Big Law Hit With A Gender, Pregnancy, And Maternity Discrimination Class Action

This week, three female associates at Morrison & Foerster (“MoFo”) filed a nine-count gender, pregnancy, and maternity (“sex-plus”) discrimination class and collective action against their employer in the Northern District of California. The putative class includes all female attorneys at MoFo and other national and California subclasses of female attorneys who have been or will be employed by MoFo and who have been or will be pregnant, have children, and/or take maternity leave.

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The Department of Labor Reinstates Seventeen Bush Era Opinion Letters

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) reinstated seventeen George W. Bush Era opinion letters which were issued in January 2009, but later withdrawn by the Obama Administration. Opinion letters are official guidance from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division that provide employers with detailed responses to fact-specific questions pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA).

In 2010, the DOL stopped issuing opinion letters and instead began issuing “administrative interpretations,” which offered a more general interpretation of the law rather than a response to specific questions posed by employers or employees.

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New York State’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law – Are You Ready?

Private employers in New York will need to be ready to provide paid family leave to eligible employees as of January 1, 2018. However, by July 1, 2017, employers may start withholding from employee paychecks to fund the program.

As a brief background, the New York Paid Family Leave Law (NYPFL) is effective January 1, 2018, and has been touted as the nation’s most comprehensive paid family leave program. The NYPFL provides for a phased schedule of paid leave entitlement for employees that need to take time off to:

  • bond with their child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement:
  • assist a “close relative” with a serious health condition such as inpatient care, outpatient chemotherapy or at-home recuperation from surgery; or
  • for reasons outlined in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) with regards to assisting a family member called to active military service.

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Do You Have At Least 20 Employees in California?

Currently, if you are an employer with 50 or more employees within 75 miles, you are required, under the federal Family and Medical Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), to provide an unpaid protected leave of absence of up to 12 weeks during any 12 month period to eligible employees for various reasons, including, for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care; to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

A pending California Senate Bill (SB), if passed, would extend some of the benefits of the FMLA and CFRA to California employers with 20 to 49 employees. SB 63, aka Parental Leave, would add Section 12945.6 to the Government Code, and prohibit employers with 20 to 49 employees within a 75 miles radius from refusing to allow an employee with more than 12 months of service and at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

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Illinois Employers Must Provide Qualifying Employees Two Weeks of Unpaid Child Bereavement Leave

Illinois is now the second state to require that employers provide unpaid bereavement leave to eligible employees under its Child Bereavement Leave Act. This Act provides that employers with at least 50 employees must provide two weeks (10 working days) of unpaid leave due to the loss of a child. In the event of death of more than one child in a 12-month period, an employee is eligible for up to six weeks of bereavement leave.

Coverage

The Act defines “employers” and “employees” in the same manner as they are defined under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Thus, an employee will be eligible for child bereavement leave under Illinois law if the employee has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1250 hours during the previous 12-month period. However, an employee who has exhausted his or her FMLA leave is not eligible for child bereavement leave under this Act.

While an employee’s eligibility for child bereavement leave is tied to the employee’s FMLA entitlement, the employee’s bereavement leave cannot be deducted from the employee’s available FMLA leave. In other words, an employee can take two weeks of bereavement leave and still be eligible for 12 weeks of FMLA leave for another qualifying event.

The Act defines “child” as “an employee’s son or daughter who is a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.”

Bereavement Leave

An employee may use bereavement leave to:

  • Attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a child;
  • Make arrangements necessitated by the death of the child; or
  • Grieve the death of the child.

Employees must take such leave within 60 days after the date on which they receive notice of the death of the child. Employees who wish to take bereavement leave must provide 48 hours’ advance to their employer, unless providing such notice is not reasonable and practicable.

Employers may require that an employee provide reasonable documentation, such as a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency.

Substitution of Paid Leave

Under the Act, employees may elect to substitute paid leave, including family, medical, sick, annual, or personal leave, that is available pursuant to federal, state, or local law, a collective bargaining agreement, or employment policy. Unlike FMLA provisions, the right to substitute paid leave rests with the employee and the Act does not provide any right to the employer to require an employee to use available paid leave.

Retaliation and Enforcement

An employer may not retaliate or take any other adverse action against any employee who:

  • Exercises rights or attempts to exercise rights under this Act;
  • Opposes practices which such employee believes to be in violation of the Act; or
  • Supports the exercise of rights of another under this Act.

If an employee feels that his or her rights have been violated under this Act, he or she may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or file a civil action in court within 60 days after the date of the violation.

An employer who violates this Act is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for the first offense and not to exceed $1,000 for the second offense.

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The Emergence of Paid Sick Leave Laws

In last week’s blog entry, Lynne Anne Anderson highlighted the increasing number of states that mandate employers to provide school related unpaid leave for parents.  This week’s entry looks at another growing trend in the employee leave space, paid sick leave.  An increasing number of states and localities now provide paid sick leave. It is important that both employers and employees are aware of this trend and whether these laws apply to their locality or state.

The following states (and District of Columbia) have paid sick leave laws:

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