Law at Work Law at Work  

Pregnancy Accommodations

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide during its 2014-15 term whether, and in what circumstances, an employer that provides work accommodations to nonpregnant employees with work limitations (e.g. employees who are assigned light-duty jobs following on-the-job injuries) must provide accommodations to pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  Young v. United Parcel Service.  Without waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the issue, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 14, 2014 issued new enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination, including that "an employer may not deny light duty to a pregnant worker based on a policy that limits light duty to employees with on-the-job injuries." The EEOC's guidance also states that "an employer has to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant workers if it does so for other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work."

Conciliation of EEOC Charges

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide during its 2014-15 term whether and to what extent a court can enforce the EEOC's mandatory duty to conciliate discrimination claims before filing a lawsuit.  Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC.  Contrary to most other courts, the Seventh Circuit in 2013 held that employers cannot challenge - and courts cannot review - the adequacy of the EEOC informal pre-litigation efforts to bring employers into compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.

Wellness Plan Incentives

The EEOC in 2014 intends to issue proposed rules to address "whether, and to what extent, the Americans with Disabilities Act allows employers to offer financial incentives and/or impose financial penalties as part of wellness programs offered through their health plans." In addition, the EEOC plans to "resolve the frequently asked question of whether employers may offer inducements to employees' spouses or other family members who answer questions about their current medical conditions on a health risk assessment."

Overtime Pay Rules to be Revised

President Obama on March 13, 2014 issued a memorandum directing the Secretary of Labor to "propose revisions to modernize and streamline" existing overtime pay regulations. The memorandum instructs the Secretary of Labor to "consider how the the regulations could be revised to update existing protections consistent with the intent of the Act; address the changing nature of the workplace; and simplify the regulations to make them easier for both workers and businesses to understand and apply." Revisions to the overtime pay regulations are subject to the normal rulemaking process – including notice and comment period – and are expected to take several months to complete.

Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

Beginning January 1, 2015, workers under new and renegotiated federal contracts must be paid a minimum wage of at least $10.10 per hour under an Executive Order signed by President Obama on February 12, 2014. Beginning January 1, 2016, and annually thereafter, the minimum wage for such workers will be increased by the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (rounded to the nearest multiple of $0.05). Contractors will be responsible to ensure that any subcontractors comply with the Executive Order minimum wage. The DOL issued a proposed rule on June 17, 2014 that addresses covered contracts, deductions from pay, overtime pay, frequency of pay periods, and tipped workers.

NLRB Proposes New Union Election Case Rules

New rules governing union representation election procedures were proposed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on February 6, 2014.  The proposed rules would allow for electronic filing of election petitions; shorten the time period before an election; require employers to submit the telephone number and e-mail address of employees eligible to vote in the election; and delay most legal challenges until after the election has taken place. In addition, the proposed rules would require employers – within 7 days of the filing of a petition – to file with the NLRB a "statement of position" regarding jurisdiction, the bargaining unit, voter eligibility, dates and time of the election, and other matters or waive their right to contest such issues.