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Hendrick partners with North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

Director Janet A. Hendrick joins the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, supporting the organization for 2019-2020 as a Bronze Partner and taking on a hands-on role.

“I met the President of the Chamber, Tony Vedda, at the Dallas Business Equality Conference a few years ago, where I was asked to speak about evolving rights for LGBT employees in the U.S.,” she said. “We stayed in touch and he later asked me to be a member of the Chamber’s Governance Committee, the role of which is to assist in selection of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

“I spoke again this year at the Business Equality Conference, which is sponsored by progressive Dallas-based companies like Toyota, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.”

Janet is an experienced employment litigator who regularly appears in state and federal court to defend employers of all sizes against discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims. She is a frequent speaker and author on topics including gender diversity in the legal profession, workplace accommodations and leave management, evolving workplace protections of LGBT employees, and the rapidly expanding gig economy.

The North Texas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Chamber of Commerce has been the premier business organization for the LGBT community in north Texas since 2005, working to improve the region’s economic vitality and support the positive attributes of a diverse workplace, supply chain and community.

To learn more about the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce and its mission, click here.

Attorney Lauren Voth leads SmartTalks presentation on medical marijuana in the workplace

SmartTalks Virtual User Group Meeting:
Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Thursday, Aug. 15
12 PM to 1 PM (CST)

Free to participate with registration

 

Employers can still enforce drug-free workplace policies and implement drug-testing policies even after their state legalizes Medical Marijuana.  However, you must ensure your policies comply with state law.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Symcox Voth will review what your company can do to ensure the safety and security of your workforce and organization even after the legalization of medical marijuana.

To register, click here.

Presenter:

Lauren Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth is a member of Phillip’s Murrah P.C. Labor and Employment Practice Group. She represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in litigation, administrative matters, mediations and negotiations. Specifically, Lauren has experience representing large and small corporations in employment-related matters.

Possible Relief for FMLA Administration Pain Points

It’s no secret that employers have found administration of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to be a significant pain point. Relief, however, may be on the way.

In a spring regulatory agenda notice, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it is considering making some changes to the FMLA. The Department has asked the public for feedback on how to:

“(a) better protect and suit the needs of workers; and (b) reduce the administrative and compliance burdens on employers.”

Although DOL has released no specifics, many believe that the White House’s labor policy adviser, James Sherk, will be the driving force behind any upcoming changes.  Sherk’s earlier outspokenness about the shortcomings of the FMLA leave provides good insight into his thoughts about what needs to change.

In his 2007 Heritage Foundation report, Sherk outlined his views on employee FMLA abuse. His report portends changes could be on the horizon that will:

  • narrow the definition of what constitutes “a serious health condition;”
  • provide more power to employers to investigate an employee’s condition;
  • allow employers to require workers to take leave in half-day, rather than smaller, increments; and
  • allow employers to count FMLA leave against attendance bonus policies.

What changes could mean for employers

If Sherk really is the man behind the plan, employers may get the relief they seek.

First, limiting the definition of “a serious health condition” should make it more difficult for employees to abuse the FMLA. In his report, Sherk highlighted several instances where “irresponsible” employees were taking advantage of the current vague definition by calling routine colds, stress, or even an injured toe a “serious health condition”—even when the condition has no impact on the employee’s ability to perform job duties. This would also help to lessen the burden on other employees who are required to pick up the slack when co-workers abuse FMLA leave.

Second, providing employers with more power to investigate employees’ conditions would resolve the communication barrier between employers, employees, and health care providers when issues surrounding the complex and lengthy paperwork arise—satisfying the goal of reducing administrative burdens.

Third, allowing employers to require workers to take leave in half-day increments would decrease the heavy administrative burden of tracking an employee’s leave in minute increments. Rather than tracking the 12-weeks of allowed FMLA leave a minute at a time, a more manageable tracking unit of half-day increments would make what once was a monumental task for employers more manageable.

Finally, allowing employers to count FMLA leave against attendance bonus policies would both help employees with favorable attendance not feel cheated when those with spotty attendance are nonetheless rewarded and incentivize employees not to abuse FMLA. The DOL has found that because an employer may not punish an employee for using FMLA, even workers who miss 50 days a year due to FMLA leave can still be eligible for a perfect attendance bonus, diluting the incentive these bonuses are intended to provide. Correcting this would allow employees with excellent attendance to reap due awards and hit FMLA abusers where it hurts—their bank account.

Conclusion

While employers will have to wait for definite answers as to what changes, if any, we will see, the good news is that it appears that employer concerns about FMLA abuse are not falling on deaf ears. In the meantime, employers should continue to monitor the situation and hope that relief is on the way.


Janet Hendrick Profile portrait

Janet A. Hendrick

By Janet A. Hendrick and Matt Andrus

If you have questions about this decision, contact Janet Hendrick, who represents and counsels employers on issues including proper classification, in the Dallas office of Phillips Murrah at (214) 615-6391 or at jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com.

Matt Andrus is a second-year law student at Oklahoma City University and works as a law clerk for Phillips Murrah during Summer 2019.

Hendrick to give keynote presentation at Texas Business Equality Conference

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

Janet A. Hendrick, Director and member in the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will provide an update on legal developments in LGBTQ workplace protections on June 11 at the 4th Annual Texas Business Equality Conference hosted by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

Her presentation will highlight current state and federal legislation, upcoming Supreme Court cases, and best practices for maintaining compliance and educating employers on navigating areas where potential workplace could arise.

Attendees will network with other business professionals from around the state, hear remarks from national speakers about the importance of diversity in the workplace, and attend breakout sessions designed to help businesses to grow and thrive.

Janet is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach. Whether training managers on employment law compliance to minimize an employer’s legal risk or representing the employer in court or arbitration, she brings years of experience and in-depth legal knowledge to deliver results.

For more information about the conference, visit the North Texas GLBT Chamber’s website here.

Maule to present at nonprofit business seminar

Byrona Maule

Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as a member of the Firm’s Labor & Employment and Healthcare practice groups.

Byrona J. Maule, Director and member in the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will give a presentation on the current state of human resources on June 4 at a Nonprofit Accounting and Finance Seminar hosted by Arledge & Associates, P.C.

Accounting and finance professionals are invited to attend the seminar which is tailored to address tax and accounting issues specific to the nonprofit sector.

The seminar will cover a wide range of topics including audits, tax law changes and Financial Accounting Standards Board updates. Sessions will also cover employment law issues for nonprofits, donor relations matters and online marketing.

Byrona represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters, ensuring their compliance before various state and federal regulatory boards.

For more information about the seminar, click here.

Director to present employment law lecture for SMU School of Law

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

Janet A. Hendrick, an employment attorney and Director in Phillips Murrah’s Dallas office, will share her insight and expertise with students of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law later this month.

Hendrick will present on key labor and employment matters for businesses as part of the law school’s Business Law Boot Camp on May 30, 2019.

“I will be teaching the Boot Camp students, who have finished their first or second year at SMU Law School, about labor and employment laws from a business perspective, with the goal of teaching them the different sources and implications of our country’s workplace laws,” she said. “As a SMU Dedman School of Law alum, I am delighted to have this opportunity to share my experience and insight from my years of practicing in this area.”

The Boot Camp is intended to introduce vocabulary, concepts and skills needed to effectively understand how business works so students are able to communicate with and advise business clients, including as regulatory and litigation counsel, according to the law school’s website.

Supreme Court Holds Employees May Not Arbitrate Class Claims Unless Arbitration Agreement Unambiguously Provides for Class Arbitration

It’s been a big week in employment law at the Supreme Court.  Earlier this week, the Court agreed to hear three cases, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, to decide whether Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” protects LGBTQ employees.  Today, in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, the Court held that a party to an arbitration agreement may arbitrate only individual claims, rather than class claims, unless the arbitration agreement explicitly and unambiguously provides for class arbitration.

Janet Hendrick Profile portrait

Janet A. Hendrick represents and counsels employers on issues including proper classification

In a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that the arbitration agreement between Lamps Plus and employee Frank Varela allowed him to bring class claims in arbitration even though the arbitration agreement was ambiguous on this point. Varela filed suit in a California federal court on behalf of a putative class of employees after approximately 1,300 employees’ tax information was disclosed as part of a phishing scam.  Because Varela had signed an arbitration agreement at the time of hire, Lamps Plus moved to compel arbitration.  The arbitration agreement was ambiguous on the issue of whether a party may pursue class claims in arbitration. The district court granted Lamps Plus’ motion and sent the case to arbitration, but allowed Varela to pursue his claims on a classwide basis in arbitration.  Lamps Plus appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which acknowledged the arbitration agreement was ambiguous, construed the ambiguity against Lamps Plus as the drafter of the agreement, and affirmed the district court’s decision.  Lamps Plus appealed to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion, joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.  The primary question before the Court was “whether, consistent with the [Federal Arbitration Act, which governed the arbitration agreement], an ambiguous agreement can provide the necessary ‘contractual basis’ for compelling class arbitration.”  The majority answered this question in the negative, pointing out that arbitration on a classwide basis “undermines the most important benefits of” traditional individualized arbitration.  In its 2010 decision in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp., the Court held that a court may not compel arbitration on a classwide basis when the arbitration agreement is silent on the availability of class arbitration.  In Lamps Plus, the majority held that “[l]ike silence, ambiguity does not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that parties to an arbitration agreement agreed to ‘sacrifice[] the principal advantage of arbitration,” which is the individualized form of arbitration envisioned by the Federal Arbitration Act.  After all, ultimately, “[a]rbitration is strictly a matter of consent” between the parties.

Today’s decision continues the pro-arbitration trend from the Supreme Court over the past few years and comes nearly a year after Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, in which the Court upheld the use of class action waivers in arbitration agreements between employers and employees.


By Janet A. Hendrick
April 24, 2019

If you have questions about this decision, contact Janet Hendrick, who represents and counsels employers on issues including proper classification, in the Dallas office of Phillips Murrah at (214) 615-6391 or at jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com.

Phillips Murrah’s legal team welcomes labor and employment attorney

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to welcome Lauren Barghols Hanna to our downtown Oklahoma City office.

The Firm welcomed Lauren to the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group as an Of Counsel attorney.

As a part of her employment practice, Lauren counsels and represents management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful discharge claims, whistleblower claims, claims related to employment agreements and theft of trade secrets, and other disputes arising from the workplace.

She also works with employers in crafting appropriate employment policies and procedures, employee handbooks, non-disclosure/non-solicitation agreements, and employee severance agreements and releases.

Lauren’s practice in the area of water rights frequently involves the representation of landowners in obtaining groundwater and streamwater permits for irrigation, oil and gas industry production, and other beneficial uses.

Lauren is a contributing author to the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and has been interviewed by The Oklahoman, served as a guest legal columnist for The Journal Record business newspaper, and spoken at seminars on a variety of employment-related topics. She also authored the Oklahoma chapter of the LexisNexis Waters and Water Rights treatise.

Lauren’s achievements have earned her inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employment law—management; labor and employment litigation) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal practice at the firm, she serves as a volunteer attorney for Oklahoma Lawyers for Children, a nonprofit organization that uses the time, talent, and resources of pro bono lawyers to represent and assist children in various matters, including parental termination jury trials before the Oklahoma County District Court (Juvenile Division).

In 2014, the Oklahoma CASA Association honored Lauren with its “Attorney of the Year” award for her work with OLFC. Lauren and her family also work with the Tinker Air Force Base Home Away From Home Program, welcoming Airmen serving their first tour into their family for holiday meals, birthday celebrations, summer cookouts, and other activities to create community and mentorship for young enlisted airmen.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Lauren lives in Edmond with her husband Adam and her two children. Her hobbies include rowing, camping, and OU sports.

Phillips Murrah welcomes Janet A. Hendrick to Dallas office

Phillips Murrah welcomes Dallas employment attorney, Janet A. Hendrick, to our Dallas office.

Phillips Murrah welcomes Dallas employment attorney, Janet A. Hendrick, to our Dallas office.

Phillips Murrah P.C. is pleased to announce that Janet Hendrick has joined the Firm in its Dallas-based office. Janet is an employment attorney with nearly 20 years of experience. She brings the number of Phillips Murrah attorneys serving the Texas market to twelve.

“We are excited that Janet has joined Phillips Murrah as we continue to expand our Dallas office,” said President and Managing Partner, Thomas G. Wolfe. “She is a brilliant lawyer with a first-class resume.”

Janet represents employers in several capacities, including proactively counseling clients on best employment practices and compliance, advising on cutting-edge legal issues surrounding the rapidly expanding gig economy, handling audits and investigations, and conducting training. She aggressively defends clients in state and federal courts and in arbitration on a range of matters including employee defection, fair employment practices, and nonsubscriber employee injury defense.

“I like to understand a client’s objectives and what it considers to be a victory,” she said, adding that communicating initially and then often with clients to understand their business needs is fundamental to being a strategic partner.

Janet is deeply committed to the advancement of women in the legal profession. She has been an active member of the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Dallas Women Lawyers Association, and is a thought leader and sought-after speaker on gender diversity in the legal profession. With the addition of Janet, over 40 percent of Phillips Murrah’s directors are women, more than twice the national average for large law firms. A significant number of women fill leadership roles at the Firm, including three of the four positions on the Executive Committee.

“I am impressed with the dynamic people at the Firm, especially the leadership,” Janet said of her motivation to join Phillips Murrah. “I’m also excited about the plans for the Dallas office and thrilled to be a part of building the future of the Firm.”

Janet has been recognized as one of the Texas Diversity Council’s Dallas Top 50 Women in Law and the National Women’s Council’s Top 15 Business Women in Dallas. Additionally, she is a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce Governance Committee, the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Section, the Dallas Bar Association Labor and Employment Section, and the Collin County Bar Association.

Prior to joining Phillips Murrah, Janet practiced with Fisher Phillips, a national labor and employment firm, in Dallas. She also previously practiced with Jones Day in Dallas, New York, Washington DC and London.

See post about Law360 coverage here: Dallas employment attorney Janet A. Hendrick tells Law360 why she joined Phillips Murrah 

Phillips Murrah – Dallas Office:
3710 Rawlins Street, Suite 1420
Dallas, Texas 75219

Main: (214) 238-2525
Direct: (214) 615-6391
Fax: (214) 434-1370

NLRB Ditches Browning-Ferris Joint Employer Test

Published on December 14, 2017

NEW YORK — A divided National Labor Relations Board on Thursday erased the landmark expansion of its test for determining joint employment that it had issued in the 2015 Browning-Ferris Industries case, voting along party lines to revert back to its previous standard.

Thursday’s NLRB majority said that while the panel in Browning Ferris Industries was driven by a “well-intentioned” desire to protect employees’ collective bargaining rights with third parties, the standard it created has five “major” problems. (AP)

In the 3-2 vote, the board’s Republican members overturned the standard set in BFI that under the National Labor Relations Act, a company and its contractors or franchisees can be deemed a single joint employer even if the company hasn’t exerted overt control over workers’ terms and conditions.

The majority was composed of NLRB Chair Philip Miscimarra, who penned a dissent in BFI, and the board’s two newest members, Bill Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan. Democratic members Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran, who were both in the majority in BFI, issued a joint dissent.

“We return today to a standard that has served labor law and collective bargaining well, a standard that is understandable and rooted in the real world,” the board majority said. “It recognizes joint employer status in circumstances that make sense and would foster stable bargaining relationships.”

In the BFI decision, the majority had determined that Browning Ferris was a joint employer of recycling workers provided by staffing agency Leadpoint Business Services Inc. at a BFI-owned recycling facility in Milpitas, California.

Before the BFI ruling, the NLRB’s test rested on a business having “direct and immediate” control over terms and conditions of employment. In Browning-Ferris, the board revised the standard to include “indirect control” or the ability to exert such control.

In Thursday’s ruling, the board returned to its “direct and immediate” control standard, saying the BFI test confused the definition of a joint employer and threatened to produce “wide-ranging instability” in bargaining relationships.

“A finding of joint-employer status shall once again require proof that putative joint employer entities have exercised joint control over essential employment terms (rather than merely having ‘reserved’ the right to exercise control), the control must be ‘direct and immediate’ (rather than indirect), and joint-employer status will not result from control that is ‘limited and routine,’” the board majority said. “We think that the Browning-Ferris standard is a distortion of common law as interpreted by the board and the courts, it is contrary to the [National Labor Relations Act,] it is ill-advised as a matter of policy, and its application would prevent the board from discharging one of its primary responsibilities under the Act, which is to foster stability in labor-management relations.”

The NLRB majority said that while the panel in BFI was driven by a “well-intentioned” desire to protect employees’ collective bargaining rights with third parties, the standard it created has five “major” problems. Among them are that the BFI test exceeds the board’s statutory authority and that the change the board wrought regarding the NLRA’s definition of “employer” “is solely within the province of Congress.”

The majority also said that to the extent the BFI decision sought to correct a perceived inequality in the amount of bargaining leverage workers had due to complex business relationships, that inequality “was the wrong target, and expanding collective bargaining to an employer’s business partners was the wrong remedy.”

“Business entities enter into a variety of relationships, and they have different interests and varying degrees of leverage in their dealings with one another,” the panel majority said Thursday. “There are contractually more powerful business entities and less powerful business entities, and all pursue their own interests. The board would need a clear congressional command — and none exists here — before undertaking an attempt to reshape this aspect of economic reality.”

Using the pre-BFI test, the board on Thursday upheld a ruling by Administrative Law Judge Robert Ringler that Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co., which are construction companies owned by the same individuals, were joint employers and both liable for illegally firing seven employees who had gone on strike to protest their wages and working conditions.

In a joint dissent, Pearce and McFerran said the Hy-Brand ruling brought back a restrictive test, wasn’t the proper vehicle for revisiting the joint employer standard at all since it was really a single employer case and resulted from “a deeply flawed process” meant to achieve a desired result quickly.

The dissenters argued that the board majority failed to examine relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action as required under the Administrative Procedure Act, saying the decision “bears little relationship to the facts, which, as explained, do not fairly present a genuine joint-employer issue.”

The board majority also failed to notify the public that a reversal of precedent was under consideration, and didn’t solicit briefs — a process followed before deciding the BFI case, according to the dissent.

“Even a cursory glance at today’s decision reveals that the majority’s policy basis for overruling BFI is entirely speculative: pages upon pages bemoaning the changes supposedly wrought by BFI and their potential catastrophic effects, but no real-world examples or even remotely plausible hypotheticals,” Pearce and McFerran said. “It is reasonable to infer that our colleagues do not want to engage the public for fear of what they might learn — namely, that none of the predicted effects of BFI have actually come to pass.”

The respondents were represented by Stanley Niew of the Law Offices of Stanley E. Niew PC.

The NLRB general counsel was represented by Patricia Hollis McGruder.

The case is Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co., case numbers 25–CA–163189, 25–CA–163208, 25–CA–163297, 25–CA–163317, 25–CA–163373, 25–CA–163376, 25–CA–163398, 25–CA–163414, 25–CA–164941, and 25–CA–164945, all before the National Labor Relations Board.

EEOC seeks input on FY 2018-2022 strategic plan

Published on December 8, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released for public comment a draft of its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022, the agency announced today. The draft plan can be found at Regulations.gov.  Comments must be submitted by 5:00 pm ET on Jan. 8, 2018. This draft plan has not been approved by the Commission and is still under review.

The Strategic Plan serves as a framework for the Commission in achieving its mission through the strategic application of the EEOC’s law enforcement authorities, preventing employment discrim­ination and promoting inclusive workplaces through education and outreach, and organizational excel­lence. The EEOC has been the leading federal law enforcement agency dedicated to preventing and remedying employment antidiscrimination laws and advancing equal opportunity for all in the work­place since 1965. Every four fiscal years, Congress requires executive departments, government corporations, and independent agencies to develop and post a strategic plan on their public website. These plans direct the agency’s work and lay the foundation for the development of more detailed annual plans, budgets, and related program performance information in the future. The EEOC is currently operating under the Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 – 2016, as amended through 2018.

The process for developing this plan has been highly inclusive and collaborative. The plan was created by working groups comprised of staff from the EEOC’s headquarters and field offices, with a broad range of internal and external expertise and understanding of the programs and activities con­ducted within the agency. We are now continuing this inclusive effort by soliciting comments from our public partners, including advocacy groups and individuals. Public input is vital to our efforts to ensure accountability to our nation’s workers, employers, and taxpayers in general.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

Like a horror movie villain, Obama overtime rule fight won’t die

Published on October 30, 2017

New York — The Obama administration’s 2016 overtime rule was left for dead after a Texas federal judge struck it down, but the controversial regulation started stirring again a day before Halloween when the U.S. Department of Labor decided to appeal, a move experts said is designed to protect the agency’s authority to set a salary threshold for overtime exemption that’s more to the Trump administration’s liking.

The Labor Department notified U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant on Monday that it would be appealing his August order invalidating the Obama administration’s 2016 rule that greatly expanded the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime exemptions for executive, administrative and professional, or EAP, workers. The rule would have doubled the minimum salary required to qualify for the exemption from $23,660 annually to just over $47,000 per year, increased the overtime eligibility threshold for highly compensated workers from $100,000 to about $134,000, and created an index for future increases.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has indicated on numerous occasions that the Trump DOL would seek to write a revised version of the rule that sets a salary level somewhere between the one proposed in 2016 and the existing threshold of $23,660, set in 2004 by the Bush administration.

Locke Lord LLP partner Richard Glovsky pointed out that a notice of appeal is a perfunctory step that simply reserves a party’s right to pursue an appeal. “My impression is that the DOL is not 100 percent sure what it wants to do,” Glovsky told Law360. “It wants to keep its options open.”

In a statement shortly after it filed Monday’s notice, the DOL indicated that it will ask the Fifth Circuit to stay the case as soon as the appeal is docketed while the agency “undertakes further rulemaking to determine what the salary level should be.”

But there’s a problem: It’s not clear from Judge Mazzant’s ruling whether the agency has the authority to use salary as a basis for defining the EAP exemption in the first place — leading experts to speculate that affirming that authority is the primary reason behind the DOL’s appeal.

“It’s not the normal [type of case] you see. It has some different twists and turns to it,” said David C. Burton, a partner at Williams Mullen. “The DOL wants to get [its new] rule out without this litigation putting them in the position of having to argue whether or not they have the authority to issue it.”

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ rights group that has remained steadfast in its support of the 2016 rule, said in a statement that the DOL’s appeal “is good news for the millions of workers who need better protections of their right to overtime pay,” and that the agency “is right to defend its authority to issue a robust salary threshold to set the baseline for this exemption.”

The apparent uncertainty over the DOL’s ability to set a salary threshold for overtime exemption stems from Judge Mazzant’s November ruling issuing a preliminary injunction blocking the rule. The judge said then that nothing in the exemption indicates Congress wanted the DOL to define employee classifications with respect to a minimum salary level.

That decision raised enough of a question about the scope of the DOL’s authority regarding the EAP exemptions that the agency addressed it in a brief at the Fifth Circuit in June, after the Trump administration was in place. The agency said that while it “decided not to advocate for the specific salary level” set by the 2016 rule, it nonetheless had the power to use salary as a component for testing whether a worker should be paid overtime.

That appeal, which has since been withdrawn, was challenging Judge Mazzant’s preliminary injunction.

In his August ruling invalidating the 2016 rule outright, Judge Mazzant said the salary level set by the DOL was so high that it flouted Congress’ intention that the overtime exemption apply to employees who perform “bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity” duties.

He said that by setting the salary level where it did, the DOL effectively eliminated the so-called duties test for determining which workers are eligible for the EAP exemption, which it lacked the authority to do.

Judge Mazzant, however, was careful to note that he wasn’t making any determination regarding the lawfulness of the salary level test or the DOL’s authority to issue one, saying instead that he evaluated only the salary-level test as proffered in the 2016 rule.

Attorneys speculated following that ruling that it still left plenty of room for interpretation as to whether the DOL has the ability going forward to use a salary test when dealing with the overtime exemption.

Steven Pockrass, co-chair of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC’s wage and hour practice, told Law360 on Monday that the DOL is likely trying to “get [Judge Mazzant’s August decision] off the books so there is no longer any ruling that limits the DOL’s authority” still in effect.

“The goal is to get the district court’s decision vacated as if it was never on the books,” Pockrass said, noting that he expects the government to also argue after it issues a new rule that the appeal is moot.

But that approach could also backfire, attorneys say, since the Fifth Circuit may decide not to grant the DOL’s request for a stay.

Burton noted that by filing an appeal, the DOL could be opening the door for the Fifth Circuit to overturn Judge Mazzant’s ruling and uphold the Obama-era rule in full, which would create even greater procedural hurdles for the Trump DOL to justify any changes if it later decides to revisit the regulation and set a salary threshold it considers more appropriate.

In another procedural twist on Monday, the AFL-CIO also filed its own notice of appeal with Judge Mazzant, who had previously denied the union’s bid to intervene in the case.

Glovsky, for one, noted that the union may ultimately present an argument that coincides to some extent with the agency’s position that it has the power to set a salary level threshold.

But the union may go further and “try to get the Obama regulation to be upheld in its entirety” if it has the opportunity to present arguments to the Fifth Circuit, Glovsky said.

The cases are State of Nevada et al. v. U.S. Department of Labor, case number 4:16-cv-00731, and Plano Chamber of Commerce et al. v. R. Alexander Acosta, case number 4:16-cv-00732, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Disclaimer: This website post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not rely upon this information as a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal concern, you should seek legal advice from an attorney.

EEOC issues 2017 performance report

Published on November 16, 2017 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made significant progress in managing the pending inventory of charges during fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the agency reported in its annual Performance and Accountability Report published on Nov. 15.

EEOC offices deployed new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit and more quickly resolve investigations once the agency had sufficient information. Together with improvements in the agency’s digital systems, these strategies produced an increase in charge resolutions and a significant decrease in charge inventory.  As a result, in fiscal year 2017 the EEOC resolved 99,109 charges and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years.  Additionally, during the fiscal year, the EEOC handled over 540,000 calls to the toll-free number and more than 155,000 contacts about possible charge filing in field offices, resulting in 84,254 charges being filed.

“The pending inventory of private sector charges (the backlog) has been a longstanding issue for the EEOC and the public it serves,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “Early in the calendar year, we made addressing the backlog a priority. A primary point of this effort was to share strategies among our offices that have been particularly effective in dealing with the pending inventory, while ensuring we are capturing charges with merit. I thank EEOC’s employees for their work and congratulate them on this progress.”

Other fiscal year 2017 highlights include:

The EEOC secured approximately $484 million for victims of discrimination in the workplace. This includes $355.6 million in monetary relief for those who work in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement, and $42.4 million in monetary relief for charging parties through litigation. The EEOC also secured $86 million in monetary relief for federal employees and applicants.  Importantly, in each of these categories, the agency obtained substantial changes to discriminatory practices to remedy violations of equal employment opportunity laws and prevent future discriminatory conduct.

In fiscal year 2017, the EEOC filed 184 merits lawsuits, including 124 suits on behalf of individuals, 30 non-systemic suits with multiple victims, and 30 systemic suits. This is more than double the number of suits filed in fiscal year 2016. Additionally, EEOC’s legal staff resolved 109 merits lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $42.4 million and achieved a favorable result in 91 percent of all district court resolutions.  In addition, a number of very significant suits were successfully resolved.

The agency’s outreach programs reached 317,000 people during the year through participation in more than 4,000 no-cost educational, training and outreach events. The EEOC continued to promote the online Small Business Resource Center to provide a one-stop shop to help small businesses easily access information about employer responsibilities. The Small Business Administration Ombudsman’s Report again gave EEOC an “A” rating for responsiveness to small business concerns.

On the technology front, the agency further enhanced its online capabilities for the public and made internal operational improvements. For the public, the EEOC advanced its online services by way of a pilot program which allowed individuals in five EEOC offices to submit inquiries online, schedule interviews, and submit and receive charge information.  This pilot led to the nationwide launch of the EEOC Public Portalin November 2017. Internally, the agency replaced many paper procedures with more efficient online tools.

In our federal sector program, the agency resolved 6,661 hearings complaints and secured more than $72.7 million in relief for federal employees. EEOC also resolved 4,284 appeals of agency decisions on federal sector complaints, a 14 percent increase over the previous year, including 47.3 percent of them within 180 days of receipt, and secured more than $13.3 million in relief. Our federal program also reduced its pending inventory of appeals by 11 percent to 3,658 the lowest level in nine years.

EEOC’s fiscal year 2017 Performance and Accountability Report is posted on the agency’s web site at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2017par.pdf. Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2017 will be available on the agency’s website in January 2018.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

Disclaimer: This website post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not rely upon this information as a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal concern, you should seek legal advice from an attorney.

NewsOK Q&A: Not all jokes, propositions necessarily workplace sexual harassment

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: November 14, 2017
Click to see full story – Not all jokes, propositions necessarily workplace sexual harassment

Click to see Kathryn D. Terry’s attorney profile

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

Q: What is sexual harassment?

A: The word “harassment” gets thrown around and used in a lot of contexts. or employment law purposes, unlawful sexual harassment is conduct in a work-related environment that reasonable persons would characterize as offensive and sexual in nature, which actually offends a person and can be said to affect the terms of conditions of the sufferer’s employment.

Q: What does “work-related” mean?

A: First, unlawful sexual harassment doesn’t just occur at work or work events. In fact, more often than not, harassment takes place outside the office and after hours. All of the following are common: one co-worker shows up on the doorstep of another, uninvited and unwelcome; after work drinks; work-related texts that turn personal. If the relationship is primarily work-related and a problem develops, it could be an issue for the employer. Secondly, the employer must actually be an “employer.” Today, almost every employer engages independent contractors and consultants — people who are not employees. If one or both of the persons involved aren’t actually employees, while the conduct at issue may be offensive, even reprehensible or unlawful, it may not be sexual harassment. For example, if an employee makes unwelcome and offensive advances to a courier or caterer who isn’t an employee but interacts with the company and its personnel, that isn’t technically sexual harassment for employment law purposes. Incidentally, although an employer in this situation may not be required to address the situation, it should. If another instance occurs, the first incident likely would demonstrate the employer had notice of bad conduct by the employee but took no remedial action.

Q: How offensive is offensive?

A: First, the proverbial “reasonable person” has to be offended. What offends someone in Oklahoma may be commonplace elsewhere. Every joke, or even every proposition, isn’t necessarily harassment. If a co-worker invites another co-worker out to dinner, the second declines and that’s the end of story, that exchange is not very likely to be characterized as sexual harassment here in middle-America, regardless of whether the invitee was actually offended by the invitation. Second, actual offense must occur. One co-worker could make routine, crude, offensive, sexual remarks toward a specific co-worker. However, if those remarks aren’t offensive to the recipient (he or she takes them, rightfully so, as jokes), there’s no sexual harassment, no matter how vulgar the remarks may be. There are important caveats to be considered, however. Oftentimes persons who complain about long-standing harassment say they went along with the behavior hoping it would stop, fearing retaliation or thinking it was a joke and then it turned more serious. Thus, if a situation like this develops in the workplace, a prudent employer not only will inquire of the persons involved as to their comfort levels, but also will direct the employees involved, regardless of their congenial relationship, to tone it down and be respectful not only of each other, but also of other co-workers who are present.

Q: How bad does sexual harassment have to be to be deemed harassment?

A: The buzzwords are that is has to adversely affect the “terms and conditions” of employment; it has to make the sufferer’s job worse in a meaningful way. But, for example, repeatedly asking out a co-worker despite being rebuffed and asked to cease the invitations, probably can be considered harassment. Moreover, as recent news events demonstrate, one severe incident can be very significant harassment. Conversely, little and subtle remarks and conduct over time can be detrimental to a person’s employment environment and an employer who knows of this type of conduct but fails to take action does so at its peril. A couple of major red flags also exist. If the employee alleging harassment also suffers an adverse economic impact (for example, demotion, reassignment or failure to give a bonus) or if there’s any kind of physical contact (even an unwelcome hug), very careful scrutiny of the events and the relationship is warranted.

Sharp spike in EEOC lawsuits

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 5, 2017.


Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as Co-Chair of the Firm’s Labor & Employment practice group. She represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters.

By Phillips Murrah Director Byrona J. Maule

Fall is a time of change. But this fall, the transition from summer isn’t the only change we’re experiencing. This fall has also brought extraordinary action from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Starting in July, the EEOC has filed a flurry of federal lawsuits against both private and public employers.

In July 2017, the EEOC filed 20 lawsuits, compared to eight in July 2016, according to EEOC.gov’s announcements. At first, I thought this was some type of anomaly, but it continued into August 2017 with another 20 lawsuits filed, compared to eight last August. In September, they filed a whopping 69 lawsuits, as opposed to 22 in September 2016. To date, the EEOC has filed 241 lawsuits in 2017, compared to 86 in all of 2016. With three months left in 2017, there is no reason to believe the rest of 2017 will trend any differently.

Other changes in the EEOC’s activity include an inclination to file suit against an employer in a single plaintiff case, as opposed to lawsuits in which the outcome would have a broad impact on society. The EEOC’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan emphasized using litigation mechanisms to identify and attack discriminatory policies and other instances of systemic discrimination. This emphasis seems to have waned.

Considering the life cycle of an EEOC lawsuit from charge to the EEOC’s decision to file a lawsuit takes multiple years, this sharp spike in the number of merit lawsuits being filed does not indicate that workplace behavior has drastically changed in recent months. Rather, the change appears to be in the decision-making process of the EEOC when deciding if it is going to file a lawsuit and what types of lawsuits the EEOC pursues. In one recent case involving Home Depot, the EEOC filed charges despite the company’s position it had reached agreement with the EEOC on the major terms of a settlement.

What does it all mean? It is difficult to know at this point. The real significance for employers is there are significantly more lawsuits being brought by the EEOC in 2017 than at any time between 2012 and 2016. Employers need to be very aware of this, and approach EEOC charges with increased attention.

Byrona J. Maule is a partner and co-chair of the labor and employment practice group at Oklahoma City-based law firm Phillips Murrah.

The Wrong Claim – Defining boundaries to Burk tort actions

Complaints of wrongful termination by employees have been heard in courtrooms across the nation for as long as there has been a legal venue in which to bring and defend such claims. It can be argued that the nature of the employer-employee relationship has been evolving ever since.

In Oklahoma, the employer-employee relationship is characterized by the employment-at-will doctrine. This means that either the employer or employee may end the employment relationship at any time for any reason, barring some exceptions. Exceptions for the employer include retaliatory termination, basing the decision to terminate on the employee’s race, gender, religion, national origin and other prior-identified protected classes, and whether the employee is hired under the conditions of a specific contractual agreement that lays out conditions for termination.

In the above exceptions, there are adequate remedies available through various employment and anti-discrimination laws. However, over time, there has been an evolution of claims that exist outside of this framework, where there existed no adequate legal remedies.

In 1989, the Oklahoma Supreme Court began chipping away at the employment-at-will doctrine in a landmark case known as Burk v. Kmart Corp. The Court recognized a new actionable tort claim that established an exception to the at-will termination rule in a narrow class of cases, which was subsequently referred to as a Burk tort.

“An at-will employee may have an actionable tort claim if his discharge is ‘contrary to a clear mandate of public policy as articulated by constitutional, statutory or decisional law,’” the Court held.

Burk or not Burk?

Outside of law firm offices, legislative chambers and courtrooms, the term “Burk tort” is not very remarkable. Yet, for decades, the questions of which entities can be sued for which alleged employment violations, and which legal remedies are appropriate for the matters at hand, have been and continue to be vigorously argued.

In a recent case brought before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Phillips Murrah Director Byrona J. Maule, arguing for the Defense, was granted dismissal of a wrongful termination claim brought under the Burk tort framework. This particular, seemingly obscure motion to dismiss is important because, had it not been successful, the claim could have altered current Oklahoma employment law by expanding the Burk tort into a new area.

In this recent case, the Plaintiff asserted that the Oklahoma Occupational Safety & Health Standards Act (OOSHSA) established a clear mandate of public policy that was allegedly violated by his employer, a privately owned company in Oklahoma City. However, as pointed out by Maule, in 1984, the Oklahoma legislature specifically removed private employers from the purview of OOSHSA, effectively limiting its public policy statement to only apply to public employers. Therefore, because the OOSHSA Act does not articulate a public policy with regard to a private employer, it could not support a Burk tort claim. The Court further found the federal OSHA statutes did not establish an Oklahoma public policy, and therefore did not articulate a public policy on which a Burk tort claim could be founded.

The Order handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma quoted Griffin v. Mullinix, 1997 OK 120:

“See Griffin, at 179 (“[I]n 1984, the state legislature fundamentally changed the existing Occupational Safety & Health Standards Act, removing private employers from the definition under the Act … [T]he legislature’s decision to limit application of the Act to public employers limited the entire Occupational Safety & Health Standards Act, including the public policy statement. Therefore, [w]e find that an Act, which at one time applied broadly to all employers and now applies to public employers only, is not an adequate basis upon which to premise the private tort action of a private employee.”).

The Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss was granted, and a subsequent Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint was denied, based on the Plaintiff’s failure to state a claim against the Defendant upon which relief can be granted. Since the Defendant is a privately-owned company, OOSHA did not articulate a public policy that supported a Burk tort claim.

By Dave Rhea, Director of Marketing at Phillips Murrah

Department of Labor files overtime exemption brief with Fifth Circuit

In a brief filed with the Fifth Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals, USDOL seeks to preserve salary level in determining overtime exemption status.

 

On Friday, June 30, the United States Department of Labor filed a brief with the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans seeking to preserve a minimum salary requirement as a part of a three-part test to determine which workers are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay protections.

The three-part test, referred to as EAP, (executive, administrative, professional) relates to whether a worker is:

  1. Paid on a salary basis
  2. Earns a specified salary level
  3. Satisfies a duties test

The brief filed Friday concerns the second part.

The brief was filed in the case of Nevada v. DOL , 5th Cir., No. 16-41606 by the State of Oklahoma and 20 other states questioning whether the DOL under President Obama had the authority to set the annual salary threshold at $47,476, just over double the amount previously set in 2004 by the Bush Administration.

The Trump Administration brief asks the court to uphold DOL’s legal authority to set the salary threshold, but does not address the appropriate salary level, stating that the court should “simply lift the cloud” created by litigation questioning the Department’s authority to establish any salary level test.

“Instead, the department soon will publish a request for information seeking public input on several questions that will aid in the development of a proposal,” the agency stated it its brief.

To view the brief, click this link.

 


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USDOL Reinstates Wage & Hour Opinion Letters

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that they will reinstate the issuance of opinion letters, which had been replaced in 2010 by issuance of USDOL general guidance. This action allows the USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division to use opinion letters as one of its methods for providing guidance to covered employers and employees.

Opinion letters are official opinions written by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of how to apply rules related to the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes in specific circumstances presented by an employer, employee or other entity seeking clarity. Opinion letters had been the general practice for seeking clarity since the Fair Labor Standards Act’s inception in 1938.

“By using the opinion letters, laws can be interpreted differently without the need of going through the administrative process,” explains Byrona J. Maule, Phillips Murrah Director and Co-Chair of the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

This comes on the heels of the action taken by USDOL earlier this month, which withdrew two Obama-era guidance letters that sought to clarify worker classifications regarding independent contractors and joint employment.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta in today’s release:

“Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.”

USDOL also announced a website portal whereby those seeking clarity can search for existing guidance or submit a request for an opinion letter. Today’s release explained: “The webpage explains what to include in the request, where to submit the request, and where to review existing guidance. The division will exercise discretion in determining which requests for opinion letters will be responded to, and the appropriate form of guidance to be issued.”

Employers should be vigilant in reviewing the opinion letters issued by the USDOL for trends and reversals of prior legal positions.

Visit this link to view currently published opinion letters: Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Opinion Letters – Fair Labor Standards Act

 


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U.S. House of Representatives passes Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017

Last month, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1180, which states that private sector employees shall be given the option of receiving paid time off, known as compensatory time, in lieu of monetary compensation known as overtime pay. The Act, known as the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017,” amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established overtime pay, among other employee rights.

The comp time option allows for one and a half hours off for every hour worked beyond 40 hours in a week. In order to be eligible for the compensatory option, an employee must have been employed by the employer for at least one consecutive year, during which time the employee must have worked at least 1,000 hours.

Other stipulations in H.R. 1180 include:

  • Regarding labor unions or other forms of organized labor, compensatory time is provided to members only in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.
  • Employers may not make the compensatory time option a condition for employment.
  • Maximum accrual of compensatory time is limited to 160 hours.
  • Compensatory time that is not used by the employee by the end of the calendar year, or an alternative 12-month period, must be paid in overtime by the employer within 31 days of the end of such 12-month period.
  • If an employee acquires in excess of 80 hours of compensatory time, the employer may provide monetary compensation at any time after giving the employee at least a 30-day notice.
  • Employers who opt to provide compensatory time may discontinue the option after giving employees a 30-day notice.
  • An employee may give notice of withdrawal from any compensatory time agreement at any time, and the employer must provide monetary compensation for unused time within 30 days of receiving notice.
  • An employer providing compensatory time is prohibited from actions that “directly or indirectly intimidate, threaten or coerce any employee” in any attempt to interfere with an employee’s rights to choose or use compensatory time.
  • The employee may use accrued compensatory time within a reasonable amount of time after a request is made as long as it does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
  • Upon termination, any unused compensatory time accrued by the employee will be considered unpaid overtime compensation.

H.R. 1180 passed the House vote, 229-197. It now must also pass a Senate vote, which may prove to be an uphill battle, as similar bills have historically died in the Senate.

Should the H.R. 1180 pass the Senate, an Employer should immediately revise its leave and overtime policies to implement the option of comp time in lieu of overtime compensation, with special attention given to how the employee will notify the Employer of the employee’s desire to receive the comp time in lieu of overtime compensation, when and how the comp time will be taken, and what would “unduly disrupt the operations” of the Employer’s specific company.

Click here to view details of the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 on the U.S. House of Representatives website.

Oklahoma Department of Labor offers free, confidential safety consultations

Are you concerned about your company’s OSHA compliance? Do you have concerns for the safety of your employees?

Safety consultants can be expensive, and during a time of tight financial resources, safety can take a back seat to other company priorities. However, in Oklahoma we have a cost-free option – the ODOL Safety Consultation program offered by the Oklahoma Department of Labor.

The goal of these inspections is compliance, not to levy fines. The ODOL will assess safety, evaluate the work site, and assist with training and compliance with the OSHA. Most importantly, if a concern is identified by the ODOL safety inspector, he or she will provide your company with suggestions about how to how to improve safety and obtain compliance with OSHA.

The company must agree to correct all hazards identified as serious within the established time frame. The consultations are not reported to OSHA. However, if an OSHA inspection should occur, there are requirements about company reporting regarding certain types of testing performed by the ODOL safety inspector.

Every company that is concerned with employee safety should consider these free, confidential, safety inspections. Identifying and correcting a problem can prevent workplace injuries and accidents, and can save the company penalties and fines in the future.

Learn more about these safety consultations by viewing the Oklahoma Department of Labor’s informational video: Workplace Safety Pays in Oklahoma

Disclaimer: Consultations are not a replacement for legal advice. If you have questions or need legal assistance for safety issues, please contact the law firm of Phillips Murrah at (405) 235-4100.

 

Director hosts presentations on workplace regulations

Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as Co-Chair of the Firm’s Labor & Employment practice group. She represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters.

Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as Co-Chair of the Firm’s Labor & Employment practice group. She represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters.

Phillips Murrah Director Byrona J. Maule gave two presentations in November, one for Cornerstone Credit Union League and the other to the Women’s Mastermind Group, regarding potential changes in labor and employment matters.

The presentations covered new wage and hour regulations regarding overtime that were slated to go into effect on December 1, 2016.

Maule gave an in-depth look at the regulations, including key components and salary basis changes it would impose as well as steps employers should take to prepare for if it went live.

“Employers should have conversations with employees who are changing from exempt to nonexempt so that the employees understand the impact of that change,” she said. “Employers should also review record keeping requirements for nonexempt employees – as these requirements are very different for nonexempt employees as opposed to exempt employees.”

Maule referenced pending lawsuits against the regulations which have since been put on pause by a national injunction by a federal court in Texas.

Director joins ALFA insurance coverage panel

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

Director Kathryn D. Terry participated in ALFA International’s EPL & Professional Liability Practice Group Seminar from June 8-10 in New York City covering issues related to insurance matters.

“The panel discussed the impact of punitive damage verdict in employment practices litigation, including developing and potential issues related to insurance coverage for extra-contractual losses and the duty of good faith and fair dealing attendant to such coverage and potential coverage,” Terry said.

ALFA International is a global network of law firms committed to providing high-quality, cost-efficient legal services worldwide to the network’s diverse clients.

For more information on the seminar, visit the seminar’s website here.

Director addresses workplace environments for OMCCA

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

Director Kathryn D. Terry spoke at the Oklahoma Municipal Court Clerks Association‘s annual conference on May 17 at Oklahoma State University.

Terry addressed issues on dress code dilemmas in the 21st century workplace, employee accountability, and conflict avoidance.

“The Oklahoma Municipal Court Clerks Association is made of municipal court clerks from all over Oklahoma,” she said. “The clerks face a variety of unique issues in their varied work environments, and I addressed how to navigate challenging dynamics due to rapid technology advancements, evolving social norms and state and federal laws regarding the work place.”

PM attorney, distinguished BBBS advocate to attend national conference as Oklahoma State Governing Board Chair

Maule-Byrona-240x300

Byrona J. Maule is a litigation attorney and co-chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group.

Byrona J. Maule, Phillips Murrah Director and co-chair of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will be attending the 2015 Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference as Oklahoma’s State Governing Board Chair. The conference will be held in Philadelphia, PA on June 2-3, 2015.

Byrona is a passionate community advocate who has devoted much of her life to volunteerism and philanthropy. Her distinguished service to Big Brothers Big Sisters began in 1990, when she became a Big Sister to Vanessa—a relationship that enriched Byrona’s life in ways she never imagined. To date, she’s had three Little Sisters complete the program. Byrona joined the BBBS Oklahoma City Area Resource Board in 2007. Since then, her devotion has garnered awards, including:

  • Big Sister of the Year, Oklahoma City (2009)
  • Big Sister of the Year, State of Oklahoma (2009)
  • Champion of the Year, State of Oklahoma (2011)

Upon winning Champion of the Year, she said: “Being a Champion of Big Brothers Big Sisters is easy; these young ones are my passion and my servant mission. To be recognized for this passion is wonderful, but to help open the world to a child otherwise forgotten – to help that child grow into a successful, responsible, caring adult – that is the reward I carry in my heart for all time.”

Byrona was elected to the state of Oklahoma governing board in 2012. Most recently in 2013, she was elected chair of the Governing Board. Along with her husband, Marvin Meyer, she won the Big Couple Match for their current match with little brother Quintin.

The 2015 Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference will provide opportunities for attendees to engage in peer designed workshops and events that will reignite the purpose and put renewed energy around all aspects of mission attainment. This two-day conference will be packed with dynamic keynote speakers, insightful panel discussions and plenty of opportunities for learning and networking.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

For more information or to speak with Byrona about the conference and her work with BBBS of Oklahoma,
contact David Rhea at 405-606-4746 or jdrhea@phillipsmurrah.com.

Phillips Murrah announces new Directors for 2015

2015 Phillips Murrah new directors

From L: Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle

Tom Wolfe, managing director at Oklahoma City law firm, Phillips Murrah, announced that attorneys Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle have been elected by the firm’s shareholders as new directors. Their appointments were made effective January 1, 2015, bringing the total number of directors in the firm to 32.

Edwards’ law practice focuses on family law, general civil litigation and appellate matters. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Miller practices in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group representing both employers and employees in a variety of discrimination and employment disputes. Her practice also involves the representation of national and international corporations in intellectual property disputes.

Kreth is a commercial litigator who represents financial institutions, handling matters such as foreclosures, bankruptcy and lender liability litigation. He also represents clients in a range of real property disputes.

Lisle is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in the representation of financial institutions in mortgage and commercial loan litigation and lender liability.