Blog Archive

HR Tip of the Month: Are You Sure Your Company is Complying With Family Leave Laws?June 2015

Although the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been around for over twenty years, many employers still do not get it right when it comes to their obligations to notify their employees generally of their rights, respond correctly to employee requests for leave, correctly calculate and designate leave to which an employee is entitled, or to reinstate an employee when legally required to do so. And in New Jersey, like several other states, employers are doubly tripped up on the interplay of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA), which in some situations runs concurrent with the federal FMLA yet does not in other situations.  Compounding the compliance conundrum in states like New Jersey is the further interaction of the Temporary Disability Benefits Law and the Paid Family Leave Law.

Compliance with these laws - and more importantly working with counsel to ensure your human resources professionals do not get tripped up by the constantly shifting sands in this area - is imperative to avoid claims by employees of failure to provide leave, interference with leave rights, and retaliation for taking leave.  Considering that such claims are usually accompanied by a companion discrimination claim, employers must prioritize compliance with the web of federal and state leave laws.

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HR Tip of the Month: Llamas, Alpacas and Birds, Oh My! Allowing Animals In The Workplace May Be A Reasonable Accommodation For Disabled EmployeesApril 2015

You may not be in OZ, but employers may sometimes feel they are as they try to navigate the various local, state and federal labor and employment laws. As we have explained in prior Updates, applicable state and federal disability laws obligate employers to engage in an “interactive process” to determine whether they can reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability.  Most employers probably appreciate that the obligation to engage in the interactive process would be triggered if faced with a blind applicant or employee that requests permission to be accompanied to work by a service or guide dog.  However, what about a request to be allowed to bring an emotional support or therapy animal to the office to help with an anxiety or a stress-related disorder?  Some quick research on the internet will tell you that such animals could include dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, and yes, even llamas, alpacas, horses and donkeys.  Because use of such emotional support animals is a relatively new phenomenon, the law in this area is largely unsettled.  This results in little guidance for how employers should respond to such requests.  Employers that receive such a request should not simply dismiss the request out of hand.  Rather, it is recommended that employers engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine whether or not allowing the animal in the workplace is a reasonable accommodation.  After going through the interactive process the employer may ultimately deny the request because it imposes an undue hardship on the business; however, refusing to engage in that process could expose the employer to a legal claim.

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EEOC Issues Proposed Rule Addressing Employer Wellness ProgramsApril 2015

The EEOC recently issued a proposed rule which would apply to employer provided wellness programs. The proposed rule would operate to amend Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The proposed rule provides employers guidance regarding the permissible incentives employers may use to encourage employee participation in wellness programs. The proposed rule would only apply to wellness programs that include medical or disability-related inquiries. The proposed rule restricts incentives employers may use as part of voluntary wellness programs, imposes notice requirements and examines confidentiality issues related to information obtained from employees as part of these programs.  Although the rule is not yet in effect and compliance is not yet required, employers are reminded that some of the requirements in the rule are already required under the law.  For example, employers should make sure they do not:  (1) require employees to participate in a wellness program; (2) deny health insurance to employees who do not participate; and (3) take any adverse employment action or retaliate against employees who do not participate in wellness programs or who do not achieve certain health outcomes.  To get more information on the proposed rule, click here: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/facts_nprm_wellness.cfm.

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