Wyatt Employment Law Report


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Church Plan Sponsors Can Relax – SCOTUS Says They are NOT Subject to ERISA

By Sherry P. Porter

On Monday, June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited decision on church plans in favor of the church plan sponsors.  The case revolved around whether plans that were maintained by church-affiliated entities (in this case, hospitals) met the exemption for church plans from compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

ERISA governs, among other things, retirement plans sponsored by employers for their employees and contains rigorous requirements for these plans, including minimum funding and contributions for certain plans, reporting/disclosure requirements as well as coverage under the PBGC insurance program (a federal insurance-type program for defined benefit plans).  Church plans are generally exempt from ERISA, and many church plans have received opinion letters from the IRS and DOL over the past 40+ years stating such.  However, since many pension plans (church plans and non-church plans) have become underfunded over the past few years, some employees have Continue reading


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Unions Challenge Kentucky’s Right-to-Work Law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Amanda Warford Edge

Organized labor is attempting to fight back against Kentucky’s new right-to-work law. Yesterday, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 filed a lawsuit asking a judge to block the law’s enforcement. The law, enacted in January 2017, bans labor unions from collecting mandatory dues from employees they represent in collective bargaining. Opponents of the law believe that it produces “free riders” in union workplaces — people who benefit from the presence of a union but do not contribute — and limits the bargaining power of the union.

The lawsuit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court, claims the law violates the Kentucky Constitution. It also claims that the law is discriminatory because it treats unions differently than other organizations that collect fees or dues to cover the costs of the benefits it provides. The Kentucky State AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 ask the judge to temporarily block the law while the lawsuit proceeds. Governor Matt Bevin and Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey are named as Defendants.

Lawsuits challenging “right-to-work” laws in other states have received mixed decisions in the courts. The Seventh Circuit upheld Indiana’s law. And last year, the Sixth Circuit upheld city right-to-work ordinances in Kentucky. However, a circuit judge halted the implementation of West Virginia’s law in August 2016, and a Wisconsin court ruled that its right-to-work law was unconstitutional in April 2016.


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Sixth Circuit to Weigh In on Religious Protection and Transgender Rights

By Amanda Warford Edge

Last week, a Detroit funeral home filed a brief with the Sixth Circuit arguing that it could fire a transgender employee who refused to follow its sex-specific dress code. According to the funeral home, allowing the employee (who was transitioning from male to female) to wear women’s clothes at work — namely, a skirt suit — would violate the religious beliefs of the home’s owner.

Last year, at the district court level, the Court said that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) shielded the funeral home from liability because the termination stemmed from its owner’s devout Christian worldview. In other words, the Court held that the funeral home was entitled to a religious exemption under RFRA and, therefore, did not violate federal employment discrimination law. In making its ruling, the Court reasoned, in part, that transgender people are not protected by federal anti-bias law.

The EEOC appealed this ruling and filed its brief in February. The funeral home has now asked the Court to affirm the holding that Title VII does not protect transgender people because the meaning of “sex” when Title VII was passed did not include the concept of gender identity. The funeral home also remains adamant that RFRA provides a legal defense for its enforcement of its sex-specific dress code.

The case is EEOC v. RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes, Case No. 16-2424.


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The AARP’s Position on EEOC Wellness Program Rules

insurance_photoBy Amanda Warford Edge

While the focus in the Bluegrass state over the past couple of weeks has been on horses and bourbon, a lobbying group for older Americans — the AARP — has asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to rule that the EEOC’s new guidelines for employee wellness programs are illogical and arbitrary.  According to the AARP, the guidelines allow companies to violate workers’ medical privacy rights.  The AARP filed its summary judgment motion on Friday, April 28.  The lawsuit was initially filed in October 2016.  Wellness programs, of course, include programs where an employer provides incentives for workers to quit smoking, lose weight or undergo preventative health screenings, among other things.  Workers who participate in such programs are usually asked by employers to provide certain confidential medical information.

Previously, the EEOC had maintained that any financial incentive rendered wellness programs involuntary.  In adopting new guidelines last year, the EEOC ruled that Continue reading


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New Legislation: Banning the Salary Question

By Amanda Warford Edge

At a job interview, a candidate is often asked: “What’s your current or most recent salary?” Usually, this question is feared.  After all, a low figure could limit the candidate’s starting pay, but a high number could make the candidate seem expensive.  Now, in a growing number of states and cities, the question is off limits, as employers face legislation that bars them from asking job candidates about their salary history or benefits.

Proponents of the new legislation argue that banning the salary question is necessary to ensure pay equity for women.  The argument is that by basing future salaries on previous wages, employers have been perpetuating the earnings divide.  In other words, because employers have historically relied heavily on salary history, the gender pay gap has Continue reading


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H-1B Enforcement Stepped Up

By Glen Krebs

On April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced multiple measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.  On April 4, 2017 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to protect U.S. workers from H1B program discrimination by providing greater transparency and oversight.  These announcements have caused companies which regularly use H-1B workers to be concerned about their workforce in coming years.

The companies mostly affected by this policy change will be outsourcing firms – companies which hire H-1B workers and then place them at the worksite of other companies.  Many of the outsourcing firms are headquartered Continue reading


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President Trump Proposes Significant Cuts to DOL

By Courtney Samford

President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 earlier this month.  The proposal, which is entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” purports to “put[] the needs of its own people first” by prioritizing national security and public safety.   To account for increases in these areas, the budget acknowledges that many “Government agencies and departments will …. experience cuts …. to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending[.]”

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) is no exception to President Trump’s proposed cuts.  The America First Budget requests a total of $9.6 billion for the DOL, which equates to a 21 percent decrease from fiscal year 2017.  In particular, the budget seeks to Continue reading