Thursday, February 25, 2016

More Employment/Workplace Related News

There’s a theme here….

Well, this is interesting! Even Congress is concerned about how it will manage with the new minimum salary level coming under the Fair Labor Standards Act! Yep, the HR Policy Association posted a brief article that is quite eye-opening. Several (Democratic) members of Congress have voiced the same concerns that the private business community has about the new salary threshold. (By the way, both President Obama and the DOL have publically shamed the business community over their concerns, saying they are unfounded.) As the article quotes Rep. Hastings, a senior member of the House Rules Committee, noted that with the reduction of office budgets over the past four years, "I don't see how we could pay overtime" for the "17 or 18 people that each of us is allowed to have—that's problematic for me." In addition, a coalition of associations representing public sector employers has asked Congress to request the Labor Department reconsider its proposed rule. They state that because the proposed salary level of (over) $50,000 "would have significant adverse consequences on public sector employers," and the "increased costs would require an increase in taxes, a reduction in both public services and employee benefits, or both." Hmmmm. Sound familiar?

Another entry from HR Policy Association deals with the proposed new "persuader" rule. This involves reportable communication, advice, consultation, etc. an employer may have in reference to union avoidance activities. This has long been a point of contention since it is often felt to infringe on attorney-client privilege. In the new proposed rule, even consultation on employee engagement surveys would be reportable. For example, some activities that may trigger the need for public reporting would be agreements with consultants to:

  • Draft, revise, or provide website content for employees, or written materials for presentation, dissemination, or distribution to employees;
  • Train supervisors or employer representatives to conduct individual or group employee meetings; and/or
  • Develop personnel policies or practices.

Since the proposed rule gives no definition or examples of what an "indirect" activity is, HR Policy Association raises the concern that any advice, counsel or assistance in the HR an employee relations area could trigger the need to report – even if there is no current union-organizing activity going on. Thirteen state attorneys general have sent a letter opposing the new rule because it would "undermine long-standing protections for confidential attorney-client communications and would place undue burdens on small business which would be singled out under the rule."

And lastly (for this week, anyway) is a newly implemented procedure by the EEOC. Up until last week, if an employee who has claimed discrimination by her employer wanted to see the employer’s position statement (the initial statement an employer makes to the EEOC after being informed of the charge), she needed to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act (this can be a long and tedious process). However, now the EEOC will provide that statement and any "non-confidential" documentation to the employee during the investigation process, upon request. You might say that this only makes sense. But if you take that stance, wouldn’t you say it’s only fair for the employer to have the same access to the employee’s complaint? You would think, but the Freedom of Information Act still governs the employer’s requests for copies of employees’ submissions.

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