Supreme Court’s GPS Constitutional Privacy Ruling Could Impact Private Employers

In Employment Law, General by Coolidge Wall

In U.S. v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment (protecting a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy and against unreasonable search and seizure) was violated when law enforcement inserted a Global Positioning System (or GPS) device in a vehicle, without a valid warrant, and tracked the vehicle’s every move on public streets for a month. Although Jones is a criminal case involving the U.S. Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches by government actors, the decision may have a ripple effect on private employers who use GPS and other tracking devices to monitor employees’ whereabouts. Currently, only two states, …

IRS Announces 2014 Pension Plan Limitations

In Business Law, Employee Benefits, Employment Law, General by Coolidge Wall

On October 31, 2013, the IRS announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2014 retirement plan contributions. For 2014, the amounts that individuals will be able to contribute to retirement plans will remain the same as 2013. Highlights of the IRS announcement include: Continuing the annual salary deferral limit for 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans at $17,500. Leaving unchanged the additional catch-up contribution for employees age 50 and older at $5,500. Increasing the limit on total contributions to defined contribution plans from $51,000 to $52,000. Leaving unchanged the definition of highly compensated employee as an employee making $115,000 per year. Increasing the …

IRS Modifies the Health Flexible Spending Account “Use It or Lose It” Rule to Allow a Limited Carry Over of Unused FSA Funds

In Business Law, Employee Benefits, Employment Law, General by Coolidge Wall

On Halloween, the IRS treated employers and health flexible spending account participants to a change in the longstanding “use it or lose it” rule. Beginning immediately, employers may amend their cafeteria plans to allow participants to carry over up to $500 of unused FSA funds at the end of the plan year so that the carryover can be used to reimburse qualified medical expenses incurred in the following plan year. In addition, the amount carried over will not count against the permitted $2,500 salary reduction limit applicable to the next plan year. According to the guidance, however, a plan cannot …

A True “Black Swan”: How unpaid internships were good, but are now bad

In Business Law, Employment Law by Coolidge Wall

I love when a movie comes out that makes me smarter, even without watching it. A good example is The Black Swan. I had never heard of such a thing and had no idea what it symbolized before Fox bombed the airwaves with commercials featuring dark, elegant-looking shots of Natalie Portman in ominous poses. Intrigued, I looked up the metaphorical use of a black swan in literature and film. I learned that a black swan represents an event that surprises the observer, has a major effect on the observer and others, which is usually negative, but is often inappropriately rationalized …

Record Payout for Racial Discrimination by Merrill Lynch

In Employment Law by Coolidge Wall

A recent case demonstrates how dangerous it is when an employer does not monitor the workplace to ensure equal opportunity. In what could be a record payment to settle an American class action suit for racial discrimination, Merrill Lynch agreed in August to pay $160 million to black brokers and trainees who worked at the firm since 2001. The lead plaintiff in the case, 68-year-old George McReynolds, has worked at the firm since 1983 and remained at the firm during the pendency of the suit. An estimated 1,200 people may have a claim in the settlement. Allegations made during the …

Social Media and Employee Rights

In Employment Law by Coolidge Wall

The rise of social media in the last several years has led to a pattern of people pouring out every detail of their personal lives – from the mundane to the potentially damaging – for the world to see. Understandably, this has led to a variety of clashes with employers over issues ranging from social media use at work, to posting of disparaging comments, to workers’ compensation fraud. A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should give employers throughout the United States a moment of pause. While employees who disparage their employers online might expect that this …

Employing Minors in Ohio — What You Need to Know

In Employment Law by Coolidge Wall

There was a time when child labor was a major problem in the United States. While that era has largely passed, employers who hire children under the age of 18 are still subject to a number of restrictions. It can be easy for businesses that only periodically employ minors to overlook these statutory requirements, leading to trouble down the road. Ultimately, Ohio’s minor employment laws are not overly burdensome so long as employers are aware that the laws exist and learn about their responsibilities. The Ohio Minor Labor Law considers any person under the age of 18 who has not …