CA Adopts ABC Test for Independent Contractors

On Monday, April 30, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark [Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Ct., Cal. Sup. Ct., Dkt. No. S222732, 4/30/18] decision basically stating that the “ABC Test” is to be used when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor for purposes of California wage orders. Previous to this latest decision the court case of S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, Cal. Sup. Ct., 769 P.2d 399, 3/23/89) was used to determine employee status. In that case the principal test of an employment relationship was whether the person to whom services were rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired. Under Dynamex, the Court embraced a standard that presumes all workers are employees instead of contractors and places the burden on classifying an independent contractor under the ABC test.

For a detailed analysis of this case and how you might have to adjust your hiring decisions, I will refer you to the Labor & Employment Law Blog posted by Timothy Kim for the law firm of Sheppard Mullin.

ALEC Wins Another State Over!

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or as it is commonly known ALEC, according to their website, is “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislatures dedicated to the principles of limited government”.  It’s current legislative agenda is to try to stop increases in the minimum wage and the mandatory sick leave movement as it sees it as having a negative effect on workers.  But in order to keep the minimum wage low or as ALEC describes it; “Maximizing the freedom of businesses and employees to negotiate their own wages” they not only have to convince state legislatures not to raise the minimum wage or provide mandated sick leave, but have to convince all local governments as well.  This is a tough job as there are thousands of local entities such as cities and counties that could decide to raise the minimum wage or enforce mandatory sick leave.  So ALEC takes the approach to tackle this from the head down by convincing state legislatures that they need to pass laws that prohibit any local entity from passing any type of minimum wage or benefit increase that does not equal the state level.  At this task they are making headway.  The latest state to buy into ALEC and bar local governments from passing a minimum wage or benefits ordinance is Wisconsin.

New legislation, A748,  prohibits counties, cities, and towns from enacting ordinances that: (1) establish or mandate local hour and overtime requirements, including scheduling employee work hours or shifts; and (2) require employers to provide employment benefits, including a retirement, pension, profit sharing, insurance, or leave benefit. The legislation does allow prospective employers to solicit salary information from previous employers and preempts counties, cities, and towns from prohibiting such solicitation.  The bill is effective as of March 30, 2018.

Court Case on CA’s Day of Rest…Finally Rested

California has long had a day of rest requirement.  In fact it has existed long before overtime and minimum wage. It guarantees an employee “one day’s rest therefrom in seven”.  But  which employees and what exactly is one day in seven?  This was really never litigated before the current case of Mendoza v. Nordstrom in which the ruling was just handed down on May 8th.  Rather than my trying to explain the entire court case in a blog, I will, instead, urge you to read the recap of the case as presented by Sheppart Mullin Richter & Hampton’s Brian S. Fong for the Mondaq News Update Service. It is an in-depth look at the ruling and the impact on employers.

 

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Comma Placement Matters, Especially in Wage Hour Law

As many of us who use Facebook know, the grammar police are constantly posting memes about the proper use of commas. Recently the placing of a comma came into play which cause one employer to have to pay back wages for overtime. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has overturned a federal district court opinion and ruled that dairy company delivery drivers are eligible to receive overtime under Maine’s overtime laws. At issue was Maine Rev. State. Ann. §664(3)(F), which provides an exemption from overtime for those involved in the “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of perishable food. The drivers did not dispute that they handled perishable foods, but said that they do not engage in “packing” them, and therefore are eligible to receive overtime. The employer argued that the above provision actually refers to two distinct exempt activities (“packing for shipment,” and ”distribution”), and therefore the exemption from overtime applies to the drivers. The appellate court sided with the drivers. It said that the exemption would have applied to the drivers if the statute had read “packing for shipment, or distribution” rather than “packing for shipment or distribution.” Since the drivers did not pack items for either shipment or distribution, their activities did not come under the statutory exemption [O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, CA1, Dkt. No. 16-1901, 3/13/17].

So watch out for where the commas are placed if you want to avoid penalties!

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State vs. Cities: The Wage Hour Fight Continues

Localities such as cities or counties have been enacting their own wage and hour requirements for quite a few years now.  Dozens of cities in California and New Jersey have their own sick leave laws as well as higher than state minimum wages.  New Mexico has local minimum wages as does Washington.  But it seems the state legislators are starting to fight back.  With the assistance of groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills (draft legislation that legislators may customize and introduce) have passed in several states.  The latest states to pass such legislation are Arkansas and Iowa.  These bill basically forbid the local governments from passing any type of law relating to minimum wage, living minimum rates, employment leave or benefits, hiring practices or any condition of employment that is more generous than the federal or state law.  Whether cities will fight back in the courts, or if they even can, remains to be seen. Miami Beach recently tried to establish its own minimum wage despite Florida having passed its own version of the ALEC legislation.  The court struck down the Miami Beach ordinance. So the fight continues.  Payroll professionals need to monitor local minimum wage and sick leave ordinances to ensure compliance but remember these ordinances can be fleeting if the state has passed the ALEC-style legislation.

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School Employees & Overtime: The Latest Blog from Wage and Hour Insights

In addition to my own blog I like to make sure I follow other  well written and accurate blogs that discuss wage and hour law or other payroll related items.  The Wage & Hour Insights blog is one such blog.  I have shared several of them in the past months.  This time the blog addresses a unique situation but still one that is relevant to all payroll professionals.  Do school employees get overtime for occasional extra duty?  Why relevant to all payroll professionals?  Because though the law does give a limited exception to state and local government employers it does not to private sector employers.  So check out today’s blog from Bill Pokorny for government employees.  But also check out his previous blog on the subject for private sector employers. 

 

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In Case You Hadn’t Notice–It’s Election Time Again

The election is coming up fast.  What that means to most employees and employers is questions. Employees might ask themselves “when should I vote?”.  But they might ask their employers “can I have time off to vote?”. Allowing time off to vote is a company policy question in some cases, but other times it is a question of wage and hour law.  Does an employer have to give the employee time off to vote during working hours?  And if they do, is it paid time off?   There actually is no federal law on whether or not an employee must have time off to vote. It is left up to the states to decide.

Vote campaign

And each state has their own rules.  Some states give up to four hours, where other states don’t address the issue at all.  To assist payroll professionals on this topic I have put together a white paper on the voting time off requirements for the states.  The link is below.  The info was compiled through Thomson Reuters. It should prove helpful as it also give the citation to state law.  I have also listed the states that do not address this issue.  I hope you find it useful.

white-paper-time-off-to-vote-oct-2016

 

 

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The Overtime Battle Rages On!

The battle to stop the new overtime rules from taking effect has begun in earnest. 21 states, including Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Texas and Utah, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have filed a lawsuit in Texas challenging the Department of Labor’s (DOL) final overtime rules under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedures AFlag of Nevada (isolated)ct.   Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt led the coalition of states filing the suit. According to the suit the final rule contradicts the statutory text of the exemption, as well as Congressional intent.  The suit also raises the specter of the federal executive depleting state budgets in an effort to impose its policy will on the states.

However the DOL has responded by issuing the following statement by Secretary Tom Perez:  “We are confident in the legality of all aspects of our final overtime rule. It is the result of perez2a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process. Despite the sound legal and policy footing on which the rule is constructed, the same interests that have stood in the way of middle-class Americans getting paid when they work extra are continuing their obstructionist tactics. Partisan lawsuits filed today by 21 states and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seek to prevent the Obama administration from making sure a long day’s work is rewarded with fair pay. The overtime rule is designed to restore the intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States. The crown jewel has lost its luster over the years: in 1975, 62 percent of full time salaried workers had overtime protections based on their pay; today, just 7 percent have those protections – meaning that too few people are getting the overtime that the Fair Labor Standards Act intended. I look forward to vigorously defending our efforts to give more hardworking people a meaningful chance to get by.”

Let’s see where the battle takes us by December 1!

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Sick Leave Reaches Record High

The push for mandated sick leave has been intense in recent years.  But it appears it is paying off for workers. According to today’s U.S. Department of Labor Blog, on July 22nd the Bureau of Labor Statistics released some very interesting news about sick leave.  Over the past year, the share of private industry workers with access to at least one day of paid sick leave increased from 61 percent to 64 percent.  This is the highest on record.  Further, the increase between 2015 and 2016 was almost entirely due to an increase in access among workers in low-wage occupations, that is, workers in occupations with average wages in the bottom 25 percent. This is the result, it appears, of the national momentum on mandated paid sick leave that has taken place in states and in localities. For example, the biggest increase in access to paid sick days over the last year was in the Pacific Census Division, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state. In this set of states, the share of private industry workers with access to paid sick leave jumped up 12 percentage points – from 61 percent to 73 percent – between March 2015 and March 2016, the same period in which both California and Oregon implemented new statewide paid sick time laws.

$7.25 is Now 7 Years Old

An interesting fact, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 turned seven years old on Sunday, July 24th. But how does our young one compare with the rest of its class?  In other words, is it top of the class, bottom of the class, or floating around in the middle? According to CNN Money the U.S. was ranked 11th out of 27 developed countries that have a nationwide minimum wage.  Australia comes in first, followed by Luxembourg, Belgium,  Ireland, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom. Interestingly enough, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland and Italy are not listed because they have no federal rules on minimum wages.  That does not mean that their workers are low paid. In fact, many of these nations are known for paying relatively high wages because of the strength of unions. So the federal government does not feel the need to intervene to protect workers.

If we took into account the state or local minimum wage rates our ranking would increase since many states as well as local cities and counties have increased the minimum wage far above $7.25 per hour. But you would still have to take into account those states who have no minimum wage such as Alabama or Mississippi or those that are below the federal minimum wage such as Wyoming which is still at $5.15 per hour.  So there are those who are calling for the federal minimum wage to be raised. Historically this is usually a bipartisan issue. Since 1938 when the minimum wage was created it has been raised 10 times under both republican and democratic presidents. It started out at $.25 per hour under FDR, rose to $1.00 per hour under Eisenhower in 1956, to $1.15 an hour under Kennedy, $1.60 an hour under Nixon, $3.35 an hour under Reagan, $3.80 an hour under George H.W. Bush, $5.85 an hour under George W. Bush and finally to its present level of $7.25 under Obama.  But what is amazing is that its buying power has really varied over the years. For example, under Nixon it had the buying power of $9.28 in 1970 if comparing it to 2012 prices. But it has fallen over 25% since then.

So should we increase the minimum wage on the federal level or not?  If yes, by how much? These are questions that will weigh heavy on the upcoming election. But there is wide-spread support. A Hart Research Associate poll in 2015 showed most Americans (75%) support an increase in the federal minimum wage up to $12.50 per hour. 53% of those in the poll identified themselves are registered republicans. In addition, according to the federal Department of Labor, support is high for increasing the minimum wage even among business owners.  A survey of 1,000 executives was conducted by LuntzGlobal which is run by a republican pollster.  The survey results were leaked to a liberal watchdog group called Center for Media and Democracy.  It appears that 80% of respondents supported raising their state’s minimum wage.

So happy 7th birthday to our federal minimum wage!  But will it see 10? Who knows?