News & Analysis

'Fair-share' fee ruling brings new day for public employers, employees

With proponents of a U.S. Supreme Court decision against the collection of "fair-share" fees claiming a victory for First Amendment rights and critics calling the ruling an example of the Court siding with billionaires against workers, employers are adjusting to a major change in the world of agency shops in the public sector.

Can you reduce an employee's salary instead of letting her go?

Q We are reducing staff because of a decrease in annual revenue. A total of 10 positions will be eliminated. For one of those employees, however, we are considering reducing her salary instead of terminating her. Are we legally allowed to do that?

Agency Action

EEOC reports on age discrimination 50 years after ADEA. Age discrimination remains too common and too accepted 50 years after the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) took effect, according to a report from Victoria A. Lipnic, acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report, released June 26, 2018, says only about three percent of those who have experienced age discrimination complained to their employer or a government agency. Studies find that more than three-fourths of older workers surveyed report their age is an obstacle to getting a job. The report includes recommendations on strategies to prevent age discrimination, such as including age in diversity and inclusion programs and having age-diverse hiring panels. The report says research shows that age diversity can improve organizational performance and lower employee turnover and that mixed-age work teams result in higher productivity for both older and younger workers.

Late to the gate or failure to accommodate?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines "disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) clarified that the ADA's definition of disability is to be construed in favor of broad coverage to protect the individuals asserting claims under the ADA. A decade after the ADAAA, employers still find themselves struggling with just what a disability is, who a qualified individual is, and when an employer must engage in the interactive process with the employee.

Practice what you hope to never need

Violence struck at the heart of the Arizona legal community this summer. Over two days in early June, gunshots rang out at a law firm and the offices of two mental health professionals who often serve as court witnesses. For several days while the shooter remained at large, legal workplaces in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and surrounding areas were wracked with fear they might be next.

School district promptly responded to complaints about students' behavior

A schoolteacher in Hawaii sued the public school system that employed her, asserting three basic claims: She was subjected to disparate treatment based on her race and sex, she was exposedto a hostile work environment, and she was retaliated against after she complained about the harassment. The federal district court in Hawaii concluded the teacher didn't have sufficient evidence to prove any of her claims and dismissed her case. She appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over seven Western states, including Arizona). The most informative portion of the 9th Circuit's decision for employers focuses on the hostile work environment claim.

Planning and education are key to successful HSA

Over the past decade, the percentage of employers offering a health savings account (HSA) to their employees has grown dramatically. HSAs are a form of "consumer-driven health plan," a category of employee benefit that strives to place more responsibility on employees to be better consumers of health care. In short, employees pay 100 percent of the deductible under a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). In return, they are given the opportunity to contribute to an HSA, which offers substantial tax benefits.

Misrepresenting pet as service animal now illegal in Arizona

It's hard to believe that it has been four years since our Work on It column began addressing issues facing employers and places of public accommodation when confronted with requests for accommodating an employee's or patron's need for a service animal. Since that time, we've all heard stories about the failed attempts of customers who have tried to board an airplane with their "service" pigs or peacocks. This has resulted in revised service animal policies by places of public accommodation and much criticism by the general public regarding patrons' decisions to bring animals into public places.

Happy anniversary, FLSA

On June 25, 2018, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) turned 80 years old! I didn't notice much fanfare or celebrating. Did you? Remember, just two years ago many of us were frantically implementing new pay policies as the deadline loomed for implementation of the "new and improved" FLSA overtime regulations.

Agency Action

EEOC reports on age discrimination 50 years after ADEA. Age discrimination remains too common and too accepted 50 years after the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) took effect, according to a report from Victoria A. Lipnic, acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report, released June 26, 2018, says only about three percent of those who have experienced age discrimination complained to their employer or a government agency. Studies find that more than three-fourths of older workers surveyed report their age is an obstacle to getting a job. The report includes recommendations on strategies to prevent age discrimination, such as including age in diversity and inclusion programs and having age-diverse hiring panels. The report says research shows that age diversity can improve organizational performance and lower employee turnover and that mixed-age work teams result in higher productivity for both older and younger workers.