By Susan Gross Sholinsky

The Ebola virus disease (“Ebola”) has become a worldwide threat, which, among many other effects, has forced employers to think about how to protect their employees. Employers also must consider how Ebola might impact employment policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, those addressing attendance, leaves of absence, discipline, and medical testing.

My colleagues and I have written a detailed Act Now advisory providing legal framework of best practices and legal risks pertaining to Ebola. 

Click here to read the advisory in its entirety

Our colleague Allen B. Roberts recently wrote a client advisory entitled “Unions Swim Against the Tide as Pension Issues Surface for Negotiations and Organizing,” which appears on Epstein Becker Green’s website.

Following is an excerpt:

Contributions to multiemployer defined benefit pension plans have been a mainstay, legacy feature of union negotiations in many industries. But the fabric of such staples may be tearing apart as employers contemplate the potential of escalating contributions to amortize unfunded liabilities that increase costs but may have imperceptible value for their own employees. Increasingly, employers and their employees are questioning whether the promise of retirement security can be delivered cost effectively—or at all—by defined benefit pension plans maintained under union contracts.

With private sector union membership standing at 6.7 percent nationally in 2013 (4.6% in “Retail Trade”), major sectors of the economy and geographic areas are not affected significantly by either current unionization or successful organizing efforts.

Read the full article here.

By Anna A. Cohen         

A common complaint from retail employers is that employees requesting FMLA leave often submit Certifications from health care providers that are incomplete (one or more of the entries are blank) or insufficient (the information provided is vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive).  Employers are not required to automatically grant a leave of absence upon receipt of a deficient Certification.  Rather, there are several things an employer can do to ensure that it is granting leave for a qualifying reason and for an appropriate duration.

If the Certification is incomplete, vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive, employers should provide a written request to the employee detailing what additional information is necessary to make the Certification complete and sufficient and request that the employee provide this information within seven days to avoid denial of FMLA leave.

After seven days, if the employee does not correct the deficient Certification, but provides a voluntary HIPAA compliant authorization, the employer may contact the healthcare provider for purposes of clarification and authentication of the Certification.  Under no circumstances, however, may the employee’s direct supervisor contact the employee’s healthcare provider and the employer may not ask health care providers for additional information beyond that required by the Certification.

So what can an employer ask a healthcare provider to authenticate or clarify on a Certification?

To authenticate a Certification, employers may provide the healthcare provider with a copy of the Certification and request verification that the information contained on the Certification form was completed and/or authorized by the healthcare provider who signed the document.  This is particularly helpful when the employer is skeptical that a healthcare provider completed the Certification.

To clarify a Certification, employers may contact the healthcare provider to understand the handwriting on the Certification or to understand the meaning of a response.

If an employee does not provide an authorization and does not otherwise clarify the Certification, the FMLA leave may be denied if the Certification is unclear.

Don’t be afraid to request a second or third opinion 

If the employer has reason to doubt the validity of a Certification, it may require the employee to obtain a second (or third) opinion at the employer’s expense.  Pending receipt of the second (or third) medical opinion, the employee is provisionally entitled to the benefits of the FMLA, including maintenance of group health benefits.  If the Certifications do not ultimately establish the employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave, the leave need not be designated as FMLA leave.

For the second time since the enactment of New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act (“WTPA”), New York employers must issue a written annual notice and acknowledgment of pay rates and pay dates (“Notice”) to all New York employees between January 1, 2013, and February 1, 2013.

In February 2012, after a flurry of negative feedback from employers statewide, the New York State Senate passed a bill striking the annual Notice requirement from the list of employer responsibilities set forth in Section 195.1 of the New York State Labor Law. However, because the bill remains dormant in the New York State Assembly, the annual Notice requirement is still in effect.

Read the Full Advisory Here