Our top story: A federal court in Texas has temporarily enjoined new exemption rules issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The rules, which would have dramatically increased salary thresholds for overtime exemptions, were set to go into effect on December 1. The district court judge found that the 21 states that brought the suit established a prima facie case that the DOL overstepped its authority in establishing the new rules. Because the Fair Labor Standards Act makes no reference to salary thresholds, the court found that any new thresholds might have to be created by Congress and not the DOL. If the injunction is made permanent, it could be the beginning of a lengthy appeals process, which would leave employers in limbo.
New York State Overtime Laws Likely to Proceed
While overtime expansion is stalled at the federal level, New York State’s plan to increase salary thresholds remains on track. The comment period for the proposed increase closed on December 3. Under the rule, thresholds for exempt employees would rise to $825.00 per week for large employers in New York City and $787.50 per week for employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. If the New York State Department of Labor proceeds with the new rule, it will go into effect on December 31 of this year.
EEOC Issues Updated Guidelines on National Origin Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated guidance on national origin discrimination. The new guidelines address legal developments on issues like human trafficking and harassment in the workplace. The guidance includes over 30 examples of national origin discrimination, as well as best practices to reduce the risk of violation. The guidance also states that, if an employee’s accent “materially interferes” with his or her ability to communicate in spoken English and effective spoken communication in English is a job requirement, an employer can legally move that worker.
USCIS Increases Stability for Foreign Workers
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a final rule that makes it easier for employers to sponsor and retain skilled foreign workers. The rule gives added job flexibility and protection to foreign workers in H-1B status or who are stuck in a long green card application process. USCIS’s rule also expands the eligibility of certain employers for H-1B cap exemptions and adds grace periods, so certain skilled workers can remain in the country for limited periods while in between jobs.
Tip of the Week
Last week, as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the U.S. House of Representatives passed new mental health reform legislation intended to step up enforcement of rules requiring that insurers cover mental health care at the same level as they cover physical health care. The legislation could impact employers’ health insurance plans. For this week’s Tip of the Week, James Gelfand, Senior Vice President of Health Policy for The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), has some advice on how employers should update their plans in 2017 in order to remain compliant:
©2016 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.