New Jersey News & Analysis

  • Changing laws, attitudes pushing employers to explore alternatives to drug tests

    Nobody wants an impaired person on the job, especially in a safety-sensitive position. But how can a supervisor know if an employee who seems a little off is high? And—perhaps more important—how can an employer screen applicants to reduce the chance of hiring someone who is likely to come to work impaired? The first thought may be to use drug testing, but that option isn't as simple as it once was.

  • Looking to add an innovative benefit? Student loan assistance an option

    On a quest to recruit top talent, many employers are getting creative with perks and benefits. Free food and ping-pong tables are nice. So is a generous employer match on a 401(k). But many employees may not get too excited about perks and retirement benefits when they're struggling with student loan debt. And it's that financial burden that is leading employers to explore ways to ease the pain for their debt-ridden workers.

  • Agency Action

    NLRB switches standard relating to CBA changes. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in September adopted the "contract coverage" standard for determining whether a unionized employer's unilateral change in a term or condition of employment violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In doing so, the NLRB abandoned the "clear and unmistakable waiver" standard. Under the contract coverage standard, the Board will examine the plain language of the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to determine whether the change made by the employer was within the compass or scope of contractual language granting the employer the right to act unilaterally. If it was, the employer will not have violated the NLRA. If the CBA doesn't cover the employer's disputed action, the employer will have violated the Act unless it demonstrates the union waived its right to bargain over the change or it was privileged to act unilaterally for some other reason. The decision is M.V. Transportation, Inc.

  • Union Activity

    UAW calls for lower drug prices. In a September blog post, the United Auto Workers (UAW) called for Congress and the Trump administration to develop reforms to lower drug prices and end what the union called "Big Pharma's price gouging." The post said more than a dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), have joined forces in "support of American health and the ability of our citizens to receive the medications they need at an affordable cost." The union said the cost of prescription drugs is at a crisis level. The reason? Big Pharma's influence in Washington, D.C.

  • Long-stalled OT rule sparks questions beyond where to set salary threshold

    It was spring 2016 when employers learned specifics about what they thought would be a final rule from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) determining which of their employees would be exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). But shortly before the rule was to take effect in December 2016, employers saw it scrapped by a federal judge who maintained the DOL overstepped in making a rule that so drastically changed the salary threshold for exemption. Back to square one and with a new administration in office, the DOL came up with a more moderate change.

  • 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.

  • IRS authorizes more preventive services to be paid by HSA-eligible health plans

    The IRS recently issued guidance expanding the definition of "preventive care" that may be covered—possibly free of charge—by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that's paired with a health savings account (HSA). While the changes made by the guidance are relatively simple, they have the potential to make HSAs substantially more attractive, particularly to employees who have a chronic condition that is controlled by medication or therapy. Before diving too far into the details, however, it's important to have a solid understanding of HSAs and how they work.

  • Association retirement plans may not be ready for primetime

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently finalized regulations allowing multiple employers to offer a retirement plan to their employees through a combined association retirement plan (ARP). In what is becoming a common theme for the agency under President Donald Trump, the new rules are intended to make it easier for small to mid-sized employers to offer such plans to their employees. While they are similar to rules finalized last year that established a new type of association health plan, they go even further by establishing guidelines for professional employer organizations (PEOs) to sponsor retirement plans for their members' employees. Unfortunately, they also may face some of the same problems as those rules, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

  • 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.