Federal Law Provides Clearer Protection for Pregnant Workers

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently published a guidance piece that is useful for both employees and employers. One particular article of interest is a description of the legal rights for pregnant workers under federal law. If you’re an employer, it’s important to recognize that you may be required to provide further accommodations now than in the past to your pregnant employees.

The EEOC’s guidance article has three major directives. First, an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of a past or present pregnancy, an ability or intent to become pregnant, a medical condition related to pregnancy, or an abortion. Similarly, an employer cannot harass an employee based on these same considerations. Finally, and potentially most importantly, the employer appears to now be under a heightened expectation to make accommodations for a pregnant employee.

In providing guidance on the issue of a heightened right to accommodations, the EEOC delivered its message in the form of a hypothetical question and answer format as reproduced below:

Q: What if I am having difficulty doing my job because of pregnancy or a medical condition related to my pregnancy?

You may be able to get an accommodation from the employer that will allow you to do your regular job safely.”  Examples include altered break and work schedules (e.g., breaks to rest or use the restroom), permission to sit or stand, ergonomic office furniture, shift changes, elimination of marginal job functions, and permission to work from home.

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You don’t need to have a particular accommodation in mind before you ask for one, though you can ask for something specific.  However, you should know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) doesn’t require your employer to make changes that involve significant difficulty or expense.  Also, if more than one accommodation would work, the employer can choose which one to give you.

Q: What if I can’t work at all because of my pregnancy?

If you can’t work at all and you have no paid leave, you still may be entitled to unpaid leave as an accommodation.  You may also qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Q: What should I do if I need an accommodation, light duty, or leave because of my pregnancy?

Start by telling a supervisor, HR manager, or other appropriate person that you need a change at work due to pregnancy.  You should inform your employer if the source of your problem at work is a pregnancy-related medical condition, because you might be able to get an accommodation under the ADA.  An employer cannot legally fire you, or refuse to hire or promote you, because you asked for an accommodation, or because you need one.  The employer also cannot charge you for the costs of an accommodation.  Because employers do not have to excuse poor job performance, even if it was caused by a pregnancy-related medical condition, it may be better to ask for an accommodation before any problems occur or become worse.

Under the ADA, your employer may ask you to submit a letter from your health care provider documenting that you have a pregnancy-related medical condition, and that you need an accommodation because of it.  Your health care provider might also be asked whether particular accommodations would meet your needs.

Q: What if there’s no way that I can do my regular job, even with an accommodation?

First, if you are being told by a health care provider that you can’t do your job safely and, for example, need light duty or can’t do your job because of a limitation or restriction, you may want to make sure that it’s really true and that your provider has considered the option of an accommodation that would allow you to do your job safely.

If you really can’t do your regular job safely, even with an accommodation, you might be able to get altered job duties under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”).  Depending on how your employer treats non-pregnant employees with similar limitations, the PDA might require your employer to reduce your workload, remove an essential function of your job, or temporarily assign you to a different position if the employer does those things for non-pregnant employees with limitations similar to yours.

The attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP are skilled in employment and business law. If you are interested in creating a strategy on how to ensure you are compliant with both the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, call now to arrange for a free consultation at 215-947-6240 or visit us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

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Pennsylvania Enacts New DUI Regulations

On May 25, 2016, Pennsylvania enacted Act 33. This regulation adds the requirement for a car ignition interlock system for first-time offenders who were convicted on drunk-driving charges with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or greater. Those convicted and required to use the system will have to use the ignition interlocks for at least one year.

DUI PICThe ignition interlock system is a breathalyzer for an individual’s vehicle. It requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting the vehicle. It will not allow the driver’s car to start if they are drunk.  And these devices are not cheap: to lease an ignition interlock system for one year costs approximately $1,200.00. That’s in addition to other fines, costs and penalties associated with a DUI conviction. .

Previously the ignition interlock requirement applied only to repeat drunk driving offenders in Pennsylvania. Essentially, this new law means that anyone convicted of a DUI offense with a blood-alcohol content over 0.10 [legal limit is .08] must use the ignition interlock unit. However, it’s worth noting that the interlock requirement does not take effect for 15 months, meaning those convicted now for a first-time DUI will still face the potential of a license suspension rather than the ignition interlock system.

It is also important to recognize that if you are arrested and convicted for a first-time DUI, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, or ARD. If you qualify and satisfy the requirements of ARD, it will leave you without a conviction and you will likely not be affected by this new law requiring an ignition interlock system.

Advocates claim a dual benefit: they argue the new law will protect people on the roads and also allow first-time offenders to avoid the license suspension which comes with a conviction, meaning they can keep their jobs or other responsibilities

The push for the enactment of this regulation was spurred in 2015 when there were 12,884 alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania that caused 306 deaths and 6,042 alcohol-related injuries.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence for the first time, the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell have extensive experience in assisting clients through these matters.  They will assist you in determining if you qualify for ARD, whether the Program is right for you, and guiding you through the Application process.

ARD may not be right or even available to you, but the best way to determine this is by speaking with a criminal defense attorney equipped to guide you through this process. If any of the above information applies to you, call for a free consultation at (215)-947-6240 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Employee Eligibility for Overtime Pay to Increase Come December 1st

All about the moneyThis past May, the Obama administration issued final rules requiring employers to make overtime payments (time-and-a-half) to perhaps millions of workers not currently eligible. The rules will go into effect on December 1, 2016, giving employers approximately six months from the announcement of the final rules to prepare. The goal of these rules is to update the salary and compensation levels needed for executive, administrative and professional salaried workers to be exempt from overtime pay eligibility. The hourly threshold for overtime payments remains at 40 hours per week.

It should be noted that overtime payment is automatic for those employees who are paid hourly, as opposed to those on salaries, regardless of their actual earnings.

So while these new rules only impact salaried employees, they still have the potential to expand coverage to over four million salaried workers nationwide within the first year of implementation. Here is why: the central component of the new rules is the pay level at which salaried employees are presumed eligible for overtime pay. Under the old rule governing overtime, enacted twelve years ago as the only adjustment to overtime regulation since 1975, only workers making less than $23,660.00 in salary qualified to receive overtime pay when working more than forty (40) hours in a week. Under the new rules, the qualifying salary is increased to $47,476.00 per year, a rather large jump indeed. These rules allow salaried workers, including managers, who earn below the $47,476.00 threshold to collect overtime pay for any time spent working over forty hours.  Those workers earning above that amount are exempt.

It is also important to highlight that the new rules, as opposed to the old rules, are set up so that a new dollar amount for overtime eligibility will adjust every three years. This was included to ensure workers’ ability to earn overtime will keep up with inflation.

If you’re an employer, the time to start developing a plan in response to these new regulations is now. Here are some potential options available to employers to manage this change, as proffered by employment experts nationwide:

  • Keep those salaries which would qualify for overtime the same while eliminating overtime or reducing it greatly.
  • Raise the salaries of salaried employees over the new minimum threshold ($47,476.00), which will allow employers to continue generating unpaid overtime work from now-exempt employees.
  • While not very creative, employers may opt to simply keep the salaries the same while paying overtime. While it may seem an easy option, employers will be tasked with tracking employee hours to ensure they’re not abusing the system.
  • Keep salaries the same, but hire more employees on an hourly basis. This seemingly goes hand in hand with option one. However, if your type of work involves constantly generating overtime from employees, hiring additional workers to be paid hourly to pick up any potential slack from those employees actively avoiding overtime may be a worthwhile option to explore.

The attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP are skilled in employment and business law. If you are interested in creating a strategy on how to handle the changes sure to come with this new rule on overtime pay, call now to arrange for a free consultation at 215-947-6240 or visit us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.