Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Category Archives: Wage and Hour Policies

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California Employers Must Revisit Exempt Status of Commissioned Employees In Light of Supreme Court Ruling

By:  Amy Messigian

In a major blow to California employers who utilize a monthly commission scheme but pay biweekly or semimonthly salary to their commission sales employees, the California Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc. that a commission payment may be applied only to the pay period in which it is paid for the purposes of determining whether an employee is exempt from overtime.  Employers may not divide the commission payment across multiple pay periods in order to satisfy the minimum compensation threshold for meeting the exemption in any earlier pay period.  California … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Decision Guarantees Only One Thing – More Wage-Hour Class Actions with More Expert Witnesses

By Michael Kun

Much has already been written about last week’s California Supreme Court decision in Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, a greatly anticipated ruling that will have a substantial impact upon wage-hour class actions in California for years to come.  Much more will be written about the decision as attorneys digest it, as parties rely on it in litigation, and as the courts attempt to apply it.

In a lengthy and unanimous opinion, the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision to reverse a $15 million trial award in favor of a class of employees … Continue Reading

Hot Topic for Summer: How to Handle Unpaid Internships

By: Michael S. Kun

My colleagues have a new post on the Retail Labor and Employment Law blog that will help many of our readers at this time of year: “Summer’s Coming! How to Handle Unpaid Internships,” by Jeffrey M. Landes, Susan Gross Sholinsky, and Nancy L. Gunzenhauser.

Following is an excerpt:

A hot topic for every summer – but particularly this summer – is the status of unpaid interns. You are probably aware that several wage and hour lawsuits have been brought regarding the employment status of unpaid interns, particularly in the entertainment and … Continue Reading

Webinar, May 22: Creating and Maintaining a Lawful Internship Program

In a complimentary webinar on May 22 (1:00 p.m. ET), our colleagues Jeffrey M. Landes and Susan Gross Sholinsky will present a webinar on how to strategically structure internship programs to comply with applicable wage and hour guidelines.

Join us for a discussion on how to minimize both your organization’s liability and the risk of wage and hour lawsuits. In particular, below are just a few of the many questions we will address during the webinar:

  • What are the best practices for recruiting and hiring seasonal interns, and what critical language should you include (or avoid) in offer letters, employment
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Improper Expense Reimbursements may be a “Shadow Wage”

By Michael D. Thompson

A recent decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals examined the question of whether expense reimbursements were actually "shadow wages" that should have been included when calculating an employee’s overtime rate.

In Newman v. Advanced Technology Innovation Corp., the plaintiffs were non-exempt engineers who worked remotely. Each plaintiff signed an agreement with Advanced Tech under which they were to receive (i) an hourly wage, (ii) overtime at a rate more than one-and-a-half times the hourly wage, and (iii) a "per diem expense reimbursement" in light of their remote work assignments.

The plaintiffs claimed that the per diem was “tied to … Continue Reading

Take 5 Views You Can Use: Wage and Hour Update

By: Kara M. Maciel

The following is a selection from the Firm’s October Take 5 Views You Can Use which discusses recent developments in wage hour law.

  1. IRS Will Begin Taxing a Restaurant’s Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges

Many restaurants include automatic gratuities on the checks of guests with large parties to ensure that servers get fair tips. This method allows the restaurant to calculate an amount into the total bill, but it takes away a customer’s discretion in choosing whether and/or how much to tip the server. As a result of this removal of a customer’s voluntary act, the … Continue Reading

Texas Health Care Provider’s Miscalculation of Overtime Pay Proves Costly

By: Kara Maciel and Jordan Schwartz

On September 16, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Harris Health System (“Harris”), a Houston health care provider of emergency, outpatient and inpatient medical services, has agreed to pay more than $4 million in back wages and damages to approximately 4,500 current and former employees for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions. The DOL made this announcement after its Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) completed a more than two-year investigation into the company’s payment system prompted by claims that employees were not being fully compensated.

Under … Continue Reading

Epstein Becker Green Releases New Version of Wage & Hour Guide App

Wage & Hour Guide App for EmployersWe are pleased to announce the release of a new version of our Wage & Hour Guide app that puts federal and state wage-hour laws at employers’ fingertips. To download the app, click here.

The new version features an updated main screen design; added support for iOS 6, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, and fourth generation iPad; improved search capabilities; enhanced attorney profiles; expanded email functionality for sharing guide content with others; and easier access to additional wage and hour information on EBG’s website, including the Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist  and other resources.    The new version continues to … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ # 3: What to Expect During a DOL “Walk Around” Inspection.

By Elizabeth Bradley

This on-going series of blog posts flows from EBG’s publication of its Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers. The Checklist, along with this series, is aimed at guiding employers through DOL Wage and Hour Division Investigations.

We have previously blogged our way through How to Prepare for a Wage and Hour Inspection, What to Do When a Wage and Hour Investigation Team Arrives to Start Auditing, and What Records Must be Provided to the DOL. In this post, we discuss what to expect during the “walk around” inspection portion of the on-site … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Raises Bar for Class Certification

By Stuart Gerson

Wage-hour lawsuits filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) represent one of the fastest growing and most problematic areas of litigation facing employers today, especially when such cases are brought as collective actions. A recent Supreme Court case based in class action analysis provides a potentially-useful analog for employers to stave off such collective actions.

Class action criteria are set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, and they allow for one or more individual named plaintiffs to sue on behalf of a large – sometimes very large – group of unnamed employees, where: 1) … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ #2: What to Do When a Wage Hour Investigation Team Arrives to Start Auditing

By Douglas Weiner

Last month, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received terrific feedback with additional questions. Following up on your questions, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

In this post, we address an increasingly common issue that many employers are facing in light of aggressive government enforcement at the state and federal level from the Department of Labor.

QUESTION: If a DOL team of Wage Hour Investigators arrive unannounced demanding the immediate production of payroll and tax records and access to … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rules That Employees Need Not “Request” A Seat Under California’s Obscure “Suitable Seating” Law

By Michael Kun

We have written previously in this blog about California’s obscure “suitable seating” law, which requires that some employers provide “suitable seating” to some employees.

In short, the plaintiffs’ bar recently discovered a provision buried in California’s Wage Orders requiring employers to provide “suitable seating” to employees when the nature of their jobs would reasonably permit it.  Although the provision was written to cover employees who normally worked in a seated position with equipment, machinery or other tools, employers in a variety of industries have been hit with class actions alleging that they have violated those provisions – … Continue Reading

Wage & Hour FAQ #1: How to Prepare for a Wage Hour Inspection

By: Kara M. Maciel

Earlier this month, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received a lot of great feedback with additional questions. Following up on that feedback, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.

In this post, we address a common issue that many employers are facing in light of increased government enforcement at the state and federal level from the Department of Labor.

QUESTION: “I am aware that my industry is being targeted by the DOL for audits and several of my competitors … Continue Reading

EBG Provides a Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for Employers

 

Epstein Becker Green is pleased to announce the availability of a Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist, which provides employers with valuable information about wage and hour investigations and audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Like EBG’s first-of-its kind Wage and Hour App, which provides detailed information about federal and state laws, the Checklist is a free resource offered by EBG.

The Checklist provides step-by-step guidance on the following issues: preparation before a Wage and Hour Division investigation of the DOL; preliminary investigation issues; document production; on-site inspection activities; employee interviews; and back-wage findings, … Continue Reading

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Resigns: How Will the Enforcement Policy of the Wage and Hour Division Change?

By Douglas Weiner and Kara Maciel

“There’s a new sheriff in town.”  With those words in 2009, Secretary Hilda Solis initiated a policy at the Department of Labor that emphasized increased investigations and prosecutions of violators rather than the prior administration’s emphasis on providing compliance assistance.

Her departure – announced yesterday – is unlikely, however, to have much effect on the Department’s current aggressive enforcement policy, as the top enforcement officer of the Department remains Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith.  Solicitor Smith was previously the New York State Commissioner of Labor, where she introduced task force investigations and procedures … Continue Reading

The First “Suitable Seating” Trial In California Results In A Victory For The Employer – And Guidance For Plaintiffs For Future Cases

By Michael Kun

As we have written before in this space,  the latest wave of class actions in California is one alleging that employers have not complied with obscure requirements requiring the provision of “suitable seating” to employees – and that employees are entitled to significant penalties as a result.

The “suitable seating” provisions are buried so deep in Wage Orders that most plaintiffs’ attorneys were not even aware of them until recently.  Importantly, they do not require all employers to provide seats to all employees.  Instead, they provide that employers shall provide “suitable seats when the nature … Continue Reading

Waivers and Releases of Massachusetts Wage Claims

By Evan J. Spelfogel

On December 17, 2012, in Crocker v Townsend Oil, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court invalidated a settlement agreement, waiver and release to the extent it purported to release claims under the Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws, but did not expressly include that statute by name among the claims being released. Specifically, the Court held:

We…conclude that a settlement or contract termination agreement by an employee that includes a general release, purporting to release all possible existing claims will be enforceable as to the statutorily provided rights and remedies conferred by the Wage Act only if Continue Reading

Work at Home Overtime Claim Blocked by Employer’s Timekeeping Systems

By Evan J. Spelfogel

In recent years employees have asserted claims for time allegedly worked away from their normal worksites, on their Blackberries, iPhones or personal home computers.  Until now, employers have been faced with the nearly impossible task of proving that their employees did not perform the alleged work.  The US Department of Labor and plaintiffs’ attorneys have taken advantage of the well-established obligation of employers to make and maintain accurate records of the hours worked by their non-exempt employees, and to pay for all work “suffered or permitted” to be performed.

Now, the United States Court of … Continue Reading

Clarification of California’s Obscure “Suitable Seating” Requirement Should Be Forthcoming In Two Pending Cases

By Michael Kun

Employers with operations in California have become aware in recent years of an obscure provision in California Wage Orders that requires “suitable seating” for some employees.  Not surprisingly, many became aware of this provision through the great many class action lawsuits filed by plaintiffs’ counsel who also just discovered the provision.  The law on this issue is scant.  However, at least two pending cases should clarify whether and when employers must provide seats – a case against Bank of America that is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, and a case against K-Mart that is … Continue Reading

Independent Contractor Misclassification Should Remain Key Area of Concern for Employers

By Frederick Dawkins and Douglas Weiner

Earlier this month, at the ABA Labor and Employment Law Conference, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith reaffirmed that investigating independent contractors as misclassified remains a top priority of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) enforcement initiatives.  The DOL will continue to work with other federal and state agencies, including the IRS, to share information and jointly investigate claims of worker misclassification.  The joint enforcement effort is certainly driven by, among other things, an interest in collecting unpaid tax revenue, and could result in significant liability to employers.

In addition to potential liability resulting … Continue Reading

HR Guide for Employers, on Responding to Natural Disasters

HR Guide for Responding to Natural Disasters

Kara M. Maciel, contributor to this blog and Member of the Firm at Epstein Becker Green, has released the “HR Guide for Responding to Natural Disasters.”  Following is an excerpt:

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes have posed unique human resource challenges for employers. While many employers are working around the clock on recovery efforts, other employers find themselves unable to function for extended periods of time because of damage or loss of utilities.

The economic effects of a natural disaster will have long-term consequences on businesses in the region.

Although no one can ever

Continue Reading

Modifying Workweeks to Avoid Overtime: Employers Should Still Proceed With Caution

By:  Elizabeth Bradley

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently confirmed that the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) does not prohibit an employer from modifying its workweek in order to avoid overtime costs. The Court’s ruling in Redline Energy confirms that employers are permitted to modify their workweeks as long as the change is intended to be permanent. Employers are not required to set forth a legitimate business reason for making the change and are permitted to do so solely for the purpose of reducing their overtime costs. The only requirement on employers is that the change … Continue Reading

Hurricane Sandy Is About to Blow Our Way: Wage & Hour Implications for Employers

By:  Kara M. Maciel

Hurricane Sandy is approaching this weekend, so employers along the East Coast should refresh themselves on the wage and hour issues arising from the possibility of missed work days in the wake of the storm.

A few brief points that all employers should be mindful of under the FLSA:

  • A non-exempt employee generally does not have to be paid for weather-related absences. An employer may allow (or require) non-exempt employees to use vacation or personal leave days for such absences. But, if the employer has a collective bargaining agreement or handbook policies, the employer may obligate itself
  • Continue Reading

California Supreme Court To Review Class Action Waiver Issue

By Michael Kun and Aaron Olsen

To the surprise of few, the California Supreme Court has decided to review the Court of Appeal’s decision enforcing a class action waiver in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC.

We wrote in detail about that decision on this blog earlier this year.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeals relied on the April 2011 United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion.  Whether the California Supreme Court will follow Concepcion or attempt to distinguish it is impossible to predict.   Unfortunately, while they await that decision, employers may … Continue Reading

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