's Registered Apprenticeship programs.

In order to keep pace with changes related to 21st century employment opportunities, the revised regulations take the workforce demands of new and emerging industries into consideration, and create more flexibility for apprentices and employers, providing them with increased choices to meet the needs of industries which have traditionally used Registered Apprenticeship programs.

The most significant change to the regulations is the creation of multiple training approaches that increase flexibility for employers to select which path best serves an apprentice’s or employer’s needs.
“These regulations have been revised for the first time since 1977 to advance Registered Apprenticeship’s strengths in developing a skilled, competitive workforce for the 21st century global economy,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Brent R. Orrell. “The changes we are instituting through these new rules will create more options for employers, and position Registered Apprenticeship to engage today’s growing industries, while ensuring the safety of apprentices and the quality of programs.”

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New Mental Health Parity Bill

President George W. Bush recently signed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. This bill also included an important provision concerning employee health benefits.

In this law, insurance carriers are required to provide equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses. Workers will receive benefits for treatment of depression, phobias, grief, drug dependence and other mental health issues. Treatment for mental illness was often previously limited to $2,000 per year, while some group health insurance plans covered physical illness up to $200,000 per year. This law makes that disparity illegal.

The law ensures that American workers continue to receive insurance coverage for mental health treatments under their group health insurance. A similar law in effect for the previous 12 years was scheduled to expire on January 1, 2010.

The bill passed the House on October 3 with a vote of 263 to 171. This measure is expected to cover up to one third of all workers in the U.S.

The law will be effective on January 1, 2010. The previous law would have expired before that day. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees are exempt.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

No Texting While Driving in California

On September 24, 2008, California Governor Schwarzenegger signed bill S.B. 28 into law, banning drivers from reading, writing or sending a text message while driving in a vehicle beginning January 1, 2009.

The bill would impose a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for any subsequent violation, but no violation point will be assigned to the driver’s license.

As he signed the bill, Schwarzenegger said, “Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians…Building on legislation already helping save lives in California, I am happy to sign this bill because it further encourages safe and responsible driving.”

Since July, drivers in California have been prohibited from using handheld wireless telephones while driving, unless the devices are configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and drivers under age 18 are not allowed to use any electronic devices.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

San Francisco’s Minimum Wage To Increase To $9.79 Per Hour

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement announced on 17th, Oct that the City’s minimum wage would increase by 43 cents, from $9.36 per hour to $9.79 per hour effective January 1, 2009.

The Minimum Wage Ordinance, passed by San Francisco voters in November 2003, calls for annual rate adjustments based on the previous year’s Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area.

According to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's office, the city will update multilingual posters to announce the new rates and mail the posters to 90,000 registered businesses and employers are required to post the notice in their workplace
The current national minimum wage is $6.55 per hour, while the California State minimum wage is currently $8.00 per hour.

New York Nursing Mothers Act

The New York Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act was passed in 2007. The act requires employers to provide reasonable unpaid break time for a working mother to express milk and permit mothers to use paid break time to express milk. The employer must provide mothers with a private area near the workplace. According to the law, bathrooms and storage areas are not suitable for mothers.

Mothers are covered under the law during the first three years of their infant’s life. “We recognize the tremendous health benefits that breastfed infants enjoy and how important it is to increase the number of infants that are breastfed. Breastfed infants are at reduced risk for asthma, obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses throughout their lifetimes. The evidence is clear that being breastfed is important to the lifelong health of infants, and we want to encourage new mothers to continue to breastfeed after they return to work,” said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D.

“Under the labor law, all nursing mothers in New York state have the right to express breast milk in the workplace, and it is the responsibility of every employer to make sure that their employees know their rights under the law,” said state Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith.

Illinois, Colorado and several other states have also passed laws to protect the rights of working mothers who are breastfeeding.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Missouri Minimum Wage Incease to $7.05 in 2009

The state of Missouri will increase its minimum wage from $ 6.55 per hour to $7.05 per hour, effective January 1, 2009. This increase is larger than in previous years due to the high rate of inflation for last year.

Last year’s increase was just 15 cents per hour, according to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. According to Todd Smith, Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) Director, “In August, the Department released preliminary data projecting an increase to Missouri’ s minimum wage by 40 cents. A review of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for July 2008 confirms the Missouri minimum wage rate will increase to $7.05 effective January 1, 2009.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the CPI, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, as the basis for calculating the new rate. Under Missouri state statute, Section 290.502.2, the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations must adjust the minimum wage of the state according to the change in the cost of living.

The state of Missouri is one of the few states that allows the minimum wage to go down in accordance with the cost of living.

Employers should note, however, that businesses with annual earnings of less than $500,000, including retail and service businesses, are exempt from the Missouri state minimum wage law.

Workplace Injury and Illness Summary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released statistics on nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private employers for 2007. The statistical data shows that the number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illness declined to 4 million cases, compared to 4.1 million cases in 2006. The total recorded case injury and illness incidence rate among private industry employers has declined significantly—by 0.2 cases per 100 workers—each year since 2003.

One out of two of the 4 million injury and illness cases reported nationwide in 2007 were of a serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer, or restriction. These cases occurred at a rate of 2.1 per 100 workers, a slight decline compared with 2.3 cases in 2006.

The overall decline was driven mainly by declines among all goods-producing industry sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining. Goods-producing industries as a whole were responsible for more than 60 percent of the decline in illnesses reported among private industry workplaces and accounted for about 41 percent of all occupational illness cases and in 2007.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

U.S. Labor Department help workers impacted by the economic depression

The U.S. Department of Labor announced offering a number of resources to assist the workers influenced by the recent economic stagnation of the worldwide economy by participating in a one-stop Web tool.

The one-stop web site make it easier for the workers to get the Department of Labor resources. Useful information is available including benefits, eligibility, locations of operating One-Stop Career Centers and career service centers, unemployment insurance information by state."We want to make information easily accessible and quickly available to American workers affected by the economic downturn," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao."

A toll-free phone number 866-4-USA-DOL(487-2365) is available for the workers getting the latest information on where to file a claim and access temporary job.

New Law Expands Definition of Disability

On September 25, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (the “Act”), expanding protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA").

The Act, which is effective January 1, 2009, expands the scope of disabilities covered under the ADA.

The Act overturns two Supreme Court decisions that had narrowly construed the definition of “disability” under the ADA, and greatly expands the scope of covered disabilities.

Prior to its amendment, the ADA defined a “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. But the United States Supreme Court held that workers with disabilities who can mitigate their impairment should not be considered disabled. Thus, individuals who are able to control their condition with medication do not qualify as “disabled” and are not protected under the ADA.
The Act was designed to “restore the intent and protections” of the original measure, and overturns the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the impact of corrective measures. As a result of the amendments, many employees who were not previously protected under the ADA may now be considered as disabilities.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Updated eTool for Healthcare Industry Helps Employees Avoid Injuries

Employers and employees in the healthcare industry can benefit from the new sonography and updated surgical modules featured in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hospital eTool.

OSHA's eTools are stand-alone, Web-based training tools on occupational safety and health topics. OSHA enlarges these eTool modules to include the following Alliance Program participants: Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Association of Occupational Health Professionals, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Laser Institute of America, American Biological Safety Association, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, and the Joint Commission and Joint Commission Resources.

Employees are in face of many occupational safety and health hazards while working in a hospital. OSHA originally developed the Hospital eTool with modules describing common hazards and possible solutions for tasks performed in administration, central supply, clinical services, dietary, emergency, engineering, heliport operations, housekeeping, laboratories, laundry, pharmacy, the intensive care unit and the surgical suite.

The sonography module provides guidance on how sonographers can reduce their risk of musculoskeletal disorders. The surgical module now features updated information on bloodborne pathogens, waste anesthetic gases, laser safety, and other topics related to workplace safety and health in surgical suites.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CA Increases Effort to Address Illegal Operations in Small Business

As part of an ongoing effort to address illegal operations in the underground economy, officials with the State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Labor Commissioner's Office) carried out a three-day August enforcement sweep by visiting 97 carwashes in Northern California.

Fifty-four of the carwash businesses were issued citations resulting in fines totaling more than $521,000, and thirty of them received work-stop notices until they can provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees and comply with labor laws, including:
l Providing work permits for minors
l Providing employees with an itemize wage deduction statement
l Paying overtime wages
l Paying the annual registration with the commissioner’s office
l Providing workers’ compensation coverage

“Our efforts are directed at illegally operating carwash businesses as part of the underground economy,” said California Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet. “These illegal operations have a negative impact on our state’s economy, do not provide the protection workers are legally afforded, and have an unfair advantage over competitors who do follow the law.”

A similar action in July investigated 72 businesses, netted 47 violations, and fined 28 of them, totaling $356,200 in fines to car washes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

This action suggests that the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement may target other small businesses in the near future, in an effort to uncover unlicensed, illegal businesses in other industries.

“We will continue to strengthen our efforts in addressing these types of violations that are typically associated with the underground economy,” added Bradstreet.

Monday, September 22, 2008

OSHA sets public hearing on personal protective equipment and employee training requirements

In order to receive comments on its proposal aiming to clarify the remedies avaiable for violations of its personal protective equipment (PPE) and employee training requirements, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will hold a public hearing on October 6 and 7 at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Frances Perkins Building of Washington, D.C.

PPE and training standards impose a separate compliance duty to each employee covered by the PPE or training requirements

An employer who violates one of these provisions commits a separate violation. In this proposal, OSHA seeks to amend its PPE and training standards to clarify the nature of the employer’s obligation to each employee. The proposal also aim at conforming with the language that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has approved as the basis for per-employee citations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mandatory Commuter Benefits in San Francisco

Late last month, San Francisco supervisors passed a new ordinance that requires employers to make mass transit part of an employee's benefits package. Commuters who take the bus, train, ferry, or vanpool to work could be saving up to 40 percent on their commuting expenses.

The new law is called the "commuter benefits ordinance," which requires all employers with 20 or more employees to provide commuter benefits to encourage their employees to use public transit or vanpools.

A covered employee is an employee who performed an average of at least 10 hours of work per week for the same employer within the previous calendar month, and qualifies as an employee entitled to payment of a minimum wage from the employer under the California minimum wage law, or is a participant in a Welfare-to-Work program.

Covered employers must do one of the following three things:
1. Allow employees to pay for mass transit on a pre-tax basis, up to the maximum level allowed by federal law (currently $115);
2. Pay for employees' transportation to and from work;
3. Provide transportation at no cost to employees in a vanpool or bus, or similar multi-passenger vehicle.

Commuter benefits encourage people to use transit and vanpools to get to work. This helps to relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.

The law will become effective in December 2008. Thousands of employers in San Francisco and across the country are already offering commuter benefits, covering approximately 30,000 employees.

Drug-Free Work Week for This Year

Recently the U.S. Department of Labor announced that this year's national Drug-Free Work Week would take place Oct. 20 through 26.

Drug-Free Work Week, a time to reinforce the importance of working drug free in positive and proactive ways, is a dedicated time each year to highlight the benefits that drug-free workplace programs bring to employers, workers and communities. It is also a time to work toward making every week a drug-free workweek.

Now in its third year, the annual campaign is a collaborative effort organized by the Department of Labor, members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance and other public and private sector groups dedicated to safe and healthy workplaces. All employers and employees are encouraged to participate in recognizing Drug-Free Work Week.
Drug-Free Work Week can help prevent accidents and make workplaces safer, improve productivity and reduce costs, and encourage people with alcohol and drug problems to seek help.

"Drug-Free Work Week is a good time to remind employers and employees that reducing workplace substance abuse is a crucial part of keeping workers safe," said Elena Carr, drug policy coordinator at the Department of Labor. "Of course, in a safe and healthful workplace, every week should be drug free."

National Job Losses Hit 5-Year High

The national unemployment rate hit a 5-year high of 6.1 percent in August, up from 5.7 percent in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Sep. 5. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers classified as unemployed rose by 592,000 to 9.4 million in August, over two million more than a year ago.

Although some hiring was reported in government, education and healthcare, those gains were eclipsed by losses in: manufacturing and employment services, which cut 53,000 jobs; retail, which cut 20,000 jobs; construction, which cut 8000 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, which cut 4000 jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed – those jobless for 27 weeks or more -- rose by 163,000 to 1.8 million, an increase of 589,000 over the past 12 months. The newly unemployed -- those who were jobless fewer than 5 weeks -- rose by 400,000 in August.

"Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 2.2 million and the unemployment rate has risen by 1.4 percentage points, with most of the increase occurring over the past four months," the BLS report said.

"This thing is just lingering. It's almost like a storm that comes ashore and just kind of sits there," said Ken Goldstein, an economist with the Conference Board, a New York-based group that publishes indices of consumer sentiment. "We've seen declines every month, all year long, right through August. But the declines have started to intensify, and that will continue through the end of the year, very likely into the first months of 2009."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska Worker Safety—Cranes in the Workplace

A number of serious crane accidents in New York and across the country have prompted a review of crane safety in many states. As a result, the Alaska state Labor Commission has been focusing recently on safety regulations regarding the use of cranes in the workplace.

“These crane accidents illustrate the importance of crane and jobsite safety. In Alaska, we have not had a crane-related fatality for several years and I intend to keep it that way with a proactive safety effort,” the Alaska Labor Commissioner Click Bishop says. “We ask all employers who use cranes to review crane lifting and safety policies, check cranes for mechanical integrity, and ensure crane operators are qualified and use the appropriate safety procedures.”

This means that more safety inspections, including stronger enforcement of existing regulations and penalties for any violations, will be added to the regulations.

Alaska Occupational Safety and Health regulations require that employers must give employees who operate cranes appropriate training, and make sure the crane operators are physically capable of the task.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Employers Comment On Proposed 401k Regulations

The US Department of Labor recently announced stricter rules for employers to follow in informing workers of various options. These regulations will become final on January 1, 2009. The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2008.

The new regulations are mainly about reporting of fees, expenses and investment options for 401k and other savings-based retirement plans. The plans currently cover more than 65 million employees.

Employers can comment on the new regulations regarding 401k and other retirement savings plans. They can send their comments by email to the US Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Room N-5655, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20210, Attention: Participant Fee Disclosure Project.

“Our proposal is consistent with public consensus that workers need clear and concise information, not dozens of pages of ‘legalese,’ about the investment options available under their plans, and that they would benefit greatly from having that information in a comparative format,” said US Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “One of the department’s top priorities is improved disclosure to workers that will give them the information they need to make informed investment decisions.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Florida Gets DOL Emergency Grant

On Aug 25, 2008, The U.S. Department of Labor announced a $20 million grant to the state of Florida to create temporary jobs in the wake of Tropical Storm Fay.

On August 21, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared all 67 Florida counties as eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

“This $20 million grant will provide Floridians with temporary jobs assisting in disaster relief and clean-up efforts to help communities recover from the record amounts of rain that fell as a result of Tropical Storm Fay,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

It will provide approximately 6,500 temporary jobs for cleanup and recovery efforts on public property and humanitarian aid. The Department of Labor made $8 million available immediately to the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation, and additional funds up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for disaster assistance.

The grant also will support disaster recovery centers that provide food, clothing, shelter and other types of humanitarian assistance. Two centers have been opened in Brevard County, and others will be added as needed throughout the state.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

U.S. Department of Labor Announces $3.5 Million Grants to Illinois

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that a $3,500,000 grant will be sent to the state of Illinois to create about 200 temporary jobs to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts because of recent storms and flooding.

"This $3.5 million grant will boost cleanup and recovery efforts in Illinois and provide funds for humanitarian assistance for residents who have suffered storm and flooding damage," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

On June 24, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the some counties in Illinois eligible for FEMA's Public Assistance Program, which are as follows: Adams, Calhoun, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Hancock, Henderson, Jasper, Lawrence, Mercer, Pike and Rock Island.

The grant which is awarded to the Illinois Department of Workforce Development, will be used to provide temporary employment on projects for the cleanup, repair, renovation and reconstruction of damaged public structures, facilities. Funds also will be used for projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other types of humanitarian assistance for disaster victims.

Friday, September 05, 2008

U.S. Department of Labor Working to Aid Recovery From Flooding And Tornadoes in The Midwest

The Department of Labor has announced various programs to help workers in the Midwest who suffered from the recent flooding and tornadoes.

"We want to make information easily accessible and help quickly available to Americans affected by the devastating flooding in the Midwest," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "In addition to our toll-free telephone number, we've set up a Midwest Flood Recovery Assistance Web page to guide affected residents on unemployment insurance, personal safety during cleanup operations, and many other helpful resources for workers and employers."

Many counties across the Midwest have been certified as disaster areas and are eligible for the FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

The Department has awarded a $23,027,000 grant to create approximately 10,000 temporary jobs for eligible dislocated workers in Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. These jobs are funded by the NEG program.

Other impacted states can apply for NEG funds to be used for projects such as cleanup, demolition, renovation and reconstruction of public facilities and land. These funds can also be used for projects that employ workers to provide food, clothing, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for disaster victims.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New California Law about Wage and Hour

In early August, California Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 2075, which modifies Labor Code section 206.5, and makes it a misdemeanor for an employer to require an employee, as a condition of payment of wages, to sign a statement of hours worked that the employer knows is false.

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2009 and potentially exposes some employers to new liability.

Currently, Labor Code section 206.5 prohibits employers from requiring an employee to execute a release of wage claims, unless payment of the wages has been made. A violation of this provision invalidates the release agreement and is deemed a misdemeanor.

AB 2075 amends Labor Code Section 206.5 to include a subsection (b) by defining “execution of a release” as “requiring an employee, as a condition of being paid, to execute a statement of the hours he or she worked during a pay period which the employer knows to be false.”

Employers should review their employee release agreements and time keeping records for compliance with new Section 206.5(b), prior to its implementation on January 1, 2009.

U.S. Department of Labor Sends Iowa $17 million Grant

The U.S. Department of Labor announced to provided Iowa with the remaining $11,127,000 of a $17 million National Emergency Grant to assist in the ongoing flood and tornado recovery efforts underway.

"Iowans will be working hard in the months ahead to repair the damage caused by these natural disasters and the department will continue to do everything we can to help," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

The grant which was awarded to the Iowa Workforce Development agency will provide funding to create temporary jobs to assist in cleanup, repair, renovation and reconstruction of damaged and destroyed public structures, facilities and lands within the affected communities. The grants also will be used for projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other types of humanitarian assistance for disaster victims.

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded in accordance with a state's ability to meet specific guidelines.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Frequency of Payment To Temp Workers Changes in California

On July 22, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 940, which will change payroll practices applicable to "temporary service" workers as defined in the statute.

The new law, effective January 1, 2009, clarifies the wage payment obligations of staffing firms doing business in California. The Labor Code amendment provides that the end of a temporary assignment is not a discharge from employment requiring immediate payment of wages. Instead, such employees may be paid on a weekly basis. Certain day laborers and labor dispute replacements must be paid daily. Temporary employees who are discharged from the staffing agency, or who are not eligible for reassignment, still must be paid immediately upon such termination, or within 72 hours of a voluntary resignation. There is an exception to the requirement--staffing firms are not required to pay weekly for employees on assignment in excess of 90 consecutive calendar days. The weekly payment requirement does not apply to these employees unless their employers pay them weekly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Texas Employers Obtain Hurricane Dolly Funds

Because Hurricane Dolly affected a large portion of Texas, the US Department of Labor has announced a $7,350,171 grant to Texas employers to create about 475 temporary jobs to assist in recovery efforts.

According to Secreteary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, “This $7.4 million grant will provide Texans with temporary jobs assisting in disaster relief and clean-up efforts to help communities recover from Hurricane Dolly damage.”

The funds will be awarded to 15 Texas counties, which include Aransas, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kennedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria and Willacy.

The grant, which was awarded to the Texas Workforce Commission, will be used in the Gulf Coast counties to provide temporary employment on cleanup, repair, and reconstruction projects. The grant will also be used for projects that provide re-training services for those who have lost jobs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Declining in work Fatalities

According to the report of Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), the worker fatalities decline. In response to this report, Elaine L Chao, US Secretary of Labor issued the following statement.

"This is continued evidence that the initiatives and programs to protect workers' safety and health, designed by and implemented in this administration, are indeed working. In addition to a decline in the overall number of fatalities, the rate for 2007 declined to 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded OSHA history."

The BLS report showed that the number of worker fatalities has declined six percent since 2006. Final data will not be released until April 2009, but the preliminary figure that has already been stated is 5,488 fatal injuries for 2007 compared with 5,840 for 2006. Through this comparision, it is obvious that the worker fatalities will continue decline.

Safety Equipment Regulations Updated

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a proposed rule to clarify the requirement for personal protective equipment and training for workers. Under the rule, each employee who is not protected will be considered as a separate violation. The item, which affects personal protective equipment (PPE) in general industry, maritime and construction trades, was published in the August 19 Federal Register.

OSHA regulations have long required employers to furnish PPE, such as work gloves, safety glasses or goggles, safety masks and other protective equipment to workers at no charge.

Under the previous regulations, in some cases, if 10 workers in a single location were found not to be using protective eyewear, the courts threw out 9 of the 10 OSHA citations and penalties, and only permitted one. However, the new regulations would require employers to pay all 10 fines. The proposed revisions are primarily concerned with PPE and training related to known health hazards, such as asbestos and lead.

Under the proposed changes, employers are still responsible for issuing personal protective equipment to all workers and ensuring that it is used; it will also ensure that OSHA has the necessary tools to assess higher penalties when safety inspectors deem it necessary.

The new rule does not impose any new PPE or training requirements, but simply gives OSHA the ability to enforce its existing rules more aggressively. OSHA is accepting public comments for 30 days, until September 18.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Federal Child Labor Law Changes

The federal child labor laws have been strengthened by one aspect of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) that was overlooked by many employers.

According to the amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, if employers violate federal child labor laws, the US Department of Labor can impose hefty fines. Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, employers may be fined up to $100,000 for a child labor violation that results in the death or serious injury of a worker under 18 years of age .

Section 302 of GINA makes the maximum penalty for repeated violations of the FLSA child labor laws double, from $50,000 to $100,000. The US Department of Labor is charged with enforcing federal child labor laws, although many states also have their own laws or regulations regarding workers under the age of 18.

“We are pleased that the Congress has enacted the administration’s proposal to strengthen the nation’s child labor laws and to provide today’s teenagers with safe employment opportunities,” Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

North Carolina Tipped Minimum Wage Decrease

In the state of North Carolina, the minimum wage for tipped employees has been reduced from $2.43 per hour to $2.13 per hour on July 24, 2008.

On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour. At the same time, the minimum wage for tipped workers in North Carolina has been $2.13 per hour, 30 cents less than before.

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, employers are permitted to take a tip credit of up to $4.42 per hour. That amount is unchanged when a worker puts in overtime. So a cash wage of at least $5.41 per hour must be paid to a tipped employee, when working overtime.If the employee averages less than $4.42 per hour in tips, the employer must make up the difference in cash wages.

It is surprising for any North Carolina employers to know that tipped workers are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. When a tipped employee works overtime, he or she must be paid 1.5 times the minimum wage of $6.55 per hour. That’s $9.83 per hour.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Hampshire Minimum Wage Will Increase Again

On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour. However, weeks after that, on September 1, 2008, the minimum wage in New Hampshire will increase again to $7.25 per hour. That’s an increase of 70 cents, and the final increase for the present.

As for employees who receive tips in occupations in restaurants, motels, inns, etc., they must be paid at least 45% of the state minimum wage by the employer. The remaining 55% of the minimum wage can be in the form of tips paid directly to them by customers. However, if the employees earn an insufficient amount in tips, their employers must pay the differences between the tipped wage and the minimum wage. This law applies to tipped employees of all ages.

On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage will increase again, to $7.25 per hour. The change won’t affect New Hampshire employers, however, because the state minimum wage will have been at that rate for 10 months already.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Minimum Wage Increase May Impact Small Businesses in West Texas

West Texas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. So if local businesses want to compete in the job market, they have to be more aggressive to get the sought-after employees.

Russell Johnson, Manager for La Casa Verde Nursery explains, "Well, it really hasn't had that much impact on us, because we have been paying starting employees at more than minimum wage for quite a while now." At any time, they have between 10 and 15 employees on the job.

"We do want to attract quality employees and we do realize our employees do have to make a living and they have families to feed and their expenses, whether it's gasoline or groceries have gone up, so we have to pay more than minimum wage and have for quite a while," Johnson said.

Trish Powell from the Better Business Bureau said the bigger businesses aren't feeling the increase in the minimum wage, but it will to some extent impact the small businesses. "They're going to be impacted the most because that will significantly stretch their budgeting, but they may have already be having problems with it anyways because of the need to hire people at such higher rates," she said.

But Powell also says the minimum wage increase was announced a long time ago, so it gave businesses time to prepare for it.

Colorado Minimum Wage to Increase

In the state of Colorado, the Denver-area inflation rate for the first half of this year was 3.7 percent, which was propelled by rising energy costs. It's not just another economic statistic: Thanks to a 2006 ballot issue, Colorado uses the measure to set the state's minimum wage.

Colorado’s minimum wage is currently $7.02 per hour. It will increase to $7.28 per hour on Jan. 1, the Rocky Mountain News calculates, based on the Colorado Department of Labor's rules. For tipped employees, like restaurant workers, the minimum wage will increase from $4 to $4.26 per hour.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor, Bill Thoennes, said the agency must consult with federal economists and conduct a rules hearing before formally announcing the change, which is based on the Denver-Boulder-Greeley Consumer Price Index; the index measures price increases from the first half of 2007 through the first half of 2008.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the local inflation rate. The bureau said energy prices, which include prices for vehicles and heating and cooling the home, rose 19 percent. In the prior year, energy costs actually declined 0.6 percent. Taking out the massive jump in energy costs, the CPI for Denver rose 2.6 percent.

The CPI increase means another round of cost increases for businesses, particularly for those small businesses, like restaurants. For instance, the wage for tipped employees will increase to $4.26 per hour, a 6.5 percent higher wage than the current $4 per hour.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mandatory Sick Leave Bill Dies in Senate

On August 7th, the California Senate Appropriations Committee killed AB 2716, the mandatory sick leave bill, which would have made California the first state to require paid sick leave for all workers. The bill died amid opposition from business lobbyists and lawmaker concerned that the benefit was too costly.

Under AB 2716, sponsored by Assembly member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), workers would have received one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees of small companies in California would take up to five days of paid sick leave each year, while workers at larger firms would take up to nine.

A study by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation had predicted that if the bill became law, it would cost 370,000 jobs in California and would burden employers with $4.6 billion in new costs over in five years.

Passed through the California Assembly in May, the Bill was skipped over this time, and failed to move forward. Ma, who modeled the bill after the city of San Francisco ordinance that passed in 2006, said “Currently five to six million workers in California do not have paid sick days, and that represents about 40 percent of the work force,” She also pledged to reintroduce the bill next year.

On protecting retirement and investments of American workers

Elaine L. Chao, U.S. secretary of labor, and Christopher Cox, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) to protect the $5.8 trillion in retirement assets of American workers, retirees and their families. The two agencies are aiming to permanently establish their relationship in terms of sharing information on retirement and investment.

The MOU will make it easier for investors, benefit plan participants and plan administrators to get access to more readily understandable information, which will be helpful for them in making informed investment decisions.

There is a population of 117 million people in America who rely on private sector retirement plans. It is easy for those people to benefit from the MOU. "This further boosts the department's record-setting enforcement program that has won $11 billion in monetary results and more than 800 criminal indictments since 2001 on behalf of protecting workers' retirement savings,” said Secretery Chao.

Chairman Cox said, "With a growing number of seniors focused on managing their own 401(k) plans, it's important to improve disclosure to give them the information they need and in a form they can use. To accomplish this, the Department of Labor and the SEC are committed to coordinating closely on their behalf. This enhanced coordination of the SEC's investor protection efforts and the Department of Labor's regulatory responsibility for pensions and 401(k)s will greatly benefit the millions of hardworking Americans who are saving and investing for their retirement as well as those who have already retired."

Both agencies will designate points of contact in their regional offices for the sake of communication among staff on related matters. In addition, the agreement also encourages sharing of non-public information and other subjects of mutual interest between the two agencies.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Most Workers in California Would Get Paid Sick Days

A report released last Wednesday by supporters of bill AB2716, which would require all California employers to provide paid time off for workers to care for themselves or family members, showed that as many as 5.4 million working Californians don't get any paid sick days, and they tend to be both sicker and poorer than employees who do receive sick leave.

"The more you need paid sick days, the less likely you are to have them," said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, one of the contributors to the report and the director of occupational and environmental health for San Francisco.

The bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) was modeled on the paid sick leave law that took effect last year in San Francisco. The bill passed the state Assembly in May and is scheduled for a hearing this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, saying that it is a complicated and costly mandate that could force companies to cut wages or lay off workers. However, supporters held the opinion that the public health benefits will outweigh any costs to employers.

Monday, August 04, 2008

North Dakota Increased Its Minimum Wage to $6.55 Per Hour July 24, 2008

The state of North Dakota has increased its minimum wage, with reference to the federal minimum wage increase, to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and will increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.

Michael Ziesch, Job Service North Dakota research analyst, said the state has about 14,000 unfilled jobs and employers already are having to pay above minimum wage to find workers.

But North Dakota officials say the 70-cent increase will not significantly affect the job market or give much aid to families struggling to keep up with increasing costs of living.

Democratic-NPL gubernatorial candidate Sen. Tim Mathern said better-paying jobs would be created in North Dakota for facilitating a “family-friendly wage."“We’re not going to create a minimum wage that’s going to get to the $30,000 level, but we need to make sure the jobs we create pay at that level,” Mathern said.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

West Virginia Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Every state has its own specific unemloyment benefits, and West Viginia is no exception.

Eligibility for West Virginia Unemployment Benefits
The basic requirements for collecting unemployment in West Virginia are:

First, you must have been employed. You must have worked a certain amount of time during a required window, and earned a certain mount of money.

Second, you must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own as defined under West Virginia law.

Third, you must file ongoing claims and respond to questions concerning your continued eligibility. You must report any earnings from work and any job offers or refusal of work during any claim period.

Finally, you must meet any other unemployment eligibility requirements of West Virginia law.

Your Unemployment Benefit Check
How much: Generally, unemployment benefits are based on an individual's earnings in the base period. The unemployment benefits in WV are also subject to Federal income taxes. WV benefits were raised to $366 in January, 2005.

How soon: You will typically receive your first check two or three weeks after you file an eligible claim.

How long: The duration of WV unemployment benefits in 2005 was several weeks. There is an exception when there is high unemployment or other special circumstances.

The unemployment rate varies from state to state. In West Virginia, the unemployment rate is approximately 4.0%.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.S. Secretary of Labor announces $10 million in grants to train workers in the energy industry

On July 22, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced the awarding of $10 million in grants to fund 11 projects. With the awards, the potential workers in the energy industry will be provided with skills-based job training.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration originally announced the competition on Jan. 23, 2008.

"There is a shortage of energy workers in this country. This $10 million grant competition under the President's High Growth Job Training Initiative will help workers access the training they need to get good paying jobs in the growing energy industry," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

This competition was open to public, private for-profit and private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community groups. Applicants were required to clearly identify the nature of their organizations and describe their capacity to deliver energy and skilled trades training. Proposed strategies were to be based on existing workforce development models and promising practices in a particular region, or adapted from successful strategies already in place in another region.

Projects that won funding are located in the following 11 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Their awards range from $394,933 to $1,151,287. The awardees were chosen from among 171 candidates entering a competitive solicitation for grant applications.
“These grants awarded under the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative will help equip workers with skills and certifications that are in demand in the energy sector,” said Secretary Chao.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Federal minimum Wage Increase Good For Workers

The federal minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour, effective July 24, 2008.

In 2007, President Bush signed into law legislation to provide for a three-step increase in the federal minimum wage: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

According to Boucher, a lawmaker, the increase in the minimum wage will increase $4,400 a year for workers who earn the minimum wage. “Americans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to earn enough to provide for their families,” Boucher said. “For 10 years, the minimum wage was frozen at $5.15 an hour, a wage far too low to provide for the needs of a family as gas prices, food costs and health insurance costs continue to rise. This represented the longest period in the history of the minimum wage law that minimum wage workers failed to receive an increased wage.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Texas Minimum Wage Increased

The Texas minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008 with reference to the federal minimum wage increase. Under the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1007, the deferal minimum wage was scheduled to increase the minimum wage by three steps. Each increase is 70 cents.

There are also a number of other states increasing the minimum wage by reference to the deferal minimum wage, including Maryland, South Dakota, Virginia Idaho and Oklahoma.

In Texas, there is no overtime law at the state level. Instead, most employees in Texas are entitled to 1.5 times their usual mniimum wage rate of pay after working 40 hours under the federal law.

The Texas minimum wage specifically excludes any employee covered by the primary federal minimum wage law - Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA applies to employers who engage in interstate commerce, as well as those with revenue of at least $500,000.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OSHA Sets Two Public Hearings on Proposed Shipyard Rule

In the June 30 Federal Register OSHA ( the US Depatment of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is scheduling two informal public hearings on the proposed rule on general working conditions in shipyard employment. The dates of the two hearings are as follows:

9:30 am September 9, 2008, in Washington, DC
9:30 am October 21, 2008, in Seattle, WA.

The two hearings aim at providing a platform for interested stakeholders to discuss how to improve existing standards on working conditions for employees in shipyard employment.

Notice of intention to appear at the hearing: Interested persons who intend to present testimony or question witnesses at either the Washington, DC, or Seattle, WA, hearing must submit (transmit, send, postmark, deliver) a notice of their intention to do so by July 18, 2008.

Hearing testimony and documentary evidence: Parties who need over 10 minutes for their presentation and those who will present documentary evidence are supposed to supply the agency with copies of their full testimony and all documentary evidence by August,2008

If you want to submit your notice of intention, you can use the Federal eRulemaking Portal, following three ways are also acceptable: facsimile( on longer than 10 pages) to OSHA Office at 202-693-1648; regular mail, messenger or courier service to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-S049-2006-0675, U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room N-2625, Washington, DC 20210; telephone 202-693-2350.

It is the employers’ responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for the employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working people by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently launched a new tool for posters and recordkeeping compliance - The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor is one of the elaws Advisors, which are interactive e-tools that provide easy-to-understand information to help employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under certain federal employment laws. Each Advisor simulates the interaction you might have with an employment law expert. It asks questions and provides answers based on responses given, and each Advisor includes links to more detailed information that may be useful, such as links to regulatory text and compliance assistance materials.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor is designed to help employers determine which of the major DOL employment laws and regulatory requirements their organization must comply with, what recordkeeping and reporting requirements they must comply with, and which posters they need to post.

The Advisor can help all employers, including non-profit organizations, private sector businesses and government agencies.

If employers already know which federal employment laws apply to them, the Advisor can quickly provide basic information about how to comply with these laws, including the requirements for recordkeeping, reporting, posters and other notices. This information can also be printed off as a reference guide.

This Advisor provides three basic starting points depending on your interests and needs:
l FirstStep - Employment Law Overview Advisor provides a short primer on each law's basic provisions as well as any related recordkeeping, reporting and notice requirements.
l FirstStep - Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Notices Advisor provides detailed explanations of each law's recordkeeping, reporting and notice requirements.
l FirstStep - Poster Advisor provides access to short descriptions of DOL poster requirements and links to printable posters.

It is really a great place for employers to double-check their current posters and document retention policies. However, the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor can only give advice on major DOL laws, and it does not cover all laws administered by DOL. In addition, the advisor will not identify laws administered by other federal agencies that might also apply to your business or organization.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The WHD Criticized By The GAO

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for mishandling many overtime and minimum-wage complaints and delaying investigating hundreds of cases for a year or more, according to a GAO report issued on July 15th, 2008.

The GAO, which will release its report at a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that from fiscal years 1997 to 2007, the number of WHD’s enforcement actions decreased 37 percent, from 46,758 in 1997 to just 29,584 in 2007.

Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said in his prepared remarks for the hearing, “Although the Department of Labor currently has the necessary tools to fight wage theft, the G.AO investigation suggests that the problem of wage theft is only getting worse because of weaker enforcement.”

The WHD defended its performance, saying that it decided to enforce fewer, but more time-consuming and comprehensive claims. In addition, it said that the decrease also resulted from more careful screening of complaints to eliminate those that may not be violations. WHD also stated that part of the decrease is attributable to a 20% reduction in investigative staff.

The GAO also criticized the WHD for focusing on too narrow a range of industries. “WHD focused on the same industries from 1997 to 2007. The agency primarily targeted four industry groups: agriculture, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and health care and social services.” The WHD didn’t focus on the low-wage industries where, one report said, it would be most likely to find violations. The GAO concludes, “WHD may not be addressing the needs of workers most vulnerable to FLSA violations.” But the WHD said it had also broadened its efforts to include other low-wage businesses, including day care, restaurants, construction and hotels.

In a fact sheet, the Labor Department noted that the back wages collected by the WHD “more than doubled to $220,613,703 in 2007 from $96,719,108 in 1997.” The DOL said that “341,624 employees received back wages in 2007, up from 189,244 10 years earlier.” It also added “The Wage and Hour Division is delivering pay for workers, not a payday for trial lawyers.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Michigan Minimum Wage Increased to $7.40 Per Hour July 1, 2008

The state of Michigan has increased its minimum wage to $7.40 per hour, up from $7.15 an hour, effective July 1, 2008.

Roughly 58,000 workers in the state of Michigan who make the minimum wage will get the increase. Another 209,000 workers who earn more than $7.15 per hour but less than $7.40 per hour will also get the raise, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

The largest effect of the minimum wage increase will be in the service industry, like hotels and restaurants, as well as nursing homes and businesses that employ teachers’ aids and home health care workers.

"Restaurants are doing everything they can now to survive. It's a mandatory increase in their labor costs at a time they don't have the money," said Andy Deloney, spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association.

Michigan's new wage ties Rhode Island for eighth-highest in the United States.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maryland Increases Its Minimum Wage to $6.55 Per Hour on July 24, 2008

The state of Maryland has increased its minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $6.55 per hour, effective July 24, 2008. And for tipped employees, the minimum wage will also increase to $3.28 per hour.

The federal minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008. The minimum wage in Maryland is automatically replaced with the Federal minimum wage rate because it is higher than the State minimum wage rate.

According to Maryland Department of Labor, with certain exceptions, time and a half the usual hourly rate must be paid for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Exemptions include certain agricultural workers, executives, administrative and professional employees.

Because of the mandated minimum wage increases, the summer job market for teenagers will decline. For every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, employment for high school dropouts and young blach adults and teenagers falls by 8.5 percent, according to econonist David Neumark.

The California DFEH Has Announced A New Plan

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), California’s civil rights agency (whose mission is to protect Californians from employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination, as well as hate crimes), has announced an ambitious three-year plan to step up enforcement of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Phyllis Cheng, the DFEH’s director, who was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger earlier this year, announced the plan at a presentation given on June 26, 2008 before members of the San Diego County Bar Association’s Employment Law Section.

The DFEH plans to streamline the claim process. Previously, employees had to schedule an office appointment at a regional DFEH office to initiate a complaint. Under the updated procedure, complainants don’t have to go in to a DFEH office; they can file a complaint on-line by visiting the DFEH website to schedule an appointment, and in-person appointments will soon be unnecessary because telephone in-take interviews will start to be used. Initially, four of the ten DFEH offices will accept telephonic in-takes.

The DFEH will also automate the right to sue system. Usually when employees are represented by counsel, they do not want the DFEH to investigate but request a “right to sue” letter, which is a prerequisite to filing a civil lawsuit in court. In fact, the majority of claims are processed this way. “Of the 16,000 employment claims filed each year, about 9,000 of them are filed by employees represented by counsel who want a right to sue letter,” said Ms. Cheng. Implementing an automated online right- to-sue system will free up DFEH staff to work on more discrimination investigations.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Regulation of Using E-Verify

On June 6 2008, the Bush administration signed an amendment to Executive Order 12989, mandating that all companies hired to perform work for federal agencies must use the E-Verify system to ensure that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. Businesses failing to abide by this directive risk losing federal contracts.

On June 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated E-Verify as the electronic employment eligibility verification system that all federal contractors must use.

E-Verify, formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program, was originally established in 1997 by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It is a free, internet-based system run by the United States government to allow employers who are enrolled in the E-Verify program to confirm the legal status of new employees.

The current form of the proposed regulation requires that all entities which provide the federal government with over $3,000 worth of goods or services in the United States use E-Verify for all new employees, even those who do not actually work on the federal contract. It also requires such entities to identify all employees who currently work on any federal contract and verify their legal status through E-Verify as well. The only entities excluded from this regulation are those who perform work for the federal government outside of the United States, provide less than $3,000 of goods or services, or provide contracts for commercial, off-the-shelf supplies.

The regulation is now open for public comment until August 12, 2008. Once the public comment period expires, the rule will either be implemented in its current form, or modified based upon the public comments received.

Once the regulation is implemented, the included entities will have 30 days to enroll in the E-Verify program, and then another 30 days to verify all current employees working on federal contracts in addition to all new ones. After that, such entities must verify the legal status of all new employees through E-Verify within three days after their hiring. The mandatory use of E-Verify will be a provision included in all federal contracts.

The E-Verify program will be used in conjunction with the existing I-9 forms. So although the proposed regulation will be implemented after the public comment period expires, federal contractors still have to complete the I-9 form for all new hires.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Standard Mileage Rate Raised to 58.5 Cents

Effective July 1, 2008, the optional standard mileage rate has increased by 8 cents, from 50.5 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, for all miles driven from July 1 to December 31, 2008.

The increase allows taxpayers to use the higher deduction amount as an alternative to recording actual costs of operating a qualifying vehicle. The new rate is also for determining the reimbursement amount to employees who operate an automobile for business purposes.

The Internal Revenue Service made this special adjustment for the final months of 2008 because of the recent gasoline price increases.

"Rising gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans. Given the increase in prices, the IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the real cost of operating an automobile," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "We want the reimbursement rate to be fair to taxpayers."
The rate for moving and medical mileage also increased 8 cents, to 27 cents; the rate for charity services, however, remained at 14 cents because it is a special case and requires an act or law to change it.

The District of Columbia Increase The Minimum Wage to $7.55 On July 24, 2008

The District of Columbia will increased its minimum wage from $7.00 per hour to $7.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and will increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.

The federal minimum wage will increase from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008 and to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. If you are working for the federal government, you arer only entitled to the federal minimum wage. If you work for Washington D.C. government, you are entitled to receive a living wage, which is $11.75 per hour in the current time.

If you work over 40 hours in one week, you should get overtime pay. If the regular pay is $7.55 per hour, overtime pay would be $11.325 per hour. However, some kinds of jobs do not get overtime pay, such as salesmen, professionals, and those domestic workers who live with their employers.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Colorado Updated Anti-Discrimination By Adding Sexual Orientation

Colorado has signed a new law - Senate Bill 200 – which prevents certain types of discrimination by adding Sexual Orientation as a new protective category, effective May 29, 2008.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has signed a controversial bill into law that broadens the ban on Sexual Orientation Discrimination created by the 2007 amendments to Colorado’s civil rights law; these banned sexual orientation and religious discrimination in employment. The new bill defines sexual orientation as “a person’s orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person’s perception thereof.”

In the new law, public accommodation is broadly defined as “any place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public.”

On the basis of the 2007 amendments to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, many Colorado employers have already considered modifying their business policies regarding transgender employees. With the passing of the new law, Colorado employers should revisit those policies and consider whether the same protections should be extended to customers and guests.

Besides sexual orientation, Senate Bill 200 also adds creed, marital status, disability, national origin and ancestry to the protected statuses upon which an individual cannot be denied membership in a union or labor organization. The Colorado law now also broadens the bans prohibiting discrimination in employment decisions on account of sexual orientation in schools.

Similar legislation already exists in the following states: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Florida’s Guns At Work Law

On July 1, 2008, Florida's Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 (the "Guns At Work Law") has taken effect. The bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Charlie Crist on April 15, 2008.

The new law prohibits all public and private employers from discriminating against any customer, employee, or invitee who possesses a legally-owned firearm that is kept inside a locked, privately-owned motor vehicle in a parking lot, in most cases, even on an employer’s private property. The law doesn’t apply to schools, prisons, nuclear power plants, military facilities and buildings that store explosives.

Supporters of the law say people have a constitutional right to carry firearms in their cars for protection, while business owners have argued that they have a constitutional right to set the rules on their own property.

However, in order to comply with the new law, employers must do the following:
l Review and update policies prohibiting firearms on the employer's property; lift any ban against keeping legally-owned firearms locked in personal vehicles in parking areas by persons with valid concealed-weapons permits;
l Review and update safety and security measures to deal with the increased risk of violence associated with the presence of guns on company property;
l Provide training on Florida's Guns At Work Law to Human Resources personnel;
l Provide training on Florida's Guns At Work Law to all security personnel.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Illinois Minimum Wage to Increase to $7.75 July 1, 2008

The state of Illinois will increase its minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $7.75 per hour effective July 1, 2008, with additional increases to $8.00 per hour on July 1, 2009, and to $8.25 on July 1, 2010.

Increasing the minimum wage to $7.75 per hour will add an additional $520 in annual wages for a full-time minimum wage worker. When the minimum wage of $8.25 per hour takes effect in 2010, state Gov. Blagojevich will have helped boost the pay for minimum wage workers in Illinois by $3.10 per hour in seven years.

Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in December 2006 increasing the Illinois minimum wage. The governor estimates that nearly 700,000 people will benefit from the increase. "We're facing hits on food, hits on deliveries to us and now labor increases," said Todd Rawls, a local businessman "That all affects insurance, my rent’s gone up, you name it, it has all gone up."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Idaho Minimum Wage to Increase on July 24, 2008

The state of Idaho will increase its minimum wage from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008, in coordination with the federal minimum wage increase. Section 44-1502 of the Idaho Code guarantees that the majority of Idaho employees are paid the state minimum wage.

Pursuant to the bill passed in 2006, the federal minimum wage will increase in a three step process. The Idaho minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage. So when the federal minimum wage increases on July 24, 2008 (the second of the three increase steps), the Idaho minimum wage will increase accordingly.

The minimum wage for tipped employees in Idaho will remain unchanged at $3.35 per hour. Idaho state law also provides a special wage for workers under the age of 20: companies may pay such workers an “opportunity wage” of $4.25 per hour during the first 90 days of employment.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

California Hands-Free Law Goes into Effect July 1, 2008

SB 1613, a new California hands-free cellular telephone law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, goes into effect July 1,2008. The law prohibits the use of a cell phone in a moving vehicle unless the driver is using a hands-free device.

The new law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using any type of cell phone while driving. Anyone over 18 can drive and talk on the phone while using a hands-free device.

Specifically, SB 1613 will:
l Prohibit the use of cell phones by drivers unless the driver is using a hands-free device starting July 1, 2008.
l Allow drivers of commercial vehicles to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011.
l Allow drivers to make emergency phone calls without using a hands-free device.
l Allow drivers of emergency response vehicles to use cell phone without a hands-free device.

For violators, the first offense will cost $20, and it will be a $50 penalty for each additional offense.

California Highway Patrol data show that more than 1,000 crashes, injuring 447 people, were blamed on drivers using a hand-held cellular phone in 2007,

“The simple fact is it’s dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving. CHP data show that cell phones are the number one cause of distracted-driving accidents,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger. “So getting people’s hands off their phones and onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in road safety. The ‘Hands-Free’ cell phone bill will save lives by making our roads safer. I want to thank Senator Simitian for authoring this bill and for his commitment to the safety of his fellow Californians.”

What does the new law mean for employers? If employees have to use a cell phone while driving to perform their work, the employer must provide them with a hands-free device so they can comply with the law. The device can be bought by employer and given to employees, or the employer can agree to pay employees back for reasonable costs. However, if employees don’t have to use cell phones while driving but choose to do so only for their own convenience, then the employer is not required to provide or pay for a device.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DOL Clarified Compensable Work Time Under FLSA

The U.S. Department of Labor recently has clarified compensable work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding meal breaks, straight time, and overtime. In an opinion letter dated May 15, 2008, the Department issued the following conclusions:

l If an employee fails to take a 30-minute unpaid meal break and the failure to take a meal break does not cause the employee to work more than 40 hours in the workweek, no additional compensation is due to the employee if the employee's total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.
l If an employee fails to take a 30-minute unpaid meal break and the employee does work more than 40 hours in the workweek, the 30-minute unpaid meal break must be counted for purposes of determining overtime compensation. An employee must be paid all straight-time wages due for all hours worked before an employee can be said to be paid statutory overtime compensation due.
l If an employee who is regularly scheduled to work 35 hours per week works before the employee's scheduled start time or after the employee's scheduled end time and the employee's total hours are less than 40 hours per workweek, the employee is not due additional straight time compensation if the employee's total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.
l If an employee receives certain types of premium pay that are not otherwise legally required, that pay need not be included in the employee's regular rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime compensation. Also, certain types of premium pay may be credited toward the employee's overtime compensation requirements.
l Rounding of time is allowed so long as the employer does not arbitrarily fail to count an employee's fixed or regular working time. Rounding to the nearest five minutes, one-tenth or one-quarter of an hour is acceptable if, in the aggregate, the employer compensates the employees properly for all the time they have worked.

However, this opinion letter only provides guidable interpretation about “work time” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. So when applied to state laws, it may result in a different analysis.