Week in Review

September 21, 2015

Minimum hourly wage for federal contract workers will increase to $10.15
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has given notice that the minimum wage rate that must be paid to workers performing work on or in connection with federal contracts will increase to $10.15 an hour beginning January 1, 2016. Effective the same date, the minimum wage rate that must be paid to tipped employees performing work on or in connection with federal contracts is $5.85 an hour.

ACA contraception mandate substantially burdens religious exercise
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health care coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity. The ACA excludes religious employers and the exclusively religious activities of any religious order. An accommodation is also available for nonprofit religious organizations that do not qualify for the exemption, but have religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. CNS International Ministries, Inc. (CNS) is a nonprofit religious educational institution. CNS argued that the government was coercing them to violate their religious beliefs by threatening the imposition of severe monetary penalties unless they either directly provide or indirectly provide, trigger, and facilitate the objectionable coverage. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government substantially burdens the exercise of religion when it “conditions receipt of an important benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith” or “denies such a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify its behavior and violate his beliefs.” The Court held that the substantial burden imposed by the government on the religious exercise of CNS is the imposition of significant monetary penalties if CNS chooses to adhere to their religious beliefs and refuse to comply with the contraceptive mandate or the accommodation regulations.

EEOC alleges company discriminated against employee who requested leave for medications to work
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alleged that a steel distribution center violated the ADA when it fired a long-term employee because of his disabilities and in retaliation for requesting medical leave. In 2013, the company permitted the employee to take medical leave related to his disabilities—bipolar, depressive, and anxiety disorders. In 2014, based on medical advice, the employee told his supervisor that he needed two weeks of medical leave to allow his new medications to take effect. Instead of allowing the requested leave or engaging the employee in an interactive discussion to determine what reasonable accommodations could be offered, the employee was fired.

SESCO recommends that clients review all applicable policy and practices to ensure compliance. For assistance, contact us at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com