September 2019 Government Affairs Update

U.S. Government Shutdown Averted for Two Months

The day before a two-week break, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep federal agencies that lack budgets for the 2020 fiscal year to remain operating until November 21. The president then signed the stopgap funding measure.

The CR went into effect a little more than a week after the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs published findings from an investigation into the cost of partial government shutdowns during 2014, 2018 and 2019. The survey of 26 federal agencies that did not include the Environmental Protection Agency or the departments of Defense, Agriculture, Justice, and Commerce revealed that the three “shutdowns cost taxpayers nearly $4 billion—at least $3.7 billion in back pay to furloughed federal workers, and at least $338 million in other costs associated with the shutdowns, including extra administrative work, lost revenue, and late fees on interest payments.”

Further, federal workers cumulatively spent nearly 15 million days on furlough, which amounted to almost 57,000 years of lost productivity.

 

Final Update to Federal Overtime Issued

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division finalized and published its long-awaited update to overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The changes go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The salary basis threshold for overtime eligibility will rise to $684 per week ($35,568 per year). In addition, highly compensated employees will be able to earn overtime if they make less than $107,432 per year.

The new rule leaves duties tests for executives, administrative personnel learned professionals, creative professionals, computer employees and outside salespeople remain unchanged. Likewise, the updated rule does not include automatic adjustments to the salary basis threshold.

Click here to read the rule in full, get answers to frequently asked questions and download a fact sheet.

 

DOL Urges Use of PAID Process to Settle FLSA Violations Without Litigation

Labor Department officials have begun sending letters to state and local governments, asking recipients to participate in the agency’s Payroll Audit Independent Determination program. Administered by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, PAID lets employers who conduct audits and self-report minimum wage and overtime violations to pay workers back wages without incurring additional penalties.

 

Revised FMLA Forms: Last Call for Comments on Drafts

You have until Oct. 4, 2019, to review and comment on seven revised forms for requesting, reporting and tracking FMLA leave. Go here to share your thoughts on whether the proposed revisions make the forms easier to understand and use. Goals for issuing revised forms include increasing compliance, improving customer service, and reducing administrative burdens.

 

Recent Opinion Letters on Overtime for Public Safety Personnel, Volunteer Reserve Deputies and FMLA Leave Substitution

DOL’s Wage and Hour Division issued three opinion letters of particular interest to public sector HR during August and September 2019. To summarize each,

  • When employees work for both the fire and police departments, the maximum hours standard that should be applied is the one that applies to the activity the employee spent the most time doing during a work period. Over a 28-day work period, the maximum hours for those working in fire protection before overtime compensation must be paid is 212 hours. For those working in law enforcement. it is 171 hours.
  • Volunteer reserve deputies who perform paid security work for third parties maintain their status as volunteers under the FLSA. This remains true even when, due to increased requests for extra-duty security work from third party businesses, a sheriff’s department offers work to volunteers.
  • Collective bargaining agreements that provide for employees delaying their taking of unpaid leave until they exhaust their paid leave cannot preempt the Family and Medical Leave Act. Once employers determine that a leave request qualifies as a request for FMLA leave, they must so designate the leave. In addition, if employees accrue seniority when they utilize paid leave, employers must permit employees to accrue seniority when they substitute FMLA leave for paid leave.

 

SCOTUS to Hear Sexual Orientation, Transgender Discrimination Cases

On Oct. 8, 2019, U.S. Supreme Court Justices will hear oral arguments in three cases brought over the question of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. The cases are

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed amicus briefs in each case, arguing that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation and transgender discrimination.

For additional information, please contact IPMA-HR Executive Director Neil Reichenberg at nreichenberg@ipma-hr.org.

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