In a decision issued on June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act (Title VII) requires employers to meet a heightened standard for undue hardship, making it more difficult to deny requests for religious accommodations.
Title VII prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an individual’s religious observance or practice unless an employer is “unable” to do so “without undue hardship” on the conduct of its business.
Lower federal courts previously held that Title VII’s undue hardship standard for denying religious accommodations only requires an employer to show that any accommodation would cause the employer to bear “more than a de minimis cost.” The Supreme Court’s decision in Groff v. Dejoy reverses those decisions, holding that if an employer denies religious accommodations, it must show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in “substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.” This requires employers to take all relevant factors of a particular situation into account, including the specific accommodations at issue and their practical impact in light of the nature, size, and operating cost of employer.
The Court also clarified that this standard for undue hardship is different from the standard used when denying accommodations for disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In general, the ADA’s undue hardship standard only requires employers to show “significant hardship and expense.”
Employers subject to Title VII should become familiar with the new decision. They may also need to review their employment policies and practices to ensure that they can meet the heightened undue hardship standard outlined in the decision for any denials of their employees’ or applicants’ requests for religious accommodations.
In addition, all employers should be aware that state laws may have different employee count thresholds, require religious accommodations, and may have different undue hardship standards for denying religious accommodations. Employers that are subject to both federal and state laws on religious discrimination must follow the one that is more protective of employees and applicants.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to notify all workers, regardless of their benefits eligibility status, about the availability of the Health Insurance Marketplaces. All employers, with limited exceptions, are required to distribute the
notice to new employees within 14 days of hire. The Department of Labor (DOL) provides customizable model notices to inform workers of their health insurance coverage options.
The DOL published updated model notices as follows:
The model notices have an expiration date of July 31, 2023. The previous versions expired on June 30, 2023.
Beginning January 1, 2024, establishments with 100 or more employees in certain high hazard industries must electronically submit their Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report, annually to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with their legal company name included. They must also continue to electronically submit their Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. According to pre-existing rules, the following must submit the Form 300A info electronically:
More information is available on the OSHA website and its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements page.
(Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Final Rule is scheduled to be published July 21, 2023)
On July 21, 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new version of Form I-9, also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification form. Employers are required to use this form to verify that their employees are authorized to work in the United States. Employers can begin using the new form Aug. 1, 2023.
As explained by USCIS, the new Form I-9:
The agency announcement also explains that the revised Form I-9 (edition date Aug. 1, 2023) will be published on uscis.gov on Aug. 1, 2023. Employers can use the current Form I-9 (edition date Oct. 21, 2019) through Oct. 31, 2023. Starting Nov. 1, 2023, all employers must use the new Form I-9.
On July 21, 2023, USCIS announced a final rule in the Federal Register that recognizes the end of temporary COVID-19 flexibilities on July 31, 2023. The final rule also provides DHS the authority to authorize optional alternatives for employers to examine Form I-9 documentation.
Under current requirements, employers must physically inspect I-9 acceptable documents to certify their employers are authorized to work in the United States. However, with the final rule, DHS also published an accompanying document in the Federal Register providing employers enrolled in E-Verify the option to remotely examine their employees’ identity and employment authorization documents under a DHS-authorized alternative procedure.
On July 12, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) submitted a proposed rule to update overtime regulations under the Fair LaborStandards Act (FLSA) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. The OMB will have 10 days to make a preliminary determination of whether the proposed overtime rule is economically significant. After that, the OMB will have another 90 days to review the rule. According to the DOL’s latest regulatory agenda, the publication of the proposed overtime rule is set for August 2023.
This announcement comes after a series of delays. The DOL initially planned to release proposed rule changes in April 2022before delaying until October 2022. The agency later amended its target release date to May 2023, then announced in its spring regulatory agenda that the proposed overtime rule would be published in August 2023.
The proposed rule is expected to address implementing exemptions from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements for executive, administrative and professional employees. It could also clarify classifications of exempt employees and increase their salary levels under the FLSA.
Some experts believe the DOL will create automatic annual or periodic increases to exempt employees’ salary levels by linking them to the consumer price index. This would allow exempt employees’ salary thresholds to increase without formal rulemaking.
Submitting a draft overtime rule to the OMB signals that the DOL is likely to issue a proposed rule within the next 100 days. After DOL publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register, time will be designated for the public to comment. The agency will review the comments and decide whether to proceed with publishing a final rule. If a final overtime rule is published in the Federal Register, it will likely be challenged legally.
Although employers aren’t legally obligated to change how they classify or pay employees until the DOL’s overtime rule is finalized, they should closely monitor the DOL’s rulemaking process. We will notify you of any critical changes or announcements.
Nothing new since the legislative session closed.
08/01 – VETS-4212 Filing Open (federal contractors)
09/30 – Summary Annual Report (SAR) Deadline (calendar year plans)
09/30 – VETS-4212 Filing Deadline (federal contractors)
10/2 – QSEHRA Notice Deadline (Calendar Year Plans Only) 1014 – Medicare Part D Creditable/Noncreditable Coverage Notice 10/30 – Form 941 Filing Deadline (third quarter)
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