Employment

SCOTUS Trio: Does Title VII “Sex” Discrimination Include “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity”?

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The U.S. Supreme Court recently accepted a trio of cases addressing whether Title VII’s prohibition of “sex” discrimination in employment contexts should focus on biological male and female distinctions, or if it should be expanded and redefined to cover “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” Lower federal courts have split on these issues. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has favored such expansiveness, while the Trump administration is opposed. Against the backdrop of our prior articles on related employment discrimination litigation, this article highlights the tension between the judiciary and legislative government branches as well as significant religious liberty interests at stake.

Salary Threshold Increase for Exempt Employees

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The minimum federal salary threshold for white-collar employees may soon increase from $23,660 to $35,308.  The U.S. Department of Labor recently released a proposed rule increasing the long-standing amount, as one of the requirements for “exempt” employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Consequently, nonprofit employers with modestly or low-paid executive directors and other dedicated leaders may need to revisit their compensation structures to ensure that key leaders remain as exempt employees, for purposes of overtime pay and related legal compliance. In case this news sounds familiar, it is.  The DOL previously tried to increase the salary threshold much more drastically, and this second attempt might just stick. 

Reimbursing Employees for Work-Related Use of Personal Devices: It’s the Law!

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Must employers reimburse their employees for work-related expenses, like cell phones and laptops used for work calls and projects?  Illinois recently joined the growing state trend, requiring employers to reimburse expenses incurred by employees within the scope of their employment.  As a result, many nonprofits need to revisit and update current reimbursement policies and communicate these changes to employees to mitigate against unexpected liability in this area.  Additional employment law aspects make legal compliance even more compelling.   

Closed for Inclement Weather: Employer Best Practices

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Winter weather advisory: snow, gusty winds, ice, and bitter cold are hitting much of our nation, with Chicagoans soon facing record wind chills of fifty below or worse. What should responsible nonprofits do to address inclement weather issues for their employees and program participants? And are employees entitled to pay for time missed due to inclement weather?

Volunteer Tax Deductions

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Are expenses incurred for volunteer work deductible? Consider if a person is planning a church mission trip to El Salvador to help build houses, and the church will not cover the airfare. The volunteer may deduct his or her properly documented travel expenses and possibly other expenses as well. Similarly, if a person serves as a volunteer board member, his or her unreimbursed travel expenses to attend meetings and other functions may be deductible. Here are some guidelines to consider before you write off your charitable expenses.

Accommodating Religious Practices at Work: Patterson v. Walgreens

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To what extent may an employee’s religious practices be legally protected in the workplace?  When former Walgreens employee Darrell Patterson refused to violate his Saturday Sabbath observance for a mandatory training, Walgreens fired him.  Patterson sued in federal court, lost at the trial and appellate levels, and is now seeking relief from the United States Supreme Court. Within the employment discrimination context, this religious liberty case raises critical legal issues for employers about (a) how much “reasonable accommodation” is required for employees’ religious practices and (b) what amounts an “undue hardship” for employers, in both concrete and theoretical terms.

Anti-Harassment Training Resource – Telios Teaches

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2018 may have been the year of #MeToo, but sexual and other harassment is a perennial issue for churches, other ministries, and employers. Wagenmaker & Oberly is pleased to recommend Telios Teaches as an excellent resource for these critical areas. 

Unemployment Tax Victory, And the Government's Role in Defining Religion

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What is religious enough for the government to recognize a ministry’s tax exemption? Within the unemployment tax context, Illinois and other state laws exempt churches and “church-controlled” nonprofits “operated primarily for religious purposes.” If they meet either definition, then they are not “employers” for unemployment purposes and therefore need not participate in the state unemployment system. But how does the government determine whether the “primarily” religious element is met?

Court Rejects Illinois Unemployment Tax on Religious Ministry

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An Illinois court ruled recently that the state can’t tax a religious ministry to underprivileged children. The Illinois Department of Employment Security had attempted to assess unemployment compensation taxes to By the Hand Club For Kids, a ministry of The Moody Church, reversing the Department’s previous determinations that By the Hand was nontaxable since its creation in 2001.

Sixth Circuit: Volunteers are not Entitled to a Minimum Wage

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When is a volunteer an "employee"? The question is a complicated one, but the Sixth Circuit recently rejected the Department of Labor's attempt to require a church-owned enterprise to pay all volunteers a minimum wage. A church run by controversial televangelist Ernest Angley owns a for-profit restaurant buffet. Angley would recruit church members to serve as volunteers for the restaurant. The Department of Labor sued alleging that the workers were "employees," arguing 1) that there was no such thing as a "volunteer" for a for-profit entity, and that 2) the workers were coerced by their pastor and thus were not truly volunteers. The District Court agreed. Facing a judgment of $388k, the restaurant closed during the litigation.

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