On July 20, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor (DOL) published additional COVID-19 guidance in the form of a Q&A addressing Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) issues arising when employers and employees return to work.

A few days before, on July 17, the DOL published streamlined optional-use forms for employer and employee notification and certification obligations under the FMLA and separately asked the public to comment on the FMLA and its regulations in a Request for Information (RFI). The additional guidance and forms should help employers navigate FMLA leave and employee wage and hour issues during COVID-19. And employers now have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the FMLA and its implementing regulations with the DOL. We provide more insight into the DOL’s recent activity below.


Continue Reading New Q&As, New Streamlined Forms, and an RFI: the Department of Labor Publishes More COVID-19 Guidance and Seeks Public Comment on the FMLA

With a surge in COVID-19 cases in parts of the US (and some states taking or considering taking a step backwards into a prior reopening phase), employers are trying to figure out the best ways to keep the virus from spreading in their reopened worksites. We have answered some frequently asked questions below to help employers implement or modify their screening protocol to make it the best fit for their physical workspace, their budget, and their workforce.

1.  Can I check my employees’ temperatures before they enter the  workplace? If my employees have a fever, can I send them home (or tell them not to come to work)?

Yes, employers can check their employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. In fact, some states and localities require employers to do daily or weekly checks, so check your local requirements.

A temperature check is a medical examination under the ADA, and in ordinary times, employers generally cannot require employees to submit to a temperature check. However, given COVID-19’s rise to the level of pandemic, and the CDC and state and local health authorities’ acknowledgment of the community spread of COVID-19 and issuance of precautions, EEOC guidance allows employers to check employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. Temperature checks are only permitted while the virus is severe, so as the level of community spread diminishes in your locality make sure that temperature checks are still permitted before you administer them.

In addition, employers can send employees home (or tell them not to come to work) if they have a fever or any of the other symptoms of COVID-19. See EEOC guidance and CDC guidance, “Separate Sick Employees.” The CDC defines a fever as 100.4 F or 38 C or above. States may have different guidance regarding what qualifies as a “fever,” with some states defining a “fever” as a flat 100 F, and employers can set lower temperature thresholds if they prefer.


Continue Reading Employee Testing for COVID-19: What Works Now for Your Worksite?

Employers in the US are more than a little fearful of COVID-19 related class and collective action lawsuits coming their way, and with good reason. Since shelter-in-place orders were imposed in March, US employers have faced class action lawsuits for a variety of COVID-19 related reasons, including the alleged failure to implement proper workplace safety measures or provide appropriate paid sick leave. To keep workers safe from contracting the virus at work, many employers have allowed employees to continue to work from home indefinitely, which likely decreases the odds that an employer will be sued in class action litigation for failing to provide appropriate PPE in the workplace. However, managing employees working from home can create other issues worthy of class-action litigation, including reimbursing those employees for work-related expenses.

What can employers do to ensure they meet reimbursement requirements to steer clear of expense reimbursement class action lawsuits in the US? Go through the four considerations, below.

  1. Know the rules that apply in your jurisdiction

Several jurisdictions have specific rules regarding employee expense reimbursements, so you’ll need to check your local law. In California, an employer must reimburse an employee for all “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence or discharge of his or her duties.” Cal. Lab. Code § 2802. Similarly, Illinois requires reimbursement of all “necessary expenditures or losses” an employee incurs within the scope of employment that are “directly related to services performed for the employer,” unless the employer has a written reimbursement expense policy and the employee fails to comply with that policy. 820 ILCS 115/9.5. And in the District of Columbia, employers must pay the cost of purchasing and maintaining any tools that the employer requires to perform the employer’s business. D.C. Mun. Reg. tit. 7, § 910.1. If you have operations in several jurisdictions, make sure that you know and follow each applicable jurisdiction’s rules.

In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) may apply. Though the FLSA does not require employers to reimburse their employees, under the FLSA “kickback” rule, employees cannot be required to directly pay business-related expenses or reimburse their employer for such expenses if doing so would cause the employee’s wage rate to fall below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation thresholds. See 29 C.F.R. § 531.35. Remote workers typically earn well-above the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), so employers don’t need to be as concerned about business expenses causing those employees’ wages to dip below the federal minimum wage. However, employers should be on the lookout for these situations, which require more attention:

  • Where employees are subject to overtime for working more than 40 hours in a workweek;
  • Where a particular pay threshold (whether under federal or state law) must be met for the employee to meet an exemption from overtime (in which case the employee will become nonexempt and must be paid overtime for any work over 40 hours in a workweek); or
  • Where state or local minimum wages are higher (such as Chicago’s $14 per hour or California’s $12 per hour), making it more likely that an employee’s payment of business-related expenses would cause their wages to dip below the minimum wage.

A violation of the FLSA occurs in any workweek in which the cost of the business-related expenses borne by the employee cuts into the minimum or overtime wages required to be paid to the employee. Therefore, employers can more easily run afoul of the FLSA in these scenarios, especially if the business-related expenses paid in any given workweek happen to be hefty.


Continue Reading Want to Avoid Employee Reimbursement Class Actions for Remote Work? Take These Four Steps

Everything You Need To Know Right Now

After a “warp speed” Senate vote overwhelmingly approving the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), President Trump signed the FFCRA into law yesterday. The legislation is historic; it was not only enacted in days instead of the usual months, but for the first time in US history, many

On September 24, 2019, the Department of Labor (finally) issued the final rule on the minimum salary threshold required for employees to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white-collar” exemptions.

The final rule:

  • Raises the new minimum salary threshold to $35,568 per year ($684 per week). The previous salary threshold, which had been in place since 2004, was $23,660 ($455 per week).
  • Raises the “highly compensated” employee salary threshold from $100,000 to $107,432 per year.
  • Allows employers to count certain non-discretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions to satisfy up to 10% of an employee’s salary level.
  • Does not impact the job duties test.
  • Is estimated to make an additional 1.3 million more workers eligible for overtime.
  • Will take effect quickly — on January 1, 2020.


Continue Reading DOL Issues Long-Awaited Final Overtime Rule

On June 10, 2019, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that state law does not apply to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in situations when federal law addresses the relevant issue at hand.

In Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, the Supreme Court declined to extend California’s wage and hour laws to employees working on offshore drilling platforms subject to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The OCSLA extends federal law to the subsoil and seabed of the outer continental shelf and to all structures permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed for the purpose of developing, producing or exploring for oil. Under the OCSLA, the laws of an adjacent state only apply to the OCS to the extent “they are applicable and not inconsistent with” federal law.

Here, the US Supreme Court ruled that because the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) addressed the relevant issues, the adjacent state law was inapplicable.


Continue Reading Offshore Drilling Workers’ Wage And Hour Claims Governed By FLSA, Not State Law

On March 28, 2019, the US Department of Labor announced a proposed rule to clarify that certain types of compensation and benefits can be excluded from an employee’s “regular rate” of pay, which is used to calculate overtime under the FLSA. This announcement follows the DOL’s recent proposal to increase the minimum salary requirements for the FLSA’s white-collar overtime exemptions, continuing the DOL’s efforts to update and modernize FLSA regulations.

Continue Reading US DOL Proposal To Clarify “Regular Rate” For Modern Workplace Practices

In a welcome decision for franchisors, and first of its kind in the Second Circuit, the Southern District of New York ruled that Domino’s Pizza Franchising LLC, the franchisor (Domino’s), did not exert enough control over its franchisee to warrant joint employer status. This determination means Domino’s will not have to face claims brought under

In August, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) upheld an arbitration agreement that required individual arbitration of claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Court’s decision is in line with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Upholds Mandatory Arbitration Of FLSA Claims

Last week, in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (Case No. S234969), the California Supreme Court weighed in for the first time on the viability of a de minimis defense to California wage and hour claims.

Many commentators have since rushed to declare that “de minimis” is dead. Not so.


Continue Reading California Supreme Court Leaves Open The Possibility Of A De Minimis Defense For Wage And Hour Claims – But Not Under The Facts Of This Case