When California’s Dynamex decision rolled out the “ABC test”, it placed the burden on the employer to prove independent contractor (IC) status. In a presentation at the Employment and Employee Benefits Forum in California, McDermott’s lawyers discussed the implications of Dynamex, as it applies to various types of employers as well as those using staffing companies. Additionally, they cover Dynamex’s impact on worker classification and employee benefits plans, particularly under ERISA.

Lastly, they provide best practices that employers can do now to prevent litigation.

View the full presentation.

On February 23, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division published its final rule regarding the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Specifically, the rule recognizes all lawful same-sex spouses for purposes of FMLA leave, regardless of the couple’s state of residence.  This final rule takes effect on March 27, 2015.

The FMLA permits eligible employees to take unpaid leave to care for a spouse with a serious health condition.  Under the final rule, the DOL adopts the “state of celebration” rule in determining who is considered a spouse for these purposes.  Accordingly, an eligible employee who has married a same-sex spouse in any state is permitted to take advantage of spousal FMLA leave, regardless of whether the couple resides in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized.  The DOL previously adopted a “state of residence” rule for purposes of the FMLA, meaning an employee could take advantage of FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse only if the couple resided in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized.  The “state of celebration” rule is consistent with the approaches adopted by the DOL and the Internal Revenue Service for purposes of other laws governing employee benefits.

Employers must review and revise their FMLA leave policies in light of this new definition to ensure spousal FMLA leave is extended to same-sex couples residing in all states beginning March 27, 2015.

As federal and state agencies and courts further examine the implications of the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling on same-sex marriage in U.S. v. Windsor, the laws and regulations governing employee benefits for employees’ same-sex spouses continue to be clarified.  As a result, employers should monitor additional guidance as it is issued and continue to reevaluate the same-sex spousal benefits offered under their employee benefit plans.

Read the full article.

Last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued joint guidance addressing the use of background checks in employment decisions.  The guidance does not offer new requirements related to background checks, but rather serves as a reminder to employers of their obligations under federal law when they use background checks, and creates a user-friendly guide to applicants and employees regarding their rights with respect to background checks.

The guidance consists of two documents – one for employers, “Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know,” and one for applicants and employees, “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.”  The first document, “What Employers Need to Know,” offers guidance to employers on their existing legal obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), a federal law enforced by the FTC, and federal non-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC.  The document reminds employers that under FCRA employers must obtain written permission from job applicants and employees before conducting a background check, and must notify applicants and employees that background reports may be used to make decisions about employment.  In addition, the agencies reaffirm that employers must not discriminate based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older) or disability when requesting or using background information for employment.  Finally, the guidance discusses the requirements related to the retention, preservation and disposal of personnel or employment records.

The second document, “What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know,” describes applicants’ and employees’ rights under federal law when an employer conducts background checks. The agencies remind applicants and employees that it is lawful for potential employers to ask about applicants’ or employees’ backgrounds or require a background check, as long as the employer does not unlawfully discriminate.  The guidance also states that employers must not ask for medical information until they offer an applicant a job, and can only ask for genetic information under limited circumstances (for example, when an employer offers health or genetic services as part of a voluntary wellness program, or if the information is required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act).  Finally, the guidance explains that when applicants have been turned down for a job or denied a promotion based on information in their background reports, they have the right to review the report for accuracy.

This marks the first time the two agencies have jointly issued guidance, which seems to indicate that both agencies have a vested interest in enforcing the laws related to employer use of background checks, and perhaps serves as a signal to employers that both agencies consider this topic a priority.  Employers should consider reviewing the new guidance, and ensure that their policies and practices with respect to background checks comply with federal law, as well as applicable state and local law.

by Stephen D. Erf, Heather Egan Sussman and Sabrina E. Dunlap

The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a final rule implementing new expanded rights for families of military members and veterans, and greater access to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for airline flight crews.  Companies should review and update their FMLA policies to account for this new rule.

To read the full article, click here.