Pregnant Workers & the Fairness Act

Are you in compliance with the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act?

If you are an employer in Nevada, you probably are well aware that federal law prohibits you from discriminating against employees and/or potential employees on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Additionally, you probably already understand that you are required to provide reasonable accommodation to such employees. However, many employers are unfamiliar with the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act of 2017, adopted during the 2017 legislative session, and its impact on interactions between employers and such employees. In this article, we will review the underlying federal law establishing the baseline for interactions with employees who are pregnant, or suffering from pregnancy related conditions, and discuss how the Act, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2017, differs from prior law.

In 1978, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) which expanded protections to pregnant workers provided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The PDA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition.

Subsequently, in 1990 Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees suffering from a disability. Congress further expanded protections under the ADA in 2008 by requiring employers to accommodate temporary disabilities. While pregnancy is not classified as a “disability,” if a pregnancy, or related condition, impairs a woman’s ability to complete her essential job functions, under the 2008 amendment an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation to assist the employee in completing her essential job functions. Under the ADA, an employer, and not the employee, is given the authority to select the accommodation. Accordingly, where an employer offers a reasonable accommodation to an employee, the employee must prove that the accommodation is unreasonable to successfully challenge the employer’s accommodation.

The 2017 Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act significantly expands protections for pregnant workers, and workers suffering from pregnancy related conditions in Nevada. Specifically, the Act makes it unlawful for an employer who is covered under the Act to engage in any of the following actions against a female employee who is pregnant, or suffers from a pregnancy related condition:

  • Refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee.
  • Take an adverse employment action against the employee.
  • Deny the employment opportunity to the employee, if she is qualified for the opportunity.
  • Require the employee to accept an accommodation that she did not request or choose.
  • Require the employee take leave from employment, if a reasonable accommodation is available and would allow the employee to remain at work.

Additionally, employers should be aware that their current compliance with federal law, will not ensure compliance with the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. Specifically, there are four important distinctions between what is required under federal law and what is required under the Act. These differences are:

  • Federal Law is not gender specific. However, the Act only applies to female employees.
  • Under federal law, the employer determines what accommodation is reasonable and may require the employee to use an accommodation selected by the employer. Further, an employer could require an employee to take leave as an accommodation. Under the Act, an accommodation may not be imposed on an employee without her consent, and an employer may not require an employee to take leave. Therefore, under the Act, generally, the employee, and not the employer, chooses her accommodation.
  • Under federal law, an employee may be required to submit a doctor’s certificate establishing that she indeed has a recognized disability and needs accommodation. However, under the Act, the employer may not require an employee to submit an ADA compliant doctor’s certificate. Instead, an employer may only require the employee to provide an explanatory statement from a physician concerning a recommended accommodation.
  • Finally, under federal law, a “disability” is a defined term, and is limited to physical or mental impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. Accordingly, in order to qualify for accommodation under federal law, an employee must be able to prove that he or she suffers from a condition which “substantially limit[s]” one or more major life activity. Under the Act, there is no such limitation to finding an employee suffers from a condition triggering the right to accommodation. Instead, the Act only requires the employee to assert that she is pregnant, or has “any medically recognized physical or mental condition related to pregnancy, childbirth or recovery from pregnancy or childbirth” in order to obtain accommodation from her employer.

Employers should be cognizant of these changes, and the differences between federal and state law. Further, employers should consider seeking competent legal advice should they have any questions concerning compliance with the Act.

See the article at: Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Jordan Walsh is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm with primary practice in the areas of Labor and Employment Law. Jordan is admitted to practice in Nevada and California.

Retirement: Final Rule on Fiduciaries

Allison MacKenzie Attorney, Jordan Walsh, Explains the Department of Labor’s Final Rule

The way we plan for retirement in the United States has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, employees could rely on their pension, which was typically managed by a financial expert, to support them through retirement. Today, for most of us, pensions are things of the past, and we, as individuals, are responsible for making the financial choices that will shape when and how we may retire.

While this system provides retirement savers with the flexibility to make financial choices that are uniquely tailored for their situations, this method of saving is fraught with pitfalls for retirement savers because most of us lack the expertise, time, and confidence, to invest our savings in a manner that will allow us to efficiently meet our retirement goals. Accordingly, we look to financial advisors to assist us in making smart financial decisions that will allow us to reach our retirement saving goals.

While most of us have good relationships with our financial advisors, statistics suggest there’s a segment of financial advisors who abuse the trust of their clients by putting their own financial gain above that of their clients. The Department of Labor (DOL) and the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) estimate on average conflicts of interest between unscrupulous financial advisors and their clients cause retirement savers to earn one full percentage point less annually than would be expected based on the status of the economy on their returns.

Furthermore, the DOL estimates such advisors cause their clients to waste upwards of $17 billion of retirement savings every year on exorbitant fees and lost revenue associated with the purchase of ill-advised financial products resulting from a conflict of interest. These conflicts of interest can occur because financial advisors aren’t currently held to a fiduciary standard under the law, and for this reason, they owe their clients no duty to provide advice that aligns with the client’s financial goals. In fact, it’s common for firms and purveyors of financial products to provide financial incentives to advisors whose clients invest in certain financial products.

For the complete article, visit: Nevada Appeal.

 Jordan Walsh is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm with primary practice in the areas of Labor and Employment Law and Civil Litigation. Jordan was admitted to practice in Nevada and California in 2014.

Recent Nevada Case Law May Render Your Business’ Non-Compete Provisions Unenforceable

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Allison MacKenzie Attorney, Will Wagner, Explores Non-Compete Provisions

In a July 2016 opinion, Golden Road Motor Inn, Inc. v. Islam (“Golden Road”), the Nevada Supreme Court pronounced a new legal rule regarding the enforceability of overbroad non-compete provisions in Nevada.  In light of Golden Road, it would be prudent for any entity conducting business in the State that relies on non-compete provisions to reevaluate the scope of such agreements to ensure they remain enforceable.

A non-compete provision is a contractual clause that prevents an employee from joining a competitor following the termination of employment.  Non-compete provisions are important to businesses that use sensitive information such as proprietary client lists or similar trade secrets.  These provisions also protect a business’s investment in training and retaining quality employees, while deterring competitors from luring valuable workers.

Non-Compete Provisions can be Overbroad in Timeframe or Geographical Scope Restrictions

Typically, the state’s laws in which the employee works will govern a non-compete provision. Non-compete laws vary widely from state to state as to enforceability and overbreadth. For instance, in California, under most circumstances a non-compete provision is unenforceable and cannot restrict an employee from joining a competitor. The primary exception to this being that when a business is sold, the selling entity and its employees can be restricted from competing. Many other states, including Nevada, allow non-compete provisions generally (both in the normal course of business and while a business is being sold) so long as the scope is reasonable and germane to the organization’s interests.

For the complete article, visit: Northern Nevada Business Weekly.

Will Wagner joined Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in 2016. He is a native Nevadan and University of Nevada, Reno graduate. Will pursued and obtained his law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he graduated cum laude. Upon graduating from law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice James W. Hardesty on the Supreme Court of Nevada. He was admitted to practice law in Nevada in 2015, and California in 2016. Will’s areas of legal practice include Business, Real Estate, Employment, Appellate, and Administrative Law.

Fernley Native, Will Wagner, Joins Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

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Will Wagner Joins Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

Fernley native Will Wagner accepted an associate position with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City, effective Sept. 12 of this year. Wagner will focus his practice in business, real estate, employment, appellate practice, commercial litigation, governmental affairs and administrative law.

Upon graduating from Fernley High School, Wagner attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he began his studies in biochemistry before ultimately deciding to become an attorney and pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in business administration. In 2015, he obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he graduated cum laude. He returned to the area and began his legal career as a law clerk for Justice James W. Hardesty at the Supreme Court of Nevada.

See the complete article: Nevada Appeal

Fair Labor Laws in Nevada

Jordan Walsh, Allison MacKenzie Law Firm

2016 Changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act: Is the Final Rule Impacting Your Bottom Line?

Jordan Walsh is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm and was asked to explore the Fair Labor Standards Act for Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Her analysis can be found in the 2016 Business Law Publication or read below.

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For many employers, it may feel like their rights and responsibilities are always changing. As difficult as it is to keep up with the changing landscape of labor and employment law, employers need to stay abreast of the law, support employees, and keep their businesses profitable – a task that is daunting at the best of times. To add to the conundrum, on May 18, 2016, President Obama and the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, announced the Department of Labor’s publication of its “Final Rule” revising the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

What does this mean for employers? The Final Rule extends the minimum wage and overtime standards outlined under the FLSA to millions of “white collar” employees working in the United States. The changes imposed under the Final Rule will become effective on December 1, 2016, so it is important for employers to familiarize themselves with the changes over the next few months so as to ensure their compliance with the FLSA at the time that the Final Rule takes effect.

Among other things, the FLSA establishes a minimum wage and overtime pay standards for employees working in both the private and public sectors. Under the FLSA, employees covered by the Act are entitled to collect the federally established minimum wage and receive overtime pay, at a rate of one and one-half percent of their regular rate of pay, for any time in excess of forty hours, which the employee works in a single workweek. While this list is not exhaustive, the following kinds of employees are typically covered under the FLSA:

1. An employee who works for an enterprise that has an annual gross volume of sales equal to or greater than $500,000.00;
2. An employee who works for an enterprise that does annual business equal to or greater than $500,000.00;
3. An employee who works for a hospital, or other business providing medical or nursing care for residents;
4. An employee who works for a school (whether operated for profit or not-for-profit), excluding teachers whose primary duty is teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing.
5. An employee who works for a public agency;
6. An employee whose work regularly has the employee engage in or become involved in interstate commerce; or
7. An employee working for a non-profit charitable organization engaged in commercial activities resulting in $500,000.00 or more in business being done, or sales being made.

Notably, in the past, the FLSA did not apply to “white collar” employees; namely, bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees, unless the employees made less than $23,660.00 annually (less $455.00 per week). This “white collar exception” to the application of the FLSA was “premised on the belief that these kinds of workers typically earn salaries well above the minimum wage and enjoy other privileges, including above average fringe benefits, greater job security, and better opportunities for advancement, setting them apart from workers entitled to overtime pay.” Under the current version of the rule, a “white collar” employee does not qualify for coverage under the FLSA if he or she (a) is paid on a salary basis, (b) is paid $455.00 or more per week, and (c) his or her primary duties involved the kind of work associated with one of the aforementioned exempt duties – executive, administrative, and professional duties. Where this exception applied, an employer was not required to meet the federal minimum wage, or pay the employee overtime. Instead, so long as the employer’s employee meets each of the criteria listed above; the employer was not required to pay the employee overtime or to meet the federal minimum hourly wage.

While the white collar exemption will still be available for employers come December 1, 2016, and the same factors will be used to determine which “white collar” employees are covered under the FLSA (see factors (a) through (c) listed above), employers must be cognizant of the fact that the salary criteria used to from the test changes dramatically on December 1st. Specifically, “white collar” employees who earn less than $913.00 per week will now be covered under the FLSA. This means that employees who earn annual salaries that are less $47,476.00 will now enjoy coverage under the FLSA. Notably, under the new rule, any “white collar” employee making less than $47,476.00 annually will be entitled to (i) collect overtime for any time worked in excess of 40 hours in a single workweek, and (ii) collect an hourly wage that is at the very least equal to the federal minimum wage.

Employers are expected to understand and comply with the Final Rule come December 1, 2016. While employers have many options for ensuring their compliance, failure to comply with the Act could result in the employer being subject to significant fines, fines up to $10,000.00; and/or up to 6 months of jail time. If stakes weren’t high enough, an employer may also be subject to litigation, and could be held liable to an employee for any unpaid wages and/or overtime, and may be liable for equitable and/or liquidated damages depending on the egregiousness of his or her non-compliance with the FLSA. Accordingly, in the coming months, employers in Nevada must take stock of their “white collar” employees, and should any of these employees fall within FLSA coverage, employers should start planning methods for ensuring that their businesses are, or come into, compliance with the FLSA by the Final Rule’s effective date.

Employers need to be proactive in their efforts to comply with the Act. While they do not need to be experts on the application of the FLSA; employers should be aware that major changes to labor and employment law will be taking effect come December 1st, and should they have any questions or concerns regarding their compliance with the law, they should seek legal counsel to assist them in navigating this complex area of the law. Furthermore, if you are an employer, it is advisable to seek legal advice before the Final Rule takes effect. Doing this will help to prevent you from running afoul of the new rules, a situation which could adversely impact the profitability of your business.

About Jordan Walsh

Jordan Walsh is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm with primary practice in the areas of Labor and Employment Law and Civil Litigation. Jordan was admitted to practice in Nevada and California in 2014. Jordan can be reached by calling 775.687.0202 or by email at JWalsh@AllisonMacKenzie.com.

Staying On Top of Changes in Employment Law for Businesses

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Article-Change Happens by Thoran Towler

Allison MacKenzie associate, Thoran Towler was recently asked to do an article for Northern Nevada Weekly’s special publication Business Law 2015. Thoran used the opportunity to expand on his article series on Employment Law issues that effect businesses in the state of Nevada.

Thoran Towler practices labor and employment law at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City and serves clients in Northern Nevada areas such as: Reno, Sparks, Fernley, Gardnerville, Minden, Lake Tahoe, Dayton and Carson City. Prior to joining the firm, he served as the State of Nevada Labor Commissioner from 2011 through 2014. Thoran is experienced in the areas of wage and hour, labor and employment law, union issues, prevailing wage and public works.

To read the full article in the publication click here or the image below.

Thoran Towler Change Happens in Employment Law

High Expectations for Employers

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Carson City, Nevada Attorney Thoran Towler

Thoran Towler continues his educational series on Employer Rights and Responsibilities with High Expectations for Employers. Featured in Carson Now, Thoran Towler explores Nevada law and its effect on Employment Law for local businesses.

Nevada is one of 23 states with laws protecting the medical use of marijuana. Although the laws vary widely in each of the 23 states, the standard rule is that individuals with qualifying medical conditions may legally use marijuana. The big question for employers is whether an employee can be terminated for medical marijuana use. Many employers have drug-free workplace policies that prohibit the use of illegal drugs both on and off the clock. Regardless of Nevada’s position on medical marijuana, marijuana use is still illegal according to federal law. Nevada employers may be at a loss on how to handle violations of their drug-free workplace policies by employees who carry “medicinal marijuana cards.”

Read the complete article at CarsonNow.org.

What Employers Need to Know about Pregnancy Discrimination

By Thoran Towler

Employer Rights and Responsibilities—A Series

On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court delivered its opinion on a case relating to treatment of pregnant workers that is of interest to businesses. In Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015), the Court evaluated the requirements for bringing a disparate (discrimination) treatment claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was subsequent language added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In synopsis, the additional language clarifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (see 42 U. S. C §2000e (k)). Additionally, it states that employers must treat “women affected by pregnancy . . . the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

In Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 575 U.S.___ (2015), Young asked the Court to determine how the latter provision applied in the context of an employer’s policy that accommodates many, but not all, workers with non-pregnancy related disabilities. The plaintiff, Ms. Peggy Young, was employed by United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), who generally required employees to be able to lift 70 lbs.

In 2006, after Young had suffered several miscarriages, she became pregnant. Ms. Young’s doctor had restricted lifting to 20 lbs. Since her condition did not meet qualifications for “light duty,” Young was not accommodated by UPS. However, light duty was available for on-the-job injuries, employees with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) qualified conditions, and those who lost Department of Transportation (DOT) certification.

The United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling held that an employee could make a disparate treatment claim through indirect evidence. This ruling means that when Young was denied her request to accommodate her lifting restriction, the company, in turn, would be required to show that the reasoning for non-accommodation was legitimate. Legitimacy does not include costs incurred by the company or inconvenience. Thus, if the employer grants an accommodation to other employees with similar limitations, the company must grant pregnant employees the same accommodation.

It should be noted that this incident happened before the enactment of the 2008 pregnancy amendments to the ADA, which have been expanded in such a way that Ms. Young could have applied for protection under the ADA.

To read the full opinion of the United States Supreme Court in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015) visit:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/12-1226_k5fl.pdf

The legal areas of Labor and Employment Law are constantly changing and it is imperative for employers to stay abreast of laws that impact their policies and procedures. It is important for employers to have access to a professional team of lawyers who are current on this ever changing legal landscape, and its ultimate effect on businesses.

 

Thoran Towler practices labor and employment law at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City. Allison MacKenzie Law Firm serves diverse client interests in Northern Nevada areas such as: Carson City, Dayton, Reno, Sparks, Fernley, Lyon County, Lake Tahoe, Washoe Valley and more. Prior to joining Allison MacKenzie, Thoran served as the State of Nevada Labor Commissioner from 2011 through 2014. Thoran brings an expertise in the areas of wage and hour, labor and employment law, union issues, prevailing wage and public works. Thoran can be reached by email at ttowler@allisonmackenzie.com or by calling him at 775.687.0202.

Press Release: Recognizing Need to Educate Northern Nevada Businesses on Employer Rights and Responsibilities—A Series

Thoran Towler of Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City, Nevada recognizes the necessity to educate Nevada employers on Labor and Employment Law issues. Thoran has created a series of talking points and recommended NRS statutes for review by Northern Nevada businesses leaders. The first in an informational series, this release specifically addresses employee record retention.

For a downloadable pdf of the entire press release click here or image below.

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