Indiana News & Analysis

  • Cleared to work under ADA doesn't mean employers are in the clear

    A recent case from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to employers in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin) provides a cautionary tale for employers applying the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements when an employee with what appears to be a minor or transitory impairment is cleared to work with no restrictions.

  • Retail employers, beware: Customer isn't always right

    The 7th Circuit recently upheld a jury verdict awarding $250,000 in damages to a Costco female employee who was repeatedly stalked and harassed by a male customer for more than a year. Calling Costco's response to its employee's complaints about the customer's behavior and comments "unreasonably weak," the court concluded that while other plaintiffs had endured "far worse" treatment—indeed, Costco characterized its employee's experience with the customer as "tepid"—the female employee experienced demeaning, ostracizing, and terrorizing behavior because of her sex, sufficiently severe and pervasive to support a harassment claim. Let's take a closer look.

  • OFCCP has active end to summer 2018

    During August, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was uncharacteristically active in issuing five new policy directives covering topics ranging from religious exemptions to affirmative action program verification. Although directives don't change the applicable laws or regulations or establish legally enforceable rights or obligations, they are instructive about the OFCCP's enforcement and compliance policies and procedures. Federal contractors and subcontractors in Indiana should familiarize themselves with the latest releases, which are summarized below, and be on the lookout for related guidance in the coming months.

  • Don't forget to properly classify independent contractors

    You likely recall a time not so long ago when the improper classification of employees as independent contractors was the hot topic for the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In 2011, the agencies entered into a "Memorandum of Understanding" in which they agreed to share information about potential misclassifications in an effort to crack down on the common practice. The DOL also entered into similar agreements with roughly 30 state departments of labor.

  • DOL issues FMLA opinion letters after a long break

    For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued opinion letters interpreting the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This may be a sign that the Trump administration intends to rely heavily on opinion letters as a form of guidance for employers, a practice that had been discarded by the Obama administration.

  • Agency Action

    OFCCP releases directives on equal employment and religious freedom. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in August issued two new policy directives, one focused on equal employment opportunity and the other addressing religious freedom. The equal employment opportunity directive calls for more comprehensive reviews of contractor compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws. The religious freedom directive is aimed at protecting the rights of religion-exercising organizations. The DOL said it is implementing a comprehensive compliance initiative that will include adding focused reviews to its compliance activities. The religious freedom directive instructs OFCCP staff to take into account recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and White House Executive Orders that protect religious freedom.

  • Workplace Trends

    Salary increases expected to remain flat. Research from workforce consulting firm Mercer shows salary increase budgets for U.S. employees are at 2.8% in 2018—no change from 2017. Salary increase budgets for 2019 are projected to be just 2.9%, despite factors like the tightening labor market and a high rate of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs. The information comes from Mercer's "2018/2019 US Compensation Planning Survey." Mercer's research shows that even newly available investment dollars from the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act aren't enhancing the compensation budgets for most companies. Mercer says just 4% of organizations have redirected some of their anticipated tax savings to their salary increase budgets.

  • Same-sex sexual harassment was sex discrimination, not horseplay

    On August 2, 2018, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all employers in Indiana) held that an employee presented sufficient evidence of sex discrimination when he alleged that he was sexually harassed by his male coworkers. The 7th Circuit disagreed with the employer's argument that its employees merely engaged in "sexual horseplay," which doesn't amount to sex discrimination, finding the employee presented sufficient evidence to show that men and women were treated differently and only men were harassed.

  • Cautionary tale from California: Don't presume state courts will follow federal guidance

    The California Supreme Court recently made national headlines when it declined to follow—strictly as a matter of policy—70-year-old precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in a case interpreting the state's comparable wage regulations. To be sure, the policy goals and judicial philosophies of California and Indiana are not always synchronous. Nevertheless, deliberate breaks in judicial interpretation of state and federal laws addressing the same topic are not unheard of in Indiana. Consequently, the California decision is a reminder that Indiana employers shouldn't place too much reliance on federal law when confronting state-law issues.

  • New technologies create new employee privacy issues

    Unless you work for a company that's very small or very low-tech by nature, chances are, one of your biggest challenges is keeping up with technology. If your competitors are taking advantage of the many new technological advances that promote efficiency and productivity while you're stuck in 1999, your business will struggle to compete.