Arizona News & Analysis

  • Umbrella of liability shields employee, trust fund

    Workers' right to compensation for on-the-job injuries is enshrined in the Arizona Constitution. State laws are likewise protective of injured workers. A recent Arizona Court of Appeals case demonstrates the worker-friendly nature of the law in the common context of a construction worksite with many layers of contractors and subcontractors. The case, Menos Construction v. Reyes, is likely to rattle the Arizona workers' compensation insurance market for months to come as its implications become clear.

  • Court drops bombshell: FFD exam is OK for hazardous devices tech

    Employers are responsible for their employees' on-the-job safety. That includes making sure an employee poses no danger to his coworkers or himself. But an employer that's worried about an employee's mental or physical condition must take care in how it addresses that concern. Some situations call for an employee to undergo a fitness-for-duty (FFD) examination, which is a medical exam to determine whether the employee is physically or psychologically able to perform his job.

  • Supreme Court will decide whether LGBT discrimination is unlawful

    The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the long-unresolved question of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The issue has been percolating in the lower courts for quite a while. As it frequently does, the Court declined to consider the question until there was a conflict between several appellate courts. Let's take a look at the history of the Court's decisions, the arguments on both sides of the issue, and what we can expect next.

  • Employees—repping you to the world

    I spent a lot of May in airports waiting on American Airlines flights. I blame the airline for stealing a day of my vacation in Greece. Five flights. All delayed or canceled because of mechanical issues.

  • Wait! What about me and what I bring to the job?

    It may be time to "sharpen your knife" regarding reward systems. Organizational needs and employees' expectations about work and careers are changing, making traditional job-based pay systems less effective or, in some cases, even obsolete. In a recent article in WorkSpan titled "Refining Rewards for the Millennial Generation," Ken Abosch, a partner with AON, PLC, discusses some of the following insights:

  • Arizona becomes 48th state to ban handheld device use while driving

    The conflux of a tragedy, a patchwork of municipal regulations, and perhaps a bit of shame at being one of only three states without a statewide ban on texting while driving finally pushed a driver safety measure into law in Arizona. The law is effective immediately, but it has a long grace period. Still, Arizona employers should insist that employees who drive on their behalf for business are in compliance with the new legal requirements.

  • September 30 deadline looms for newly required EEO-1 data

    Employers required to submit EEO-1 reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are venturing into uncharted territory as they work to collect newly required information due by September 30. While they may be accustomed to submitting traditional EEO-1 information—data on employees' race/ethnicity and gender, or what's being called Component 1 data—this year they also must compile data on compensation and hours worked, or what's being called Component 2 data.

  • Policy manual forms the basis of employment contract

    The Arizona Employment Protection Act establishes a presumption of at-will-employment status that may be rebutted only in limited circumstances. Section 23-1501(A)(3) of the Act states the "employment relationship is severable at the pleasure of either the employee or the employer" unless there's a written contract that expressly restricts the right of either party to terminate it. Language in an employment handbook or manual could form the basis of a written contract that restricts an employer's right to terminate the employment relationship.

  • ADA claims don't have a prayer without documentation of need for extended leave

    The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (whose rulings apply to all Oregon employers) recently explained the scope of the "religious organization exception" to the prohibition on religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court also addressed the limits of the duty to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Let's take a look.

  • You've been served with a writ of garnishment--what now?

    It's happened. You've received a writ of garnishment and summons directing you to garnish the wages of an employee. As the entity garnishing the judgment debtor's (aka the employee's) wages, you are responsible for navigating the process without error, or you risk liability for monetary penalties up to the full amount of the judgment.

    Garnishment procedures, which are governed by Arizona law, are extremely complicated. While azcourts.gov offers a 92-page informational booklet, the guidance merely demonstrates how complicated the process is—it doesn't necessarily eliminate the risk of error. That's why the official state court website issues the following warning: "ALL PARTIES TO A GARNISHMENT ARE STRONGLY URGED TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE FROM AN ATTORNEY."

    What is a garnishment?

    A garnishment is a legal process by which one party (the judgment creditor) may collect money from another (the judgment debtor) after a monetary judgment has been entered. A garnishment becomes necessary if the judgment debtor fails to pay voluntarily. Once that happens, the judgment creditor can use certain financial or employment information to initiate garnishment proceedings.

    Garnishments may be collected from earnings (e.g., wages, commissions, and bonuses) or from other sources (e.g., money or property owed to the judgment debtor that's in the possession of another, such as a bank account). An Arizona garnishment proceeding may only be used to collect money or property in Arizona.

    What are our obligations as the garnishee?

    An employer responsible for garnishing the wages of a judgment debtor is known as a garnishee. As the garnishee, you must review the writ of garnishment and summons, determine the identity and employment status of the judgment debtor, and determine whether he has any other existing garnishments.

    Once you have gathered that information, you must complete the garnishee's answer and file it with the court clerk within 10 business days of being served with the writ of garnishment. Failure to comply may result in an order being entered against your company for the full amount of the debt owed by the judgment debtor, even if you don't owe him any earnings. Trust me—it happens.

    What if we don't employ the judgment debtor?

    You must still file a garnishee's answer even if you don't employ the judgment debtor. You should complete the garnishee's answer, explaining that you do not owe the judgment debtor wages, you don't expect to owe her wages within 60 days, and you are entitled to be released from the garnishment. Once you file the garnishee's answer with that information, you will not need to do anything further unless one of the other parties objects to your answer.

    What if the judgment debtor is a current employee?

    If you do owe or will owe earnings to the judgment debtor, you must immediately begin withholding nonexempt earnings from his pay. You must also complete the garnishee's answer and file it with the court clerk within 10 business days of being served with the writ of garnishment.

    Within 10 business days of receiving the writ of garnishment, you must give the employee a copy of the garnishee's answer and other documents that provide him the various notices related to the garnishment. In addition, you must provide a copy of the garnishee's answer to the judgment creditor.

    Tune in for part 2

    This column addresses the initial steps employers must take upon receiving a writ of garnishment. If the judgment creditor is a current employee, you are required to take follow-up steps, such as completing a nonexempt earnings statement, determining when to release the funds to the judgment creditor, and knowing when to stop the garnishment. We will provide that information in our August "Work on It" column. Stay tuned for guidance on how to ease the burden of processing a garnishment you will inevitably receive.

    Jodi R. Bohr is an attorney with Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A. She may be reached at jodi.bohr@gknet.com or 602-530-8035.