Posts Tagged ‘John Gupton’

Drugs, Alcohol and the ADA

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Advice and Resolution Team Member John Gupton shares helpful information about the ADA and what the law allows in regard to drugs and alcohol.

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

In general, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits covered employers from discriminating against a “qualified individual with a disability” in regard to job applications, hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, training, or other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an “undue hardship” upon the employer.

The ADA specifically allows employers to prohibit the use of alcohol or illegal drugs in the workplace and require that employees not be under the influence. Employers may test for the use of illegal drugs under the ADA. Employers also may maintain and enforce rules prohibiting employees from being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace and may conduct alcohol testing for this purpose if they have a reasonable belief that an employee may be under the influence of alcohol at work.

While current illegal drug users and alcoholics who cannot safely perform their jobs are not protected by the ADA, those who have been rehabilitated or are participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and are not currently using drugs or who are erroneously regarded as engaging in the illegal use of drugs, are covered. Thus, an employer may be required to make reasonable accommodation to recovering alcoholics, for example, by allowing time off to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

For more information about the ADA, go to http://j.mp/dis-d. If you have questions about the ADA, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

FMLA: Are You A Covered Employer?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

In today’s video blog, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution team, discusses provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and whether an employer is covered.

John starts by explaining that FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for certain family or medical reasons. He lists several protections the law grants employees, such as continuation of a group health plan.

He addresses employer coverage in the last portion of the video. John says public employers are covered without regard to the number of employees employed. Private employers must have 50 or more employees during 20 or more workweeks during the current or preceding calendar year. John also explains which employees you should count when figuring out FMLA coverage.

If you have additional questions regarding FMLA employer coverage, please give CAI’s Advice and Resolution team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-667-7746.

Understanding USERRA and its Employment Protections

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information about The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides certain reemployment rights and benefit protections for military personnel including members of the National Guard and reservists. USERRA protects applicants and employees who serve in the military, or who apply to serve, from employment discrimination, and provides employment and reemployment rights after completion of military service or training, or application for service.

USERRA requires that service members provide advance written or verbal notice to their employers for all military duty unless giving notice is impossible, unreasonable, or precluded by military necessity. An employee should provide notice as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances. Additionally, service members are able (but are not required) to use accrued vacation or annual leave while performing military duty. USERRA establishes the cumulative length of time that an individual may be absent from work for military duty and retain reemployment rights to five years; however, there are some exceptions to the five-year limit.

USERRA provides that returning service-members are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service (the long-standing “escalator” principle), with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment.

The period an individual has to make application for reemployment or report back to work after military service is based on time spent on military duty. For service of less than 31 days, the service member must return at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work period on the first full day after release from service, taking into account safe travel home plus an eight-hour rest period. For service of more than 30 days but less than 181 days, the service member must submit an application for reemployment within 14 days of release from service. For service of more than 180 days, an application for reemployment must be submitted within 90 days of release from service.

For more information on USERRA, check out Chapter 14 of CAI’s Employers’ Desk Manual on our web site (www.capital.org) under the Member Services section.

Wage and Hour Law – Lectures, Seminars and Meetings

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information about wage and hour compliance.

john g editUnder the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer must pay its employees at least the minimum wage for all hours worked, and time and one-half overtime pay based on an employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek unless the employee is exempt for some reason. The time an employee spends in meetings, training, attending a class or course, or attending a workshop may or may not be hours worked based on the circumstances and under certain conditions.

Employee attendance at meetings, lectures, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following criteria are met:

  • Attendance is outside the employee’s normal working hours;
  • Attendance is voluntary;
  • The course, lecture or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
  • The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Attendance is not voluntary, of course, if it is required by the employer. It is not voluntary if the employee is given to understand or led to believe that his or her present working conditions or the continuance of his or her employment would be adversely affected by nonattendance.

The training is directly related to the employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle his or her job more effectively as distinguished from training him or her for another job, or to a new or additional skill. Where a training course is instituted for the purpose of preparing for advancement through upgrading the employee to a higher skill, and is not intended to make the employee more efficient in his or her present job, the training is not considered directly related to the employee’s job even though the course incidentally improves his or her skill in doing his or her regular work.

Of course, if an employee on their own initiative attends an independent school, college or independent trade school after hours, the time is not hours worked for the employer even if the courses are related to the employee’s job.

Additional information regarding wage and hour issues will be shared at the 2014 Employment and Labor Law Update. The conference will take place at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh on May 14 and May 15. In addition to wage and hour compliance, , presenters will cover immigration law, NC legislature, ADA, minimizing lawsuits, protecting proprietary information, and more. Register today at www.capital.org/lawupdate.

Contacting an Employee’s Health Care Provider under FMLA

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. The team often receives questions concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), such as this one below:

Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allow an employer to contact an employee’s health care provider about his or her serious health condition?

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution Team Member John Gupton offers guidance for this employer question:

If an employee submits a complete and sufficient certification signed by the health care provider, the employer may not request additional information from the health care provider. However, the employer may contact the health care provider for purposes of clarification and authentication of the medical certification (whether initial certification or recertification). Authentication means providing the health care provider with a copy of the certification and requesting verification that the information contained on the certification form was completed and/or authorized by the health care provider who signed the document. Clarification means contacting the health care provider to understand the handwriting on the medical certification or to understand the meaning of a response. Employers may not ask the health care provider for additional information beyond that contained on the medical certification form.

Under the regulations, however, when contacting an employee’s health care provider for authentication or clarification of the medical certification, an employer may use a health care provider, a human resource professional, a leave administrator or a management official. But, the FMLA regulations make clear that in no case may the employee’s direct supervisor contact the employee’s health care provider.

Also, the FMLA regulations state that contact between an employer and an employee’s health care provider must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations. In order for an employee’s HIPAA-covered health care provider to provide an employer with health information, the employee will need to provide the health care provider with a written authorization allowing the health care provider to disclose such information to the employer.

If an employee chooses not to provide the employer with authorization allowing the employer to clarify the certification with the health care provider, and does not otherwise clarify the certification, the employer may deny the taking of FMLA leave if the certification is unclear. It is the employee’s responsibility to provide the employer with a complete and sufficient certification and to clarify the certification if necessary.

For more information, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

 

When Must Employers Seek a Religious Accommodation Regarding a Personal Appearances Policy?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information with employers about religious accommodations for employees.

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs and is prohibited by the federal law known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency, is responsible for enforcing this law. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional organized religions, like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).

Also, as mentioned above, an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. For example, workplace safety issues, like the prohibition of wearing loose garments around machinery, don’t need to be overlooked for the sake of accommodation.

When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, it is the employee’s responsibility to notify the employer that he or she needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.

The EEOC has issued guidance on religious discrimination issues in the workplace, which is located at http://1.usa.gov/rel-dis. In addition, the EEOC has a listing of best practices in the workplace regarding religious issues, which is located at http://1.usa.gov/bp-rel.

If you have questions about religious accommodations, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

 

12-Month Period Under FMLA

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information with employers about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  

john g edit

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees who work for covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave in a defined 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons. Generally, employers may select one of four options to establish the 12-month period to be uniformly applied to all employees taking FMLA leave.

The employer may use any of the following methods to establish the 12-month period:

(1) The calendar year – 12-month period that runs from January 1 through December 31;
(2) Any fixed 12-months – 12-month period such as a fiscal year, or a year starting on an employee’s anniversary date;
(3) The 12-month period measured forward – 12-month period measured forward from the first date an employee takes FMLA leave. The next 12-month period would begin the first time FMLA leave is taken after completion of the prior 12-month period; or
(4) A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward – 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave. Under the ‘‘rolling’’ 12-month period, each time an employee takes FMLA leave, the remaining leave entitlement would be the balance of the 12 weeks which has not been used during the immediately preceding 12 months.

Employers may select any one of the four methods to establish the 12-month period as long as the method is applied consistently and uniformly for all employees.

Before changing to a different method of calculating the 12-month period, an employer must first give all employees at least 60 days notice of the intended change and the transition must take place in such a way that the employees retain the full benefit of their leave entitlement under whichever method affords the greatest benefit to the employee.

If an employer fails to select one of the 12-month period methods discussed above, the employer must use the 12-month period method that is the most beneficial to the employee.

Lastly, under no circumstances may an employer change the 12-month period to avoid the requirements of the FMLA.

For more information on the FMLA, go to http://www.dol.gov/ whd/ fmla/ index.htm.

How Does USERRA Interact with FMLA?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information with employers about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and how it interacts with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  

john g editThe Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that provides reemployment rights for veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve following qualifying military service. It also prohibits employer discrimination against any person on the basis of that person’s past USERRA-covered service, current military obligations, or intent to join one of the uniformed services.

USERRA requires that service members who conclude their tours of duty and who are reemployed by their civilian employers receive all benefits of employment that they would have obtained if they had been continuously employed, except those benefits that are considered a form of short-term compensation, such as accrued paid vacation. If a service member had been continuously employed, one such benefit to which he or she might have been entitled is leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The service member’s eligibility will depend upon whether the service member would have met the employee eligibility requirements outlined above had he or she not performed USERRA-covered service.

USERRA requires that a person reemployed under its provisions be given credit for any months of service he or she would have been employed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining eligibility for FMLA leave. A person reemployed following USERRA-covered service should be given credit for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service toward the months-of-employment eligibility requirement. Each month served performing USERRA-covered service counts as a month actively employed by the employer. For example, someone who has been employed by an employer for nine months is ordered to active military service for nine months after which he or she is reemployed. Upon reemployment, the person must be considered to have been employed by the employer for more than the required 12 months (nine months actually employed plus nine months of USERRA-covered service) for purposes of FMLA eligibility. It should be noted that the 12 months of employment need not be consecutive to meet this FMLA requirement.

An employee returning from USERRA-covered service must be credited with the hours of service that would have been performed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining FMLA eligibility. Accordingly, a person reemployed following USERRA-covered service has the hours that would have been worked for the employer added to any hours actually worked during the previous 12-month period to meet the 1,250 hour requirement. In order to determine the hours that would have been worked during the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service, the employee’s pre-service work schedule can generally be used for calculations. For example, an employee who works 40 hours per week for the employer returns to employment following 20 weeks of USERRA-covered service and requests leave under the FMLA. To determine the person’s eligibility, the hours he or she would have worked during the period of USERRA-covered service (20 × 40 = 800 hours) must be added to the hours actually worked during the 12-month period prior to the start of the leave to determine if the 1,250 hour requirement is met.

For more information on USERRA, go to http://j.mp/er-ra.

Mandating Direct Deposit in North Carolina

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. One question that the team members often receive deals with employee pay— Can employers in North Carolina mandate that their employees be paid by direct deposit?

john g editIn today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton provides an answer to this common employer question:

Yes. The NC Department of Labor (NCDOL) considers direct deposit as merely another legal form of payment. Under the NC Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA), an employer may select any legal form of payment, so long as payment is made in full on the designated payday, subject to authorized deductions and legal withholdings. Acceptable forms of payment include cash, money order, negotiable checks and direct deposit into an institution whose deposits are insured by the United States government or an institution selected by the employee.

It is entirely up to the employer whether or not to pay its employees by direct deposit. An employer can make the payment of wages by direct deposit a condition of employment without violating the NCWHA. An employer can also require that its employees use a particular financial institution so long as that institution is insured by the United States government. However, from an employee relations perspective, it would be best to allow your employees to use their own financial institution if you are going to require that they be paid by direct deposit.

To learn more about this issue, please visit the NCDOL’s website and review the section on Direct Deposit Enforcement

You can also call the Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for your questions regarding direct deposit.

Minimizing Potential Liability for Workplace Harassment Issues

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

John GuptonCAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. One question that the team members often receive deals with workplace harassment—what should our organization be doing to minimize our potential for liability for workplace harassment issues? In today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton provides a number of solutions for minimizing harassment at your workplace:

In regard to the issue of unlawful workplace harassment, a company must show that it took immediate and appropriate action to eliminate the offensive conduct. Prevention is the best tool for avoiding harassment charges. For this reason, employers should:

  • Maintain a written policy on harassment, communicate it to all employees, and provide multiple avenues for employees to register any complaints.
  • Provide training to supervisors on a regular basis.
  • Make it clear to all supervisors and employees that harassment on the job will not be tolerated.
  • Place particular emphasis on the company’s strong disapproval of this conduct.
  • Require members of management to report any known harassment.
  • Thoroughly investigate any claims of harassment.
  • Provide appropriate discipline in cases of harassment.

Furthermore, under EEOC enforcement guidance, an employer’s workplace harassment policy must prohibit harassment on all protected categories, not just sex harassment (i.e., harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, genetic information and disability status). According to these EEOC guidelines, the policy must include at a minimum:

  • A clear explanation of the prohibited conduct.
  • Assurance that employees will be protected against retaliation.
  • The ability to make a complaint to more than just the employee’s immediate supervisor.
  • Confidentiality– to the extent possible.
  • Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations.
  • Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

If you have questions regarding harassment, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.