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Photo of Employment Law Blog Luke A. Wingfield
Senior Attorney
lwingfield@mmlk.com
859-231-8780, ext. 265
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Too many times attorneys focus on telling clients what they want to hear rather than providing an honest and frank assessment of the matter at hand, both good and bad. As an attorney, it is …

Showing 13 posts by Luke A. Wingfield.

New Overtime Rules May Be Here Sooner than Expected

The timeline for adoption of the Final Rule of proposed changes to the white collar overtime exemption has been hard to pin down. In early November of 2015, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, during a panel discussion at the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Conference in Philadelphia, mentioned that the proposed changes would not be issued until late 2016, leading many to believe that they would not take effect until 2017. Later that month, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) Wage and Hour Division estimated that the rule would be published in July 2016, not quite as late as earlier implied. Then, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez stated in December in an interview with Bloomberg BNA that it seemed likely to him that the new rule would be out by spring of 2016. In February of 2016, Smith reiterated the Wage and Hour Division’s projected timeline of a July 2016 publication with an effective date 60 days later. On March 14th, 2016, the Department of Labor made the surprising move of sending its overtime rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), which means that all bets are off and the rule may here sooner than predicted. More >

New FMLA Forms Address GINA Safe Harbor

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently revised and updated the template forms that the agency issues for use in Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) notice and certification. Some of these new forms have received substantial revision, and all have been approved through the end of May 2018. The most notable change, however, may be that certain new forms related to medical certification (WH-380-E, WH-380-F, WH-385 and WH-385-V) address Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) “safe harbor” language. More >

Obama Orders Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

On Labor Day, appropriately enough, President Obama issued an executive order establishing up to seven days of paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. The order was drafted and proposed in early August and issued on September 7th, capping off the White House’s push of its “Lead on Leave” initiative.

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NLRB Protects a New Kind of Employee Activity: Worrying About Your Job

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has been on a roll in recent years, protecting such employee activity as complaining on Facebook or even hitting the “Like” button. In the case of Sabo, Inc.¸ the NLRB recently ruled that letting other employees know about an open position and speculating on terminations falls within a category of concerted employee activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).[1]

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Complaining to the Boss? The Second Circuit Says That's Protected

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation that oral complaints are protected by anti-relation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), but it did not address a vital question: must those complaints be “filed” with a government agency to receive protection against retaliation, or will simple oral complaints to an employer trigger such provisions?[1] The Second Circuit recently moved to fill that gap, ruling in Greathouse v. JHS Security, Inc. that merely “filing” an oral complaint with an employer is enough to trigger anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA[2].

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E-Cigarettes and Workplace Smoking Policies: To Ban or Not to Ban, that is the Question

Woman Smoking With Electronic CigaretteSmoking in the workplace is slowly becoming an antiquated notion. Federal and state laws ban smoking in some places, and an increasing patchwork of local ordinances decreases the availability of indoor and even outdoor smoking in some circumstances. Complicating matters, as it usually does, is the rise of new technology that straddles the line between permissible and impermissible conduct – the e-cigarette. The question employers now have to struggle with is whether these devices, which purport to alleviate the harmful effects of smoke on both the user and those inhaling second-hand, should fall under broad workplace bans on smoking.

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Is a Company’s Release of Claims a Form of Retaliation under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws? EEOC v. Allstate

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The EEOC may have taken enforcement of anti-retaliation provisions of antidiscrimination laws a step too far the Third Circuit ruled in February, and companies transitioning a work force from employees to independent contractors should be pleased at the results. EEOC v. Allstate drew a line between what now counts as retaliation by a company in the face of federal antidiscrimination laws and what is merely a post-termination transaction between an employer and an employee.

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“Do You Want Liability With That?” The NLRB McDonald’s Decision that could undermine the Franchise Business Model (Part II)

Monday’s post discussed the decision of NLRB’s General Counsel to hold McDonald’s Corp. jointly responsible with its franchise owners for workers’ labor complaints. The decision, if allowed to stand, could shake up the decades-old fast-food franchise system, but it does not stop there. The joint employer doctrine can be applied not only to fast food franchises and franchise arrangements in other industries, but also to other employment arrangements, such as subcontracting or outsourcing.

This decision could also impact the pricing of goods and services, as franchisors would likely need to up costs to offset the new potential liability. Everything from taxes to Affordable Care Act requirements could be affected if the decision stands.

If you are a franchisor and are currently in what could be determined to be a joint employer relationship, consider taking steps to further separate and distinguish your role from that of your franchisee. While franchisors should always take reasonable measures to ensure that franchisees are in compliance with applicable federal and state employment laws, they should take care to not wield such force over them to give the appearance of a joint-employer relationship.

We will be following the NLRB decision and keep you updated as the issue progresses.

Luke Wingfield

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice

“Do You Want Liability With That?” The NLRB McDonald’s Decision that could undermine the Franchise Business Model

On July 29, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) General Counsel authorized NLRB Regional Directors to name McDonald’s Corp. as a joint employer in several complaints regarding worker rights at franchise-owned restaurants. Joint employer liability means that the non-employer (McDonald’s Corp.) can be held responsible for labor violations to the same extent as the worker’s “W-2” employer.

In the U.S., the overwhelming majority of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees (as is the case with most other fast-food chains). The franchise model is predicated on the assumption that the franchisee is an independent contractor – not an employee of the franchisor. Generally, the franchisor owns a system for operating a business and agrees to license a bundle of intellectual property to the franchisee so long as on the franchisee adheres to prescribed operating standards and pays franchise fees. Franchisees have the freedom to make personnel decisions and control their operating costs.

Many third parties and pro-union advocates have long sought to hold franchisors responsible for the acts or omissions of franchisees – arguing that franchisors maintain strict control on day-to-day operations and regulate almost all aspects of a franchisee's operations, from employee training to store design. Their argument is that the franchise model allows the corporations to control the parts of the business it cares about at its franchises, while escaping liability for labor and wage violations.

The NLRB has investigated 181 cases of unlawful labor practices at McDonald’s franchise restaurants since 2012. The NLRB has found sufficient merit in at least 43 cases. Heather Smedstad, senior vice president of human resources for McDonald’s USA, called the NLRB’s decision a “radical departure” and something that “should be a concern to businessmen and women across the country.” Indeed it is, but it is important to note that General Counsel's decision is not the same as a binding NLRB ruling and that it will be a long time before this issue is resolved, as McDonald’s Corp. will no doubt appeal any rulings.

For more about the potential effects of this decision, check back on Wednesday.

Luke Wingfield

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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U.S. Supreme Court Gives Increased Protection to Government Employees

The Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that government employees who testify about public corruption are protected by the First Amendment. The case, Lane v. Franks, [1]centered on a public employee, Lane, who worked at an Alabama community college where he led the school’s program for at-risk youth.

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