News & Analysis

On bended knee: Preexisting knee injury isn't compensable

The Arkansas Court of Appeals recently upheld a decision by the Workers' Compensation Commission (WCC) that an employee's aggravation of a preexisting knee injury was noncompensable.

Dropping older employees equals drop in insurance premiums

The 8th Circuit recently held that a supervisor's negative comments about older and sicker employees being separated from employment provided sufficient evidence to allow a terminated employee to proceed to trial on her age discrimination claims.

Supreme Court takes on pregnancy accommodations, other employment issues

With the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court's new term October 6, employers can expect clarifications related to accommodations for pregnant workers as well as other employment matters. Here's a look at some key cases.

8th Circuit decides to go ahead with Superman's retirement party

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Arkansas employers) recently held that a 76-year-old security guard was rightfully terminated for cause after he crashed a company vehicle into a stationary object. The new decision reverses a 2013 ruling in which a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit found that the district court shouldn't have dismissed the case before trial because there was an inference that the employee had been fired on the basis of his age rather than the workplace accident. Among the evidence that led to the panel's decision to overturn the dismissal were comments by the employee's supervisor that he "needed to hang up his Superman cape," was "too old to be working," and needed to retire. (For details about the case, see "Old dogs, new tricks: Age-based claim fetched back for trial" on pg. 1 of our October 2013 issue.)

Agency Action

DOL awards $10.2 million to help states fight misclassification. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has awarded $10,225,183 to 19 states to implement or improve worker misclassification detection and enforcement initiatives in unemployment insurance programs. The funds will be used to increase the ability of state unemployment insurance programs to identify instances in which employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors or fail to report the wages paid to workers at all. This is the first year the DOL has awarded grants dedicated to this effort. The states receiving grants are California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Workplace Trends

Analysis shows slowing of trend away from pension plans. An analysis from professional services company Towers Watson shows that fewer U.S. companies last year moved from defined benefit (DB) plans to offering only a defined contribution (DC) plan to new salaried employees than in any other year over the past decade. The analysis also found that the insurance and utilities sectors are bucking the trend from DB to DC plans. More than half the companies in those sectors still offer DB and DC retirement plans to new salaried employees. The analysis found that only 118 Fortune 500 companies (24 percent) offered any type of DB plan to new hires at the end of 2013, down from 299 companies (60 percent) 15 years ago. While the number of Fortune 500 companies with open DB plans reached a record low in 2013, the number of companies (five) that moved away from DB plans last year is the lowest number that shifted to DC plans in more than 10 years.

Gender identity issues are here to stay

As we have noted in the past, Delaware law now protects employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, also known as transgender nondiscrimination (e.g., see "Revisiting gender identity discrimination" on pg. 1 of our September issue). However, Congress hasn't yet amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any other antidiscrimination statute to protect individuals on the basis of gender identity. In the absence of congressional action, some federal regulatory bodies are stepping in to address the issue.

Supreme Court takes on pregnancy accommodations, other employment issues

With the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court's new term October 6, employers can expect clarifications related to accommodations for pregnant workers as well as other employment matters. Here's a look at some key cases.

Leave, discrimination laws help families cope with domestic abuse

A prominent, long-overdue national dialogue on domestic violence has been ongoing since late summer. Regrettably, it took a high-profile public act of abuse to remind many of this pervasive problem that is so often kept hidden behind closed doors and dark sunglasses.

The proof is in the paper trail

We hope everyone is still diligently following through with their HR goals, but in case anyone out there has fallen off the "best employment practices" wagon, we wanted to focus on two resolutions—better documentation and employee evaluations—to motivate you to get back on track.