Industry News

Top Industry News

U.S. Leading Economic Index Increases

Weak U.S. Job Market Weighing on Broader Economy

U.S. First-Quarter GDP Growth Stays at 1.9%

Legal Matters

Do You Give Different Leave to Working Moms and Dads?

Rhode Island Governor Signs Minimum Wage Hike

Cover USERRA, New York Law by Drafting Unequivocal Severance Releases

State Laws on Mandatory Employee Breaks

The Top 10 Harassment Excuses…and How to See Through Them

Disability Discrimination Law in Ohio a Mess That Needs Cleaning Up

The Facts About Workplace Drug Testing

Development and Studies

Jobs Get Posted, Few Get Filled

Nice Job Listing. Will You Apply?

More Bosses Taking Vacation Than Employees, According to CareerBuilder Survey

Top Industry News
U.S. Leading Economic Index Increases
Conference Board News Release (06/21/12)

In May, the Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. edged up 0.3% to 95.8, compared with a 0.1% decrease in April, with economist Ataman Ozyildirim noting that the gain was modest due to weakness in the average work week in manufacturing, stock prices, and consumer expectations. Meanwhile, the Conference Board Coincident Economic Index for the U.S. rose 0.2% to 104.3, following a similar gain in April, and the Conference Board Lagging Economic Index for the U.S. climbed 0.3%, versus a 0.6% decline the month prior. “Economic data in general reflect a U.S. economy that is growing modestly, neither losing nor gaining momentum,” says Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board. “The result is more of a muddle through.” Complete Story
U.S. First-Quarter GDP Growth Stays at 1.9%
MarketWatch (06/28/12) Jeffrey Bartash

The U.S. economy’s growth rate in the first quarter was unchanged from earlier estimates at 1.9%, but corporate profits fell for the first time in four years while expansion in exports was much smaller than originally estimated, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had been expecting GDP to be 1.9%.

Profits of U.S. companies, originally estimated to have risen $11.4 billion, actually fell $6.4 billion, based on more complete data drawn from private-sector and government sources. It was the biggest decline since the third quarter of 2008. The drop in corporate profits largely stemmed from the expiration in 2011 of an investment tax credit. As a result, companies paid sharply higher taxes in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter. Complete Story
Weak U.S. Job Market Weighing on Broader Economy
Associated Press (06/21/12) Christopher S. Rugaber

On June 21, the U.S. Department of Labor said applications for unemployment benefits slipped to 387,000 last week from 389,000 the week prior, but the four-week average increased to a six-month high of 386,250. The number of jobs added in April and May averaged 73,000 per month, down from an average of 226,000 during the first quarter. Additionally, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s index of regional manufacturing activity dropped to a nearly one-year low of -5.8 from -16.6, though the measure of future expectations climbed from 15 in May to 19.5 in June. Complete Story

 

Legal Matters

Do You Give Different Leave to Working Moms and Dads?
Business Management Daily (06/18/12) Mindy Chapman

Employers that offer “special leave” for parents to care for school-age children when school is closed or under other circumstances could face discrimination lawsuits if they permit such leave for mothers but not fathers. In Ehrhard v. LaHood, the court sided with the employee, who claimed gender discrimination given that “special open-ended arrangements” for leave without pay were granted to certain female employees, yet his requests for leave to care for his children were denied. Employers also should have clear and consistent policies, meaning that it is not fair to require male employees to request such leave in writing but allow female employees to do so orally. Complete Story
Rhode Island Governor Signs Minimum Wage Hike
Reuters (06/21/12)

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signed into law a minimum wage increase. The law goes into effect Jan. 1 and will raise the minimum wage from $7.40 to $7.75 per hour. Complete Story
Cover USERRA, New York Law by Drafting Unequivocal Severance Releases
Business Management Daily (06/17/12)

When a company requests an employee sign a release in exchange for severance pay, the release does not have to specifically mention the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act or the New York Military Law, according to a recent case. Cornelius v. UPS reveals that the status of John Cornelius as an Army reservist was a divisive issue during his last few weeks of work with UPS. Both parties said it was the only issue that caused any problems. UPS agreed to pay Cornelius cash, provide temporary health care coverage, and help him find a new career in exchange for a complete release of all liability.

Cornelius signed an agreement that released UPS from “all known or unknown claims, promises, causes of action, or similar rights…that may arise out of employment with, or separation from, the company…or any other federal, state, or local law, common law, statute, regulation, or law of any other type.” However, Cornelius later sued, claiming that the release did not mean he could not sue under USERRA or the New York Military Law. The court disagreed, saying both laws allow soldiers to release em­­ployers, as long as the agreement is clear and unequivocal, and that UPS’ release met that standard. Complete Story

 

State Laws on Mandatory Employee Breaks
Business Management Daily (06/18/12)

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that companies offer workers meal breaks. However, it does require that companies pay workers whose meal breaks last for fewer than 30 minutes and those who work through their meal breaks. Forty states have laws on their books covering meal and rest breaks. California, for example, requires a 30-minute meal break per five-hour shift. Complete Story
The Top 10 Harassment Excuses…and How to See Through Them
Business Management Daily (06/18/12)

An employee who has potentially harassed another employee may offer excuses for his or her behavior, ranging from “That’s the way I treat everybody” to “It’s just the environment around here.” Illegal harassment must be based on sex, race, or other protected classes, so in the first instance an employee may admit to harassment but argue that it was not illegal because he or she did not pick on one employee or class. However, court decisions have found that harassing conduct that is not sex-specific still may fun afoul of Title VII if there is sufficient evidence of differences in the harassment suffered by male and female employees.

In the second instance, although work places vary in the degree of civility expected, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission senior trial attorney R. Liliana Palacios-Baldwin warns, “Even though a construction site may be viewed by some as a ‘rough and tumble’ work place, discrimination is unlawful regardless of the job site—it doesn’t matter whether employees work behind a computer or behind a forklift. Complete Story
Disability Discrimination Law in Ohio a Mess That Needs Cleaning Up
Business Management Daily (06/17/12) Jonathan Hyman

Ohio’s disability discrimination statute, R.C. 4112, and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act have slightly different definitions of “disability,” but the state typically has looked to federal law in interpreting the state statute. The ADA Amendments Act put state and federal law on the same page in regard to the “regarded as disabled” provision, but a 2011 ruling in Scalia v. Aldi Inc., which addressed pre-ADAAA discrimination, complicated matters even more. The court stated, “Because the plain language of the definition of disability contained in R.C. 4112.01 differs in substance from the ADA, it is not appropriate to look to federal materials interpreting the pre-2008 ADA with respect to perceived disability claims under Ohio law.” Thus, experts say that until the General Assembly passes a bill clarifying the matter, employers should abide by the most expansive interpretation of the definition of disability possible under either law. Complete Story
The Facts About Workplace Drug Testing
Press-Enterprise (06/20/12) Sarah Cullins

Workplace drug testing typically falls under state law, and while most states lack testing laws, California law places strict limits on testing. The law allows pre-employment drug testing after a job offer has been made but prior to the applicant being added to the payroll, and employers should test all employees indiscriminately as part of the hiring process. Reasonable suspicion testing and testing after on-the-job accidents is permitted, provided employers have evidence to justify the test. Complete Story

Development and Studies

Jobs Get Posted, Few Get Filled
Wall Street Journal (06/21/12) Ben Casselman

Companies did not increase hiring even though the economy showed signs of improvement earlier in the year, and recent reports indicating a jump in layoffs by private employers and a rise in new claims for unemployment benefits could put more of a damper on job growth in the coming months. Only 21% of firms expect to hire workers in the third quarter, according to ManpowerGroup. Experts say additional job growth will have to come from hiring, as layoffs have already fallen back to long-term levels, but a separate ManpowerGroup study indicates that firms have been slow to fill positions due to a lack of skilled trade workers, engineers, and information-technology staff. In some instances, employers have trouble filling even less-skilled positions. Complete Story
A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren’t Getting Any Bites
New York Times (06/27/12) Darren Dahl

Express Employment Professionals, which last year helped 335,000 people find jobs, currently is unable to fill 18,000 open job orders, reflecting a trend being seen across the country. Although unemployment remains high, many people lack the skills needed for the available jobs. “There is higher demand for skilled jobs and less demand for unskilled positions than we’ve seen coming out of past recessions,” says Express Employment Professionals chairman and chief executive Robert Funk.

According to a recent ManpowerGroup survey, the skilled trades, engineering, and information technology are among the most difficult jobs to fill. In addition to the shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering, and math skills, some companies say there is a shortage of workers with basic social skills, such as being able to communicate clearly through e-mail. Complete Story
More Bosses Taking Vacation Than Employees, According to CareerBuilder Survey
CareerBuilder News Release (06/21/12)

The recession caused many American workers to rule out their annual vacations, but according to a new survey from ASA corporate partner CareerBuilder, bosses are finding more time for getaways than their workers. Eighty-one percent of managers have taken or plan to take vacation this year, compared with 65% of permanent employees. The survey found that vacations are still financially out of reach for many Americans. One in five workers (19%) say they can’t afford to go on vacation, which is down from 24% in 2011. An additional 12% of workers say they can afford vacations, but have no plans to take one, consistent with past years. Complete Story