Federal News & Analysis

  • Supreme Court rules in favor of baker in LGBT rights case

    In a 7-2 decision issued on June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his Christian beliefs. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the majority concluded that the baker didn't get a fair hearing on his complaint in the state proceedings. The Court specifically ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) exhibited improper bias toward the baker.

  • EEOC wins two large disability discrimination settlements

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged a Chicago- based company with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it disqualified job applicants based on the results of a nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome performed by a third-party contractor rather than conducting an individualized assessment of each applicant's ability to do the job safely. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on behalf of Montrell Ingram and other applicants who sought work as "chippers" at Amsted Rail's facility in Granite City, Illinois. Chippers use a hammer or grinder to remove metal protrusions from steel casings.

  • Targeted use of Facebook ads may violate federal age discrimination law

    In December 2017, theNew York Times published an article in which it reported on prominent U.S. companies' use of Facebook to place recruiting ads in feeds targeted at users in certain age groups. In an investigation with nonprofit news organization ProPublica, the Times found that dozens of the country's leading employers had placed the limited recruiting ads. The practice, known as microtargeting, is a marketing strategy created by tech companies that uses demographics and consumer data to influence the thoughts and actions of targeted individuals.

  • NLRB—again, a hotbed of controversy

    Perhaps because it is one of the few fully staffed agencies in the federal government, perhaps because its leadership has been totally reconstituted, or perhaps because it actually deals with issues that affect the lives of employers and employees, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) remains a source of continuing conflict and controversy. Nearly all the disputes the Board is currently facing relate to the major issue of joint-employer status, but the politicized agency must also address "weaponized" ethics accusations as well as questions about the validity of "microunits."

  • EEOC sues 8 employers in the wake of workplace harassment task force meeting

    In mid-June, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment—filed sexual harassment lawsuits against eight employers in three days.

  • NLRB announces new guidelines for workplace rules

    In what appears to be a coordinated effort, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman John Ring and General Counsel (GC) Peter Robb have made it clear that the confounding and ambiguous standards the Obama Board established for workplace conduct rules are a thing of the past. On June 6, the GC issued a 20-page memorandum providing guidance to NLRB regions on handbook rules in light of the Board's 2017 decision in The Boeing Company.

  • The year ahead for WHD: overtime exemption, tip pooling, youth employment

    The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has an ambitious year planned. According to the DOL's regulatory agenda, the WHD is working to issue new rules on overtime pay, tip pooling, and youth employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

  • Trump administration releases proposal to merge DOL and DOE

    On June 21, 2018, the Trump administration announced a proposal to merge the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as part of its plan to "eliminate federal waste and ensure bureaucratic efficiency." The proposed new Department of Education and the Workforce would have four subagencies: the American Workforce and Higher Education Administration (AWHEA), along with agencies overseeing K-12 education; enforcement; and research, evaluation, and administration.

  • Enforcing summer dress codes: Work is no day at the beach

    June 21 marked the first official day of summer, and temperatures are certainly on the rise. Often, one of the first signs of summer is the sound of flip-flops slapping down the office hallway. To many managers, the office begins to look more like a backyard barbeque than a professional work environment.

  • Supreme Court declines to review case involving rest break pay

    On June 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying review of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that workers must be paid for breaks shorter than 20 minutes under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sued publishing company American Future Systems (AFS), which does business as Progressive Business Publications, challenging its policy on midday work breaks. The 3rd Circuit issued a partial judgment in favor of the DOL, underscoring the agency's long-standing position that workers must be paid for short breaks throughout the day. The company subsequently appealed, arguing, among other things, that the workers' breaks didn't constitute work time under the FLSA. The case could have established a nationwide standard and provided some guidance on how employers should handle short breaks.