Blog Archives

American Payroll Association 2015 Employment Law Update

Last Friday, I presented a 2015 Employment Law Update to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Payroll Association.  The presentation was held in the sports room at Dave and Busters and it was an interesting experience being in that room with the big TVs and projection screen, but for a work function instead of watching the football or basketball games.

APA employment law update

My discussion included three main parts:  (1) Hawaii legislative updates; (2) recent actions by the United States Department of Labor and Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and (3) decisions from the Hawaii Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, and the National Labor Relations Board.

For the Hawaii legislative update, the topics included:

  • E-Cigarettes
  • Porterage Charge Disclosures/Distribution
  • Non-Compete Agreements
  • Medical Marijuana

For the DOL/DLIR update, we discussed the following topics:

  • DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Exempt Positions
  • Independent Contractors

Finally, my discussion on recent court and Board decisions covered the following topics:

  • Joint employer status
  • Arrest and court record discrimination in hiring
  • Age discrimination in hiring
  • Religious discrimination in hiring
Hawaii Insurers Council Workers’ Comp Panel

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel for the Hawaii Insurers Council to discuss current workers’ compensation trends.  The panel discussion was a part of the Insurers Council’s two-day 2015 Annual Planning Meeting.

Clearly, workers’ compensation is a very hot topic, both locally and nationally.  And, with the costs of running a business being incessantly on the rise, employers are constantly concerned about increased costs and obligations under Hawaii and federal labor and employment laws.

For this particular panel discussion, I discussed some of the hot topics I thought would be of particular interest to employers and insurance carriers.  For example, medical marijuana is currently a very hot topic, especially with the passage of Act 241 SLH 2015, which legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the State of Hawaii.  (Although medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for 15 years, individuals had no way of legally purchasing medical marijuana.  Rather, they either had to grow their own or purchase it from the black market.)  With medical marijuana being readily available within the next year or so, employers in Hawaii will have to face some key questions – i.e. can they terminate the employment of an employee who uses medical marijuana and are they required to cover the costs of medical marijuana for the purposes of workers’ compensation treatment?

Another topic I discussed is the possible vulnerability of the “exclusive remedy” provision for workers’ compensation cases, especially in light of such legal challenges that have been posed on the mainland.  In addition, there is also a growing trend for workers’ compensation opt-out provisions, whereby an employer can be excused from providing workers’ compensation insurance if they provide equivalent benefits in some other way.

Finally, due to the lack of time (there were four panelists total for just an hour of discussion), I didn’t have a chance to discuss issues related to the employee vs. independent contractor dichotomy in the context of the new “sharing economy” (e.g. Uber, Yelp, etc.)  This discussion is certainly worthy of its own blog post, which I will surely write one day, but one thing is clear – the way people obtain certain services is changing rapidly, and employers need to keep apprised of their legal obligations in light of such changes.

PBN HR Panel 2015

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to serve on a Human Resources Panel Seminar hosted by the Pacific Business News.  It was quite an honor to be asked to sit on the panel; the four other panelists have been business and community leaders for a long time and I considered it a real privilege to be able to share my thoughts on HR issues alongside these individuals.  Kam Napier, PBN Editor-in-Chief, served as the moderator and he did a great job making sure the discussion flowed smoothly and that we addressed many of the hot topics that are facing HR professionals today.

PBN HR Panel(Pic credit: PBN)

Some of the topics we discussed included hiring practices, working out differences that arise between generations (i.e. Baby Boomers vs. Gen-X vs. Millennials), and new laws that affect the way employers must conduct their businesses.  Some of the panelists discussed the difficultly of hiring talented employees in a job market where the unemployment rate is sitting at just 3.7%, the importance of wellness programs, and the value of creating a work culture that inspires employees.  I had an opportunity to discuss the impact recent court decisions such as Adams v. CDM Media and EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch will have on how employers conduct their hiring practices.  In addition, I also discussed the importance of training managers (who are involved in the hiring/interview process) on how to properly conduct job interviews.  I explained that although many managers are great at doing their day-to-day tasks, they are not always kept apprised of recent changes to employment laws that might affect how they can make their hiring decisions.  I also explained some of the dangers involved with providing employment references through the “coconut wireless” because you never know what type of information (or misinformation) might end up getting spread to others.  Therefore, as a matter of practice, the “name, rank and serial number” method is still your best bet.

Finally, as always, I made sure the stress that, when it comes to managing your workforce, “the best defense of a good offense.”  In other words, I firmly believe that the best way to address workplace problems is to try to proactively prevent them from happening in the first place.  In this day and age, HR professionals have transitioned from being a clerical cost center that processes payroll and benefits to a strategic department that oftentimes partners with corporate officers in leading a business into the future.  Therefore, it is imperative for HR professionals to stay ahead of the game, be proactive, and help their companies move forward.

Overall, I would say the event was very successful and I had a lot of fun.

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…


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  I hope you can join me and Happy Holidays!


Presentation for University of Hawaii’s HR Ohana Meeting

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the HR Ohana Meeting to about 100 human resources professionals from all campuses of the University of Hawaii, which included the Manoa campus, as well as all neighbor island campuses and community colleges.

The meeting took place at Windward Community College, and man, I had no idea that WCC had such a beautiful campus.  On one side of the campus, you have a majestic view of the Koolau mountain range.  On the other side, you have a magnificent view of the ocean.  It was incredible, to say the least:


I was asked to speak about current hot topics in labor and employment law, so I included the following four topics in my presentation:  (1) 2014 legislative update; (2) social media and the workplace; (3) the possible unionization of Northwestern University football players and (4) employment law rights of same-sex couples in Hawaii following the Windsor court decision and legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii.

One of the speakers who presented before me talked about the “HR Tsunami” and how the duties of HR professionals in the workplace are becoming more significant as they take on more active roles in the strategic planning and management of corporations.  In other words, HR professionals are not just performing administrative functions.  I felt that this particular topic was a great segue into my presentation, because it gave me an opportunity to discuss the importance of being proactive in employment-related decisions and reinforce my motto that “the best defense is a good offense.”  It was also good to see that so many people chose to attend the meeting; considering that it was voluntary, having 100 attendees is fantastic because it shows that these HR professionals are doing their own part to be more proactive about their job functions.