The Arkansas Department of Labor issued new drug test rules for employers under the 2009 Drug Test Law. Effective May 1, 2010, the new rules generally prohibit an employer from charging an employee for a drug test. However, the rules permit an Arkansas employer to require the employee to pay for a drug or alcohol test, under very specific circumstances. Routine pre-employment drug screening must be free to the applicant, and the applicant must receive a copy of the results at no cost if requested in writing.
The same provisions apply to medical exams and drug tests before and during employment. An employee who requests that a sample be retested after a positive drug test can be required to pay for the retest – but not for the initial screening.
Certain exceptions apply to further drug tests if the employee has tested positive for an illegal drug (including alcohol) and has agreed to a plan as a condition of continued employment. In that case, the employee (more…)
The Arkansas Department of Labor recently announced the schedule of health conferences for 2010.
The agency schedules annual worker safety conferences. There are separate conferences for public and private employers. The conferences focus on worker safety and compliance including improving safety for teen workers. Initial findings show that fatal workplace accidents were down in 2009, due in part to increased safety awareness by employers, including those who attended conferences.
For private employers including businesses, the first 2010 Arkansas Safety and Health Conferences was held on February 25 in Little Rock. Additional conferences will be held in Pine Bluff on March 25, in Russellville on May 6 and i (more…)
When both the federal and Arkansas minimum wage apply to an employee, the employee is entitled to protection under whichever confers the greater benefit. In this case, an employee covered by both the Arkansas and federal minimum wage is entitled to the higher federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The federal minimum wage does not cover every Arkansas employee. The federal minimum wage and overtime law is the FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA applies to every employee of a business with $500,000 or more in annual revenue.
In addition, individual employees (more…)
The US Department of Labor recently announced community-based worker training grants for Arkansas totaling just under $3.5 million. The President’s Community-Based Job Training Grants Initiative awarded $125 million to 69 community colleges across the United States.
The competition was announced in August of 2007, and received 341 applications. The funds go to training facilities and community colleges to aid workers in competing for high-growth industry jobs.
The two Arkansas grants go to (more…)
New FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations were proposed by the U. S. Department of Labor on February 11, 2008. The new regulations go into effect on April 11, 2008, which gives employers several weeks to review the changes.
After they review the new regulations, employers can post comments on a website. Simply click this link and type in “Family and Medical Leave Act” in quotes. All comments posted to this site are viewable by the public.
One of the major changes is the policy regarding using paid time off while on FMLA leave. Currently, employees can utilize accrued sick time while on FMLA leave. The new regulations will allow employees to not only use accrued sick time, but personal leave and vacation leave, too. To use paid time off (PTO), though, the worker must meet all requirements for taking leave. The term for this is “substitution of paid leave”.
Consider Mary, an employee in Arkansas who will be taking FMLA after the birth of her baby. She currently has 2 weeks of sick leave, 5 weeks of vacation time and 3 weeks of personal leave. Under the new regulations FMLA, Mary will be able to utilize all 10 weeks of her PTO. Once that leave is exhausted, she is still eligible for 2 weeks of unpaid leave. Under this plan, Mary has substituted PTO for a portion of unpaid FMLA.
Under the previous policy, Mary would only have been able to use the 2 weeks of sick leave, requiring then 10 weeks of unpaid leave.
Another change to the FMLA, though minor, stands to make a lot of employers and workers happy. Previously, FMLA was not counted toward an employee’s absences. Supervisors and coworkers alike considered this unfair as some of these employees gained “perfect attendance” awards and bonuses–even after being away from work for 12 weeks.
Under the new policies, FMLA leave will count toward a worker’s absences just like any other leave, thereby disqualifying those workers from perfect attendance” accolades.
More Arkansas FMLA Changes
On or about April 11, 2008, several additional changes to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) will go into effect. The U. S. Department of Labor proposed these changes on February 11, 2008 and is providing the interim weeks as an opportunity for employers to comment on the changes.
Victoria Lipnic of the U. S. Department of Labor stated “It’s time to update these regulations — to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
The issues being amended include the “Ragsdale” decision on employer penalties, the substitution of paid leave if the worker meets requirements and adjustment of the process for “fitness-for-duty” certification.
Ms. Lipnic further stated, “This proposal is the result of a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department’s experience in administering and enforcing the law.”
The concept of “serious health condition” for an employee is a main focus of the new FMLA regulations.
The purpose of FMLA is to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own “serious medical condition” or for that of a child, parent or spouse. To obtain that leave, companies normally require medical certification of the “serious medical condition” by a healthcare provider. The U. S. Department of Labor permits this practice to help prevent abuse of the leave.
The rules regarding FMLA leave provide several different acceptable definitions of “serious medical condition”. For example, one definition states “two visits to a health care provider” and 3 consecutive calendar days of incapacity, qualifies as “serious medical condition”.
The new regulations retain six definitions, plus provide a clarification of the rather vague “two visits to a health care provider”. Before the proposed amendments, no time frame was given for these two visits. One court, (the Tenth Circuit Court) ruled that the visits had to occur within the incapacitation period.
With the new regulations, the U. S. Department of Labor will set the time frame as within 30 days of the period of incapacity.