National Clothesline
What’s coming in labor regulations
It’s the middle of summer, and the presidential nominating conventions are only a week
away as I write this.
I only have one comment on the election, and that is only because there is a relevant news
Hillary Clinton recently joined striking workers
outside the Trump Taj Mahal while touring
Atlantic City, NJ. UNITE HERE Local 54 has been
on strike since July 1, and I have not
investigated what issues led to the work
stoppage. I do not know if Clinton has, either,
but she used the strike as an opportunity to
criticize Donald Trump’s business practices.
It will be interesting to see how union
members, especially members of police unions,
vote in the election. Union membership has been on the decline for a long time, except among
government employees, but unions tend to be very active during elections and tend to favor the
Democratic party.
It is difficult to know Trump’s position on unions, except as they might apply to his business
enterprises. I doubt, however, that either candidate’s views on unions or labor laws will affect the
outcome of the election. Both candidates will blame the other’s party for our economic problems.
Overtime eligible?
On the wage and hour front, a federal court in Alabama has ordered a trial to determine if an
employee making well over $100,000 a year is entitled to overtime as an exempt “executive,
administrative, or professional” employee.
As I have said in this column many times, exemptions from overtime are based on what the
employee actually does, not how much money he or she makes.
Remember, when an employee seeks overtime pay, that employee usually tries to make his
duties look mundane and clerical.
If you have an employee you treat as exempt, make sure there is plenty of evidence that he or
she regularly engages in the tasks of an executive (supervisor), administrator (HR director), or
professional (lawyer, doctor, nurse).
NLRB still at it
The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that a restaurant in Los Angeles cannot ban
“union” buttons from the uniforms of its employees. While the board acknowledged that special
circumstances may allow such restrictions (safety, for example), it continued to make it difficult
for an employer to enforce bans on union buttons.
If your employees start wearing such buttons, seek legal advice before you take any action, as
it could result in unfair labor practice charges. Generally, however, other buttons, including
political ones, can be banned.
The NLRB is also preparing to start reporting alleged labor law violations by government
contractors named by regional directors in unfair labor practice complaints.
While few drycleaners need to worry about this, it does show the extent to which the current
administration is taking the side of unions and employees over companies.
The reason for this reporting is to force employers to settle, even when they have a good
defense, to avoid having their government contracts placed in jeopardy.
The concept of innocent until proven guilty seems to have been lost on the federal government
once again, especially as it relates to employers. These strong-arm tactics are on the rise, and
until employers start fighting charges instead of settling them, this trend will continue.
Paid sick leave and higher minimum wage
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has criticized Republicans in Congress for inaction on a national
paid sick leave law, saying the U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world that fails to provide
its citizens with basic workplace protections to manage personal health issues.
Many local governments have already adopted paid sick leave requirements, again taking the
side that employees should be paid for not working.
We can expect paid sick leave to be a big issue if Congress and the White House are occupied by
anti-employer officials.
Already, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act have created
a workplace environment where productivity and good working practices take a back seat to other
considerations. Paying employees for not working at all is now the focus of these employee
It appears that the Democratic party will include a $15 per hour minimum wage in its party
platform. It’s a shame that both parties in Congress seem to have no problem causing employers
to spend money without offering any help or ideas as to how to pay for it.
Raising taxes is not the answer because you have to make more money to pay more in taxes. If
a small business does not increase its income, raising salaries means less money for the business.
As you know, not all businesses are profitable, and sometimes profitable businesses are just
getting by. Wiping out those meager profits is not a great idea.
That’s it for this month. Let’s hope, someday, I will have more positive things to report about
the state of the law.

Frank Kollman is a partner in the law firm of Kollman & Saucier