Supreme Court 2019 October Session: Navigating Title VII and LGBTQ Discrimination

Can an employer terminate an employee because they are gay or transgender? That is the question before the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) today, October 8, 2019. SCOTUS will hear arguments on three (3) cases in order to decide whether discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or transgender status constitutes discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

In the 2015 session, SCOTUS determined in Obergefellv. Hodges that the states could not ban same-sex marriage. As a result, the EEOC determined that discrimination against LGBTQ individuals was illegal. However, no federal law expressly prohibits employers from terminating an employee due to that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Final Overtime Rule Announced

The final rule updates the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, or professional employees from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, and allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses/commissions towards meeting the salary level. The new thresholds account for growth in employee earnings since the currently enforced thresholds were set in 2004. In the final rule, the Department is:

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Powerful Documentation

At times, employers are faced with the task of terminating an employee. Whether it is due to downsizing, a policy violation, or the employee simply was not a good fit, it is important that the employer has a documented record of employment events in order to defend against potential claims.

Employers should always consider what claims may be brought by the terminated employee. Is there any basis for a discrimination claim, under either federal or state law? Title VII protects race, color, religion, sex (which includes gender and pregnancy) and national origin. Harassment and retaliation based on any of those characteristics is also prohibited. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabilities, both physical and mental. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees against discrimination due to their age (over 40). Most states have similar laws that may extend these protections to additional classes. In addition, there are legal protections for employees who engage in union-related activities or other types of concerted action in the workplace.

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HR Tidbits

As fall sets in, HR Partners wanted to provide a few updates regarding key human resources topics. Please read below on how to address the Federal Form I-9 and no-match letters.

Federal Form I-9

The federal government's Form I-9, used by HR departments across the country to verify workers' employment eligibility, is expiring on August 31, 2019.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to extend the current version of the form without changes, although minor clarifications will be made to the form's instructions. DHS has directed employers to continue using the current version of the form despite the expiration date until a revised version is available.

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Annual Tax Preparation: Employee’s Guide

Following the first official tax season after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was enacted, the IRS has been exploring ways to assist taxpayers have a better tax year in 2020. That includes replacing the old Withholding Calculator with the new Tax Withholding Estimator.

The Tax Withholding Estimator assists taxpayers in completing the Form W-4 correctly to ensure the correct amount of tax is withheld from employees’ paychecks based upon their personal situations. The Tax Withholding Estimator is available at the link below:

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