Texas News & Analysis

  • How to claim paid family and medical leave tax credit

    The tax reform law passed late last year contained a little-noticed tax credit for employers that provide employees paid "family and medical" leave and meet certain other requirements. While the IRS hasn't finalized regulations pinning down the specifics of the new credit, it recently issued some helpful guidance. Let's take a look.

  • 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.

  • Union Activity

    AFL-CIO leader hails defeat of right-to-work law. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has spoken out to praise the August referendum in Missouri that struck down the states right-to-work law. Missouri is the latest sign of a true groundswell, and working people are just getting started, Trumka said after the vote. Calling the right-to-work law poisonous anti-worker legislation, he said the laws defeat represents a victory for workers across the country. The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Prop. A is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determination. A day after the election, the AFL-CIO announced an advertising campaign aimed at drawing attention to the wave of collective action happening across the country and showing that anyone can join the momentum working people are generating.

  • Agency Action

    NLRB launches ADR pilot program. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced in July that it is launching a new pilot program to enhance the use of its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program. The pilot program is intended to increase participation opportunities for parties in the ADR program and help facilitate mutually satisfactory settlements. Under the new program, the NLRB's Office of the Executive Secretary will proactively engage parties with cases pending before the Board to determine whether their cases are appropriate for inclusion in the ADR program. Parties also may contact the Office of the Executive Secretary and request that their case be placed in the ADR program. There are no fees or expenses for using the program.

  • Protecting data from departing employees (or why I love auditing and access restrictions)

    Countless formal and informal studies show that most employees retain at least some company data when they leave a job. The reasons vary from the benign (such as when an employee inadvertently keeps a work flash drive) to the more malicious (such as in the case of an employee's deliberate theft of company trade secrets for use at a new job). Motivation matters only so much, though, because even the innocent retention of data can have far-reaching consequences.

  • FMLA quiz: Test your knowledge on medical exams, return to work

    It all seemed so clear and straightforward back in 1993. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) would make life simple: 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain limited circumstances. But, alas, while it was "pretty to think so" (an Ernest Hemingway line), it was not to be. Read on to see how you would deal with the following medical leave challenges.

  • Don't ask about prescription meds without reasonable belief, objective evidence

    Q Is it legal to ask employees what prescription medications they use and whether the medications may affect their behavior or cause a safety issue?

  • High court upholds arbitration agreements that bar class actions

    In recent years, one of the most highly disputed issues in employment law circles was whether an employer could require employees to waive their right to participate in a class action lawsuit and instead submit employment-related disputes to binding arbitration. Such a requirement has become a common condition of employment contracts, typically entered into at the beginning of an employment relationship, and/or as a condition of continuing employment.

  • 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.

  • Agency Action

    DOL issues opinion letters on FLSA. The U.S. Department of Labors (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in April announced three new opinion letters related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other laws. The letters released on April 12 concern (1) what counts as work time under the FLSA when employees travel for work, (2) whether 15-minute rest breaks required every hour by an employees serious health condition must be paid or may be uncompensated, and (3) whether certain lump-sum payments from employers to employees are considered earnings for garnishment purposes under Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. An opinion letter is an official document authored by the WHD on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the person or entity requesting the letter. Opinion letters represent official statements of agency policy. (For more on these opinion letters, see WHD issues more opinion letters on pg. 10.)