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Question: We have a new employee in our call center who has a service dog. She came to her interview and trained without the dog, but is now asking if she can bring her dog to work. Do we have to accommodate her request?

Answer: The first step will be to determine whether the dog is a trained “service animal” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or is an “emotional support animal.” A “service animal” is one that has been individually trained to work or perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. The animal must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with the disability. Allowing an employee’s trained service animal is a form of reasonable accommodation.

However, pets used for emotional support are not considered service animals under the ADA as they are not trained to perform a specific task. Although some states and some local governments allow individuals to have emotional support animals in public places, the same may not hold true for allowing such animals in places of employment. You will need to contact your local government agency to see if such laws exist. If not, you may set a policy that prohibits pets in the workplace except for ADA-defined service animals.

Employers are limited on what they can ask an employee when it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal. Employers may only ask:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

In addition, employers are not permitted to ask for documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate the task, or inquire as to the nature of the disability. The ADA does not require that trained service animals wear certain vests or collars indicating that they are service animals. Further, the ADA does not require the service animals to have a certificate of training.

Opening a dialogue with your employee about her need for the dog will provide you with guidance as to whether you need to allow her dog to remain with her at work. If another employee notifies you that he or she is allergic to dogs or dog dander, you may notify the employee with the service animal that due to the allergies of another employee, you cannot accommodate her request. However, you must engage in the interactive process with the employee with the service animal to consider other accommodations that would allow the dog to be with the employee.

Check with the Job Accommodation Network for resources to guide you in accommodating employees with service animals. If you do allow this employee to have her dog with her at work, remind her that she is responsible to ensure that her dog is always under her control and does not create a disruption to the work environment.

 

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard several cases with employment implications during their 2018 session, including the following four cases we covered in detail. (Click the case names to read the full articles.)

  • Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro: Encino shifted the burden of proof in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption cases to the plaintiff, meaning that if employees cannot prove they were misclassified, they will not be entitled to overtime pay.
  • Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis: Epic held that employers may enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements rather than being obligated to allow employees to unite in a class action suit.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Masterpiece argued the key civil rights issues of discrimination versus freedom of religion. Although both sides declared a win, the court simply decided that the law is the law and employers cannot deny equal access to goods and services but also religion remains a highly-protected civil right.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees: Janus ruled that public sector employees are not required to pay fees to a union they choose not to join, even if they receive the benefits of the union’s negotiations.

Notable cases that SCOTUS declined to hear in 2018 touched on tip pooling, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) leave, age discrimination, sexual discrimination, and compensation during rest breaks.

The overall trend in the 2018 rulings was a tendency to favor employers. This conservative lean of the court was also reflected in its ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, where the court held the president lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him under federal law to suspend the entry of people from certain countries into the United States.

What’s Coming Up?

With Brett Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation as the new SCOTUS justice due to Justice Kennedy’s retirement, SCOTUS will likely continue on the conservative trend. The EEOC is speculating that cases potentially on the docket for the Supreme Court next season may be related to age discrimination, equal pay, sexual orientation, and gender identity, including possible appeals of these circuit court decisions:

  • Rizo v. Yovino: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the federal Equal Pay Act an employer cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary.
  • EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers may not discriminate against employees because of failure to conform to sex stereotypes, transgender, or transitioning status.
  • Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that an outside job applicant can assert a disparate impact claim under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Disparate impact refers to employment practices that appear to be nondiscriminatory but adversely affect one group of protected class individuals more than others.)
  • Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Other cases being considered include the applicability of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to small public employers, whether the Federal Arbitration Act applies to independent contractors, and whether payment to an employee for time lost from work is compensation subject to employment taxes.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Question: Is medical marijuana use protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If so, what accommodations would be considered reasonable?

Answer:
You are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even though medical marijuana is legal in many states, under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is still illegal. The ADA expressly excludes people who use illegal drugs from its definition of “qualified individual with a disability.”

However, as a best practice, you should still engage in the ADA interactive process if a request for a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use is made. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer. Any request for a reasonable accommodation triggers an interactive process with the employee to determine:

  1. Whether the employee or applicant is a qualified individual with a disability, meaning they can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation; and
  2. What the employee’s needs are, and which appropriate accommodations could be made.

If the employee’s physician has determined that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment, a possible reasonable accommodation would be a waiver of your anti-drug policy. However, if the employee is in a safety-sensitive position, it may pose an undue hardship to make that accommodation and you should consider any other possible accommodations before denying the request.

There are no reasonable accommodations that would work in every circumstance. You will need to review the essential functions and safety requirements of the job with the employee to determine what types of reasonable accommodations may be acceptable while not imposing an undue hardship.

The Courts May Not Concur

While medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA, this is being challenged at the state level. For example, in July 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing that an employee who was fired after testing positive for marijuana could proceed with a “handicap discrimination” claim under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act.

In allowing the employee’s discrimination claim to go forward, the Court expressly rejected the employer’s argument that, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, requiring an employer to accommodate medical marijuana use is per se unreasonable.

Instead, the Court held that, at a minimum, the employer was obligated to engage in an interactive dialogue concerning the employee’s ongoing medicinal marijuana use before terminating her employment. The Court did not rule out the possibility that accommodating medicinal marijuana use could pose an undue hardship, leaving that issue open for the employer to address at a later date.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

This year’s flu season is a rough one. Although the predominant strains of this year’s influenza viruses were represented in the vaccine, they mutated, which decreased the effectiveness of the immunization. The flu then spread widely and quickly, and in addition, the symptoms were severe and deadly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the 2017 – 2018 flu season established new records for the percentage of outpatient visits related to flu symptoms and number of flu hospitalizations.

Younger, healthy adults were hit harder than is typical, which had impacts on the workplace. In fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. recently revised its estimates on the impact of this flu season on employers, raising the cost of lost productivity to over $21 billion, with roughly 25 million workers falling ill.

Fortunately, the CDC is reporting that it looks like this season is starting to peak, and while rates of infection are still high in most of the country, they are no longer rising and should start to drop. What can you do as an employer to keep your business running smoothly for the rest of this flu season and throughout the next one?

  1. Help sick employees stay home. Consider that sick employees worried about their pay, unfinished projects and deadlines, or compliance with the company attendance policy may feel they need to come to work even if they are sick. Do what you can to be compassionate and encourage them to stay home so they can get better as well as protect their co-workers from infection. In addition, make sure your sick leave policies are compliant with all local and state laws, and communicate them to your employees. Be clear with the expectation that sick employees not to report to work. For employees who feel well enough to work but may still be contagious, encourage them to work remotely if their job duties will allow. Be consistent in your application of your attendance and remote work rules.
  2. Know the law. Although the flu is generally not serious enough to require leaves of absence beyond what sick leave or PTO allow for, in a severe season, employees may need additional time off. Consider how the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state leave laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may come into play for employees who have severe cases of the flu, complications, or family members who need care.
  3. Be flexible. During acute flu outbreaks, schools or daycare facilities may close, leaving parents without childcare. Employees may also need to be away from the workplace to provide care to sick children, partners, or parents. Examine your policies to see where you can provide flexibility. Look for opportunities to cross-train employees on each other’s essential duties so their work can continue while they are out.
  4. Keep it clean. Direct cleaning crews to thoroughly disinfect high-touch areas such as doorknobs, kitchen areas, and bathrooms nightly. Provide hand sanitizer in common areas and encourage frequent handwashing. Keep disinfecting wipes handy for staff to clean their personal work areas with.
  5. Limit exposure. Avoid non-essential in-person meetings and travel that can expose employees to the flu virus. Rely on technology such as video conferencing, Slack, Skype, or other platforms to bring people together virtually. Consider staggering work shifts if possible to limit the number of people in the workplace at one time.
  6. Focus on wellness. Offer free or low-cost flu shots in the workplace. If your company provides snacks or meals for employees, offer healthier options packed with nutrients.

Get it all

AGENCY RESOURCES: Get the latest weekly flu stats from the CDC. Learn more about how the FMLA and ADA may be used during pandemic flu from the U.S. Department of Labor.

By Rachel Sobel

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

IRS Releases Publication 15 and W-4 Withholding Guidance for 2018

On January 31, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 15 — Introductory Material, which includes the following:

  • 2018 federal income tax withholding tables.
  • Exempt Form W-4.
  • New information on:
    • Withholding allowance.
    • Withholding on supplemental wages.
    • Backup withholding.
    • Moving expense reimbursement.
    • Social Security and Medicare tax for 2018.
    • Disaster tax relief.

Read Publication 15 and further details here.

EEOC Penalty Increases for Failure to Post Required Notices

On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a final rule increasing the penalty amount from $534 to $545 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) notice posting requirements.

The final rule is effective February 20, 2018.

Originally Published By ThinkHR.com

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