California courts continue to limit employers’ use of arbitration agreements. This time, the Fourth Appellate District Court has determined that the new limits on arbitration agreements with employees also apply to independent contractors.
A previous California Supreme Court ruling in Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare established that an arbitration agreement with an employee is only enforceable if it is mutual and does not require employees to waive rights they have under state law. Previously, many employers believed waiver of rights was the main purpose of an arbitration agreement.
The Supreme Court ruled that the employer’s “take it or leave it” attitude toward the items in the arbitration agreement made it invalid. Employees must be permitted to negotiate items in the arbitration agreement individually, without it affecting the job offer.
In order to be enforceable, a California arbitration agreement must provide for :
· A neutral arbitrator (more…)
Employers in Illinois will have to provide many benefits to same-sex partners under the new state law that legalizes civil unions. The law allows any two people to enter into a civil union that is legally recognized by the state as entailing the same responsibilities, benefits and protections as marriage. An Illinois civil union can be between a man and a woman, or between two people of the same sex.
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on January 31, 2011.
In practical terms, employers will need to provide many benefits to straight, gay or lesbian partners in a civil union beginning on June 1, 2011, when the Illinois civil union law goes into effect. On that date, employers must provide the same benefits to the partner of an employee in a civil union, as the employer provides to spouses of married employees. In particular, an employer who provides group health insurance coverage from an outside company, must provide the same coverage at the same price for employees in a civil union, as for married employees.
There are two notable exceptions to coverage under the law, according to attorney Theresa Essig with Fischer & Phillips law firm. First, an employer who is self-insured need not provide coverage to civil union partners, even if they provide coverage to spouses. Second, the law specifically allows religious organizations to make their own decisions about which dependents to cover.
Any other benefits provided to employees under state law, such as paid vacations and sick leave, will have to treat married spouses and partners in civil unions the same.
Ms. Essig adds that final regulations have not yet been written, so there may be changes in these policies. Her assessment is based on the impact of similar legislation in other states. Currently gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry (more…)
New legislation and regulations following the gains by Republicans in mid-term elections will impact many employers. These include developing news on Health Care Reform and extensions of many tax credits.
The last-second tax cut extension passed by Congress is formally titled the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. That law implemented a number of extensions to tax credits and benefits to employers, as revealed in this IRS guide for employers.
The biggest news is a 2% reduction in FICA withholding by employers, from 6.2% to 4.2%. Employers must implement this cut by January 31, 2011. It affects employees earning up to $106,800 per year. This will result in an increase in take-home pay for workers, which replaces the “Make Work Pay” tax credit of up to $800 under the ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. New 2011 IRS withholding tables are here.
Employers will receive tax credits for hiring workers: (more…)
Beginning on January 1, 2011, Illinois employers will be limited in performing credit checks on employees and applicants. On that date, the Employee Privacy Act goes into effect. Hawaii and Oregon also have laws that limit the use of credit reports in background checks, while other states are considering them.
The new credit check law prohibits employers from ordering a credit report on an applicant or employee, and from asking about credit history, although the law includes a number of loopholes that will apply to many exempt management employees.
Employees or applicants can sue an employer who violates the law, and may be awarded damages, relief, court costs and attorney’s fees.
An employer can still perform credit checks on an applicant or a current employee if the business can establish that good credit is a bona fide job qualification. In order to do so, the individual must involve one or more of the following: (more…)
OSHA recently issued a memo requiring local offices to implement more inspections and crack down on employers who underreport accidents in the workplace. The action specifically targets factories and companies with many workers at one site, who report much lower injury rates than their competitors.
At issue is the problem of over-zealous managers and supervisors who fail to report workplace accidents. Usually these accidents are not serious and may result in only minor first aid, with little or no time missed from work. However, in more severe cases, a supervisor may fail to report a very serious accident, or threaten an employee who reports a legitimate workplace accident.
Ironically, a workplace safety plan that offers incentives for very low accident rates, especially financial incentives to line supervisors or managers, may create an environment that encourages underreporting of accidents. While having a safety plan and rewarding supervisors with good worker safety records is positive, offering incentives that are too large, for unrealistic or impossible safety goals, is a negative.
OSHA launched the National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping or NEP in 2009 after several university studies found that companies were incorrectly reporting fewer workplace accidents.
Under NEP, OSHA plans to increase focus on the manufacturing industry.
In the past, OSHA did not inspect companies that reported no days of work lost, employees on light duty or employees transferred due to a work-related accident. This provided (more…)