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FLSA Overtime Regulations

Court: DOL’s FLSA Overtime Regulations Invalid

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In case you missed it, on August 31, 2017, Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas determined that the 2016 Final Rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, which increased the minimum salary threshold to $47,476, was not a valid action by the agency.

After finding that the case was ready for judicial decision and the parties at hand could be injured if the court did not intervene, Mazzant addressed all three of the plaintiff’s arguments.

First, the court addressed the state plaintiff’s argument that the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime requirements violate the Constitution by regulating the states and coercing them to adopt wage policy choices that adversely affect state budgets. The court held the Supreme Court precedent of Garcia v. Metropolitan Transit Authority established that Congress has the authority under the Commerce Clause to impose FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements on state and local employees.

Next, the court declined to accept the plaintiff’s argument that based on the clear statement rule, the FLSA does not apply to the states. Under that rule, “if Congress intended to alter the ‘usual constitutional balance between the states and the federal government,’ it must make its intention to do so ‘unmistakably clear in the language of the statute.”

The court discarded this argument simply by pointing out the law is applicable to any “enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce,” and this phrase, by statutory definition, includes the activity of any public agency. Therefore, the court held that the Congress was clear enough in its intention to impact the states.

 Failing the Test

Finally, and most importantly, the court agreed with the plaintiffs in finding that the Department of Labor acted outside of the scope of its delegated authority by implementing a salary-level test that effectively eliminated the duties test.

The court adhered to the test established in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., which requires courts to determine whether Congress has spoken directly to the precise question at issue. If Congress has, then the court and agency must follow the intent of Congress.

After interpreting the plain meanings of “executive, administrative and professional,” Mazzant found Congress intended the exemption to apply to employees who perform those duties, rather than those who simply are paid a certain amount. Furthermore, because the new regulations focused more on the salary level than Congress intended, they were found invalid, and the court held the agency acted outside of its delegated authority.

What’s Next?

The Department of Labor published a Request for Information in the July 26 Federal Register, which indicates the agency intends to continue its attempt at overhauling overtime.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.


Zachary Gregory

by Zachary Gregory


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Zach Gregory monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal levels, focusing on payroll and garnishment laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. He previously worked at a law firm as a tax attorney. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Christian University and a J.D. from Oklahoma City University. Outside of work, Gregory enjoys playing in the backyard with his two boys, and finding new restaurants with his wife and high school sweetheart, Kellyn.

Sexual Harassment Policy

3 Answers to Questions About Sexual Harassment Policy

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In October 2017, in light of the #MeToo movement, the HR Break Room podcast devoted an episode to workplace sexual harassment policies. Since that conversation, we continued to receive questions on the subject, not only from our listeners, but Paycom blog readers and webinar attendees.

To answer those questions and examine the topic further, HR Break Room assembled a panel of leaders from Paycom’s legal and HR departments for a follow-up episode: Matthew Paque, vice president of legal and compliance; Tiffany Gamblin, HR manager; and Jason Hines, compliance attorney.

That episode, “Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions,” tackles 10 such inquiries. Here are takeaways from three of them.

When it comes to taking action on a complaint of sexual harassment, how can HR protect the company and the reporting individual?

It is the duty of HR to write a policy that protects both. Equally important is documenting that policy and consistently applying it to each report; deviations should not exist. This approach gives employees the assurance that, if sexual harassment claims are brought to light, a procedure and a mechanism are in place to handle these unfortunate scenarios.

Once you have a documented process, it is critical to communicate that procedure to employees year-round so they know how to utilize it. Are they supposed to report to a specific HR contact? Do you have a help line they can call? Is a website easily accessible detailing the steps?

How can you ensure an anonymous report is not just someone griping about another employee and is unrelated to harassment?

If your investigative process is unbiased, fair and consistent, it should be able to determine whether a complaint is fraudulent. False claims aren’t common, and your process should be prepared to weed them out. Make sure all investigation details have been reviewed thoroughly before making a decision, including whether to pursue a new direction.

For a sound investigation, never assume any claim to be frivolous; do your due diligence. In case a claim is found to be untrue, you may want to prepare a disciplinary action for the employee who made the false accusation.

How should an organization handle a harassment claim that involves people outside the company?

Listen to the panel discuss anonymous helplines and how to implement them within your organization, in the HR Break Room episode Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions.

The best practice for tackling such reports is to treat them as you would any other complaint. It may get tricky if the accused is a client or customer of your business, but strategies do exist. For one, you can report the occurrence to the client’s HR manager, and allow that entity to investigate on your behalf.

It’s also important to ensure an environment that separates the harasser from your employee, because when interaction between the two parties stops, the chances of another incident are greatly minimized. If your client is unwilling to discipline the harasser under its employ, you may wish to consider termination of your business relationship.

Regardless, your employee’s safety comes first. You do not want to give him or her the perception that your sexual harassment policy does not apply to high-paying clients. If your employee perceives he or she is being forced to deal with inappropriate behavior from a customer, that can threaten your organization’s culture and reputation. Your policy should reassure employees they will be safe and that the organization will take steps to remedy complaints.

 Listen to the panel discuss seven more listener questions on sexual harassment policy, in the HR Break Room episode Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions.

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Posted in Blog, Featured

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Charge of discrimination

What to Do When a Charge of Discrimination Is Made

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According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 84,000 workplace discrimination charges were filed in 2017. Because these charges can escalate into costly lawsuits, employers must understand what to do if charges are made against them to avoid unnecessary mistakes that could cost time and money. Here is a look at what happens – and what to do – when a charge of discrimination is made against your organization.

Employer notice

When a charge is filed against your organization, the EEOC will generally notify you within 10 days. The notification will typically include the name and contact information for the investigator assigned to the case, steps to take if you are interested in mediating the charge (see discussion below) as well as a URL for you to log into the EEOC’s Respondent Portal to view and download the charge. This portal also is used to upload your organization’s position statement and responses to any requests for information during the investigation process.

The investigation process

The EEOC generally has a broad scope of authority in conducting investigations of alleged or suspected discriminatory conduct. During this process, your organization will be asked to provide certain information, which may include:

  • Position statement – This is your organization’s statement of its position in regard to the charges. In other words, it is your opportunity to tell your side of the story. Your organization should take advantage of this opportunity and include applicable policies and references to any issues and documents that would render the charges invalid.
  • Responses to Requests for Information (RFI) – These requests may be for copies of personnel policies, personnel files and other relevant information. Failure to respond may result in an administrative subpoena issued and served to your organization.
  • Employee contact information for witness interviews – The employer has the right to have a representative attend interviews of management personnel but the EEOC can generally interview non-management employees outside the employer’s presence.

If you have information that would show that the allegations are false or that your organization did not violate the law, provide this information to the investigator. You may also be asked to permit an on-site visit by the investigator.

After the investigation

Once its investigation is complete, the EEOC will make a determination on the merits of the charge(s). Most often, it will choose not to file a lawsuit and instead issue either a Dismissal and Notice of Rights or a Letter of Determination.

The Dismissal and Notice of Rights indicates its investigation was unable to conclude that the information obtained established unlawful discrimination; however, the employee who made the complaint is free to file a lawsuit in court.

If the EEOC determines discrimination may have occurred, it will send a Letter of Determination and attempt to have the parties settle the matter outside of court. If the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, the EEOC will send the employee a Right to Sue letter, allowing him or her to bring suit in federal court. In rare cases, the EEOC may file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.

3 Ways to Resolve Charges

In general, three methods exist for successfully resolving charges of discrimination outside of litigation: mediation, settlement and conciliation.

1. Mediation

Mediation is an informal process in which a trained mediator assists the parties to try and reach a negotiated resolution. It generally is initiated before an investigation and is completely voluntary.

This process allows the parties to resolve the matters in dispute in a way that is mutually satisfactory. It is also much faster than the traditional investigation process. The main benefit for mediating is that it allows the parties an opportunity to reach a resolution before incurring the time and expense involved in the traditional investigatory process.

If mediation is successful, the charges filed with the EEOC will be closed. If unsuccessful, the charges will be referred for investigation.

2. Settlement

Settlement of the charges may take place at any time during the investigation. Similar to mediation, settlement is completely voluntary, and the goal is to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties. Settling charges generally occurs with no admission of liability, but if a settlement is reached, those charges are dismissed.

3. Conciliation

The EEOC is required by Title VII to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination through conciliation. However, this process is triggered only after the parties have been notified that, through evidence gathered in the investigation, there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. This process is intended to help the employer and the EEOC negotiate how the employer can change its policies and practices to comply with the laws, and also to determine any amount of damages the employer should pay to the employee.

In some instances, the employer can be at a disadvantage during this process because it may not be entirely aware of the evidentiary basis for the EEOC’s determination that discrimination has occurred. Unlike in litigation, there are no disclosure obligations.

If the conciliation process fails, the EEOC then decides whether to sue the employer in court.

Your organization should not ignore or fail to respond to charges of discrimination. Employers often conduct their own investigation to determine the claim’s merits. In many cases, employers opt to resolve charges early in the process through mediation or settlement to avoid costly litigation. However, you may choose not to engage in these types of voluntary resolutions if you feel the claims have no merit.

To learn more about preventing workplace discrimination, see our related blog posts on “Diversity Training in the Workplace: Helping Managers Understand ‘Cultural Fit’” and “2 Questions You Never Should Ask a Job Candidate … and What You Should Ask Instead.”

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

Posted in Blog, Featured

Kristin Birchell

by Kristin Birchell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Kristin Birchell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, with a focus on labor and employment laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. Previously, she served as an attorney at the Oklahoma City law firm Derryberry & Naifeh LLP. Birchell earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of Central Missouri, and her Juris Doctor from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, hiking, going to the movies and spending time with her husband.

workplace violence

An Employer’s First Steps to Avoiding Workplace Violence

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In the wake of workplace threats nationwide, businesses are taking a closer look at their own threat and crisis management plans and policies. HR is an essential component in planning for workplace emergencies, from the conceptual stages to employee training.

Larry Barton, the highest-rated instructor at the FBI National Academy and U.S. Marshals Service, recently joined the HR Break Room podcast to discuss how organizations can better prepare themselves. Here are a few highlights from the episode’s conversation. While all of us get upset at work from time to time, not everyone exhibits warning signs – such as a manifesto or incendiary posts on social media – that indicate a future threat.

You will want to look out for behavior that suggests potential for risk, especially emerging in clusters, such as:

  • anger
  • constant distress
  • “no call, no show” absences
  • a rapid change in appearance

All employees should be encouraged that if they see something, they should say something to the leaders who can assist. Barton further encouraged the parties behind the initial reports to follow up and ensure that correct departments follow through, HR included.

Listen to the full HR Break Room conversation with Larry Barton in the episode “Safety First: Proactive Crisis Management”

Training and communication are essential

 Training is particularly vital for managers and supervisors. Holding half- or full-day training sessions that include case studies, multiple threat scenarios and role-playing can be particularly effective in preparing your organization for the worst.

Clearly communicating and empathizing with employees is a small, but important step in helping minimize a workplace crisis. In the HR Break Room discussion, Barton noted that he frequently hears participants say, “Wow, now I understand why words matter.”

“We can soften our words,” Barton said. For example, instead of ‘termination’ use ‘separation.’ “When former employees have to take home bad news to their family, they would use the word ‘termination,’ as if it was something they could not come back from.”

No matter the circumstance, always treat former employees with the same respect you did when they started the onboarding process. Avoid being clinical, and practice ways to deliver upsetting news empathetically. Softening upsetting language and respecting employees minimizes the likelihood of disgruntlement.

Ensure your physical facility is secure

 A secure facility is critical to protecting your people, and helps them feel comfortable at work. Security cameras, badge control and multi-tenant buildings patrolled by skilled officers are all staples of sound workplace security – this is true for all buildings, including high-rises, shopping malls and even underground facilities. It’s important that all employees and security officers have a sense of intuition that keeps them alert and aware. If security is in-house, make sure to include physical fitness tests and psychological exams in your screening and training processes.

If you have no security at your building (which is common in rented space), ask the landlord what he or she is doing to meet today’s higher standards for safety.

Creating a secure work environment and preventing a workplace crisis may seem like a daunting task, but by taking the first steps Barton mentions in the HR Break Room episode “Safety First: Proactive Crisis Management,” you can become better equipped to mitigate risk.

For more information on Paycom’s Document and Task Management tool, request a demo.

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Posted in Blog, Featured

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

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