Sunday, November 29, 2009

OSHA Releases Crowd Control Guidelines

On November 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued some holiday specific directives in a fact sheet providing crowd control guidelines for retailers to protect workers during major sales events to lower the risk of crowd related accidents.

"Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years," said acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Many of these incidents could be prevented, and this fact sheet provides retail employers with guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday shopping season."

Last year a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after Thanksgiving Day "Black Friday" sales event.

OSHA claims in its press release that the employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store's failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles, including providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safely manage the large crowd of shoppers.

To prevent similar incidents, OSHA recommends retailers to have trained security personnel or police officers on site, set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store, make sure that barricades are set up so that the customers’ line does not start right at the entrance of the store, prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers, and have security personnel or customer service representatives explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.

OSHA also recommends not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level and not blocking or locking exit doors.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Colorado Minimum Wage Will Reduce in 2010

The state minimum wage is always increased according to the economy inflation, while this situation will change. There comes out news that, for the first time, a state minimum wage will be reduced. That’s the state of Colorado.

Colorado will reduce the state minimum wage by 4 cents, from $7.28 per hour to $7.24 per hour. This will be effective on January 1, 2010. However, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, most Colorado employers will be required to pay &7.25 per hour under the federal minimum wage.

According to the Colorado Division of Labor & Employment, the minimum wage for tipped employees will also change. It will decrease from $4.26 per hour to $4.22 per hour. If the employee does not average $3.02 per hour over the payroll week, the employer must pay the difference. Employers need to update their Colorado state minimum wage posters accordingly.

The Colorado minimum wage is adjusted annually for inflation. Although the Colorado minimum wage will reduce by 4 cents, it is far better than the annual increases of 20 cents or more in recent years. In 2007, Colorado increased the minimum wage from $6.85 per hour to $7.02 per hour, while in 2009, Colorado adjusted the minimum wage again from $7.02 per hour to $7.28 per hour.

The state of Colorado adjusts the minimum wage on the basis of CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the Denver-Boulder-Greeley metro area, published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

DOL Announces $55 Million in Green Jobs Grants

On Nov. 18, US Department of Labor (DOL) announced nearly $55 million in green jobs grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grants will help various state , county and local workforce development agencies to train workers , many in underserved communities, to help them find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations.

State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants and Green Capacity Building Grants are the two categories of the grant, and both will be administered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The grants will target Native Americans, women, at-risk youth and farm workers.

State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants, totaling $48.8 million, will help create strategies to connect job seekers with green job banks and assist workers with finding employment after they complete training.

Green Capacity Building Grants, totaling $5.8 million, will increase the training capacity of 62 current Labor Department grant recipients through a variety of strategies, and will offer training opportunities to help individuals acquire jobs in expanding green industries.

Grantees will be able to employ strategies that enable job seekers to connect with green job banks and help ensure that workers find employment after completing training. The department issued 30 awards ranging from about $763,000 to $4 million to state workforce agencies to utilize data for workforce development strategies. Multiple state workforce agencies partnering as a consortium will use this program to gather information that is likely to have a regional, multi-state or national impact.

The grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative - totaling $500 million - for green jobs training grants designed to promote economic growth. The Labor Department expects to release funding for an additional three green grant award categories over the next several months.

"Today's announcement is part of the administration's long-term commitment to fostering both immediate economic growth and a clean energy future. It's an investment that will help American workers do well while doing good," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “These grants provide an immediate return, and they are part of a larger green initiative that will help lead to increased job placements and promote economic growth."

Friday, November 20, 2009


Recently, a federal court released a rule that requires employers be more vigilant about seemingly “casual” negative remarks in the workplace.

This case heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals emphasize that supervisors and even coworkers should not ask questions about employee’s religion, national ancestry or country of origin. Employers also should not make derogatory remarks about religions. It is important for an employer to conduct anti-discrimination training for all managers. This is emphasized in the report.

In EEOC v. Go Daddy Software Inc. the court ruled two passing remarks, more than a year apart, by two different supervisors, were enough to show a pattern of illegal discrimination against a religious employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged discrimination based on religion and national ancestry.

Youseff Bouamama was a Muslim born in Morocco. He was hired by the company in late September, 2001. Just because he spoke French to a customer, he was quizzed by the manager. Shortly after the 911 terrorist attacks on New York, the supervisor also made comments to the effect that Muslims needed to die. Because of such incident, the jury ruled that Bouamama was the victim of illegal discrimination. He was also found terminated as retaliation when he complained of this discrimination to HR.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DOL announces grant exceeding $394,000 to assist workers affected by boat manufacturer layoffs in Maine

On Nov. 9, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a $394,617 grant to assist about 60 workers affected by layoffs at The Hinckley Co., a leading producer of pleasure boats and yachts, in Trenton, Maine .

The grant was awarded to the Maine Department of Labor, and will be operated by the Eastern Maine Development Corp. to provide affected workers with access to dislocated worker services. Those layoffs at The Hinckley Co., taking place between October 2008 and June 2009, will receive various services, such as individualized career assessments and planning services, recruitment, case management, job skills training, basic computer skills training and job placement.

"This grant will provide the retraining and job search assistance necessary for these Mainers to enter new careers in promising regional industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

The grant will be funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Department of Labor Target Employers Who Violate Wage and Hour Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor is targeting employers who violate wage and hour laws in spite of a recent ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Recently, the federal Department of Labor has filed several class action suits against employers who require or permit employees to work “off the clock”. Permitting employees to work while on unpaid meal breaks or permitting employees to do something unpaid after hours and on weekends is all included in violations.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits the government to file collective actions on behalf of a group of employees in a similar situation. Generally, employers are liable for two years of back bay and three years in the case of willful violations. The 9th Circuit Court of appeals rules that an employee can join a collective action only if he or she files written consent with the court at the time the action is brought.

Under the FLSA and various state minimum wage laws, all the time employee works must get paid, including time the employee “voluntarily” works, in excess of his or her scheduled shifts. The FLSA also requires employees to be paid overtime, usually after working 40 hours in the payroll week. If the employee volunteers to work overtime, he or she must be compensated at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s average wage.

Monday, November 09, 2009

New GINA Law Goes into Effect November 21st, 2009

Effective November 21 2009, the new GINA (The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) regulations will goes into effect, mandated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to comply with new requirements, all covered businesses must have a new GINA poster displayed in a workplace common area where all employees can see it.

GINA, signed into law by George W. Bush on May 21st 2008, protects insurance policy holders and employees from discrimination on the basis of genetic information. New GINA requirements apply to private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees. Labor unions, employment agencies, joint labor-management training programs, as well as Congress and federal executive branch agencies must also comply with GINA requirements.

The GINA prohibition on gathering genetic information includes taking information on an employee’s family medical history – especially hereditary illnesses like heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and other inherited conditions. GINA makes it illegal for employers to use an employee's genetic information when making employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, or any other terms of employment. Employers are also forbidden from inquiring whether members of the employee’s family have heritable diseases. Even if the employee volunteers such information in casual conversation, the employer is prohibited from considering it when making employment decisions.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

New Federal Posting Requirement - GINA Poster

Employers are required to display a new federal poster, GINA poster. The GINA poster must be displayed in workplace where all employees can see. That is effective on November 21, 2009. The new federal posting requirement applies to virtually every employer, even if they never engage in genetic testing.

Under GINA (Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act of 2008), employers are prohibited from gathering information on an employee’s genetic makeup. Employers are also not allowed to considering an employee’s genetic information in making employment decisions.

Based on genetic information, health insurance providers cannot discriminate against consumers. The GINA prohibition on gathering genetic information also includes taking information on an employee’s family medical history.

GINA covers depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder and other kinds of metal health conditions. One of the concerns is that employees will forgo genetic t4esting because they fear discrimination in the workplace, or from health insurance companies. Employers are also prohibited from gathering an employee’s family medical history in more traditional ways under the GINA law.

Every employer covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 must display a GINA poster in the workplace. Generally speaking, that is every employer with 15 or more workers, including businesses and non-profits. GINA poster is also required to display in state and local governments, unions, labor organizations, employment agencies and the federal government.

New Massachusetts Independent Contractor Rules

Employers need to be aware that the state of Massachusetts recently increased the penalties for those who misclassify employees as independent contractors.

Somers v. Converged Access explains that, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that the independent contractor law is a strict liability statute. This means that the employer’s intent in misclassifying a worker is irrelevant. Therefore, if the worker had been correctly classified as an employee, he was entitled to compensation for wages, overtime and benefits that he would have received. Besides, the employee was permitted to keep the $65 per hour that the company paid him as an independent contractor.

The employee could get paid from the Massachusetts company for benefits including vacation and holiday pay. In addition, the company was ordered to pay the employee overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the worker’s 65% per hour wage.

The Massachusetts defines more strictly the independent contractor than federal independent contractor regulations. He is free of any control and direction in connection with work performance, both in fact and under the contract. He performs a service outside the usual course of business of the employer. He is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business. If the worker does not meet all these conditions, he or she is not an independent contractor but an employee.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

3 New Illinois Laws Release

Recently there are three new employment bills signing into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The laws address wage discrimination at the state level and increase the rights of victims of domestic abuse.

The first law is Expanded Leave Rights.
Illinois Victims Economic Security and Safety Act has an amendment which requires employers to extend unpaid, job-protected leave to victims of domestic violence or sexual violence. The new law will be effective August 24, 2009.

Under the new law, employers with 50 or more workers must provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA-type leave to employees who are victims of rape, sexual assault or another type of sexual violence, and the law requires employers with 15 to 49 employees to provide 8 weeks of unpaid leave. Employers must also extend the same benefits to victims of domestic violence of any kind.

The second law is New Illinois Discrimination Law.
Under a new Illinois discrimination law, victims of stalkers, domestic violence and other crimes are protected from employment discrimination. The amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits the employer from discriminating against an employee who is protected by an order of protection or a similar order issued in anther state. This law goes into effect on January 1, 2010.

Under the law, the employer cannot make employment decisions based entirely or in part on whether a worker is shielded by an order of protection.

The third one is Illinois Ledbetter Equal Pay Act.
In the final law, the state enacted protections against discrimination in pay similar to the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act. Under that law, when pay discrimination exists, each paycheck resets the statute of limitations in filing a discrimination claim under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. This law became effective on August 14, 2009.

Monday, November 02, 2009

DOL announced $3.3 million grant to assist workers in Massachusetts affected by layoffs

On Sep 22, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $3,319,718 grant to assist about 600 laid off workers at nine Massachusetts companies with training and employment services.

Impacted workers , who lost their jobs between November 2008 and October 2009, are from ACT Electronics Inc., Altus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Bose Corp., DHL, EMC Corp., Sepracor Inc., Snap-on Inc., Staples Inc. and Taylor Corp., in information, manufacturing, retail and transportation industries.

The grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development, and will be operated by Employment and Training Resources. It will provide the impacted workers with access to dislocated worker services, which may include skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

$1,906,964 of the $3,319,718 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

"This grant will ensure that affected workers across Massachusetts have access to high-quality re-training and re-employment services, which are crucial both to shaping the future career success of individuals and to spurring the state's growing industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.