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Blog Archives

2017 Legislative Session Predictions

The legislative session is going to start in just a couple of days.  In order to help HEC members begin thinking about what they will likely see from our lawmakers over the next several months, I recently conducted a 90-minute webinar forecasting possible employment-related legislation for the upcoming legislative session.

To set the context for what types of bills we may see get introduced, heard and possibly passed, I first discussed the political context we are currently experiencing, including (1) a new Labor chair for the House of Representatives, (2) political influencers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and the new chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party Tim Vandeveer.  I also mentioned the possible trickle-down impact that having President-elect Trump take over the White House may have at the state level.

The possible legislation I then discussed included the following:

  • Salary thresholds for exempt employees
  • Paid sick and save leave
  • Pay transparency and pay equity
  • Minimum wage (and the “Fight for $15″)
  • Hawaii Family Leave Law expansion
  • Social Media privacy
  • Increased regulation of construction industry
  • Employment discrimination (Adams v. CDM Media case)
  • Medical information privacy (PRO v. Queen’s case)
  • Independent Contractors
  • Incentives for hiring disabled individuals
  • Small business preferences for state procurement
  • Price caps on WC medication
  • Increased HIOSH penalties
  • Electronic notices for DLIR hearings
  • Funding for DLIR positions

As the bills start to get introduced and hearings get underway, I’ll be busy tracking legislation on these topics (and likely others).  As a non-election year, it will be interesting to see what kind of legislation has the most movement in 2017.

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.

Kent Hirozawa at the HEC Annual Luncheon

The guest speaker for the HEC Annual Luncheon this year was Kent Hirozawa, current member of the National Labor Relations Board.  It was quite an honor to have Mr. Hirozawa give a presentation during the luncheon.  He shared some of his insights on current issues the Board is facing, including cases dealing with the interplay between employees’ Section 7 rights and company policies.  He also urged the audience to take take a close look at GC Memorandum 15-04, which provides a detailed analysis of how the NLRB’s General Counsel determines whether a work rule violates Section 7.

In addition, Mr. Hirozawa also spent some time discussing the impact the new quickie election rules have had on the timing of representation elections.  He presented the following figures, which are based on the time period from April through October of 2014 and 2015 (the new rules took effect on April 14, 2015).  As seen below, representation elections now occur about two weeks earlier than they did under the old rules.  Based on these figures, the new rules have clearly earned the moniker “quickie election rules.”

Median number of days between filing of petition and representation hearing:

  • 2014 – 13 days
  • 2015 – 10 days

Median number of days between the filing of petition and all elections:

  • 2014 – 38 days
  • 2015 – 24 days

Median number of days between filing of petition and stipulated elections:

  • 2014 – 38 days
  • 2014 – 23 days

Median number of days between filing of petition and directed elections:

  • 2014 – 68 days
  • 2015 – 34 days

Amount of blocked petitions based on filing of unfair labor practice charges:

  • 2014 – 119
  • 2015 – 64

The stipulation rate (% of cases where parties agreed to a stipulated election):

  • 2014 – 89%
  • 2015 – 94%
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.