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Legislative Updates
Brace Yourselves: The DOL’s New Overtime Rules Are Here

On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, news broke that the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) will be publicly issuing their final rules regarding overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.  The final rule will raise the salary threshold exemption from $23,660 to $47,476, which is more than double the current amount.  While the salary threshold is not quite the $50,440 that was initially proposed by the DOL, it is still certainly a very high number that will negatively impact many small businesses, non-profit organizations, and other companies that simply cannot afford to raise salaries to $47k for all of their exempt employees.

The final rule will also trigger automatic increases to the salary threshold every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.  To put it lightly, this escalator clause could prove to be a real back breaker for many companies.  Under the DOL’s estimation, this would increase the salary threshold to $51,168 in 2020.  It is also not clear whether the DOL has fully thought about the implications of this escalator clause, but that is a different discussion for another day (see below).

In addition, the final rule also raises the salary threshold that is used for the “highly compensated employees” exemption from $100,000 to $134,004.   With the escalator clause, this number is estimated by the DOL to be $147,524 in 2020.

Finally, the new rule also provides that non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) can be used to satisfy up to 10% of the new standard salary level, as long as they are paid on a quarterly basis (or sooner).

The new rules will take effect on December 1, 2016.  This gives employers just under 200 days to start preparing for these major rule changes.

Certainly, this is BIG NEWS!  And bad news, too.

In order to assist employers with understanding and preparing for the DOL’s final overtime rule, the Hawaii Employers Council (“HEC”) will be conducting a seminar/webinar next Wednesday from 8:30 to 10:30 am.  This program will contain three main components:  (1) a discussion of the current and new rule; (2) actions plans employers can implement in response to the new rule; and (3) how to communicate with employees about changes that are (or will be) implemented by the employer.  I will be presenting the first part of the program.  

Here are some links for further information:

Oh, one last thing – I should also note that the final rules do not make any changes to the duties tests for the Executive, Administrative and Professional exemptions.  Employers can probably view that as a good thing, although I do not think such changes were likely because the DOL did not include them in its proposed rule.  Therefore, implementing such changes would have probably been in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act anyway.

 
New Persuader Rules Issued!

They’re finally here:  the DOL’s new persuader rules have been published in the Federal Register and – at first glance – they look pretty bad.  The DOL watered down their proposed rules just a lil’ bit, and even provided a small set of different rules to allow trade associations to engage in certain activity without triggering any reporting requirements, but overall the rules will be a game-changer for most employers.

discussionI’m currently going through the rules with a fine tooth comb (the rules are either 129 or 446 pages long, depending on whether you read the version with small print or the one with a larger font and double spacing).  In a nutshell, the new persuader rule will no longer accept the “accept or reject” test for the “advice” exception.  As a result, persuaders and employers will be required to file a report for “indirect” persuader activities, which could include the following:

  • Planning, directing, or coordinating supervisors or managers;
  • Providing persuader materials;
  • Conducting seminars; and
  • Developing or implementing personnel policies or actions.

It appears trade associations are exempt from the reporting requirements if they (1) host a counter-organizing seminar but bring in outside speakers or (2) simply provide “off the shelf” materials to an employer for a union campaign.  To get a firmer grasp on how these new rules will affect organizations like the Hawaii Employers Council (“HEC”), however, I need to read through the rules and examine them in more detail.

For anybody who wants to read up on the rules, you can view the following:

In addition, HEC will be providing a seminar on May 11, 2016 that will provide an overview of the new rules, a discussion of how the new rule will impact employers, instructions on how to fill out the LM-10 form for employers, and a review of some of the legal challenges that have arisen against these new rules.  That seminar will be available to HEC members only, and on a first-come-first-served basis.

Finally, once I have a chance to read through all the rules, I’ll prepare and send out an article summarizing the new rule – which will also be available only to HEC members.

 
Electronic Cigarettes Prohibited in the Workplace

Per Act 19, Session Laws of Hawaii 2015, “electronic smoking devices” are now prohibited anywhere that smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products are also prohibited, including all enclosed or partially enclosed places of employment, as well as within 20 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed or partially enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.  This new law took effect on January 1, 2016.

e-cig ban

An “electronic smoking device” is defined as any electronic product that can be used to aerosolize and deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling from the device, including but not limited to the following:

  • Electronic cigarettes;
  • Electronic cigars;
  • Electronic cigarillos;
  • Electronic pipe;
  • Hookah pipe;
  • Hookah pen; and
  • Any cartridge or other component of the device or related product, whether or not sold separately.

Employers who have no smoking policies for their workplace should update those policies to also include electronic cigarettes as well.

 
2016 Legislative Forecast

Earlier this week, on Monday, I presented a 1.5 hour webinar that discussed several issues I anticipate will be hot topics during the 2016 legislative session in the realm of labor and employment law.  The webinar was free and available only to members of the Hawaii Employers Council.  This was the fourth year in a row that I conducted this type of webinar before the start of the legislative session.

Although this is an election year, I expect to see lawmakers addressing several significant issues during session.  Such issues will likely include the following:

  • Paid Sick and Safe Leave
  • Expansion of HFLL
  • Wage and Hour Exemptions
  • Expanded Rights for Medical Marijuana Users
  • Increased WC and TDI Penalties
  • NAICS Reporting Requirements
  • PHC Premium Supplementation Fund
  • ACA and Connector Issues
  • Employment Discrimination (in light of the Adams decision)
  • WC and IME’s
  • Social Media Privacy
  • Independent Contractors vs. Employees

Of course, these are just predictions about what we can expect to see during this legislative session.  As anybody who has been through the legislative process surely knows, the only certainty about session is that it will be full of uncertainty.

 
Let’s Talk About Drugs and Money, But Not in the Same Sentence (Quotes in the PBN)

Just recently, the Pacific Business News published a couple short articles where they included my thoughts about what we can expect during the upcoming legislative session.  The first article talked about possible medical marijuana legislation and the second article discussed Hawaii wage and hour law.

With regards to medical marijuana, I mentioned that we can expect to see bills that propose to expand the rights of medical marijuana patients in two ways.  First, medical marijuana is currently available only to individuals who have a debilitating condition, such as cancer, glaucoma, severe pain, or PTSD.  With the growing social acceptance of medical marijuana, we will likely see legislation opening up marijuana to conditions such as anxiety, stress, insomnia, and arthritis.  Second, we might also see measures that provide job protection for users of medical marijuana – meaning that an employer would be prohibited from firing an employee because the employee uses medical marijuana.

With regards to wage and hour law, we might see an increase in the salary threshold for Hawaii wage and hour exemption, which is currently set at $2,000 per month (in other words, an employee who is guaranteed a salary of $2,000 per month is exempt from Hawaii minimum wage and OT requirements, although they still need to comply with federal law).  Such legislation is especially likely in light of the DOL’s proposed increases to the salary basis for the FLSA’s exemptions.

You can read a copy of the articles here:  Medical Marijuana and Wage and Hour Exemption.