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What played out as a soap opera of sorts involving all three branches of government has resulted in relief for employers. On March 22, 2017, the Senate narrowly adopted House Joint Resolution 83 (H.J.Res.83) under the Congressional Review Act. The joint resolution nullifies a recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule that went into effect on January 18, 2017. The rule, Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness (Continuing Obligation Rule), created a continuing obligation for employers to make and maintain an accurate record of workplace injuries and illnesses, and opened them up to OSHA citations beyond the six-month statute of limitations established under § 658(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).

OSHA developed the Continuing Obligation Rule due to an unfavorable 2012 federal court decision holding that OSHA’s ability to issue citations is limited to the six-month period following the occurrence of a violation as set forth in the OSH Act (AKM LLC d/b/a Volks Constructors v. Sec’y of Labor, 675 F.3d 752 (D.C. Cir. 2012)). On March 1, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted H.J.Res.83 to preclude OSHA’s ability to enforce its Continuing Obligation Rule, resolving that it should have no force or effect. The Senate’s approval on March 22 means that the resolution will now go to President Trump for signature. President Trump has indicated that he will sign the resolution.

By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

Question: Are we required to allow employees (either exempt or nonexempt) to work from home if we must close the office due to bad weather?

Answer: No, employers are not required to allow employees to telework (work from home or another location; virtual work) under any specific weather conditions regardless of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption status. However, employers may allow employees to telework. Company policy should delineate procedures for both teleworking and notice requirements when inclement weather affects the workplace; for instance, notice from the employer that the workplace is closed and notice from the employee that they cannot travel to the workplace due to weather-related or other emergency conditions. These policies should be in the employee handbook, and should also detail whether the employer will allow nonexempt employees to make up missed time.

Note that if the employer closes the workplace for weather-related reasons, nonexempt employees are not entitled to pay because such employees are only entitled to compensation for hours actually worked. However, an employer may allow nonexempt employees to use accrued paid time off so as to receive compensation during such an absence. If paid time off is not available, then the time off remains unpaid.

Alternatively, exempt employees who are able and available to work but do not work because the employer closed the workplace due to inclement weather are still entitled to their full week of pay. This is because the exempt employee is available to work but rather the employer made the work unavailable. As a general rule, if an exempt employee performs any work during the workweek, they must be paid their full salary amount. An employer may not make deductions from an exempt employee’s pay for absences caused by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business. If the exempt employee is ready, willing and able to work, an employer cannot make deductions from the exempt employee’s pay when no work is available. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor specifically states that an example of an improper deduction from an exempt employee’s pay includes deduction of a days’ pay because the employer was closed due to inclement weather.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

workplace-safetyOn October 21, 2016, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a set of Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to update OSHA’s 1989 guidelines. The updates reflect the countless changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues since its first release 30 years ago.

The Recommended Practices combine an easy-to-use format with a step-by-step approach to help employers in implementation of a workplace safety and health program. According to OSHA, these new guidelines provide a straightforward approach based around seven core elements, each of which are implemented by completing several action items. The seven core elements are:

  • Management leadership.
  • Worker participation.
  • Hazard identification and assessment.
  • Hazard management and control.
  • Education and training.
  • Program evaluation and improvement.
  • Communication and coordination for host employers, contractors, and staffing agencies.

According to OSHA, the older, traditional approaches are generally reactive rather than proactive. Traditional practices often address a problem after an incident occurs; however, with these new standards and practices the goal is to find and fix hazards before the damage, injury, or illness. The new guidelines outline the core elements, provide tools (downloadable templates, worksheet, and reference materials), related case studies, additional resources covering all the core elements, and the ability to download all the recommended practices for quick reference and application.

For employers, it’s important to note that these new guidelines are for advisory purposes only and do not create new OSHA requirements or safety laws for employer compliance. Regardless, the guidelines — intended to be significantly helpful in small and medium-sized workplaces — may be used in any workplace to create a comprehensive yet flexible framework for addressing workplace safety and health issues.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com