Mississippi News & Analysis

  • Guidance for employers responding to racial unrest

    The global response to George Floyd's tragic and shocking death and other recent acts of injustice (including those involving Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, Breonna Taylor, and Nina Pop, among others) and the ensuing protests and riots amid the COVID-19 economic crisis have affected businesses directly or indirectly. As the current events continue to unfold, employers may face a plethora of related workplace issues. You should be prepared to respond.

  • Title VII: All persons are entitled to its benefit

    On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion that's a huge win for LGBTQ advocates—and it was well-timed, given that it was right in the middle of Pride Month. The Court ruled that a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • New law grants retroactive COVID-19 liability protection to Louisiana businesses

    As businesses attempt to navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape, one issue of concern is the possibility of claims for alleged exposure to the contagion being filed by both customers and employees. The concerns have been complicated by the often conflicting guidance or requirements placed on businesses by local, state, and federal governments or agencies. While there is ongoing discussion at the federal level about legislation to provide some liability protections for businesses in certain circumstances, several states are stepping into the void and enacting legislation of their own. Louisiana has now followed Oklahoma, North Carolina, and several other states in enacting legislation that grants liability protections for businesses from coronavirus-related claims.

  • Employers play key role in national reckoning on racial disparities

    The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The recent killings of George Floyd and others have resulted in the movement expanding beyond the issues of law enforcement and race—they have resulted in a national reckoning on racial disparities in several regards, including income, education, and healthcare. Statues are coming down, names of forts, buildings, and highways are changing, and employers in all sectors have pledged financial support to confront the inequalities. Yet the greatest responsibility for addressing the disparities will be for employers to assess their policies and practices. Illegal discrimination is hard to prove. But the absence of proven bias doesn't necessarily mean the presence of equal opportunity.

  • Georgia Legislature passes COVID-19 liability shield

    On June 26, as the Georgia General Assembly was about to adjourn, it passed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act. The bill protects businesses, healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, and other entities and individuals from liability for a coronavirus claim, unless the litigant proves the actions showed gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, or reckless or intentional infliction of harm. Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign the bill, which was a legislative priority for the state's business community.

  • Hostile work environment: When does it cross the line?

    In a recent decision by the 11th Circuit (which has jurisdiction over cases originating out of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia), an employee sued under Title VII for hostile work environment. Even with evidence of blatant hostility by a supervisor, the trial court actually dismissed his claim before it went to trial. The 11th Circuit disagreed, however, and reversed the dismissal, allowing him to present his case to a jury at an upcoming trial.

  • Qualified immunity: Sensible doctrine or public official's 'get out of jail free' card?

    Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine governmental officials can assert in an effort to shield themselves from certain civil liability as long as they didn't violate an individual's clearly established statutory or constitutional right. In a recent decision, the 5th Circuit addressed the concept and highlighted the requirements for such immunity to apply.

  • Looking ahead after pandemic: Employers likely to see enduring change

    What's the world of work going to look like in the weeks and months ahead? Some workplaces in some parts of the country will be farther along the road to recovery than others, but few will go back to being just like they were before words like coronavirus, pandemic, and COVID-19 became all-consuming thoughts. The months of business shutdowns, remote work, and uncertainty have changed employee attitudes and employer practices—changes that are important for management to understand as employers move forward.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    #RecoverStronger Initiative urges inclusive economic recovery. JFF, a nonprofit focusing on driving change to bring equitable economic advancement, in June announced its #RecoverStronger Initiative, which calls on "impact employers"—organizations focused on talent strategies that make a positive impact on workers and communities—to be leaders. The companies involved, including Microsoft, Walmart, Postmates, and other large employers, have committed to business values and practices that prioritize worker well-being and economic mobility in response to COVID-19. The members of the founding coalition also have vowed to stand against the forces of systemic racism. JFF's announcement says strategies include more inclusive hiring practices, development programs that help employees prepare for and thrive in a shifting labor market, total rewards programs that create greater job security and stability, and ethical offboarding strategies that help workers position themselves for new opportunities in growing fields.

  • Federal Watch

    DOL issues new wage and hour opinion letters. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in late June five new opinion letters addressing compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The opinion letters are FLSA2020-6, addressing whether salespeople who travel to different locations to sell products using their employers mobile assets qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-7, addressing whether an auto manufacturers direct payments to an auto dealerships employee may count toward the dealerships minimum wage obligation; FLSA2020-8, addressing whether salespeople who set up displays and perform demonstrations at retail locations not owned, operated, or controlled by their employer to sell the employers products qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-9, addressing whether emergency-management coordinators employed by a county government qualify for administrative exemptions; and FLSA2020-10, addressing the application of the retail or service commission sales exemption.