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Employment Law Update

The Utah Legislature has ended its 2007 session on February 28, 2007. Here is what happened to the bills I have been discussing with you in past updates (links to texts of bills in parentheses).

Minimum Wage

Two bills seeking to increase the minimum wage (http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillint/hb0256.htm and http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/sbillint/sb0034.htm ), and one seeking to force a statewide vote on increasing the minimum wage (http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/sbillint/sjr006.htm), died without a committee hearing. This issue likely will be resolved by Congress on a nationwide basis.

Noncompete Agreements

A bill seeking to limit the circumstances under which noncompete agreements could be enforced (http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillint/hb0183.htm) was modified after the sponsor worked with us and drafted a better version of the bill (http://www.le.state.ut.us/~2007/htmdoc/hbillhtm/hb0183.htm ) that more closely reflecting Utah court decisions on this issue. However, this revised bill died because the committee assigned to hear it could not do so during its last meeting of the legislative session. Plan on seeing something like it again next year.

Employment Verification

Another proposed bill would have required Utah employers to use the federal electronic employment verification system to ensure workers can legally work here (http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillint/hb0156s01.htm ). This bill passed out of committee favorably but failed to get a vote on the House floor.

Weapons in the Workplace

As you have read, in both alerts from both local and national SHRM groups, one bill proposed to take away the right of an employer, business or private property holder to decide whether or not weapons will be allowed in vehicles on their parking lots

(http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/sbillint/sb0078.htm). The Utah SHRM-affiliated groups believe that property owners, homeowners and employers should be allowed to evaluate their own cultures, security needs, employee morale, etc. and make their own choices about what happens on their property. Thus, these groups urged their members to oppose this bill because it took away that right of free choice for property holders and employers. This bill was approved by the Senate but died in the House, never even getting a vote. Watch for it again next year.

Distracted Driving

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill that would allow drivers to be ticketed for driving while distracted, i.e. while on a cell phone, attending to personal hygiene, or searching for a personal item (see: http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/sbillint/sb0017s02.htm ). Keep this in mind if you have employees who drive as part of their jobs because if they get into an accident you could get sued for negligent supervision. Such employees must know that they act outside the scope of their employment if they break the law, in any way, while driving/working for you. Modify your policies accordingly.

Other Employment Law News

Besides legislative activities, there are some other interesting bits of news in the employment law world. First, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a new publication addressing the issue of employment of health care workers with disabilities. The EEOC says that the t opics discussed in the new publication include: (1) when someone is an "employee" covered by the ADA (as opposed to an independent contractor); (2) when someone is an "individual with a disability" under the ADA; (3) how to determine if a health care applicant or employee with a disability is qualified for ADA purposes; (4) what types of reasonable accommodations health care workers with disabilities may need and the limitations on a health care employer's obligation to provide reasonable accommodation; (5) when an employer may ask health care applicants or employees questions about their medical conditions or require medical examinations; and (6) how a health care employer should handle safety concerns about applicants and employees. You can read the new publication at: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/health_care_workers.html. Second, a national retailer has paid $33 million in back wages to employees to settle claims that the employer did not properly calculate overtime. The company allegedly failed to include bonuses and other earned income in the overtime calculations. Finally, there are new SEC rules regarding executive compensation. BusinessWeek online had a good discussion of the same in a recent article found at:  

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_09/b4023044.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_businessweek+exclusives A national law firm also has a good discussion on the new rules at: http://wwwseyfarth.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/publications.publications_detail/object_id/3df98d1a-21d2-463b-a423-bfee0ecc463d/SECIssuesInterpretiveGuidanceOnNewExecutiveCompensationDisclosureRules.cfm.

The Employment Law Update is a legal and legislative update service sent out about twice a month to various members of the Utah League of Credit Unions HR Council. The author, Utah law attorney Michael Patrick O'Brien, is also the Legal and Legislative Director for Utah SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management). Contact him at 801-534-7315 or mobrien@joneswaldo.com or visit www.joneswaldo.com. Reprinted with permission.


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