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Employment Law Update

The United States Senate recently rejected two bills that would have raised the federal minimum wage. One proposal would have increased the minimum from $5.15 per hour to $6.25 per hour; the other to $7.25 per hour. Although sponsors of the proposals vow to try again, it seems the odds of a federal minimum wage increase this year are slim. Many states, however, have increased the minimum wage. The Utah Legislature may consider a minimum wage increase when it convenes in January of 2006.

Guns at Work

The National Law Journal recently featured an article discussing how a number of states are responding to the issue of whether employers can restrict employees from carrying weapons at work. The article, found at http://www.utahshrm.org/news_feature.asp?story=1252, mentioned Utah SHRM's activities to allow employer choice on this issue. Utah SHRM's position, recently adopted by the Utah Supreme Court, is neither a pro-gun or anti-gun stance. Rather, it concludes that an employer is in the best position to assess such factors as security, morale, company culture and decide whether or not to allow weapons on its property. The article highlights how other states impose greater restrictions on such employer choice. Make sure you know the applicable laws in the states where your employees live and work before you impose a particular policy on the issue of guns at work.

Employer Not Liable for Failure to Warn about Co-Worker

An Illinois court has ruled that an employer cannot be held liable in damages for its failure to warn an employee that his co-worker was a convicted murderer. The co-worker later befriended the employee and killed him. The employee's family sued the employer for wrongful death. The court concluded the employer was not liable because the incident was not connected to the employment relationship, but rather to the friendship between the two men which could have developed anywhere. The case may have reached a different conclusion if the murder occurred on work premises or while the two employees were working. This case underscores the fact that an employer's principal area of responsibility for ensuring workplace safety is in work-related activities.

EEOC Guidance on Vision Impairment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a question-and-answer document on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to people in the workplace who are blind or who have vision impairments. The new publication is available on EEOC's website at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/blindness.html. Among the issues the new guidance addresses are: (1) When a vision impairment is a "disability" within the meaning of the ADA; (2) What questions employers may ask job applicants or employees about their vision impairments and when employers may conduct medical examinations that test vision; (3) What accommodations people who are blind or visually disabled may need to apply for a job, to perform a job's essential functions, or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment, such as the ability to take advantage of training and other opportunities for advancement; and (4) How employers should handle safety concerns they may have about applicants or employees with vision impairments.

Regulations on California Harassment Training

California recently enacted a law requiring all employers with a total of 50 or more employees and with any employees in that state must provide sexual harassment training and retraining for supervisors. Thus, if you have 50 or more total employees, and one employee in California, this law likely impacts you. Covered employers must comply with the law by December 31, 2005, and repeat the training every two years. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is poised to release regulations that will outline the type of training needed, how it can be accomplished and how it must be documented. An article outlining what the proposed regulations likely will require can be found at http://www.jacksonlewis.com/legalupdates/article.cfm?aid=859.

The Employment Law Update is a legal and legislative update service sent out about twice a month to various members of the Utah League of Credit Unions HR Council. The author, Utah law attorney Michael Patrick O'Brien, is also the Legal and Legislative Director for Utah SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management). Contact him at 801-534-7315 or mobrien@joneswaldo.com or visit www.joneswaldo.com. Reprinted with permission.


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