A Not-So Happy New Year for California Employers: 2014 Legislative Update

It has become an annual New Year’s tradition in California -- employers getting up to speed on a host of new employment laws that will affect them in the coming year. The California Legislature was busy in 2013 imposing new burdens on employers for 2014 and beyond. We previously blogged about an increase in the state minimum wage and a statutory clarification of the definition of sexual harassment, but those new laws are only the tip of the iceberg. Here’s our annual summary of the most important new laws affecting California employers.

  • Expanded Whistleblower Protection (SB 496): California law already prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report the employer’s violation of state or federal law to a government or law enforcement agency. SB 496 expands whistleblower protection in several ways. First, it prohibits retaliation against internal whistleblowers, so an employee who reports suspected violations within the company is entitled to whistleblower protection to the same extent as an employee who reports violations to a government agency or law enforcement. Second, SB 496 provides whistleblower protection for reports of violations of local ordinances and regulations, as well as state and federal statutes. Third, SB 496 provides whistleblower protection to employees whose duties include the disclosure of legal compliance issues, which overturns case law excluding such employees from whistleblower protection.
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Now in Effect: New FMLA Poster and I-9 Form!

As a friendly reminder, employers must update two key employment forms this month.  As of March 8th, employers must begin using the most recent FMLA poster issued by the Department of Labor.  The updated poster reflects the DOL’s final rule concerning military related leave available under FMLA.  The DOL has also issued new FMLA forms to reflect these changes.  Also as of March 8th, employers must begin using the new I-9 Form issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Unlike other recent versions of the form, this form has a three year shelf life as it will not expire until March 2016.  New instructions for the I-9 form have also been published to help guide employers.   

The new FMLA poster can be downloaded here:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf or http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmla.htm

Info & links to the updated FMLA forms are found here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm, http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/2013rule/, and http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/2013rule/militaryDate.htm

 

The new I-9 Form and instructions can be downloaded here:

http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf

 

If you have any questions regarding the new forms or the changes to the FMLA, feel free to contact any member of the Stoel Rives LLP Labor and Employment Group.

Utah: 2011 Legislative Session Winners and Losers

The 59th legislative session of the Utah State Legislature ended last week. Below is a list of the winners and losers from legislative session preview post on February 18, 2011(and a couple of notable additions).

WINNERS 

Immigration – Three highly controversial immigration bills affecting employment passed Utah’s House and Senate and were signed by Governor Gary Herbert on March 15, 2011. 

  • H.B. 497 grants immigration authority to state and local police to enforce general federal immigration laws when a person has been lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested for class a misdemeanors and felonies. 
  • H.B. 116 establishes a guest worker program for undocumented workers that would require background checks, proof of insurance and a Utah driving privilege card.
  • H.B. 466 creates a state program coordinated with the federal guest worker program to begin a partnership between Utah and Mexico to allow Mexican temporary workers to work in Utah.

For more information and various perspectives on these bills see our prior post on the immigration issue and other local news sources.

Community Service for Medicaid CoverageUtah lawmakers approved H.B. 211 creating a pilot program requiring a small number of Medicaid recipients to do community service in exchange for medical coverage.

More Tax Breaks for New Full-Time Positions – The legislature also passed H.B. 17 which modifies provisions related to tax credits which may be claimed for new full-time employee positions to allow certain credits to be taken in consecutive years.

Construction Employees v. Owners – Both the House and Senate approved S.B. 35 targeting construction firms that classify employees as owners in order to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance premiums, contributing to unemployment insurance, or withholding taxes. The bill would require construction owners to file an annual ownership status report and includes penalties for violations for misclassifying employees and depriving employees of workers' compensation coverage, among other things. If signed by Governor Herbert, the bill will take effect July 1.

Worker Misclassification Task Force– S.B. 11 has been approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Herbert. This bill sets up a new task force for various state agencies to discuss and coordinate their efforts to enforce rules against the classification of workers as owners or as independent contractors.

LOSERS

Immigration H.B. 253 would have required employer registration with E-Verify, but was defeated in the Senate.

Employee NoncompetitionH.B. 417, defeated in the House, would have enacted the Noncompetition Contract Act, which would have prohibited the enforcement of a noncompetition agreement against an employee who is discharged because of a reduction in force.

Gender IdentityS.B. 148 adding “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes under Utah discrimination in employment and housing statutes was defeated in the Senate.

Employment Practices & Protection from ViolenceS.B. 40 giving victims of violence the right to sue an employer that denies extra time off work was defeated in the Senate. 

Utah Immigration Legislation Remains Up In the Air (UPDATED)

Immigration was one of the top issues in the 2011 Utah Legislative session, which concluded last week. Contrary to early predictions, Utah did not adopt a carbon-copy of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. In fact, even the “enforcement” legislation, which got so much attention before the session, passed only after it was amended to remove language that some feared would lead to racial profiling. In addition, the Utah legislature also passed bills providing for a guest worker program (which will require federal approval) and a worker exchange program with Nueva Leon, Mexico. At the end of the day, Utah’s “omnibus” approach was seen by many as a kinder, gentler version of state immigration policy. (We hope our constitutional-expert readers will forgive that term). Some, however, take a more cynical view of Utah’s efforts in this arena, and Latino groups have called for a boycott of Utah businesses through March 28.

And the political drama over Utah’s immigration legislation is not over, either. None of these immigration bills have yet been signed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Governor Herbert has until March 30 to sign or veto the bills. Alternatively, he can allow the bills to take effect without his signature. Governor Herbert signaled his support and approval for the “omnibus” immigration package, noting that it comports with views he had previously articulated, and with the Utah Compact, which contains guidelines on immigration policy proposed by a diverse group of Utah community, business and religious leaders and groups. Nevertheless, Governor Herbert is being pressured by groups who seek stronger immigration enforcement to veto the guest worker legislation, which they fear will attract undocumented workers to Utah.

Most predict that the Utah immigration bills will take effect. That will probably not be the end of the story, however. The scene may simply change to Washington or the courts.  

UPDATE: Governor Herbert today (3/15) signed all four immigration passed by the Utah legislature. According to news reports, Utah officials are already in discussions with the White House and members of Congress regarding federal waivers that would allow Utah’s guest worker program to operate constitutionally.  

Oregon: 2011 Legislative Session Preview

Oregon’s 76th Legislative Assembly convened on February 1, 2011. The Legislature has wasted no time introducing a multitude of new labor and employment bills, some with potentially far reaching effects. Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of the more interesting bills up for debate:

Civil Rights:

  • HB 2035 -- Standardizes statute of limitations period for filing discrimination lawsuits. A person who has filed a BOLI complaint must file a lawsuit within one year of the occurrence of the unlawful practice or within 90 days of the mailing of BOLI’s 90-day notice, whichever is later.
  • HB 2036 -- This bill was introduced at the request of the Commissioner of BOLI, and attempts to accomplish several significant changes. First, it proposes to lower the standard as to what’s considered a “substantial limitation in a major life activity,” and clarifies certain aspects of state statutes related to discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Second, it grants BOLI the authority to enforce provisions for employees to take crime victim leave to attend criminal proceedings. Third, it will allow employers to make decisions based on credit history of applicants for public safety officer employment.
  • HB 2243 -- Allows Attorney General or BOLI to file suit related to discrimination against person for uniformed military service; includes $50,000 penalty for first violation, and $100,000 penalty for each subsequent violation.
  • HB 2446 and HB 2771 seek to respectively amend and repeal ORS 659.70 and 659.785 related to workplace communication on employer opinions on religion and politics. While HB 2771 would seek to repeal those provisions entirely, HB 2446 seeks to amend the definitions and exceptions to those provisions and amend the damages as well.
  • HB 2828 -- Would make it unlawful (including a civil penalty of $750) to cease to provide health, disability, life or other insurance during period employee serves on a jury.
  • HB 2862 -- This bill would extend various anti-discrimination laws to persons working for educational purposes or as volunteers.

Leave:

  • HB 2095 -- Requires granting family leave under OFLA for academic activities of the employee’s child, including teacher conferences or meetings, and requires granting up to 18 hours of family leave for academic activities in a one-year period, but not more than six hour per calendar month.
  • SB 506 -- Allows eligible employee to take family leave related to the death of a family member.
  • HB 2850 -- Adds siblings as covered family members under OFLA.

Wage and Hour:

  • HB 2038 -- Modifies expression of breast milk provisions. Requires employers to provide a reasonable rest period each time an employee has a need to express milk and eliminates the undue hardship exception for employees with 50 or more employees
  • HB 2040 -- Requires unpaid wages requested by employee post-termination or discharge to be mailed by certified mail, return receipt request.  
  • HB 2230 -- Requires employers to offer first payment to a new employee within 14 days of employment, unless declined by employee. Carries a maximum fine of $720 for violations.
  • HB 2861 -- Expands Oregon’s wage discrimination law to bar wage discrimination based on a more expansive list of protected classifications, not just sex.

Other:

  •  Immigration: HB 2802 and HB 2973 include a variety of immigration-related provisions, some of which would affect employers. One such provision includes a prohibition against knowingly employing unauthorized aliens, which includes a maximum six-month prison sentence and/or up to $2,500 fine. Another would require employers to verify immigration status of employees hired after January 1, 2012, and authorizes the Attorney General to investigate violations and suspend or revoke business licenses of violators. 
  •  Health Care Employees: SB 199 -- Requires health care facilities/employers of 25 or more employees to provide mandatory annual vaccinations against influenza, varicella zoster, pertussis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella at no cost to employees.

World of Employment will keep you updated regarding the status of these (and other) bills up for debate this legislative session, and will provide an end-of-session wrap-up of the winners and losers.

Utah: 2011 Legislative Session Preview

The 59th legislative session of the Utah State Legislature convened in January, and several labor and employment-related bills were introduced. We’ve highlighted some of the more interesting bills below.

 

  •  Immigration – Immigration is an issue that has been a subject of intense debate in Utah and nationally and multiple bills have been proposed on the issue this session.
    • H.B. 116 would establish a guest worker program for undocumented workers that would require background checks, proof of insurance and a Utah driving privilege card.
    • H.B. 253 would require businesses with five or more employees to register with E-Verify, the federal government’s program that tracks the legal status of workers. It would repeal the Private Employer Verification Act.
  • Employee NoncompetitionH.B. 417 would enact the Noncompetition Contract Act. The bill prohibits the enforcement of a noncompetition agreement against an employee who is discharged because of a reduction in force, but does not affect the enforcement of non-solicitation agreements or covenants not to disclose confidential information.
  • Gender IdentityS.B. 148 defines “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and adds them to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination in employment and housing. It includes sexual orientation and gender identity as a consideration in appointments to the Antidiscrimination and Labor Advisory Council.
  •  Community Service for Medicaid CoverageUtah lawmakers have tentatively approved a proposal for a pilot program to require a small number of Medicaid recipients to do community service in exchange for medical coverage (H.B. 211).
  • More Tax Breaks for New Full-Time PositionsH.B. 17 would modify provisions related to tax credits which may be claimed for new full-time employee positions to allow certain credits to be taken in consecutive years. 
  • Construction Employees v. Owners– On February 10, 2011, the Utah House approved S.B. 35 targeting construction firms that classify employees as owners in order to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance premiums, contributing to unemployment insurance, or withholding taxes. The bill would require construction owners to file an annual ownership status report and includes penalties for violations for misclassifying employees and depriving employees of workers' compensation coverage, among other things. If signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R), the bill will take effect July 1.
  •  Employment Practices & Protection from ViolenceS.B. 40 would allow employees who are victims of violence to sue an employer for damages who denies extra time off work for victims to seek a protective order, a stalking injunction, medical care or counseling.

We will report back later in the year on the winners and losers from this year’s session. 

Homeland Security Announces Temporary Protected Status for Haitian Nationals

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week a temporary protected status ("TPS") for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010.  The temporary status  will allow eligible Haitian nationals to continue living and working in the United States for the next 18 months.  "Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery," said Napolitano in a statement.  Click here to read Napolitano's complete statement

The temporary status is intended to allow Haitian nationals to stay for 18 months, authorize them to work and send remittances back to Haiti to help the nation "get back on its feet."  However, Haitians who now attempt to travel to the United States will not be eligible for the temporary status and will be repatriated to Haiti. 

Employers should be aware that Haitian nationals may be legally authorized to work in the United States under the TPS program without being able to present documents that would normally satisfy the requirements of form I9.  Employers should review the TPS eligibility for any Haitian nationals who do apply for work.  Haitians in the U.S. who may be eligible to apply for TPS should call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service toll-free at (800) 375-5283. 

New proposed rule from Homeland Security will rescind the controversial no-match rule

One of G.W. Bush’s controversial acts as president was issuing the no-match rule. When employers pay social security taxes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) allocates a certain amount to each employee based on that employee’s social security number. All is well and good when the employer provided numbers match the numbers on file with the SSA. When the numbers don’t match, the SSA sends an aptly named no-match letter. The Bush administration’s no-match rule would have required theDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS) to send its own letter to employers along with the no-match letters from the SSA. The DHS letters, rather than simply stating that the numbers didn’t match, would contain a threat to fix the problem or face liability. As a practical matter, most employers receiving such a letter would opt to terminate the employee at issue rather than face liability.

The real problem with this rule is that just because an employee’s social security number, provided on an I-9 card for example, does not match the number on file with the SSA does not mean the employee is an illegal alien. The SSA’s record keeping is not perfect and the no-match might not be the employee’s fault. Moreover, typos are not uncommon in this context and many no-match situations are the result of accidentally switching a single number. In other words, a no-match does not equal an illegal worker. Terminating employment solely on the basis of receiving a no-match letter could expose employers to liability for wrongful termination.

The DHS has a deadline of September 30, 2009 to rescind the no-match rule. If it rescinds the rule before that date it will not run afoul of the bill recently passed in the Senate prohibiting using any part of next year’s appropriated homeland security funds to rescind the rule. The DHS has indicated that it intends to rescind the rule and focus on assuring employer compliance through programs such as E-Verify.

The bottom line for employers - compliance with immigration laws is just as important as ever, but if the rule is rescinded a no-match letter from the SSA should result in a discussion with the employee, perhaps obtaining another copy of their social security card and checking their I-9 form.

E-Verify Implementation on Track for September 8, 2009

Starting September 8, 2009, employers receiving federal contracts will be required to use the new E-Verify system to check their employees' authorization to work in the United States.  This announcement comes after several delayed attempts by the Bush and Obama administrations to implement the E-Verify rule; however, their efforts were thwarted by a stay issued as part of a lawsuit blocking implementation of the E-Verify rule.  However, the stay has been lifted, the Obama administration has announced its support for the rule, and it appears that it really will go into effect this time.  Really.  We're not kidding.

Employers take note:  the new E-Verify rule will only affect federal contractors and subcontractors who are awarded a new government contract after September 8, 2009 and that includes E-Verify clause.  Federal contractors may NOT use E-Verify to verify current employees until they receive a contract with the E-Verify clause.

For more information on E-Verify, click here to visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's E-Verify Website.

Employers Should Keep Using 2/2/09 Version of Form I-9

The current version of Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) published February 2, 2009 has an expiration date of June 30, 2009, but there is no more current version.  What's an employer to do?  For now, keep using the February 2 version, says the US Citizenship and Immigration Services

Need the most recent Form I-9?  Click here to download the English version; click here to download the Spanish version.  The Stoel Rives World of Employment will let you know as soon as a new version of the form is published.

ICE Targets Employers by Launching I-9 Audit Program

Implementing a new audit initiative, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) has served Notices of Inspection on 652 businesses nationwide.  The notices inform employers that ICE will be inspecting their I-9's and other employment records to ascertain whether the employers are in compliance with federal immigration laws and regulations.

The Obama administration appears to be taking a new approach to immigration law compliance by focusing its enforcement activities on employers.  Under the Bush administration, ICE was known for sending armed agents into workplaces to round up employees suspected of working illegally.  According to this press release issued by ICE, the new strategy is to dedicate resources to auditing and investigating employers in order to reduce the demand for illegal employment . 

The 652 Notices of Inspection served last week exceed the total number of notices that ICE served in all of 2008.  It appears that these notices are just the first wave of employer audits.  In light of ICE's increased auditing activities, now is the time to conduct your own internal audit and ensure that you have proper immigration compliance measures in place. 

9th Circuit Orders Damages, but Not Reinstatement for Unauthorized Alien Workers

What's an employer to do when it is ordered to reinstate former employees, but those employees are not legally authorized to work in the United States?  Pay liquidated damages instead, according to the Ninth Circuit's recent decision in NLRB v. C&C Roofing Supply Inc

In C&C, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that the employer unlawfully fired 20 workers for engaging in union activity.  The parties reached a formal settlement that called for reinstatement of the illegally fired workers and payment of specific amounts of liquidated damages to each.  However, the employer then refused to reinstate the employees because many of them were unauthorized aliens and rehiring them would violate the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which both prohibit hiring unauthorized aliens. 

The Ninth Circuit solved the dilemma by ordering the employer to pay the agreed-upon liquidated damages, but did not require the employer to reinstate the unauthorized employees.  But how does this case square with Hoffman Plastic Compounds Inc. v. NLRB?  There, the U.S. Supreme Court held 5-4 that the board may not order back pay for unauthorized aliens, despite their firing in violation of federal labor law, because doing so would violate immigration policy expressed in IRCA.  In C&C, the Ninth Circuit dodged that issue by ruling that agreed-upon liquidated damages as part of a settlement do not raise the same issues as back pay ordered by the court, as the employees need not be "available to work" in order to receive liquidated damages.  Don't be surprised if this one gets appealed up to the Supreme Court for a determination if it really does square with Hoffman

Another Day, Another E-Verify Delay

It seems like just a couple days ago that we reported that implementation of the E-Verify System was delayed until June 30.  Actually, it was a couple days ago.  Well, you can forget that; the The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has announced that it will delay mandatory use of E-Verify, this time until September 8, 2009. Click here to read the USCIS's press release on the delay.

Why the delay?  For once, it's okay to blame the lawyers:  the parties in a lawsuit over the legality of E-Verify, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Napolitano, agreed to delay implementation of the rule from June 30 until September 8 to give the Obama administration more time to review the case and determine its position.  Initially, federal contractors were supposed to start using E-Verify on January 15, but the rule has been postponed, and postponed, and postponed again.   Keep watching the Stoel Rives World of Employment's continuing e-verify coverage to see if the new September 8 date will stick, or whether there will be more delays.

E-Verify Delayed Yet Again!

Still another delay for implementation of the mandatory E-Verify system for federal contractors. The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced for a third time that it will delay mandatory use of E-Verify, this time until June 30, 2009.  Click here to read the USCIS's press release on the delay.  Click here for the Stoel Rives World of Employment's continuing e-verify coverage

E-Verify Delayed (Again) Until May 21

Another delay for implementation of the mandatory E-Verify system:  The Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today that it will delay mandatory use of E-Verify until May 21, 2009.  Click here to read DHS's press release.  Why the delay?  The Obama Administration wants additional time to review this and other rules that carried over from the Bush era. 

As previously reported in the Stoel Rives World of Employment, President Bush's executive order would have made using E-Verify mandatory starting January 15, 2009 for federal contractors with projects exceeding $100,000 and for sub-contractors with projects exceeding $3,000.  A coalition of employer's groups sued, seeking an injunction against the rule.  Because of the lawsuit, the effective date of the new rule had previously been delayed until February 20, 2009.  

New Form I-9 Available For Download

Finally - the new Form I-9 is here!  Click here to download the new Form I-9.  Note:  the new form is for use only on or after April 3, 2009; until then, keep using the current Form I-9.  

What's the Form I-9 you ask, and what's all the fuss?  All U.S. employers are responsible for completion and retention of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. On the form, the employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9. The list of acceptable documents can be found on page 4 of the forms.

Business Groups Sue to Block E-Verify Rule

The Society for Human Resource Management, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and three other groups filed a lawsuit late last month challenging the legality of an executive order that requires federal contractors to use E-Verify, the federal government's Web-based system that uses Social Security files to ensure that employees are legal immigrants or citizens eligible to work in the United States.  Click here to read a copy of the complaint:  Chamber of Commerce of the United States of Am. v. Chertoff, D. Md., No. 8:08-cv-03444-AW (12/23/08).

President Bush signed an executive order in June that made E-Verify mandatory starting January 15, 2009 for federal contractors with projects exceeding $100,000 and for sub-contractors with projects exceeding $3,000.  The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the January 15 implementation of the executive order. 

According to SHRM's press release, the system isn't ready for widespread use and would place an unreasonable burden on employers.  “This massive expansion of E-Verify is not only bad policy, it’s unlawful,” according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce's press release.  “The Administration can’t use an Executive Order to circumvent federal immigration and procurement laws. Federal law explicitly prohibits the secretary of Homeland Security from making E-Verify mandatory or from using it to re-authorize the existing workforce.” 

The Stoel Rives World of Employment will be watching this lawsuit, and we'll post updates as they occur.  For now, it's safest to assume that the order will take effect January 15 and that contractors will be required to use the system.  If that changes, we'll let you know.

Immigration: More Changes to Form I-9 On The Way

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last month submitted an interim final rule intended to streamline the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process.  Click here to read the USCIS' Press Release on the interim final rule. 

One result of this new rule will be a new Form I-9, which will be made available sometime in the next two months; until then, continue to use the current Form I-9.  Once the new I-9 is available, we'll post it here on the Stoel Rives World of Employment.  Among other changes, the new form will narrow the list of acceptable identity documents and further specifies that expired documents are not considered acceptable forms of identification.  The revised Form will also include revisions to the employee attestation section, and the addition of the new U.S. Passport Card to List A.

Remember:  employers must complete a Form I-9 for all newly hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.  For more information, check out the USCIS' information website in the Form I-9

Ninth Circuit Upholds Legal Arizona Workers' Act

This week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) is not preempted by the federal (IRCA).  Rather, the court held, LAWA falls within the scope of the “savings clause” of IRCA’s express preemption provision as a “licensing law” and is therefore enforceable.  A coalition of human rights and employers' groups challenged the law on several grounds, all of which were rejected by the Ninth Circuit.  To read the court's opinion, click here:  Chicanos Por La Causa v. Napolitano

LAWA allows Arizona state courts to suspend or revoke business licenses of employers who intentionally employ "unauthorized aliens," and also required Arizona employers to use the E-Verify System to check applicants' eligibility for employment.  Arizona employers should review this Notice to Employers from the Arizona State Legislature for more information.

Now that the Arizona law has been upheld (and assuming the U.S. Supreme Court does not hear further challenges), the Stoel Rives World of Employment expects anti-immigration groups to push for similar laws in other states.