News & Analysis

Supreme Court excuses some employers from ACA contraceptive mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again this term, and in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., it held that the ACA's contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as it is applied to "closely held corporations." According to the Court, in a divisive 5-4 opinion, the mandate "substantially burdens the exercise of religion."

DOL, White House propose changes to federal family leave laws

One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as being solely between one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. The decision changed the application of every federal law that relied on the DOMA definition of "spouse." As a result of the Court's ruling, same-sex couples married in the states and the District of Columbia where such unions are legally recognized became eligible for equal benefits under more than 1,000 federal laws and regulations.

Sorry, you can't do that! Obama loses on NLRB appointments

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Noel Canning v. NLRB, concluding that President Barack Obama's three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — Sharon Block, Richard Griffin, and Terence Flynn — weren't valid. Therefore, the NLRB lacked a quorum when they served on the Board, meaning many NLRB decisions are now affected and likely invalid.

9th Circuit rules delivery drivers are employees, not independent contractors

The 9th Circuit again recently considered the wage claims of a group of California-based truck drivers who were classified and paid as independent contractors by the Georgia company for which they performed delivery services. The first time around, the court concluded that California law — rather than Georgia law — controlled how the drivers should be classified. On this second appeal, the court found the drivers were in fact employees, not independent contractors.

Two 9th Circuit rulings uphold retailer arbitration agreements

Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's both have dispute resolution programs requiring arbitration of employee disputes. In two separate decisions, one involving each retailer, the 9th Circuit recently approved enforcement of arbitration and barred employees from pursuing class claims in court.

Agency Action

Perez applauds mayors' call for higher minimum wage. U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has spoken out in favor of a resolution presented in June at the United States Conference of Mayors in Dallas calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage. A majority of the mayors voted to adopt the resolution on June 23. Before the vote, Perez voiced his support for the resolution, calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage and urging states and local governments to do the same. President Barack Obama is pushing legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. "This resolution, coupled with grassroots-powered action nationwide, is part of a groundswell that proves change doesn't always come from Washington; sometimes it comes to Washington," Perez said in a statement released on June 19.

Workplace Trends

Employers spending more on HR technology. A survey from professional services company Towers Watson finds that companies around the world are planning to increase and redirect their investments in HR technology as they embrace talent management solutions, HR portals, software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems, and mobile applications. The survey also showed that about one in three companies plans to change the HR structure in an effort to improve both efficiency and quality. The survey found a continued increase in the use of SaaS systems for core HR and talent management technologies, further adoption of mobile technologies, and utilization of HR portals.

Rosy outlook: Insurance company off the hook for workplace accident

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Arkansas employers) recently held that an employee's on-the-job injuries weren't covered under his employer's general liability insurance policy because his supervisor didn't meet the policy's definition of "director."

Duties as listed: Court rules that disabled employee couldn't perform job

The 8th Circuit recently held that an employee who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) couldn't perform the essential functions of his job, which included walking, standing, bending, scooping, kneeling, climbing, and lifting. As a result, he didn't qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Murse-y me: Male nurse alleges gender-based discrimination

The 8th Circuit recently held that a male nurse's claim of gender discrimination was insufficient because he failed to allege that an adverse employment action occurred after failing to complete an application to transfer employment.