Employment Law Legislative Update Fourth Quarter 2015

Lamar8915-IMG1-OPTAttorney Sarah Lamar highlights recent changes in employment law in her fourth quarter legislative update of 2015 for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

Legislation: Georgia Garnishment Bill (SB 255)
Introduced: 12/30/15
Status: Passed Senate and Referred to House Judiciary Committee
Purpose: To clarify garnishment procedures and ensure that debtors can access information regarding available exemptions and claim appropriate exemptions in an expedited manner.
Comment: This legislation follows a ruling by a federal judge in Atlanta that the current state garnishment statute unconstitutionally denies due process to defendants in garnishment proceedings. After this ruling, members of the Georgia Legislature formed a task force to correct the problems inherent in the current law. SB 255 is the result of the task force’s efforts.
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Legislation: Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (S 2180)
Introduced: 10/8/15 Status: Referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Purpose: This bi-partisan bill would allow plaintiffs to pursue the “mixed motive” theory of liability in age cases. In other words, an employee could prove age discrimination by showing that it was a motivating factor for an unlawful employment practice, even though other legitimate factors also motivated the employer’s actions.
Comment: S 2180 was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., which compels an employee to prove that age was the sole or “but-for” reason for the employer’s adverse action.
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Legislation: Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (HR 2029)
Introduced: 4/24/15 Status: Signed into Law 12/18/15
Purpose: This $1.1 trillion appropriations bill had attempted to neutralize the NLRB’s joint employment decision in Browning-Ferris, but in the end this “rider” was dropped from the legislation. The bill set fiscal year 2016 funding at essentially flat levels for the EEOC and the various departments of the DOL, including the Wage and Hour Division, which enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the OFCCP, which enforces federal affirmative action laws.
Comment: While legislative action has thus far failed to block the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris decision, Browning-Ferris has chosen to appeal the NLRB’s decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals.
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Legislation: Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S 425)
Introduced: 12/10/15 Status: Reported Favorably from Committee on Veterans Affairs
Purpose: Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson offered an amendment to this bill to block the OFCCP from having jurisdiction over certain healthcare providers, especially smaller rural providers, that enter into contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This amendment is in direct response to the OFCCP’s position that a healthcare provider is a covered federal contractor by nature of such a contract.
Comment: Affirmative action obligations under the current administration have become more expansive and onerous. In 2014, the OFCCP issued a “moratorium” on enforcing its regulations against certain healthcare providers who work with the VA.
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