California May Expand Employee Rights

The California legislature is considering several bills that would impact employers, including a minimum wage increase and extension of family leave rights. Another bill would protect employees who smoke medical marijuana.


Minimum Wage Increase

The California Assembly is considering AB 10, a bill that would increase the state minimum wage from $8.00 to $8.50 per hour. Even more importantly, the bill includes a provision to increase the minimum wage each year based on inflation.


Currently at $8.00 per hour, the California minimum wage is tied with Massachusetts for the seventh highest in the nation, after Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada and Vermont. About a dozen states have annual cost-of-living increases to the minimum wage, including Florida, Arizona and Colorado.  


Expanded Family Leave

A bill before the California Assembly would expand the California Family Rights Act or CFRA to allow employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave in many more situations.


If passed, the expanded CFRA would permit employees to take time off to care for an adult son or daughter, a mother- or father-in-law, grandparent, sister or brother, grandson or granddaughter, or a domestic partner with a serious health condition.


The federal FMLA was modeled after the CFRA, one of four current California family rights laws. Currently both FMLA and CFRA permit an employee to take time off to Continue reading

Illinois Legalizes Civil Unions

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 Continue reading

ADAAA Expands FMLA for Adult Children

Just when employers thought they had FMLA figured out, ADAAA throws in a new wrinkle.


According to attorney Joan Gale and several other noted experts, the expansion of ADA under ADAAA will enable many more employees to take FMLA for adult children, even when those children are not members of the military or veterans.


An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act when an immediate family member has a serious health condition. Originally, the FMLA was crafted so that immediate family members included parents, a spouse, and a son or daughter under the age of 18.


Sons and daughters over the age of 18 were Continue reading

New FMLA Entitlement for Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Same-Sex Parents

A new U.S. Department of Labor regulation underscores the fact that gay parents and others in nontraditional families have the right to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA to care for a child with a serious health problem, or to bond with a child (under 18) who is new to the home.


This regulation is no surprise. Even before the 2009 Final Rule, any employee who was acting in loco parentis – in place of a parent – was entitled to take FMLA leave when the child had a serious health problem. An employer could require “proof” of the employee’s relationship to the child, but adoption papers or a court order were not required. In fact, even a hand-written statement from the employee that he or she was responsible for the child and was acting in the place of a parent, was sufficient under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.


The clarification issued by assistant administrator Nancy Leppink of the Wage and Hour Division simply underscores that regulation. Leppink points out that the new regulation would permit a stepparent to take time off to bond with a new child or to care for a child with a serious health condition. The new regulation specifically extends FMLA coverage to both partners in a gay relationship who coparent a child, whether the partners Continue reading

H1N1 Quarantine Issues

A number of states have laws that prohibit the employer from terminating an employee when an official quarantine is implemented by state or federal public health officials.


The Center for Disease Control says that H1N1 is widespread in 48 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam at this time. Only Louisiana, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia are not seriously affected.


In Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico and New Jersey, the employee’s job is protected if the employee is subject to an official quarantine order by a public agency. In addition, Kansas and Maine protect the employee’s job if he or she must remain at home to provide childcare when the schools are closed under a public quarantine order.


In most states plus the District of Columbia, the “public policy” exception to employment-at-will may protect an employee who is under a quarantine order. This would include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, new Mexico, north Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Continue reading

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