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This Short List addresses the following topics:
  1. U.S. Supreme Court Reversed Ninth Circuit Equal Pay Ruling Based on Judge’s Death
  2. Fifth Circuit: Restated Its Position that Title VII Does Not Protect Sexual Orientation
  3. California: Guidance on New Agricultural Overtime Pay Requirements
  4. Alameda, CA: City Minimum Wage Increases to $13.50 in July, Regardless of Employer Size
  5. Florida: Miami Beach Minimum Wage Struck Down
  6. Illinois: $9.25 Minimum Wage by January 2020, With New Possible Penalties
  7. Minneapolis, MN: Minimum Wage Increase Approved
  8. New Jersey: $10 Minimum Wage in July 2019, $15 by 2024
  9. Westchester County, New York: Bans the Box
  10. Portland, Oregon: Prohibits Discrimination Against Atheists and Agnostics
  11. West Virginia: Federal Law Enforcement Pension Freed From State Taxes


U.S. Supreme Court Reversed Ninth Circuit Equal Pay Ruling Based on Judge’s Death

On February 25, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Rizo v. Yovino because Justice Reinhardt passed away 11 days before the ruling was issued. Rizo stated that an employer cannot use prior salary history to justify a pay disparity. Although the Ninth Circuit stated that Justice Reinhardt participated fully in the decision, and even wrote the opinion for the case, the Supreme Court stated that the appellate court could not issue an opinion that included the vote of a judge who was neither an active judge nor a senior judge. As a result, the case will get sent back to the Ninth Circuit to reconsider the issues. Notwithstanding, consideration of prior salary history is still prohibited in California when setting wage rates.


Fifth Circuit: Restated Its Position that Title VII Does Not Protect Sexual Orientation

On February 6, 2019, in Wittmer v. Phillips 66, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal stated that its long running precedent, that employees are not protected under federal civil rights law on the basis of sexual orientation, remains unchanged. The case stemmed from a discrimination claim by a transgender woman who claimed she was denied a job based on her transgender status. Ultimately, the court stated the employee provided insufficient evidence to support her discrimination claim.

Although this decision only applies to the Fifth Circuit, there are three current petitions in front of the U.S. Supreme Court asking the higher court to clarify Title VII protections. Stay tuned for new developments as the situation unfolds.


California: Guidance on New Agricultural Overtime Pay Requirements

As of January 1, 2019, employers of agricultural workers in large businesses were required to implement new overtime pay requirements.  Covered employees working over 9.5 hours in a day (or 55 in a workweek) earn overtime pay, with small size employers having three additional years before the same standard is implemented.

To assist employers with complying with the new requirements, the California Labor Commissioner’s office published a few tools and documents: guidance on the new overtime requirements, a timetable for when daily/weekly overtime pay rates becomes effective, and a FAQ page. Make sure to review these resources for compliance.


Alameda, CA: City Minimum Wage Increases to $13.50 in July, Regardless of Employer Size

Effective July 1, 2019, Alameda joins a number of other California cities in raising its minimum wage to $13.50 per hour.  The new minimum wage ordinance also includes a second increase to $15 per hour on July 1, 2020.  Further increases after July 1, 2022 will be made according to the annual Consumer Price Index adjustment, if any.

While previous wage increases consisted of different rates depending on the employer’s headcount, this upcoming July 1, 2019 increase applies to all employers of all sizes.  Therefore, both “large” and “small” employers should be prepared for the increase this summer.


Florida: Miami Beach Minimum Wage Struck Down

On February 5, 2019, the Florida Supreme Court stated that state law preempts local minimum wage laws, including Miami Beach’s minimum wage law that would have raised the minimum wage to $13.31 by 2021. Minimum wage across Florida remains $8.46 per hour.


Illinois: $9.25 Minimum Wage by January 2020, With New Possible Penalties

In 2020, Illinois will experience its first statewide minimum wage increase since 2010.  Thanks to an amendment to the Illinois minimum wage law, there will be two wage increases in 2020: the first increase from the current $8.25 to $9.25 takes place January 1, followed by a second increase to $10 on July 1, 2020.  Thereafter, the minimum wage will increase by one dollar each January 1st, capping at $15 an hour on January 1, 2025.

The amendments do not change permitted tip credits, which are based on a percentage of the current minimum wage.  However, the amendment does authorize the Illinois Department of Labor to conduct random compliance audits, a provision that did not previously exist.  Employers can now be liable for significant penalties for non-compliance, including treble damages plus attorneys’ fees and costs.  Therefore, employers should ensure their payroll systems are set up correctly for the impending increases.


Minneapolis, MN: Minimum Wage Increase Approved

On March 4, 2019, a Minnesota Court of Appeal allowed Minneapolis’s minimum wage ordinance to move forward, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. The court noted that the state’s wage law set a minimum statewide and did not interfere with the city’s right to set higher salary standards.


New Jersey: $10 Minimum Wage in July 2019, $15 by 2024

On February 4, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a minimum wage bill.  The new law includes an increase to the statewide minimum wage rate for the second time in 2019, with additional increases each year up to a cap of $15 per hour by January 1, 2024.

New Jersey’s last minimum wage increase took place on January 1, 2019, raising the minimum wage to its current $8.85/hour.  Effective July 1, 2019, the minimum wage jumps to $10 per hour, thereafter increasing by one dollar each year on January 1st, unless a change in the federal wage rate or the CPI-W (the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers) is greater.  After 2024, the minimum wage will only increase in tandem with the CPI-W or federal minimum.

Special rules apply for employers who take tip credits, provide training wages, are “small employers,” or have employees engaged in seasonal employment.  Employers may also be eligible for tax credits for hiring employees with impairments.  Employers can read the full text of the bill here.


Westchester County, New York: Bans the Box

As of March 4, 2019, employers in Westchester County are prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history before a preliminary or initial application for employment has been made. Specifically, employers must remove criminal history inquiries from job applications, and remove criminal history limitations from job postings. The law does not affect background checks required by federal, state, or local law. Additionally, it incorporates New York law, including pre- and post-adverse action requirements. Review the text of the bill here.


Portland, Oregon: Prohibits Discrimination Against Atheists and Agnostics

Effective March 29, 2019, “non-religion” will be a class protected from discrimination. “Non-religion” includes atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief in god(s). The definition of “religion” was also expanded to include non-religion. Employers with employees in Portland should have discrimination policies updated and train staff on the new protections.


West Virginia: Federal Law Enforcement Pension Freed From State Taxes

West Virginia collects state taxes from federal retirees’ pensions, with the exception of West Virginian state and local law enforcement retirees.  In Dawson v. Steager, a retired U.S. Marshal brought a lawsuit against the West Virginia State Tax Commissioner, stating that his pension should receive the same tax-free treatment as state law enforcement retirees. Examination of the federal and local/state law enforcement job responsibilities found that both positions had very similar duties.  On February 20, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the distinction between federal and state enforcement personnel in this context was too narrow to be relevant, requiring each to receive the same tax treatment under state law. This case may have broader implications for federal workers in other states with similar tax exemptions.


Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2019 ManagEase

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