With low unemployment rates in the Carolinas, many companies – including health care providers – are looking to their competitors to find qualified employees. This hiring strategy has led to a surge in litigation over employee noncompetition and related restrictive covenants. Over the past decade, North Carolina and South Carolina courts have dramatically changed their views on enforceable employment restrictions, meaning that many older agreements may no longer be enforceable.Read More
On February 21, Patti Bartis of Parker Poe highlighted the significant employment law issues facing medical practices on a webinar hosted by the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation in cooperation with the North Carolina Medical Group Management Association.
March 22, 2017 | 3:00-4:00pm EST
Violence is a more common source of injury in healthcare than other industries and Home Care employers have many workplace challenges. The Home Health Care Industry carries unique risks and hazards and the environment is uncontrolled and more highly varied than traditional health care facilities. Home health workers may also be at risk from the community surrounding the home (robbery, car theft, vandalism). In a recent OSHA enforcement action against a home care agency, the agency was found not to take the steps needed to address employee exposure to workplace violence in a patient’s home.
Employers in all industries – including Health Care – should be aware of employment changes to immigration and authorization to work and may need to refresh new hire procedures.
Read the client alert, “Employers Should Review Work Authorization Procedures” in Parker Poe’s EmployNews Bulletin.
March 2, 2017 | 3:00-4:00pm EST
Section 1557 prohibits health care providers that receive Medicare, Medicaid or other federal funding sources from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The requirements of the Section 1557 Rules, which were recently adopted by DHHS, requires providers to take many affirmative steps to comply with the law including, adopting nondiscrimination policies, providing free language assistance to individuals with limited English proficiency, and accommodating individuals with disabilities.
February 21, 2017 |12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
The North Carolina Medical Society Foundation in cooperation with the North Carolina Medical Group Management Association, invites you to join us for a webinar reviewing the significant employment law issues facing medical practices today. Topics will include: an update on the status of new overtime regulations and other government action; handling substance abuse in the workplace; and the challenges presented by employees’ use of social media and personal electronic devices at work. Other subjects include ADA and FMLA compliance challenges, expanding protections for LGBT workers and independent contractor misclassification risks.
Several years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) raised employers’ eyebrows when it filed several lawsuits challenging the validity of employer-sponsored wellness programs. The EEOC contended that such programs violate the ADA and GINA due to terms that rewarded or punished employees and dependents based on their degree of participation in the wellness initiatives. Federal courts were largely unsympathetic to these challenges, noting provisions in other federal laws specifically endorsing the use of wellness programs as a way to improve employee health and help control plan expenses.
On January 1, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new recordkeeping and reporting rule took effect. The main impact of this rule requires employers to electronically file annual injury and illness reports, which will be placed in a publicly accessible database. However, buried in the final rule’s explanation last year, OSHA questioned the ability of employers to conduct automatic post-accident drug or alcohol testing.
The policy seemed straightforward. A hospital required all employees to receive seasonal flu vaccinations based on its assessment of the dangers of influenza to patients with compromised immune systems. The hospital went further, providing an exemption from the policy for employees with medical or religious reasons for avoiding the vaccinations. Nevertheless, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it had reached a $300,000 settlement with the hospital based on its claims that the vaccination policy violated the religious rights of six terminated employees under Title VII.
The EEOC claimed that in practice, the Pennsylvania hospital rejected religious claims for exemption from the flu vaccine, while routinely granting medical exemptions. The settlement specifically prohibits the hospital from requiring that employees seeking a religious exemption from the vaccinations provide notes from clergy certifying the religious basis for the objection. In general, Title VII prohibits employers from inquiring into the basis for or sincerity of the employee’s religious practices or beliefs.
The settlement does allow the hospital to continue denying vaccination exemption requests if it can prove undue hardship. This is a difficult standard, requiring the employer to demonstrate something close to certainty of harm in the event that the exemption is granted. In the hospital’s case, undue hardship could arise for example, with employees whose jobs requires regular and close contact with patients known to have compromised immune systems.
The EEOC’s position obviously provides employees who simply prefer not to get vaccinated an avenue to claim a questionable religious exemption to the requirement. Absent clear evidence that the employee does not hold a sincere religious belief supporting the accommodation request, the employer has little recourse other than to determine whether the accommodation presents the undue hardship allowed by the EEOC.
I vaguely recall the word “monopsony” from an introductory economics course, but to be honest, I could not remember what it means. The term monopsony is defined as, “a market condition where one or a small group of firms exercise such control over a particular product or service that they are able to pay lower prices for its inputs.” While a monopoly can result in higher consumer prices, a monopsony allows the controlling company to lower its costs of production by paying less than would be the case in a competitive marketplace.
Earlier this month, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors released an issues brief discussing the consequences of a labor market monopsony on wages and economic equality. The Council identified monopsony as a significant contributing factor behind slow wage growth in the U.S. in recent years. Absent a competitive labor market in some industries, employees lack the ability to increase their incomes by selling their services to a competitor.
In addition to market concentration, the issues bulletin notes recent cases of wage collusion among competitors in Silicon Valley and in the healthcare industry who allegedly agreed not to hire each other’s employees. The bulletin also cites non-competition agreements as a significant contributing factor toward market monopsony, noting that 18 percent, or 30 million U.S. employees are currently restricted from moving to competitors. Finally, the Council points out that the decline of organized labor, regulatory (i.e., licensing) restrictions and lack of healthcare portability also contribute to a lack of labor mobility.
The issues bulletin concludes by setting forth a list of proposed remedial steps such as increased antitrust enforcement efforts. More importantly for employers, in addition to the bulletin, the White House also released a set of “best practices and call-to-action” for states to implement specific policy reforms to “curb the use of unnecessary non-compete agreements.” Among other recommendations, the White House urges states to ban non-compete agreements for (1) workers under a certain salary threshold; (2) those who do not have access to trade secrets; (3) workers in public interest vocations; and (4) employees who have been terminated or laid off without cause.
Neither the issues bulletin or White House best practices guidelines have any force of law. However, they represent one of the first expressions of federal interest in controlling state law governed non-competes. In recent years, state courts and legislatures have become increasingly hostile to non-compete agreements they view as overbroad or unfair. If Democrats continue to hold the White House or regain control of Congress, these new policy documents could represent an indication of future federal legislative and regulatory intentions.