Wyatt Employment Law Report


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.


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


Free Speech in the Workplace

by Tyson Gorman, with significant contributions by 2020 Summer Associate, Joseph Profancik

So far, the year 2020 has once again exceeded our wildest expectations. On the heels of tragedy in Minneapolis and Louisville, protests across the nation have erupted in unprecedented support of social justice. Earlier this week, Starbucks made headlines after they refused to allow their employees to sport any paraphernalia that supported the “Black Lives Matter” movement. In a memorandum that sought to justify its actions, the company stated that “there are agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement — and in certain circumstances, intentionally repurpose them to amplify divisiveness.” Continue reading


PPP Forgiveness Application Published

By Christopher R. Hanewald

After weeks of anticipation, the Paycheck Protection Program’s (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application has been issued by the Small Business Association (SBA) and Treasury Department. Borrowers—and their accountants—will begin to work through the 11-page application and instructions to determine what proportion of their PPP loan will be converted to a tax-free grant. Unfortunately, similar to the initial confusion and frustration surrounding the roll-out and loan application process for the PPP in early April, the application for forgiveness is anything but simple. Continue reading


EEOC Questions and Answers for Reopening Employers

By Julie Laemmle Watts

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) continues to update its guidance for employers in its “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” questions and answers on a host of topics, including topics that are important for employers who are beginning the process of reopening. Some of these topics include: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams; Confidentiality of Medical Examination; Reasonable Accommodation; and Return to Work. Continue reading


New Kentucky Law Ensures That Employees Can Be Required To Arbitrate Claims

By Michelle Wyrick

On March 25, 2019, Governor Bevin signed legislation providing that an employer may require an employee to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. The legislation, which amends KRS 336.700, is designed to reverse the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision in Northern Ky. Area Development Dist. v. Snyder,  2017-SC-000277-DG (Ky. 2018), which held that employers may not condition employment upon execution of an arbitration agreement.
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