Employment Law Updates

The new federal tax law creates a temporary business tax credit for eligible employers who provide paid family and medical leave to their employees. This credit applies to tax years 2018 and 2019, and is calculated based on a percentage of the amount paid to the employees, ranging from 12.5% up to 25%. Even if an employer has fewer than 50 employees and is not required to offer leave under FMLA, the new law allows those smaller employers to qualify for the credit.

Whether a worker is entitled to certain benefits or is covered by a particular law depends on the worker’s classification as an employee or independent contractor.  Government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, EEOC, IRS and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) do not all use the same test to determine that classification.  In a January 25, 2019 decision, the NLRB changed the test it had been using since 2014.

Until now, in Virginia only government employees had a right to access information in their personnel records. A new Virginia law will now require employers in the private sector to provide current or former employees with copies of certain employment-related documents upon request.

As a general rule, employers may not require employees or job applicants to take a polygraph (lie detector) test. The federal Polygraph Protection Act severely restricts the use of polygraph tests with employees or applicants. The Act prohibits most employers from requiring, suggesting, requesting or causing an employee or applicant to submit to a polygraph test, and further bars employers from requesting, using, referring to or inquiring about the results of any prior such test. In addition, the Act prohibits employers from terminating, disciplining or discriminating against an employee or applicant for refusing to take a polygraph test or for related actions.

Virginia employees often assume they are entitled by law to rest periods and meal breaks. Such a belief is a misconception. Although most employers voluntarily provide their full-time employees meal breaks and rest periods, neither Virginia nor federal law requires them. One exception is Virginia’s child labor law, which prohibits an employer from requiring or permitting a child under 16 years of age to work for more than five hours continuously without a lunch period of at least 30 minutes.

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