News & Analysis

Same-sex partner granted death benefits after hotel worker killed

In a unanimous decision, the Alaska Supreme Court recently held that the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board and Appeals Commission violated a same-sex partner's right to equal protection by denying her death benefit claim after her partner was shot and killed at work. The board construed the terms "widow" or "widower" by applying the Marriage Amendment to the Alaska Constitution, which limits marriage to a man and a woman. The supreme court held that restrictive view of the statutory definition of "widow" was unconstitutional.

EEOC issues pregnancy discrimination guidance for first time in 30 years

Citing a continued increase in the number of charges of pregnancy discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency has released new enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination for the first time in over 30 years. The guidance document provides in-depth interpretation of compliance requirements under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other state and federal laws related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Federal appeals courts have conflicting views on ACA exchange subsidies

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, there have been a variety of judicial challenges to it, and it appears the court system isn't finished with the law yet. In fact, the ACA has seen a lot of court action this summer.

Police officer couldn't be fired for participating in coworker's claim

When a "stellar" police officer was fired after giving testimony in support of a coworker's wage and hour claim, it's not surprising that he claimed retaliation. In its recent review of the trial verdict in his favor, a divided panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Alaska employers) affirmed the judgment.

9th Circuit revives deputies' sex discrimination claims

In very narrow circumstances — such as playing a female role in a movie — being female may be a requirement for the job and thus permitted as an exception to laws prohibiting sex discrimination. But the exception is rarely allowed, as illustrated by a recent decision of the 9th Circuit.

Agency Action

Employer pays more than $1.6 million in unpaid overtime. A recruiting and staffing agency that caters to oil field services and maritime fabrication facilities along the Gulf Coast has agreed to pay $1,660,438 in back wages to 1,543 current and former employees, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in July. A DOL investigation found that the company engaged in improper pay and record- keeping practices that resulted in employees being denied overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The employees were assigned to client worksites throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to work as welders, pipe fitters, and shipfitters. Investigators found the company mischaracterized certain wages as per diem payments and impermissibly excluded them when calculating overtime premiums, thus denying employees earned overtime compensation.

Workplace Trends

Cell phones, gossip found among top time wasters. A study from CareerBuilder shows the personal use of technology is one of the leading culprits behind unproductive activity at work. Twenty-four percent of respondents to a survey admitted they will spend at least one hour during a typical workday on personal calls, e-mails, or texts. Twenty- one percent estimated they spend one hour or more a day searching the Internet for nonwork-related information. Employers were asked what they see as the primary productivity stoppers. They pointed to cell phones and texting, gossip, the Internet, social media, snack or smoke breaks, noisy coworkers, meetings, e-mail, coworkers dropping by, and coworkers putting calls on speaker phone. Employers also named some unusual things they've seen employees doing when they should have been working. Examples include an employee taking selfies in the bathroom, an employee blowing bubbles in sub-zero weather to see if they would freeze and break; and an employee caring for her pet bird that she smuggled into work.

On call: Employee terminated for policy violation, not FMLA leave

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Arkansas employers) recently held that an employee was rightfully terminated for policy violations even though she had approval from her supervisor for her actions.

Analyze this: Female business analyst alleges gender discrimination

The 8th Circuit recently held that a female business analyst failed to provide sufficient evidence of gender discrimination after she was terminated for poor performance.

Benefits denied for employee injured while performing duties outside job description

The Arkansas Court of Appeals recently held that workers' compensation benefits were rightfully denied to an employee who was performing duties for her employer that weren't technically part of her job description.