Miller Johnson employment law seminar draws a crowd

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 LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Just short of 600 people, about three-quarters of whom are in Human Resources (HR), spent Wednesday morning at an employment law seminar where 20 Miller Johnson attorneys brought them up to speed on latest developments in the ever-changing field of employment law.

The crowd, which also included owners and CEOs, company general counsel and financial personnel, attended a plenary session and two breakout sessions at DeVos Center.

The seminar started out with well-known expert Mary Bauman sharing the latest on health care reform, followed by  William Fallon, who represents employers in employment and labor matters, giving a legal update.

Fallon covered the Michigan Right to Work Law, discrimination cases in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights,  and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updates  including retaliation cases and disability charges. He also discussed unpiad interns, on-call pay and off-the-clock work regulations coming out of Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s distracted driving initiative. New policies from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning “protected concerted activity” and other topics also received more in-depth coverage during breakout sessions.

Fallon was followed by Tom Wurst, a litigator who defends employers and governmental entities against employment and civil rights claims, and Tony Comden, who represents employers, most recently with an emphasis on the health care industry, in employment and labor issues, talking about pre-employment screening. Wurst discussed arrest and conviction records, and Comden the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Following that, the crowd split up for two sessions of an hour and 15 minutes each, including ten breakouts. The sessions were:

—Immigration Reform and I-9 Forms: The National Debate

This presentation by John Koryto and Michael Stroster explored the caps on hiring “specialized knowledge workers” and  skilled individuals from other countries. Senate Bill 744 offers a partial solution, but they found drawbacks in that bill as well.

—Unlocking the Hidden Potential of Job Descriptions

This completely-full session featured Gregory Ripple and Rebecca Strauss stating that often later employee claims hinge on the original job description, so caution is advised. With humor (their negative example of a job description for an IT Director was “Repeatedly fix what you repeatedly break”) and specific reference to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Americans with Disability Act (ADA), Ripple and Strauss offered tips for writing good job descriptions.

—Practical Tools HR Professionals Can Use to Manage Medical Leave

Jeffrey Fraser and Sarah Willey gave session attendees information about the impact of recent developments, such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision in United States v. Windsor, and stressed that when employers are thinking about the ADA they should also be aware of the Family Medical Leave Act and vice versa.

—Update on Pay or Play and Other Health Care Reform Developments (offered twice)

The aforementioned Mary Bauman, joined by Gerald “Tripp” Vander Wal at the later session, cautioned that though the effective date of “pay or play” provisions for large employers in the  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been delayed until 2015, all other provisions are taking effect on schedule. The session went over some of the conflicts arising from the very detailed PPACA, and the latest rules and guidance.

—Doing Business with the Government: EEO/AA Compliance in the Obama era

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which has been around since the 1960s, has seen an increase in enforcement capacity and changes in emphasis under Obama, said presenters Gary Chamberlin and Kelley Stoppels.

—Qualified Retirement Plans in 2013: Ways to Maximize Benefits and Minimize Costs for Employers and Employees

Frank Berrodin delved deeply into the way current federal agencies approach 401(k) and other retirement plans, as well as the effect of the same-sex marriage decisions.

—The Demise of Independent Contractors, Volunteers, and Unpaid Interns

According to Peter Peterson and Catherine Tracey, the Internal Reve-

nue Service and others will be looking very closely at “contingent” employees. They offered specifics for determining whether a contractor or free-lancer is actually an employee, as well as how the IRS and courts will likely view volunteers and unpaid interns.

—Finding, Screening, and Selecting Talented Employees The Lawful and Safe Way

Presenters Marcus W. Campbell and Aliyya A. Clement seem to personify the type of young creative employers seek. Though the two noted that social media sites such as LinkedIn are used increasingly, they warned of legal pitfalls. Clement talked about Michigan’s Internet Privacy Protection Act and Campbell  about criminal background checks and credit reports.

—The NLR Who? The NLRB’s Focus on Non-Union Employees

Keith Eastland, expert on all things NLRB, and Patrick Edsenga, formerly general counsel at a U.S. government agency, provided information on the National Labor Relations Board’s intention to focus on non-union employers. Eastland said that what constitutes “protected concerted activity” is a matter for courts to decide, but enumerated decisions that many found counterintuitive. He role-played, using some salty language, to bring home the point that grounds for termination in other instances could be deemed Unfair Labor Practice if done in the context of actions “made on behalf of multiple employees, made in preparation for group action, or [as] a logical outgrowth of group concerns.” Edsenga gave up-to-date guidance on what is likely to be considered overbroad or ambiguous in employment policy.

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