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The partial federal government shutdown appears likely to continue into a second week, with no agreement on funding for the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Justice Department and Interior Department, among other federal departments and agencies. For a second time this year, government contractors face the challenge of complying with a complex set of federal and state employment laws, while their federal contract work and workers remain idle. This article briefly identifies some of the issues affecting government contractors during the shutdown and provides guidance on how to navigate the issues.

July 24, 2017
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Topics Employment

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) announced on July 17, 2017 that it has released a newly revised Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form.  Federal law requires all employers to complete a Form I-9 for each individual hired for employment in the United States. 

Employers can begin using the revised version of the Form I-9 now, or continue to use the previous version of the form (11/14/16 rev. date).  However, as of September 18, 2017, only the new Form I-9 will be acceptable.

In today’s global economy, it has become increasingly common for companies based in the United States to engage workers who live abroad for various purposes. U.S. companies often classify these workers as “independent contractors” to avoid having to navigate the employment landscape in other countries. However, U.S. companies should be aware of the potential pitfalls of misclassifying foreign workers, particularly in countries where employment laws tend to be more employee-friendly than U.S. law. Employers should consider the following factors when engaging foreign independent contractors to work abroad.

Like it or not, Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America.  Now that the initial shock has worn off, it’s time to evaluate how federal employment laws, regulations, and enforcement may shift under the Trump Administration. 

While President Trump has not spoken at length regarding employment law since taking office, his pro-business philosophy and nomination of Andrew F. Puzder, a former restaurant executive, for Secretary of Labor (Puzder later withdrew his name from consideration) suggests that the Trump Administration will be significantly more employer-friendly than the Obama Administration

On October 1, 2016, Montgomery County, Maryland (the “County”) joined the growing list of jurisdictions requiring paid sick leave for employees of all entities doing business in Montgomery County. The County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law (“Paid Leave Law”) is applicable to all employers doing business in the County.

This week, the County Council unanimously approved an expansion of the Paid Leave Law, effective as of November 1, 2016, to allow employees to use paid leave for the birth of a child or for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. Employees will also be permitted to use paid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child within one year of birth, adoption or placement of the child. The bill “is an important expansion of the [Paid Leave Law],” according to Tom Hucker, its lead sponsor, “to allow parents the flexibility to use their leave to spend time with their children.”

You can read an in-depth review of the Paid Leave Law here.

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As a follow up to my most recent post about the media coverage of the emerging trend of employers asking or requiring job applicants and/or current employees to provide their Facebook or other social media passwords, Maryland just passed legislation on Wednesday that bans employers from asking applicants and employees for their personal online passwords.

Maryland is the first state to enact legislation on this issue.  But other states are considering similar legislation, including California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington. Even Congress is considering a federal law that would protect applicants' and employees' privacy in their personal online passwords.  Virginia and DC have not yet addressed the issue.

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Terminated employees qualify for unemployment benefits when they are unemployed without fault on their part.  Recently the Virginia Court of Appeals determined that fault can include conduct that occurs outside of the workplace.

The Case

The case is Francis v. VEC & Wal-Mart Associates, Inc.  Francis was employed by Wal-Mart from 6/2006 through 4/2008.  During her time with Wal-Mart she had no workplace discipline issues.  Outside of work she was charged with felony welfare fraud.  Even though she was not required to do so, Francis disclosed the charges to her superiors.  Her superiors rewarded her openness by suspending Francis and eventually forcing her to resign in lieu of termination.

Stick figure pink slip (00092262).JPGThis is part II of my post from Friday.  The following procedures provide a basic template that you can tweak to fit your company.

Step One—Verbal Warning.  Have the employee’s supervisor discuss with the employee the problem that has occurred and the corrective measures that need to be taken. Have another manager sit in on the meeting. Make notes to the file documenting the meeting and problems and have both managers date and sign the entry.

Step Two—Written Warning. Have the employee’s supervisor draft a written warning that states the nature of the violation and the plan for correcting the behavior.  Have the supervisor discuss with the employee the problem that has occurred and the corrective measures that need to be taken. An additional step that might be appropriate is putting the employee on a probationary period. Have another manager sit in on the meeting. Make additional notes to the file documenting the meeting and problems and have both managers date and sign the entry.  Also have the employee date and sign the written warning.

The 2011 session of the Virginia General Assembly has ended.  Below is a summary of employment law legislation that passed both houses during the session. 

HB 1705.  Workers' compensation; modifications to employee's home and automobile

  • Authorizes the Workers' Compensation Commission, in awards entered for incapacity for work, to require the employer to furnish and maintain modifications to or equipment for the injured employee's automobile

HB 1812.  Workers' compensation; occupational disease presumption for certain police officers.

  • Adds police officers of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Norfolk Airport Authority to the list of public safety employees who are entitled to the presumption that certain infectious diseases are occupational diseases compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.

HB 1859.   Public Procurement Act; state agencies to include in contract that contractor use E-Verify program.

  • State agencies will be required to include in every contract over $50,000, a provision requiring the contractor to use the E-Verify program for employees who will be performing work under the contract within VA.

SB 823.  Workers' compensation; presumption that certain injuries are work related.

  • A presumption is created that an injury is work related where an employee is physically or mentally unable to testify and there is unrebutted prima facie evidence that the injury was work related.

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In 1997, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law providing savings to employers who establish "Drug-Free" workplace policies.  The discount is currently 5% from the Workers' Compensation insurance policy premium.  For larger companies, this can be quite a significant savings.

Additionally, some organizations and individuals doing business with the government are required to provide a drug-free workplace for employees. This would include organizations with federal government contracts in excess of $100,000, organizations receiving federal grant funding, as well as individual contractors and grant recipients.  Subcontractors and subgrantees do not fall under this requirement.

There are several sources of good information regarding setting up a drug-free workplace policy:

  1. Department of Labor:  the website provides a great deal of information to businesses on how to setup a drug-free workplace policy including the "drug-free workplace policy builder" which guides individuals through a set of questions to help build the policy.
  2. Small Business Administration:  links to information pertaining particularly to small businesses and government contractors.