Employment Law Legislative Update Second Quarter 2015

Lamar-Sarah-OPTHunterMaclean partner Sarah Lamar discusses recent changes in employment law in her second quarterly legislative update of 2015 for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

Legislation: Guarantee Paid Vacation Act (S 1564)
Introduced: 6/11/15
Status: Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Purpose: To amend the FLSA to require employers with at least 15 employees to provide each employee at least 10 days of paid vacation time during a 12-month period, to be used on consecutive or nonconsecutive days. The employee must provide the employer at least 15 days’ prior notice of his/her intent to take paid vacation, including the dates it will begin and end.
Comment: This bill was introduced by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Its likelihood of passage is low, but it is representative of a number of paid leave bills that have been introduced in Congress due to a perception that not enough employers provide paid sick/vacation leave for their employees, especially low-wage workers. The 2015 First Quarterly Legislative Update reported on one such bill, The Healthy Families Act (S 497), which would grant employees 7 days of paid sick leave each year.
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Legislation: Georgia Medical Marijuana Law OCGA § 16-12-191(f)
Introduced: 11/17/14
Status: Became Law Effective 4/16/15
Purpose: The law provides that: “Nothing in this article shall require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sales, or growing of marijuana in any form, or to affect the ability of an employer to have a written zero tolerance policy prohibiting the on-duty, and off-duty, use of marijuana, or prohibiting any employee from having a detectable amount of marijuana in such employee’s system while at work.”
Comment: Approximately half the states have passed legislation legalizing, to varying degrees, the use of marijuana.
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Regulatory Requirements: DOL Proposed Regulations on FLSA Exemptions
Issued: 6/30/15
Effective Date: N/A
Purpose: On June 30, 2015, the US DOL published proposed regulations which would change the minimum salary requirement under the FLSA’s white collar exemptions from $455 per week or $23,660 per year to more than double that amount – $970 per week or $50,440. The proposed regulations also include an increased threshold from $100,000 per year to more than $122,000 per year for the highly compensated employee exemption. In addition, the proposed minimum salary thresholds would be linked to inflation so they may increase each year.
Comment: President Obama’s attempt to increase the minimum wage to $10.10/hour has been thwarted in Congress, so he has tried another approach. The DOL has also indicated an interest in revising the “duties” test under the white collar exemptions, which would likely present more of a political and legal challenge. The public comment period has closed and the DOL’s final regulations are expected sometime in 2016, probably after the November 2016 presidential election. Many concerns have been raised regarding the proposed regulations. For instance, if implemented, the regulations would negatively impact morale when employees change from exempt to non-exempt status; reduce flexibility for previously exempt employees who may no longer be able to work from home or answer emails after hours; and take away COLA’s and merit raises from other categories of employees, including lower paid hourly workers, in order to keep pace with the annual increases in the salaries of exempt employees.
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