As noted in our June 2017 Employment Law Letter, the West Virginia Legislature passed the West Virginia Safer Workplaces Act. The new law, which went into effect on July 7, 2017, generally expands the circumstances under which employers may conduct drug and alcohol testing, with some important limitations. If your business conducts drug or alcohol testing, now is a good time to revisit your policy and consult with your attorney to ensure that it is compliant with the new law. Here, we will summarize the new law, including what it permits and what it prohibits.
On June 16, 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia delivered its opinion in the matter of Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co., which involved consideration of whether two key pieces of West Virginia’s Legislative reform of 2015 would be applied to currently pending civil actions. The Supreme Court of Appeals accepted two certified questions from the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia regarding whether West Virginia Code §§ 55-7-3E and 55-7-29, which both became effective on June 8, 2015, would apply to civil actions that were filed before June 8, 2015. The West Virginia high court, in a 3-2 decision, ruled that the statutory language in each provision made clear the Legislature’s intent to remedy West Virginia’s standing as a judicial outlier and that, because the statutory sections were remedial in nature, the provisions should be applied to all actions that proceed to trial after June 8, 2015. The Court took due notice of the language in each code section in reaching its ultimate conclusion.
Although it has been more than two years since the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) issued its Obergefell v. Hodges opinion and more than four years since its US v. Windsor opinion, the law is still evolving as it concerns same-sex marriage. It is important for employers who wish to minimize their litigation exposure to determine what “rights, benefits, and responsibilities” same-sex spouses should be extended in the same manner as opposite-sex spouses. While SCOTUS has indicated its belief that Obergefell’s holding and application are clear, recent rulings indicate otherwise . . . which means employers would be well-advised to stay tuned.
In the past month, there have been several important Federal Appellate Court decisions regarding sexual orientation discrimination. On March 20, the Eleventh Circuit reaffirmed its prior precedent that Title VII does not extend protection to individuals harassed on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court noted that claims for gender nonconformity are allowed, but stated that there were not sufficient facts for such a finding in the present case. The Court also stated that it cannot reconsider prior precedent without a hearing in front of all the judges of the Eleventh Circuit—potentially signaling that the Court is willing to reconsider its position on sexual orientation discrimination.
On December 14, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), which operates under the United States Department of Justice, published a Notice of a Final Rule regarding marijuana. According to the Notice, the DEA “is creating a new Administration Controlled Substances Code Number for ‘Marijuana Extract.’” The Final Rule is effective January 13, 2017. The Notice states that the new Rule came about as a result of various international treaties related to the international transportation of marijuana and marijuana extracts. As of now, the United States tracks only marijuana, but its international counterparts track marijuana and marijuana extracts separately. The new Rule is set to bridge the gap between U.S. policy and international policy.
The Persuader Rule Under the Trump Administration
This is the first in a series of posts about likely changes in labor and employment law under the new Trump Administration. We can expect that the Trump Administration will seek to undo or overturn a number of labor-friendly initiatives implemented by President Obama. One of the more controversial initiatives of the Obama Administration related to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) so-called Persuader Rule under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
The United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) is the federal agency charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. In recent weeks, the EEOC issued the final version of its long anticipated Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, (the “Guidance”) which provides loads of helpful information about the elements of proof for retaliation suits filed under EEO laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Employers take note.
The National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) continues its focus on overly-broad work policies – now in a non-union workplace – with a recent decision against Chipotle Mexican Grill. Although the Board found Chipotle violated the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) by (1) maintaining overly-broad social media and work policies, (2) ordering an employee to quit circulating a petition, and (3) firing the employee when he refused to do so, it found the employer did not violate the Act by asking the employee to remove certain tweets from his Twitter account. This case provides additional guidance on what is and is not permissible in work rules, particularly as they apply to social media posts by employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that an employee be compensated for all time that he suffers or is permitted to work. The question frequently arises as to when an employee is required to be compensated for times when he is not actually working – i.e., meals/breaks – if there is a restriction placed upon his activities during those times. This question arguably is addressed by the Department of Labor’s regulations which require that the employee be compensated for such periods unless he is completely relieved from all duties.
With the recent election, the fate of the ACA is uncertain. However, we can be fairly certain that, whatever the changes may be, it is unlikely that we will return to life as it was prior to the enactment of the ACA on March 23, 2010. What the “new” ACA will look like, we can’t know, so it is important to continue to be compliant with the laws and regulations as they are currently, unless and until those laws and regulations change.