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Employment Discrimination
Workplace Accommodations Made Easy

Hi Everybody!   I hope you’ve all had a great year so far and have at least some free time to enjoy the Holiday Season!  I can’t believe that it’s Thanksgiving week already.  It seems like the days, weeks, months and years seem to go by so much faster as I get older.  Like the saying goes…

timeflies

Anyway, I wanted to send out a quick blog post to let you all know about an exciting workshop I will be presenting in the first quarter of 2015.  Due to several requests from HEC members, I’ve decided to put together a half-day program discussing the different types of accommodations employers must provide their employees (applicants and volunteers) in the workplace.  The topics of discussion will include accommodations based on disabilities, religion, pregnancy, status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, and gender identity and expression, as well as others

The seminar will be presented on the following dates and locations.  All sessions will be held from 9 am to 12 noon.  (Click for link to registration form.)

The program will be informative, interactive and (hopefully) fun!  You can register for the event by visiting the training section of the HEC website at http://www.hecouncil.org/all-training.  I hope you can join me and Happy Holidays!

 

 
2014 Legislative Session: Final Report

On July 8, 2014, we passed the final deadline of the 2014 Legislative Session, the Veto Deadline.  The Veto Deadline is the date by which the Governor must either sign or veto a bill.  Any bill that is not vetoed becomes law “without the governor’s signature.”  This year, the Governor did not veto any of the employment-related bills.

Some of the bills that have became law include those addressing the following areas:

  • Minimum Wage (Act 82) – increases the states minimum wage
  • Private Guards (Act 94) – relaxes CE requirements for private guards
  • TDI (Act 160) – adds “organ donation” as an eligible disability to Hawaii’s TDI law
  • Organ, Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Donation (Act 161) - creates new leave law
  • Direct Deposit or Pay Cards (Act 208) – updates Hawaii payment of wages law
  • WC Drugs (Act 231) – sets price for repackaged, relabeled or combined WC drugs
  • Hawaii Health Connector (Act 233) – changes the operations of the Health Connector

A full list of bills that may be of interest to employers can be viewed on the HEC Legislative Digest, which can be accessed on the Legislative Updates section of the HEC website.  The Legislative Digest is currently available to the public.  In addition, HEC members can also access a Highlights article that discusses several of these new laws in more detail.

 
2014 Legislative Session: Running Updates

Each year, the Hawaii Employers Council provides its members with updates on labor and employment law bills that are being addressed by the legislature. One of those documents, the Legislative Digest, is actually currently available to the general public, and can be accessed here:  HEC Legislative Updates.

Bills that are still alive as of the Second Lateral deadline address (1) the minimum wage, (2) payment of wages via direct deposit and pay cards, and (3) workers’ compensation drugs, fee schedule and settlements.

For the 2014 Legislative Session, the Legislative Digest is available for the following key deadlines:

  • Bills Introduced (available)
  • First Lateral (available)
  • First Crossover (available)
  • Second Lateral (available)
  • Second Crossover (available)
  • Sine Die  (available)
  • Veto Deadline (available)

As more deadlines pass, I will update this blog entry to indicate when the most recent Legislative Digest is available.

Other updates, such as articles providing a detailed explanation of several of the significant measures and talking points on certain bills, however, are available only to HEC members.

 
Federal Judge Strikes Down Hawaii’s “Sick Leave Law”

On New Years Eve, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued an order ruling that Hawaii’s “sick leave law” – as passed during the 2011 state legislative session – was unlawful.

As background, in 2011, the State of Hawaii passed the “sick leave discrimination” law, which would prevent unionized employers with 100 or more employees from discriminating against an employee for using accrued and available sick leave.  Specifically, Act 118 from 2011 amended Section 378-32  to provide as follows:

(b)  It shall be unlawful for an employer or a labor organization to bar or discharge from employment, withhold pay from, or demote an employee because the employee uses accrued and available sick leave; provided that:

(1)  After an employee uses three or more consecutive days of sick leave, an employer or labor organization may require the employee to provide written verification from a physician indicating that the employee was ill when the sick leave was used;

(2)  This subsection shall apply only to employers who:

(A)  Have a collective bargaining agreement with their employees; and

(B)  Employ one hundred or more employees;

and

(3)  Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to supersede any provision of any collective bargaining agreement or employment benefits program or plan that provides greater employee benefits or rights.”

In a lawsuit entitled Hawaii Pacific Health, et. al. v Dwight Takamine, DLIR, several Hawaii employers sued the Hawaii Director of Labor to challenge the validity of this new law.  Their attorneys argued that that it this new state law (1) was preempted by Federal law and (2) violated the equal protection rights of unionized employers.  Judge Mollway agreed with both arguments, and struck down the law.

Specifically, the judge noted that the sick leave discrimination law was attempting to regulate conduct that should be “left to the control of economic forces.”  In other words, this was the type of issue that should be left to collective bargaining between a union and employer.  Additionally, the court also ruled that the law treated unionized employers less favorably than non-unionized employers.  Therefore, the law violated the equal protection rights of unionized employers.

The court set a hearing for April 15, 2013 to determine whether she would invalidate the entire law, or just the portion that referred to unionized employers.  (She also indicated an inclination, however, to strike down the entire law.)

You can read Judge Mollways decision here:  HPH v. Takamine.  You can view the original bill that led to the sick leave discrimination law here:  Sick Leave Bill.

 
The Newest Protected Class: The Unemployed?

President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act has a provision that would make it unlawful for employers to (amongst other things) refuse to hire an individual “based on that individual’s status as unemployed.”  In the words of Seth and Amy of SNL fame:  Really, Mr. President?  Really?

Specifically, the proposed law has three major prohibitions regarding the unemployed.  First, employers cannot publish an advertisement stating that unemployed individuals would not qualify or would not be considered for a job opening.  Second, employers cannot fail or refuse to hire for employment, or fail or refuse to hire, an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed.  Third, employers cannot direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account to disqualify an applicant for a job position.

Based on this language, it appears the focus of the proposed law is to prevent discrimination because of an individual’s status as unemployed.

That being said, however, the law does allow employers to consider the reason an individual is unemployed.  Specifically, the proposed law would not preclude an employer or employment agency from considering an individual’s employment history or the reasons underlying an individual’s status as unemployed, in assessing an individual’s ability to perform a job or in otherwise making employment decisions about that individual.

Like most Americans, I too am in favor of lowering the unemployment rate and creating jobs for as many people as possible.  Yet, I cannot support this law because it would just create too many opportunities for unemployed individuals to file frivolous lawsuits against any employer that does not give them a job.  So, let’s just hope this proposed law doesn’t get enacted by Congress.

You can read a copy of the proposed law here.