Employment Law Updates

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) today issued its long-awaited final rule adjusting the salary level for exempt employees. The new rule will go into effect January 1, 2020 and raises the "standard salary level" from the currently enforced level of $455 to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker).

For those employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (50 employees within a 75 mile radius), be on the lookout for changes to the 7 optional-use FMLA forms published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. On August 5, the DOL published a notice announcing a 60-day public comment period on the proposed revisions.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.  Employees who have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and have at least 1,250 hours of service in the previous 12 months are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for certain medical-related reasons.  Many employers, however, incorrectly assume that once an employee has been out of work for 12 weeks of FMLA-covered leave, that employee may then automatically be terminated for excessive absenteeism if he/she misses additional time from work for a medical condition.

We have received several inquiries recently concerning whether an employer covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act is required to designate leave as FMLA leave if the leave is for an FMLA-qualified reason. A recent opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) answers that question in the affirmative.

In the wake of the U.S. Department of Labor’s issuance of the revised proposed rule concerning the change to the salary level for exempt employees, employers should make preparations now for the anticipated change.  The proposed revised salary level of $35,308 gives some relief to employers who were facing the previous proposed increase to $47,476 annually.  Both levels are an increase from the current $23,660 ($455 per week).  For many employers, however, even the increase to $35,308 annually ($679 per week) might be a burden.

Employers who provide health insurance coverage for their employees should be aware of the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) rules that are often misunderstood.  The MSP rules are designed to shift costs from the Medicare program to private sources of payment (such as employer-sponsored group health plans) in certain situations. The MSP provisions govern the coordination of benefits rules for determining when an employer-sponsored group health plan will pay primary or secondary to Medicare.

Employers often receive subpoenas to produce an employee’s personnel records.  These subpoenas are frequently issued in cases involving divorce, custody or support disputes or personal injury cases, but are used in many other types of disputes.  Employers must be careful, however, because the federal HIPAA law and Virginia Code § 32.1-127.1:03 place restrictions on the dissemination of health or medical records. 

Beware of inadvertently creating FMLA eligibility when none exists! The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) generally provides 12 weeks of protected leave benefits only to certain larger employers.  It only covers employers with 50 or more employees, but there are additional limitations. 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with disabilities. Although recovering drug addicts do have some protections under the ADA, it does not protect illegal drug use. Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law, with no exceptions for medicinal use, so its use is not protected under the Act.  Federal courts have generally ruled that the ADA does not require a medical marijuana accommodation.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to give a Summary of Rights form to job applicants and employees who have had adverse action taken against them such as not being hired, being disciplined, or being fired based on a background check.  The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection has issued a revised model summary of rights disclosure notice which must be used effective September 21, 2018. The form is entitled "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act" and has been updated to include information about security freezes and fraud alerts, resulting from a federal law passed in May 2018 in response to high-profile data breaches.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the use of service animals could be considered a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Service animals are usually dogs, but can be other species of animals.

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