Employment

Taking a Strange Turn on Employee Transit Benefits

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Transit benefits can be a great employer-provided perk to employees, whether provided for mass transit or parking, and whether paid directly to transit and parking companies or to employees.  As a result of recent federal legislation known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Act”), however, employers may no longer deduct such transportation fringe benefits as their own deductible business expenses.  Moreover, nonprofit employers that provide this employer-provided perk must report and pay tax on the value provided as taxable “unrelated business income.”  On the other hand, employees may still contribute their own earned wages through a pre-tax salary reduction program.  Confusing?  Here are the key legal details and related employment adjustments that may be warranted in light of the Act’s passage, for both taxable and tax-exempt employers.

Nonprofits and Interns: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

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The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued update Fact Sheet #71, clarifying that the key test for whether unpaid interns are owed overtime and minimum wage under the Federal Labor Standards Act is the “primary beneficiary” determination – i.e., whether the worker or the business benefits more.  By its own terms, Fact Sheet #71 continues to apply only to for-profit businesses, albeit with a nod to nonprofit volunteers.  In addition, it seems assumed that all internships are, or at least should be, carried out on a voluntary, non-compensated basis.  How might a nonprofit think about an arrangement involving a paid intern?

Leadership Response to Sexual Harassment Complaints: A Step-by-Step Guide to Minimizing Your Risk of Liability

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With all the attention that sexual harassment is getting in the media, you may be looking to shore up your organization’s policies and procedures. Not sure where to start? This blog post provides a step-by-step overview of common steps in leadership responses to sexual harassment complaints. That being said, every situation is different, many are tricky, and you may want to check with your counsel.

FLSA Developments: Overtime Pay Rule Invalidated by Court, While Trump Administration Takes Up Salary Threshold Question Anew

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A federal trial court recently made permanent its hold on the new overtime rule promulgated by the U.S. Department of Labor, which would have dramatically increased the salary threshold for the “white-collar” employee exemption.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a “Request for Information,” seeking public comments about the salary threshold, with intriguing questions.  What does this mean for employers?  Nothing immediately, but all should stay tuned for further developments and continue their attentiveness to applicable overtime requirements.

Shifting Winds on Title VII’s Extension to Sexual Orientation? Zarda v. Altitude Express and the Trump Administration’s Amicus Brief

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The Trump Administration has weighed in as to whether Title VII’s employment discrimination protections extend to sexual orientation claims, with a resounding “No.”  Through its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the pending federal appeals case of Zarda v. Altitude Express, the U.S. Department of Justice asserts that employment-related sexual orientation discrimination claims do not fall within Title VII’s purview.  

Hively Update: Seventh Circuit Expands Title VII’s “Sex” to “Sexual Orientation,” in En Banc Ruling

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When does the word “sex” mean “sexual orientation,” for purposes of employment discrimination? In the pivotal Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College ruling issued last month, an eight-member majority of all the federal Seventh Circuit judges expanded “sex” to encompass “sexual orientation” for purposes of Title VII protection, although for varying reasons expressed through concurring opinions.  Three other judges dissented, urging judicial restraint in light of statutory interpretation constraints and settled law.  How did the judges come to such differing conclusions, and what can nonprofit employers learn from this decision?

Million-Dollar Salaries and Charities: An Unlikely Mix?

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Feeling underpaid and overworked at your nonprofit organization?  For many nonprofit workers, such conditions are the norm.   Nonprofit employees are often willing to accept less pay than their private-sector counterparts because they also enjoy rich non-financial rewards:  helping others in need, serving worthy causes, and achieving goals not attainable through ordinary economic forces.   According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, however, top executives at some charities are increasingly very well paid.   The article states that over 2,700 top executives made more than seven-figure salaries in 2014.  How can some nonprofits justify such high salaries, and what can the rest learn from them? 

Q & A: Severance Pay for Nonprofit Employees

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Nonprofit organizations may legally provide severance pay.   But under what circumstances, and how much?  How do unemployment benefits fit with severance?  And why put it in writing?  Whenever a nonprofit employer considers whether to provide severance pay to a terminated employee, many significant questions can arise warranting careful evaluation of several factors including risk management, stewardship, fairness, and practical business decisions. 

Health Benefits Relief in Sight: Employer-Provided HRAs Back to Pre-Tax Treatment

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Reimbursing employees’ health insurance premiums and other health costs on a pre-tax basis again is available, thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act signed recently by President Obama.  The law becomes effective January 1, 2017.  A few words of caution - the law applies only to “small” employers, and it contains other significant limitations that could render it inappropriate in many circumstances.     

Federal Judge Halts New Overtime Pay Rule

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By Sally Wagenmaker and Michael E. Batts, CPA

Temporary Injunction Puts Implementation in Question

A federal judge yesterday issued a nationwide temporary injunction halting the implementation of a new overtime pay rule scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016.  The judge, Amos L. Mazzant III – appointed by President Obama – ruled that the Obama administration (specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor) exceeded its legal authority in implementing the new rule.   Consequently, this rule change is on hold for all U.S. employers.  

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