On January 1, 2015, Illinois Human Rights Act amendments providing additional rights to pregnant employees will take effect. (See our previous post for more in-depth information)
As previously mentioned, the law will require some immediate steps by employers. Employers must post a government-provided notice where other mandated posters are displayed, (download here in English and Spanish), and update employee handbooks with a summary of pregnant employees’ new rights.
The National Labor Relations Board has issued final rules that are intended to speed up the union election process. These new rules will take effect on April 14, 2015. Read more about the final rule in the Federal Register.
The new election rules are being heralded by organized labor and decried by many in the business community. The new rules compress the timeline between petition and election, give unions access to more information about employees, set up new employer procedural requirements, and limit hearing issues and appeals that may be raised before an election. The end result is that the timeframe from petition to election will be significantly shorter, which is generally viewed as an advantage for unions.
Unless these rules are overturned, employers are well-advised to take precautionary steps to prepare for a union organization effort, rather than waiting for a representation petition to be filed.
Today, the National Labor Relations Board held that employees have a right to use their employer’s communications systems – including email – for protected activity during non-working time, unless the employer prohibits all non-business use. In so holding, the Board overruled its 2007 precedent-setting decision on the same issue.
“Consistent with the purposes and policies of the act and our obligation to accommodate the competing rights of employers and employees, we decide today that employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems,” Thursday’s decision said.
The wording here is important, and indicative of the division among the NLRB on this issue, as it specifically applies to workers who have been granted access to employer’s email systems, and offers an “out” for companies that ban non-work-related use of email. Of course, most employers permit some non-business use of communications systems, and so this carve-out is a narrow one.
The case is Purple Communications Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO; case numbers 21-CA-095151, 21-RC-091531 and 21-RC-091584 at the National Labor Relations Board. Read the entire case history here and view our previous posts on this issue by following the “Related” links below.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 (in a rare, labor and employment law unanimous decision) that workers supplied by a staffing agency for positions in Amazon’s warehouses do not have to be paid for time spent in security screening lines, reversing a federal appeals court ruling that found workers should be paid because the screenings were a necessary part of their jobs and benefited their employer. The Supreme Court disagreed. “The security screenings at issue are noncompensable postliminary activities,” the Justices wrote. “The workers were employed not to undergo security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for shipment.”
The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-433.
As we have blogged about before (see related post links below), the EEOC has said one of its priorities is to challenge separation agreements that, in its view, interfere with the ability of employees to file charges with the EEOC or participate in investigations.
On December 2, the EEOC’s efforts in this area took another hit. A Colorado judge tossed out the EEOC’s claims against CollegeAmerica Denver Inc. relating to the company’s separation agreements, although the judge permitted the EEOC’s claims of retaliation to move forward. EEOC v. CollegeAmerica Denver Inc. The court ruled that the EEOC had not made an adequate effort to conciliate the claims relating to the separation agreements.
Earlier this year, a similar case against CVS also was dismissed on other grounds before the court addressed the separation agreement issue. The EEOC recently appealed the CVS decision to the 7th Circuit.
And it’s not just about separation agreements anymore either; in September, the EEOC sued Doherty Enterprises for using pre-employment arbitration agreements that allegedly interfered with the rights of employees to file charges and participate in investigations. EEOC v. Doherty Enterprises Inc.
Though the EEOC hasn’t had much success in court to date, companies should review their separation and arbitration agreements to ensure that they carve out employee rights relating to the EEOC process. Otherwise, they risk ending up in the EEOC’s cross hairs.
Illinois might be headed toward two minimum wages—one for the City of Chicago and another for the rest of the state. Today, the Chicago City Council unanimously voted to increase Chicago’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $13.00 an hour by 2019. The Council’s vote was over the objection of both local businesses on the one hand, and labor advocates and political opponents on the other, who said the increase was not high or fast enough.
The move is not unique. Seattle made headlines in June when it voted to raise its minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, the highest in the country, in what seems to be turning into a national trend toward significant minimum wage hikes at the local level.
In Springfield, business interests are pressing state lawmakers to prevent Chicago from having a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. At the same time, supporters of a plan to increase the statewide minimum wage to $10.00 an hour pushed for more votes in the Illinois House during their final 2014 session.
It remains to be seen if there are enough votes in Springfield, either to limit Chicago’s minimum wage increase, or to push for a similar statewide increase. In the meantime, employers in Illinois with employees in Chicago and in other parts of the state will need to adjust to the different wage levels.