Competitive Hiring Tool—Paying Off Employees’ Student Loans—Gains Traction

Daniel L. Morgan

According to the Pew Research Center, as of June 2017, the total amount of U.S. student debt was $1.3 trillion; and 53 percent of all Americans under the age of 30 with a bachelor’s degree or higher had an outstanding student loan.

Why the Large Uptick in Student Debt Has Caught the Attention of Employers

Many employers are discovering that benefit programs such as 401(k) plans, with employer matching contributions, hold little attraction for recent grads, who are burdened by student loans.

As the unemployment rate continues to drop, and the competition among employers for professional workers has begun to heat up, a trend appears to be developing among accounting firms, financial investment firms, and other businesses that hire recent grads: they offer to provide “student loan repayment benefits.” Continue reading “Competitive Hiring Tool—Paying Off Employees’ Student Loans—Gains Traction”

What #MeToo Means for the Maritime Sector

Susan L. Bickley, Emery Gullickson Richards, and Jeanne M. Grasso

The #MeToo movement has shone new light on issues for employers in the maritime industry seeking to ensure that seafarers and shore-based personnel can participate in a work environment free of sexual harassment and assault, both shipboard and shoreside. Employees at sea, often for months at a time, can face special challenges associated with a work environment that can be thousands of miles away from any home office, and that can lead to feelings of isolation, make communications difficult, involve close proximity between work spaces and living quarters and generally require employees to remain at the workplace during rest periods.

In other sectors of the global maritime industry, companies engaged in international business can find themselves navigating scenarios that arise from expectations regarding workplace interactions between men and women that are as diverse as their workforces. We examine here the unique legal framework that applies to sexual harassment in the maritime context, what to keep in mind for addressing incidents and recent trends regarding steps employers are currently taking in response. Continue reading “What #MeToo Means for the Maritime Sector”

Independent Contractors in California—Misclassification Is Now “Easy as ABC”

Caroline Powell Donelan

California employers are facing a harsh new reality as a result of the state Supreme Court’s recent decision adopting a new test for determining whether a worker can properly be classified as an independent contractor (versus an employee) “for purposes of California wage orders,” which generally impose obligations on employers relating to non-exempt employees’ wages, hours, and working conditions like meal periods and rest breaks.

The underlying claims were brought by two delivery drivers alleging Dynamex, a nationwide same-day courier and delivery service, had improperly classified them and other “similarly situated” drivers as independent contractors. In relevant part, these drivers:

  • were paid a flat fee or percentage of the delivery fee received from the customer;
  • were generally free to set their own schedules;
  • were free to reject or accept jobs assigned by Dynamex;
  • used their own cell phones and vehicles for work;
  • were free to choose their own routes;
  • could perform work for other companies; and
  • were hired for an indefinite period of time.

Under most tests distinguishing independent contractors from employees, these facts would have weighed toward an independent contractor determination. However, in a densely-academic, 82-page opinion, the Court held that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage orders should replace the more flexible “right of control” test which has been used in California since 1989. Specifically, the Court adopted the “ABC” test as the proper way to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Continue reading “Independent Contractors in California—Misclassification Is Now “Easy as ABC””

New Maryland #MeToo Bill Sets Up Public Shaming and Restrictions

Asima J. Ahmad

Maryland’s legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1010 in an effort to provide victims of sexual harassment additional workplace protections. The Bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Set to be effective October 1, 2018, and titled “Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018” (the “Act”), the Act voids any provision in an employment contract, policy, or agreement that waives substantive or procedural rights or remedies relating to a sexual harassment claim that accrues in the future, or to a retaliation claim for reporting or asserting a right or remedy based on sexual harassment (unless prohibited by federal law). Any employer who enforces, or attempts to enforce, such a provision will be liable for the employee’s attorney’s fees and costs. The Act will apply to any employment contract, policy, or agreement executed, “implicitly or explicitly extended,” or renewed on or after the effective date; so, it seems to cover policies and agreements implemented prior to October 1, 2018 that continue in place after that date. Continue reading “New Maryland #MeToo Bill Sets Up Public Shaming and Restrictions”

New York Says “#MeToo” as It Enacts Strict Anti-Harassment Measures

Anna Svensson

On April 12, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a budget bill that includes significant changes in the obligations of New York employers related to sexual harassment (the “Anti-Harassment Law”). According to the Governor, the Anti-Harassment Law provides the “strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation,” as part of a hefty $168 billion budget deal for the 2019 fiscal year (which started April 1, 2018). The Anti-Harassment Law is consistent with a recent push by states and localities to expand employee protections against unlawful harassment in response to the #MeToo movement.

The Anti-Harassment Law includes both immediate and ongoing implications. Here are some of the highlights: Continue reading “New York Says “#MeToo” as It Enacts Strict Anti-Harassment Measures”

New Jersey Jumps on the Paid Sick Leave Bandwagon

Asima J. Ahmad

Attention New Jersey employers: It looks like the Garden State is next in line to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act has now been passed by both the state assembly and senate, and Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill into law.

Similar to the paid sick leave laws in other states, New Jersey will mandate that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours. In the alternative, employers can frontload 40 hours of paid sick time on the first day of each benefit year. This can be done through an existing paid time off (“PTO”) policy, so long as the PTO days can be used for any of the reasons permitted under the Act, and are accrued at an equal or greater rate than what the Act requires. The Act states that employers are not required to permit employees to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave from one benefit year to the next, but it appears that carryover is otherwise required. Additionally, employers are not obligated to pay employees for any accrued but unused time upon their separation from the company. Continue reading “New Jersey Jumps on the Paid Sick Leave Bandwagon”

Blank Rome Alert—Gig Economy More Employer-Friendly? Ask Uber!

Jason E. Reisman

Spoiler alert! Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania handed Uber what the Court described as Uber’s first win on its independent contractor classification for one class of its drivers: “This case is the first to grant summary judgment on the question of whether drivers for UberBLACK are employees or independent contractors within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act ….” The case is Razak et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al. (Civil Action No. 16-573; 4/11/18).

Wow. Pretty significant progress for the gig economy’s foundational feature—the engagement of workers classified as “independent contractors.” I dare say that, with this decision, the gig economy may have just gotten a little more employer-friendly—at least here in Eastern Pennsylvania and at least as to Uber. Continue reading “Blank Rome Alert—Gig Economy More Employer-Friendly? Ask Uber!”