New Year, New Laws in California

As long as the sun rises each day, regulation of California employers will increases each year.  And employers received more attention this year with 554 bills introduced in the California Legislature mentioning “employer,” compared to 346 last year. Fortunately, most bills do not become law.   Mark Terman, partner in the Los Angeles office, has compiled an overview of significant new regulation affecting private employers which appears in the December issue of CAL CPA magazine.  To read the list in its entirety click here.

David Raizman Quoted in Daily Journal

Los Angeles partner David Raizman was quoted in the Daily Journal in an article titled, “Increasing Disability Discrimination Claims Bring up Fraught Workplace Issues.”

The article discusses the rise of disability discrimination and failure to accommodate disability complaints in California, a state that has long had strong provisions against workplace disability discrimination.

Lawyers on both sides of the fence attribute the increased filings to a growing awareness of workplace disability rights among employees and an increased willingness among judges to put such claims before a jury.

California legislators have long employed a broad definition of disability, for example, to include conditions that merely “limit” various life activities, as opposed to “substantially limit” such activities.  Then in 2008, the U.S. Congress adopted many of California’s broad interpretations into federal law.

David, a partner in the Labor & Employment Practice Group, said, “California really led the way here” and, as a result, workers in the state are more likely to see a “less traditional” disability like obesity as something to be accommodated by employers.

David said he tells his clients that if the plaintiff has a medical diagnosis of any kind, a court will most likely consider him or her disabled.  He also said that plaintiffs’ lawyers have learned that the claims are likely to go before a jury because they’re “very hard to dispose of at the summary judgment stage.”

He noted that an employer’s claims of undue hardship in accommodating a disabled worker are “frankly, generally squishy concepts that are more subject to factual dispute than others.”

David added that as California’s workers age, claims of workplace disability discrimination will only continue to increase.

“Given the broad definition of disability, the population is getting more disabled,” he said.

New Guidance May Help Employers Avoid Significant Penalties: How to Prepare for 2014 and the New Employer Shared Responsibility Rules and Waiting Period Limitation

From our friends in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group: New guidance is available to help employers prepare for the significant new rules that become effective in 2014, including the employer shared responsibility mandate (i.e., the penalties that may be imposed on an employer that doesn’t offer certain health care coverage) and the prohibition on waiting periods in excess of 90 days, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (health care reform).

Employers may rely on the new guidance through the end of 2014. Employers will not be required to comply with any subsequent guidance that is more restrictive until January 1, 2015 at the earliest. This is good news because it provides employers a measure of certainty about how to prepare for the 2014 employer shared responsibility mandate – particularly those employers concerned about what must be done to avoid significant penalties for failing to provide coverage, or for providing unaffordable coverage.

Click here to download a summary of the current rules to help determine who is a full-time employee for purposes of the employer shared responsibility mandate and the 90-day waiting period limitation, as well as suggested steps employers should take now to prepare for 2014.

PEPping Up the Economy and Employers

By: Maria L.H. Lewis

On October 26, Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) signed into law the Promoting Employment Across Pennsylvania Act (PEP) (House Bill 2626).  This law is touted as an attempt to create new jobs in Pennsylvania and promote economic development.

What does this mean for thousands of Pennsylvania employers?  If you are able to create at least 250 new jobs in Pennsylvania within 5 years (with 100 of the new jobs created within the first 2 years), you will be eligible to retain 95% tax witholdings for the persons employed in the new jobs.  Under the Act, the employer may select to remit all of the personal income tax witheld from employees then receive a rebate of the tax from the Commonwealth.

Job creators grow while growing the economy in the process.  These tax savings may provide opportunities for employers to further increase their number of employees beyond the initial 250 or reinvest in other areas of the business.  Presumably, the Commonwealth benefits as well.  More persons employed in the Commonwealth lead to economic growth through purchasing power and sales tax revenues.

There are restrictions and critiques.  Non-profit entities, religious organizations, utilities, restaurants/bars, gambling establishments, retail stores, and education or public administration offices need not apply.  Plus, an open question remains whether the program amounts to an employee paying an employer for his/her job.

To take advantage of this opportunity, employers must enter into an agreement with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  Any interested employer should move quickly because the ceiling for the program in Pennsylvania is $5 million per year.  This Act expires January 1, 2018.

Extreme Weather, Natural Disasters and Personnel Issues

What happens when a business is temporarily closed due to extreme weather?  What about overtime as employees try to catch up on work?  These are questions that employers on the East coast find themselves asking in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  William Horwitz, counsel in the Florham Park office, has authored a client alert to answer these and other questions that employers are now faced with.  To read and download the full alert click here.

New Jersey Employers Required to Post and Distribute Notice of Gender Pay Equality

By: Marion B. Cooper

On September 21, 2012, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie signed Assembly Bill No. 2647 (A-2647) into law, supplementing the New Jersey Equal Pay Act which will take effect on November 19, 2012, and applies to all New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees.  A-2647 imposes several new obligations on employers, who must conspicuously post the notification in an accessible and conspicuous place in English, Spanish and any other language spoken by  10% of the workforce within 30 days of the time the Commissioner first issues the form notice.

The notice must detail employees’ rights to be free of gender inequity or bias in pay, compensation, benefits or other terms and conditions of employment.  In addition, the notice must be given to new employees upon hire and to any employee upon request.  Employers must redistribute the notice annually and obtain a written acknowledgment that the employee has read and understood the notice.  Distribution of the notice may be made by paper or electronically via email or a website, “if the site is for the exclusive use of all workers, can be accessed by all workers, and the employer provides notice to the workers of its posting.”

However, the law does not require posting or distribution on the effective date, November 19, 2012, or even within 30 days of the effective date.  The posting and distribution requirements will not be triggered until the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development issues the notification by regulation, the notice has passed through the regulatory approval process and is published in the New Jersey Register.  This process will likely take several months.