Wyatt Employment Law Report


Supreme Court of Kentucky Limits In-Person Proceedings With New Orders

written by Marianna Michael

pexels-anton-uniqueton-4021262On November 20, 2020, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued two new Administrative Orders regarding hearings. Orders 2020-71 and 2020-72  replace Administrative Orders 2020-63 and 2020-64 which were published in early November as guidance to courts in “red zone” counties. With nearly each of Kentucky’s 120 counties at or near “red zone” status, the Court is again mandating many of the restrictions imposed earlier this summer.

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Kentucky Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Executive COVID Response Orders

Written by: Marianna Michael

On November 12, 2020, the Supreme Court of Kentucky, overruling a lower court, unanimously upheld Governor Andy Beshear’s authority to issue executive orders in an emergency. Attorney General Daniel Cameron had joined three Northern Kentucky business owners in contesting executive orders issued by Governor Beshear in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs argued that the restrictions exceeded Governor Beshear’s constitutional powers.

The court limited its opinion to the issues before it, making note of certain hot button issues it was not addressing. In regard to masks, the court only ruled on whether the penalty provisions in the emergency regulation are enforceable. The court also did not address restraints on religious activities, since those issues were not before the court and the issue had previously been litigated in federal court. The court also did not address restraints on elective medical procedures.

Governor Beshear’s actions were challenged in relation to KRS Chapter 13A and provisions of the Constitution of Kentucky. The court ruled that Governor Beshear properly declared a state of emergency pursuant to KRS 39A.100, which authorizes the governor to declare a state of emergency in the event of the occurrence of any of the situations or events contemplated under KRS 39A.010. The plaintiffs argued that KRS Chapter 13A limits the governor’s powers under KRS Chapter 39. The court ruled that nothing in the text of KRS 39A requires consideration of Chapter 13A or promulgation of regulations. Simply put, “the Governor can choose to act solely through executive orders.” Further, the court found that Governor Beshear’s executive orders do not violate Sections 1 or 2 of the Kentucky Constitution because they are not arbitrary. Finally, the court ruled that the Boone Circuit Court’s ruling, which granted injunctive relief prohibiting enforcement of Governor Beshear’s orders or regulations, was improper because the plaintiffs were unable to prove that they suffered irreparable injury. The court held that, “[e]ven if some Plaintiffs arguably have established irreparable harm to their businesses, that alone is insufficient to justify an injunction precluding enforcement of emergency orders and regulations directed to the protection of the health and safety of all Kentuckians.”

The Supreme Court of Kentucky’s full opinion can be found here.


Supreme Court of Kentucky Issues Guidance for Counties in “Red Zones”

Written by Marianna J. Michael

With COVID-19 cases increasing and cases expected to continue to rise during the colder months, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued new safety precautions that courts throughout the state are encouraged to follow. Unlike prior Orders, this guidance does not supersede the Supreme Court’s latest COVID-related Administrative Orders, 2020-63 and 2020-64.

The Court recommends court officials check their respective county’s COVID status on a weekly basis on the Kentucky Coronavirus Monitoring Map. If a county is in the COVID “red zone,” the following recommendations apply:

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Kentucky Law on Time Off to Vote

by Jordan M. White

With election day fast approaching, employers would be well-served to take a moment and review Kentucky law regarding employees’ voting rights. Under Kentucky law, and more specifically KRS § 118.035, employers are required to allow their employees “a reasonable time, but not less than four (4) hours” to cast his/her vote on election day. The statute does require an employee seeking leave to cast a ballot to provide his/her employer with advance notice of at least one (1) day. For non-state employees, the time off shall constitute unpaid leave, while state employees are compensated on “an hour-for-hour basis” while the “polls are open.” See 101 KAR 2:102(7). The employer may decide when the hours are taken during the day. Moreover, proof of voting may be required, because any employee who exercises his/her right to vote under this statute but fails to cast a vote “may be subject to disciplinary action.” Finally, and most importantly, an employer is prohibited from denying an employee these voting privileges, and prohibited from discharging or threatening to discharge an employee or subjecting him/her to a penalty due to the exercise of these privileges.


DOL Issues Proposed Rule Clarifying Distinction Between Employees and Independent Contractors Under the FLSA

Written by:  Sean Williamson

On September 22, 2020, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a proposed rule that attempts to clarify the distinction between employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and independent contractors.  The FLSA requires covered employers to pay nonexempt employees at least the federal minimum wage for every hour worked and overtime pay for every hour worked over forty (40) in a work week, and it also mandates that employers keep certain records regarding their employees.  A worker who performs services for an individual or entity as an independent contractor, however, does not fall within the FLSA’s requirements applicable to employees.

The FLSA does not define “independent contractor,” but the DOL and the courts have long interpreted the distinction between an employee and independent contractor to require evaluation of the worker’s economic dependence on the putative employer.  The ultimate inquiry is whether—as a matter of economic reality—the worker is dependent on a particular individual, business, or organization for work (and thus is an employee) or is in business for himself or herself (and thus is an independent contractor).  While this “economic reality” test has existed for some time, the DOL’s proposed rule emphasizes that the underpinnings and application of the test have lacked focus, creating uncertainty in the regulated community.

The DOL’s proposed rule attempts a “clear articulation” of the test by sharpening the inquiry into five distinct factors.  Two “core” factors—(1) the nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work and (2) the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss—would be afforded greater weight than any others in the analysis of economic dependence or lack thereof.  The three remaining, but less probative, factors to be considered under the proposed rule are (3) the amount of skill required for the work, (4) the degree of permanence of the working relationship, and (5) whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.  If the first and second “core” factors both weigh in favor of finding either an employee or independent contractor relationship, the analysis is likely complete and will not be affected by the remaining three subsidiary factors, which serve as tie-breakers.

 This dual factor analysis, with tie-breaking factors, substantially departs from the multi-factor, “totality of the circumstances” tests applied in various federal courts.  It also shifts the focus of the analysis away from the potential employer’s control over the worker, instead focusing on the worker’s control over his or her work, such as decisions of when to work and for how long.  The DOL’s proposed rule would provide businesses with much needed clarity in classifying their workers, and a more favorable standard for those businesses wishing to treat workers as independent contractors.

Businesses, however, should be cautious in relying on the DOL’s proposal should it ultimately be adopted as a final rule.  The country is in the midst of a hotly contested election cycle.  There is no guarantee that a new presidential administration or Congress would not eliminate the regulation.  Even if the proposed rule survives the pitfalls of electoral politics, it will very likely be challenged in the courts which might decide that the DOL’s interpretation of the FLSA is not entitled to judicial deference.  Finally, the DOL’s proposed rule does nothing to obviate the obligations of businesses to comply with more restrictive state laws.


DOL Issues Guidance on Tracking Remote Work Hours and Childcare Leave Eligibility on Child’s Remote Learning Days

by Daniel Reed

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently provided clarity on issues related to remote work and remote learning.

Reasonable Diligence in Tracking Remote Work Employee Hours

The DOL issued guidance on employers’ obligation to track the work hours of employees who are working remotely due to COVID-19 or due to an already existing telework or remote work agreement.

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Can Employers Limit Off-Duty Activities and Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Written by:  Meredith L. Eason

Most employers have implemented new policies to comply with OSHA’s requirement to provide a safe workplace and to limit the spread of COVID-19.  These new policies typically include enhanced cleaning procedures, facemask and social distancing requirements, and limitations on business travel and in-person meetings.  Many employers wonder whether they can legally take these policies a step further and place restrictions on their employees’ behavior outside the workplace, particularly if they believe the employee is engaging in risky travel or other behavior that may increase their likelihood of contracting the virus.  Unfortunately, as with most questions surrounding this pandemic, the answer is that it depends. Continue reading