DOL clarifies FLSA’s “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption

On January 15, 2021, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the US Department of Labor issued opinion letter FLSA2021-3. The letter explores the scope of Section 13 (a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which creates an exemption from the minimum wage and overtime provisions for “an employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment, organized camp, or religious or non-profit educational conference center.” In addition to meeting this definition, an entity must satisfy either a “calendar test” or a “receipts test,” designed to limit the exemption to employees of truly seasonal operations.

Examining three different entities, the WHD concluded as follows:

  • In order to be an “establishment” under Section 13 (a)(3) of the FLSA, an entity must have a distinct physical location for its recreational operations. An entity that organizes and leads nature walks, hikes, daytrips, and overnight camping trips for children does not meet this definition. The entity has a recreational character and purpose. However, it maintains an office solely for administrative purposes; its trips do not meet, leave from, or return to that office. Therefore, its recreational operations do not have a “distinct physical location” over which it exerts control as required to satisfy the “establishment” exemption.
  • A non-profit religious ministry that runs a year-round camp/ retreat center and uses an accrual method of accounting cannot satisfy the “receipts” test under Section 13 (a)(3) of the FLSA. To qualify for the exemption, an entity must show that during the preceding calendar year, its average receipts for any six months of the year were not more than 33 ⅓ percent of its average receipts for the other six months of that year (of note, the months need not be consecutive). For purposes of the FLSA exemption, “receipts” means money actually received and does not incorporate accrual accounting principles. Furthermore, “receipts” under Section 13 (a)(3) refers to money received in exchange for goods or services and does not include charitable donations.
  • An entity that plans and produces thousands of events at various locations each year for companies, non-profits, and other organizations is not an “establishment” under Section (a)(3) of the FLSA. While it maintains a warehouse and administrative offices, it does not exert control, even for a limited period, over fixed locations that have amusement or recreational character. It simply helps produce events on premises that are held and controlled by its clients.

While WHD opinion letters can provide valuable guidance to covered employers, they are based upon the facts of the specific case presented. Therefore, the scope of their legal impact is often uncertain. Employers whose seasonal employees may qualify for the “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption should work closely with legal counsel to determine whether the exemption is likely to apply.
We continue to closely monitor developments in this area and will provide you with important updates.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state issues affecting employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

DOL Issues Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status under FLSA

On January 6, 2021, the US Department of Labor announced a final rule establishing the test for whether a worker will be classified as an independent contractor or an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The final rule adopts the “economic reality” test, which was set forth in the DOL’s proposed rule published in September 2020. Under that test, the two core factors are the nature and degree of control over the work and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss. For a full discussion of that test, these key factors, and other relevant considerations, please review Lake Effect’s September 22, 2020 blog on the DOL’s proposed rule. The final rule also reiterates that the actual practice of the employer and the worker will govern the inquiry, not contractual language or theoretical possibilities.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 7, 2021 and take effect on March 8, 2021.

Keep in mind that DOL’s final rule is unlikely to fully resolve this challenging issue for most employers. Many states have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status, and these can vary widely from state-to-state, and even within a state, depending upon the issue being addressed (i.e., unemployment eligibility, wage and hour, tax liability). Lake Effect continues to monitor federal and state laws and guidance relating to independent contractor status, and we will keep you apprised of developments in this area.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about independent contractors, FLSA, and labor laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law is in business to maximize each client’s workplace potential with a commitment to kindness, true partnership, and exceptional service.

DOL Issues Timely Wage and Hour Rule and Guidance

Over the last few weeks, the Department of Labor (DOL) has been busy ticking items off its to-do list. We have seen action on everything from tip pooling to employee notices to travel time.

Tip Pooling and Tip Credits
In October, 2019, Lake Effect blogged on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations on tip pooling, tip credit, and payments to tipped employees. The DOL published the Final Rule on December 22, 2020, implementing most of the changes to tip pooling and tip payments that were proposed in 2019. See also a helpful summary and FAQ provided by the DOL. The Final Rule is effective March 1, 2021.

This new rule will be helpful for restaurant, bar, and hospitality employers making plans to expand or resume operations in the coming months. Many hospitality employers have implemented – or may now consider implementing – tip pools to supplement employee compensation, improve morale, and incentivize all workers to maximize performance. In short, tip pooling can be a useful tool to enhance employee recruitment and retention.

The new tip credit and tip pooling regulations include the following:

  • No tips for managers, supervisors, or employers: The regulations expressly prohibit employers from keeping employees’ tips and likewise prohibit managers and supervisors from sharing any employee tips, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit and regardless of the type of tip pool implemented. Employers who retain pooled tips or share them with managers or supervisors will be subject to civil penalties under the new regulations.
    • Relying on the FLSA duties test, a manager or supervisor is defined as any employee (1) whose primary duty is managing the enterprise or a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise; (2) who customarily and regularly directs the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent; and (3) who has the authority to hire or fire other employees, or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring or firing are given particular weight.” This also includes any workers “who own at least a bona fide 20 percent equity interest in the enterprise in which they are employed and who are actively engaged in its management.”
  • No 80/20 rule for tip credits: The regulations remove the long-standing 80/20 rule that required employers who take a tip credit (see our prior blog for an overview of tip credits) to carefully track the amount and timing of non-tipped work that employees perform. Under the new regulations, employers may take the tip credit regardless of the amount of non-tipped work an employee is performing provided the normally non-tipped work is performed “contemporaneously with” or “for a reasonable time immediately before or after” their normally tipped work duties.
  • Employers who take a tip credit are limited to a traditional tip pool: Employers who take a tip credit may create only a “traditional tip pool,” which is limited to employees who “customarily and regularly” receive tips.
  • Employers who do not take a tip credit have two tip pool options: Employers who do not take a tip credit now have two options for tip pooling. Employers may create a “traditional tip pool” and/or a “nontraditional tip pool,” which includes employees who do not regularly receive tips, such as cooks and dishwashers.
  • Record-keeping of tip credit and tip pool: Employers who take a tip credit or create tip pools must identify on their payroll records each employee who receives tips and maintain records of the weekly or monthly amount of tips received by employees, as reported by the employee to the employer. Employers can rely on employees’ information tracked on IRS Form 4070.
  • Timing of payment of tip pool tips: Employers must pay their employees the pooled tips no later than the date on which regular wages are paid to employees and, for credit card based tips, “as soon as practicable after the regular payday.” This further supports the requirement that employers must not retain tips.

Electronic Posting of Required Labor Law Posters
Acknowledging that telework will likely continue for the foreseeable future in many workplaces, the DOL provided new guidance regarding labor law posters. In a field assistance bulletin issued on December 29, 2020, the DOL confirmed that employers can satisfy applicable employee notice obligations by providing required labor law postings to employees on the internet or an intranet. Employers also must display hard copies of the posters in the actual workplace for applicants and employees who are unable to telework.

Compensation for Personal Activity Travel Time
Again acknowledging the continuation of telework, the DOL issued a wage and hour opinion letter on December 31, 2020 addressing the issue of travel time to/from work and home when an employee works part of the day remotely and part of the day in the worksite, and engages in personal activities during their travel time. The DOL reiterated that a non-exempt employee does not need to be paid for time the employee is off duty and is not working, nor for commuting time. The DOL also reinforced that the continuous workday doctrine would not apply to the fact patterns presented by the employer because, during the travel time for personal activities, the employee was clearly off duty, could use their time for their own purposes, and could choose when they would resume work at home or at the worksite. Likewise, the employee’s commuting time to and from work, during which time the employee performed no work duties, was not compensable commuting time.

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For additional information and discussion of DOL rule making, rules, and guidance, please see Lake Effect’s prior blogs on wage and hour issues. We will continue to closely monitor all developments in this area and provide you with important updates.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state issues affecting employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law is in business to maximize each client’s workplace potential with a commitment to kindness, true partnership, and exceptional service.

DOL Announces Proposed Rule on Independent Contractor Status under the FLSA

On September 22, 2020, the US Department of Labor proposed a new rule to clarify whether a worker will be classified as an independent contractor or an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The proposed rule will be available for review and public comments for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule adopts an “economic reality” test to determine a worker’s status. That test focuses on whether a worker is economically dependent upon an employer for work or is truly in business for themselves . Economic dependence is the ultimate inquiry. In applying this test, the two most important factors are:

  • Who exercises substantial control over key aspects of work performance? Where the worker sets their own schedule, selects projects, and retains the ability to work for an employer’s competitors, this factor will weigh in favor of independent contractor status. In contrast, where the employer sets the schedule, controls the workload, and requires the worker to perform work exclusively for that employer, this factor will weigh in favor of employee status.
  • Does the worker have an opportunity for profit or loss (i.e. an ability to affect their earnings by the exercise of their own management and initiative)? If the worker can earn more or lose profits based upon their own managerial skills or business acumen, for example by hiring helpers or choosing particular equipment or materials, this factor will weigh in favor of independent contract status. If the worker is unable to affect their earnings or is only able to do so by working more hours or working more efficiently, this factor will weigh in favor of employee status.

Other factors to be considered in assessing independent contractor vs. employee status under the FLSA include the amount of skill required for the work, the permanence of the working relationship between the parties, and whether the work performed by the individual is a component of the employer’s integrated production process for a good or service.

The DOL’s proposed rule emphasizes that the parties’ actual practice is key to the assessment of independent contractor status. What the parties state in a contract or what may be theoretically possible under a work arrangement is of little relevance if it differs from the reality of their working relationship.

Employers should keep in mind that many states have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status under their respective state wage and hour laws; these tests can differ from state-to-state. The tests may also vary based upon the state law issue being addressed, i.e. unemployment compensation eligibility, workers’ compensation coverage, employment tax liability, etc.

The issue of independent contractor versus employee status continues to challenge employers across all sectors throughout the U.S. We will continue to closely monitor the DOL’s proposed rule and other state-based developments in this area. In the meantime, it might be a good time to review your independent contractor agreements and work relationships within your organization. Your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law can help you ensure compliance while retaining the flexible and dynamic workforce that your organization needs. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

DOL Issues Revised FFCRA Regulations

On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division posted revised regulations to clarify certain rights and responsibilities under the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). DOL’s actions are in direct response to an August 2020 New York Federal District Court ruling that invalidated parts of prior FFCRA regulations. The revised regulations will become effective September 16, 2020, when they are published in the Federal Register.

Key portions of the revised regulations provide the following:

  • An employee is only entitled to Paid Sick Leave (“PSL”) and Expanded Family and Medical Leave (“EFML”) under FFCRA if the employer would otherwise have work available for that employee to perform. If there is no work available due to circumstances other than a qualifying reason for the leave, i.e. the employer has laid off or furloughed employees, or has temporarily or permanently closed the worksite, then an employee is not entitled to FFCRA leave. This “available work” requirement applies to all qualifying reasons for FFCRA leaves.
  • An employee must obtain employer approval to take intermittent FFCRA leave for any qualifying reason, regardless of whether the employee is teleworking or working on-site. Intermittent leave occurs when the employee takes leave in separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying reason. For an employee working on-site, many of the qualifying reasons for EPSL leave will not lend themselves to intermittent leave because they create a high risk of spreading the virus. Of note, the revised regulations clarify that the employer-approval requirement does not apply to employees who take FFCRA leave in full-day increments to care for children whose schools are operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid attendance) basis because such leave is not intermittent. In that scenario, where a school is physically closed to the employee’s child on particular days, each day of the school closure constitutes a separate reason for FFCRA leave. Thus, the employee may take leave due to the school closure until that qualifying reason ends (i.e. the school re-opens) and then take leave again when the new qualifying reason begins (i.e. the school closes again) – without the approval of the employer.
  • The definition of a “health care provider,” who may be exempted from FFCRA’s leave provisions, includes only those who meet the definition of that term under the FMLA regulations and those who are employed to provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care.
  • Employees must provide required documentation to support FFCRA leaves to their employers as soon as practicable, but they need not provide it prior to taking PSL or EFML. Similarly, an employee must provide advance notice of EFML as soon as practicable. If the need for that leave is foreseeable, the employee should provide notice before taking the leave.

Your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for blogs and emails for important legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Agencies Update Guidance on COVID-Related Issues as Employees Return to Work

OSHA and the US Department of Labor provide additional guidance on employee health screening information and FFCRA leaves

As more employers resume onsite operations and welcome employees back to the workplace, OSHA continues to update its Guidance on Returning to Work. New guidance highlights potential document retention obligations for employers that record employee health screenings and/or temperature checks related to COVID-19 symptoms. OSHA specifies that if an employer creates records relating to those screenings, the records might qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records Standard (29 C.F.R. 1910.1020). Under this standard, the employer is required to retain an “employee medical record” for the duration of the worker’s employment plus 30 years. Notably, however, records of these activities will not constitute a covered “employee medical record” for purposes of OSHA’s record retention requirement unless they are records “concerning the health status of an employee which is made or maintained by a physician, nurse, or other health care personnel, or technician.” Furthermore, employers are not required to make a record of health screening responses and/or temperature checks. Employers can choose to simply receive the information in real time, make a decision, and not even create a record of the results. That may be the best practice for employers, given the current uncertainty in this area.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also issued a new Field Assistance Bulletin that addresses the rights and obligations of employees who request FFCRA leaves to care for children this summer. FFCRA requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of expanded family and medical leave if the employee is unable to work or telework because they need to care for a child whose “place of care” is closed for reasons relating to COVID-19. The bulletin specifies that for purposes of FFCRA, “place of care” includes summer camps, summer enrichment programs, and summer school. Thus, an employee may request the expanded family and medical leave due to such closures and the resulting need to care for a child. However, that employee must support the request, either orally in writing, by providing the employer with:

  • an explanation of the need for the leave,
  • the name of the child,
  • the name of the specific summer camp or program that the child would have attended had it not closed, and
  • a statement that no other suitable person is available to care for the child.

Notably, the employee must also provide some evidence of a plan for the employee’s child to attend the summer camp or program (i.e. prior attendance, submission of an application or a deposit, or some other evidence of an intent to enroll). Recall under prior IRS guidance, parental care is primarily limited to children under age 14, unless the child is older and has certain condition/s that require enhanced care.

If your organization conducts health screenings as part of COVID-19 prevention efforts, or if you have any questions about employee eligibility for FFCRA leaves, contact your HR and employment law partners at Lake Effect. We can help guide you through this rapidly evolving legal landscape. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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