Protection of the workforce is a major focus of the Biden Administration. Rather than attempting to pass new legislation or amend existing statutes, the path of least resistance in the short term appears to be the use of executive orders to implement or, as here, rescind Trump Administration Executive Orders and put into effect many of the same policies as the Obama Administration. The starting point for the Biden Administration is to take the steps to implement rules with respect to the federal workforce and the workforce performing federal government contracts.
One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to direct federal government agencies to start the work to permit implementation of certain changes within the first 100 days of the administration through further executive action. These initiatives most likely will include an increased federal contractor minimum wage, requirements to offer employment to employees of an incumbent contractor, perhaps requiring contractors to disclose labor violations when seeking federal contracts, and increased Service Contract Act (“SCA”) enforcement.
President Biden’s Executive Order 14003 on Protecting the Federal Workforce issued on January 22, among other requirements, directed the Office of Management and Budget to make recommendations regarding establishing a $15 minimum wage for federal employees and federal contractors and subcontractors (the current federal contractor minimum wage is $10.95) and to provide employees with emergency paid leave.
President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government issued on January 20 revoked President Trump’s controversial Executive Order prohibiting certain types of workplace diversity trainings for federal government contractors.
In July, we reported that the New York State Legislature had passed a bill that could substantially alter the legal landscape of wage disputes by allowing employees with wage claims to file liens against their employers’ assets in the amount of the claim. The lien could be filed without any court order or determination of probable liability. The bill further permitted attachments of the employer’s property and would have expanded the personal liability of the 10 largest shareholders of non-public companies by making them liable not only for wages, but also for interest, penalties, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
New York is on the precipice of passing a law that would allow employees to easily file liens against an employer’s property in connection with pending wage disputes. The bill also would permit employee access to certain sensitive employer records and expand the scope of personal liability for owners in disputes over wages. Employers should monitor these developments and work with counsel to prepare an action plan should this bill become law.
The New York State Legislature has recently passed a bill that could substantially alter the legal landscape of wage disputes if signed into law by Governor Cuomo. The proposed Employee Wage Lien bill would allow employees to obtain liens against an employer’s real property and personal property based on allegations involving nonpayment of wages. If signed into law, the bill will become effective within 30 days. Similar laws have been enacted on other states.
The law will allow employees to file a notice of a lien up to three years following the end of the employment giving rise to the wage claim. Employees will be able to place liens up to the total amount allegedly owed based on claims relating to overtime compensation, minimum wage, spread of hours pay, call-in pay, uniform maintenance, unlawful wage deductions, improper meal or tip credits or withheld gratuities, unpaid compensation due under an employment contract, or a claim that the employer violated an existing wage order. In addition, the State Attorney General and Department of Labor will be able to obtain a lien on behalf of an individual employee—or a class of employees—against an employer that is the subject of an investigation, court proceeding, or agency action.
Earlier this year, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “the Board”)—with its 3-to-1 Republican-appointed majority—returned to its long-standing common-law test for determining whether workers are independent contractors (“ICs”) or employees, expressly overruling an Obama-era decision, which it said impermissibly altered the test by severely limiting the significance of “entrepreneurial opportunity” to the analysis. The importance of “independent contractor” status lies in the fact that ICs are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
In SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338 (Case No. 16-RC-010963), the Trump Board addressed the issue of whether franchisees who operated shared-ride vans were ICs and thus excluded from coverage under the NLRA. Relying on common-law agency analysis, the Board upheld a regional director’s decision finding the franchisees to be ICs. That traditional common-law analysis involves application and consideration of the following factors: Continue reading “Quick Flashback—NLRB Overruled Obama Board’s “Independent Contractor” Test”
On December 6, the Philadelphia City Council passed two pieces of legislation that already are being touted as altering the landscape for workers in the city, especially those in the service industry.
“Fair Workweek” Bill
The “Fair Workweek” Bill, introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym in June, applies to large chain businesses with more than 250 employees in the retail, food, or hospitality sectors, and at least 30 locations across the country or state (“Covered Employers”). If signed it would go into effect on January 1, 2020, and will require Covered Employers to give employees (including full-time, part-time, and seasonal and temporary workers) who work within the geographical boundaries of the City, 10 days’ advance notice of their work schedule. The amount of advance notice will increase to 14 days beginning January 1, 2021. An employee may decline, without penalty, any shift that occurs less than nine hours after the end of a shift, and if the employee agrees to work the shift, the employer must pay the employee an extra $40 per shift. Continue reading “Philadelphia City Council Passes “Fair Workweek” Bill and Votes to Increase Minimum Wage for City Workers and Contractors”
NLRB Reverses Landmark Browning-Ferris Decision and Loosens Test for Joint Employer Status
Scott F. Cooper
On Thursday, December 14, 2017, employers scored a significant victory at the National Labor Relations Board. The Board, in a straight 3-2 partisan vote, reversed its 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris Industries and eliminated the rule that employers and their contractors or franchisees can be deemed a “joint employer” even when one company does not exert direct control over the second entity’s workers.
In Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co., NLRB Chair Philip Miscimarra, joined by the two newest NLRB board members, William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, significantly reduced the scope of joint employer status in reversing BFI. The issue over the scope of joint employer status at the Board has been simmering for some time, as NLRB Chair Miscimarra wrote a dissenting opinion in the 2015 BFI decision, which was issued under the Obama administration when Democrat members held the Board majority. Continue reading “Employers Score Major Win as Predicted Changes at National Labor Relations Board Start to Come True”
New York State is considering new regulations that will restrict the ability of service industry employers to utilize “on-call” or “just in time” scheduling practices for shift workers. These scheduling practices are common in many industries and generally allow employers to schedule, cancel, or cut workers’ shifts with little or no advance notice.
Employees testifying before the State Department of Labor said that these practices often leave workers unable to manage child care schedules and personal engagements, and prevent them from taking second jobs. Business representatives argued they require flexibility and that employers need to have these scheduling practices available to adapt to unpredictable circumstances, such as employees not attending work, unexpected customer demands, or inclement weather. Continue reading “Just in Time for the Holidays”
On Monday, September 25, 2017, in a party-line vote of 49-47, the Senate (finally) confirmed William Emanuel to fill the only remaining open seat on the National Labor Relations Board for a five-year term. Mr. Emanuel joins fellow Trump appointee Marvin E. Kaplan, and, along with Chairman Philip A. Miscimarra, Republicans now control the majority on the five-member Board. Mr. Emanuel is a long-time management-side labor lawyer based in California at the law firm Littler Mendelson. Prior to his time with Littler Mendelson, Mr. Emanuel represented employers at Jones Day and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Continue reading “The NLRB Has a New Member, but Its Transformation Is Not yet Complete”
Enacted in 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) was designed, among other things, to protect the rights of employees and employers, including protecting an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity in the workplace, such as complaining to other employees about her manager or terms and conditions of employment, without fear of retaliation by his or her employer. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), an independent federal agency with five members appointed by the president, enforces the NLRA and effectively controls its interpretation and application, subject to limited review by the courts. In less than a decade, the NLRB of the Obama administration extended the protections of the NLRA—in ways some would say were never contemplated by Congress—to employees’ work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Those protections apply regardless of whether the employee is represented by a union or not. With this expansion of protection for social media activities, employers must carefully consider the NLRB’s decisions, or else proceed at their own peril. Continue reading “The NLRB Pushes Protections for Social Media Comments to the “Outer-Bounds” of the NLRA”