2019 brought forward a lot of important questions in employment law, for both employees and employers. Here are some stories that stuck out:
The annual National Defense Authorization Act will contain a provision giving federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a new or sick child. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement between the House and Senate to include the paid parental leave provision in the bill, which is considered a must-pass bill. Schumer called the agreement a "real breakthrough for families."
Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's CEO since 2015, has been ousted by the board of directors after admitting to engaging in an allegedly consensual relationship with a subordinate. McDonald's, which has suffered from accusations of sexual harassment against many of its franchisees, has a policy forbidding managers from having any romantic relationship with a subordinate, direct or indirect.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination "because of sex." Does that include closely related concepts such as gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation?
We are living through the most extended government shutdown in American history. Approximately 800,000 federal employees and 500,000 federal contractors have now gone without a paycheck, and there is no end in sight. Of the unpaid federal employees, more than 420,000 must continue working.
Federal employees are prohibited from undertaking partisan political activity while on duty, in the federal workplace or when invoking official authority. This is due to the Hatch Act, a 1939 law aimed at preventing undue interference in elections by federal employees. Bribery, intimidation and coercion of campaign contributions are prohibited by the Act, for example -- as is the use of federal resources for certain political activities, such as campaigning for a particular candidate or party.
The Trump administration's priority for the Department of Labor has been to eliminate regulations thought too costly for businesses to bear. In particular, the administration promised to change how wage and hour law is regulated in the U.S.
Now that Justice Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn in, there is a full slate of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Their new term began Oct. 1, and the court jumped right in to hear oral arguments about an age discrimination case.
When we think about speech protections, we often think of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment only prohibits governmental actors from abridging freedom of speech, so it doesn't apply to private actors such as non-government employers. (The First Amendment does apply to government employers.)
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, covered employees are entitled to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period. The leave can be used to care for a personal medical condition, to care for certain family members' serious health conditions, to bond with a new child or to deal with emergencies related to a family member's active duty military service. More leave is available to care for a military family member's illness or injury.