Wisconsin News & Analysis

  • Agency Action

    USCIS releases guidance on employment authorization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August announced new policy guidance to address its discretion to grant employment authorization to foreign nationals who are paroled into the United States, including those who are otherwise inadmissible. The agency explained that certain foreign nationals may be paroled into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, but they aren't entitled to employment authorization solely because of that. Instead, they must establish eligibility and apply for employment authorization. USCIS will consider employment authorization for parolees only when, based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, it finds a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. The agency said it is taking the action in response to "the national emergency at the southern border."

  • Workplace Trends

    Report details persistent wage gap affecting black women. Black women who work full time year-round typically are paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, according to a fact sheet from the National Women's Law Center released in August. The wage gap also contributes to the wealth gap, the fact sheet says, and is an obstacle to black women's economic security over their lifetimes. The report says that in 1967, a black woman working full time year-round typically made 43 cents for every dollar a white man made. In 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, the gap had narrowed by just 18 cents. The wage gap is wider in certain areas. The report lists the 10 worst states for black women's wage equality: Louisiana, a wage gap of 53 cents; Washington, D.C., a gap of 49 cents; Utah, 47 cents; South Dakota, 47 cents; New Jersey, 44 cents; Mississippi, 44 cents; Connecticut, 43 cents; South Carolina, 43 cents; Alabama, 41 cents; and Texas, 41 cents. The gap for the United States as a whole is 39 cents.

  • Agency Action

    New wage and hour opinion letters issued. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in July announced new opinion letters related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA2019-7 addresses the calculation of overtime pay for nondiscretionary bonuses paid on a quarterly and annual basis. FLSA2019-8 addresses the application of the highly compensated employee exemption to paralegals employed by a trade organization. FLSA2019-9 addresses permissible rounding practices for calculating an employee's hours worked. FLSA2019-10 addresses the compensability of time spent in a truck's sleeper berth while otherwise relieved from duty. The DOL offers a search function allowing users to search existing opinion letters by keyword, year, topic, and a variety of other filters. The search function can be accessed at www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/search/fullsearch.htm.

  • Workplace Trends

    Texting gaining popularity in hiring process. More employers and job candidates are using texting as a communication method, according to research from Robert Half Technology. More than two-thirds (67%) of IT decision makers surveyed said their organization uses texting as one way of coordinating interviews with job candidates. Nearly half (48%) of U.S. workers polled in a similar survey said they've received a text message from a potential employer. When asked about the greatest advantage of texting during the hiring process, quick communication was the top response among IT managers and workers. They also acknowledged the greatest drawback was the possibility of miscommunication.

  • Union Activity

    Miners' union invites presidential candidates to go underground. The international president of the United Mine Workers of America in July sent letters to all the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president inviting them to go to a union coal mine and go underground. Cecil E. Roberts said coal miners want to know that those running for president "have some understanding of what they do and why they do it." Roberts sent the letter at a time when the sector of the coal industry that produces steam coal, used as fuel for electricity generation, is under stress. Coal-fired power plants are disappearing, with 289 closing since 2010 and 50 since January 2017. A statement from the union said most Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed the Green New Deal or offered similar plans that would hasten the closure of coal-fired power plants and the mines that feed them. Roberts said the candidates "owe it to these workers to meet them face to face, tell them their plans, and then just listen."

  • Is it OK to allow exempt employees to perform some nonexempt duties?

    You may have employees whom you have properly classified as exempt from receiving overtime pay under federal and Wisconsin wage and hour law. What happens when you are short one or more hourly employees and you ask an exempt employee to pick up their duties? Under certain circumstances, you may have overtime liability. Read on to learn how to minimize potential liability in these circumstances.

  • Did my employee quit, or did I fire him?

    There are times when an employee appears to have quit his job, but a court or a jury will determine that the employer has terminated him. That's referred to as a constructive discharge. If an employer discriminates against an employee and makes his working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable employee in the same circumstances has no choice but to quit, it can be considered a constructive discharge that will subject the employer to increased liability. This article focuses on what's considered a constructive discharge under Wisconsin and federal law.

  • Recent settlement suggests shift toward more parental leave parity

    A recent legal settlement over a parental leave dispute may encourage employers to move toward more gender-neutral parental leave policies. JPMorgan Chase settled a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of male employees who argued the banking company's parental leave policy was inequitable to new fathers. The $5 million settlement garnered national attention. HR professionals predict the JPMorgan settlement and recent similar settlements may push employers to make leave benefits available to new fathers on par with the benefits traditionally available only to their female colleagues.

  • 7th Circuit addresses obligation to allow telecommuting as an accommodation

    Work-from-home arrangements are becoming more common as technology allows more and more employees to perform their job duties remotely. A recent case before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Wisconsin employers) demonstrates how you should approach such arrangements in the context of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • Individual coverage HRAs probably not option for 2020

    On his very first day in office, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to lessen the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) burden on the organizations and individuals who were subject to its requirements. More than two years later, the ACA is limping along, but the Trump administration is still working to carry out that order.