North Carolina News & Analysis

  • When and how you can require notice of FFCRA paid leave during pandemic

    As COVID-19 continues to affect the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is trying to provide guidance on how employers should implement the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). You may be wondering if, when, and how you can require employees to provide notice and documentation when they're taking paid leave under the FFCRA. Thanks to a recent revision to the DOL's "final rule" on paid leave under the Act, the answer has been clarified.

  • Healthcare providers wrestling with virus-spawned religious bias claims

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has dealt with a wide variety of discrimination claims against healthcare providers. The OCR recently announced the resolution of two major complaints, which should serve as a reminder to pay close attention to actions that could be discriminatory.

  • DOL proposed rule shields employers from costly misclassification claims

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently unveiled a proposed rule for classifying workers as either independent contractors or employees. The effort is important because the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) covers employees but not independent contractors. Therefore, contractors aren't entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay. The issue has gained momentum because of the rising prevalence of Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and other companies that rely on independent contractors. Their workers have filed a wave of lawsuits claiming they were shorted pay or entitled to more benefits because they were performing work as employees. The new rule is an effort by President Donald Trump's administration to clarify the circumstances when a company will be designated as an "employer" for a particular individual for federal wage and hour law purposes.

  • Free speech doesn't protect employee who used racial slur

    Government employees enjoy more protection than employees of private-sector companies when it comes to speaking their minds about politics or other matters of public concern outside the workplace. A public employee may not be fired or disciplined for engaging in "constitutionally protected" speech. That is, the speech must be on a "matter of public concern," the employee must be acting in her capacity as a private citizen rather than in her official duties as a government worker, and the talk or comments must outweigh the employer's interest in "promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs." That delicate balance was tested in a recent case involving a Nashville government worker who was fired after using the "n" word in a social media post.

  • Assessing reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees

    Federal law makes it illegal to discriminate against pregnant employees and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for a worker's known limitations related to pregnancy or childbirth under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). Over the past few years, nearly all states also have enacted state-level protections, most patterned after the model Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). (The lone exception, North Carolina, has extended some protections to public employees through Executive Order.) Let's take a look at what the PDA and the PWFA (using West Virginia's version as an example, though the others are similar) mean for you when dealing with pregnant employees.

  • Year's end means key COVID-19 relief measures expiring

    Employers and their employees have had to navigate a number of COVID-19-related relief measures for most of 2020 ― paid sick and family leave time, enhanced unemployment benefits, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan requirements, and optional temporary deferrals of certain taxes among them. What next year will bring is up in the air, but some measures are ending on December 31. Here's a look at some of the more notable provisions important to employers.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    Employers urged to redesign recruiting strategies. Research from workforce advisory and research firm Gartner Inc. urges employers to rethink how they acquire talent. In a September report, Gartner said just 16% of new hires possess the needed skills for both their current role and the future. Therefore, organizations need to shift their focus from replacing the workforce to shaping it through strategies based on the realities of the new recruiting landscape. Shaping the workforce means acquiring new skillsets from a diverse skills market that influences an organizations employment value propositions. Historically, recruiting has focused on acquiring quality talent with critical skills to meet an organizations short- and long-term objectives, but the old methods are unable to compete with the large-scale shifts to the workplace. Therefore, Gartner says recruiting functions need to make three shifts: (1) define talent needs by prioritizing skills instead of hiring profiles, (2) uncover the total skills market instead of targeting known talent pools, and (3) create responsive employment value propositions, not just responsive candidates.

  • Federal Watch

    DOL program trains Americans for typical H-1B jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is investing $150 million in grants to invest in training for middle- to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key sectors of the U.S. economy, including information technology and cyber security, advanced manufacturing, and transportation. The goal is to train Americans for positions often held by foreign workers with H-1B visas. The announcement, released in September, said that public-private partnerships will use grant money to train individuals in their communities with skills necessary to advance career pathways to employment in H-1B occupations within key industry sectors. Eligible participants must be at least 17 years old and not currently enrolled in secondary school within a local educational agency. Those of interest include unemployed and underemployed individuals seeking full-time employment and incumbent workers needing to update their skills to retain employment.

  • Managing office politics: avoiding discord in the workplace

    It seems like we live in a tinderbox. The combination of the upcoming presidential election, emerging debates about social justice issues, and the ongoing pandemic seems to have created the perfect storm. When filtered into a diverse workplace, passionate opposing political viewpoints can harm productivity and morale and even create liability issues. Sometimes, for instance, political discussions can morph into something that creates a hostile work environment for a member of a protected class.

  • Navigating ins and outs of COVID-19 employee travel restrictions

    With no end to the COVID-19 crisis in sight and the numbers of positive cases increasing in many areas, you may want to consider implementing a policy for your employees' travel if you haven't already done so. As with most subjects in these uncharted waters, you should proceed cautiously when considering and implementing a pandemic-related travel policy.