On January 30, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee received two bills that could have a significant impact on litigators and their clients. One bill seeks to impose mandatory penalties on lawyers, law firms, and parties who file frivolous lawsuits. The other bill seeks to prevent fraudulent joinder of parties and prevent plaintiffs from adding defendants solely for the purpose of destroying federal jurisdiction, only to drop those defendants later.
The Lawsuit Abuse and Reduction Act, H.R. 720, would amend FRCP 11 to require judges to sanction attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous pleadings. The mandatory sanction under the new rule would require parties to pay costs and attorneys’ fees. The rule would also give the court broad discretion to impose a variety of other sanctions, including striking pleadings, dismissing the lawsuit, and requiring that a party pay a penalty to the court. Further, the amendment would eliminate a party’s ability to avoid sanctions by voluntarily withdrawing claims within 21 days. The House Judiciary Committee already voted 17-6 in favor of H.R. 720. If it is passed, it will likely cause a substantial decrease in lawyers asserting frivolous claims, as they will have to consider the possibility of mandatory sanctions.
The Innocent Party Protection Act, H.R. 725, seeks to prevent small businesses from being subject to fraudulent joinder. The bill seeks to protect these small businesses by allowing judges more discretion to see through an attorneys’ motives for naming a party and dismiss a party that was fraudulently joined in a lawsuit. The House Judiciary Committee already voted 17-4 in favor of H.R. 725. If it is passed, it may help protect small businesses from the hardship caused by paying attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit in which the business should have never been involved in the first place.
President Trump signed an Executive Order on January 27th banning entry into the United States by people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Other Executive Orders, including one affecting temporary visas, have been drafted by the new administration. In light of that information, it is even more important to get an early start on applications.
Unless changes are announced, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS") will begin accepting new H-1B petitions starting April 1, 2017, for employment commencing on October 1, 2017.
In past years, only 85,000 H-1B visas were available annually, and historically there has been very high demand for these visas. Businesses considering employment of foreign workers in need of an H-1B visa,should file their H-1B petitions no later than April 1, 2017 to avoid a potential shortage.
Federal legislators have renewed steps to repeal -- or at least undermine -- the prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates payment of prevailing wages and benefits to workers employed under federally-funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) recently introduced the Transportation Investment Calibration to Equality (TIRE) Act, which would eliminate prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act on all federal highway construction contracts. In addition, U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill to repeal all prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act (S. 244), and Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) re-introduced a companion bill in the House (H. 743), entitled the "Davis-Bacon Repeal Act."
Federal law also requires federal contractors who provide certain services and manufactured goods to the Federal Government to pay prevailing wages under the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act, respectively. Although previous steps to repeal these laws failed (see., e.g., S. 1229 (1993), co-sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)), it seems likely that repeal efforts will be renewed under the current administration.
Already complex prevailing wage requirements were expanded under the Obama administration. Mistakes can be expensive and result in debarment. Federal contractors are, therefore, well-advised to stay informed and comply with their obligations. Ater Wynne's labor and employment attorneys can provide assistance with your wage and hour questions.
In January, BOLI issued new guidance expanding the scope of overtime compensation owed to nonexempt employees who work in mills, factories, or manufacturing establishments. The new guidance reverses BOLI's long-standing interpretation on this issue.
Under Oregon law, most nonexempt employees who work in mills, factories, and manufacturing establishments must be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 10 in any day and hours worked in excess of 40 per week. ORS 652.020; ORS 653.261. Until recently, BOLI advised manufacturers that "when employees who are entitled to daily overtime have worked more than 40 hours in the workweek and have also exceeded the maximum number of hours on one or more days, thereby earning daily overtime, the employer should calculate overtime hours worked on both the daily and weekly bases and pay the greater amount." However, under the new guidance, BOLI states that covered employers must pay daily and weekly overtime compensation because "[t]he two statutes enact distinct overtime requirements and serve different purposes with respect to restrictions on hours worked by employees."
For example, if a manufacturing establishment employee works three daily overtime hours and one weekly overtime hour, under BOLI's previous interpretation of the overtime statutes, the employee should receive three hours of overtime compensation. Under BOLI's new interpretation, the employee should receive four hours of overtime compensation. Additional examples and information are available on BOLI's Technical Assistance website.
BOLI does not explain the reason for this sudden about-face, which is bound to catch many employers unaware. In addition, the interpretation of the manufacturing overtime rule is currently being considered in a pending class action. In light of these events, manufacturing companies in Oregon are well-advised to review their overtime practices with counsel. Ater Wynne's employment group is available to assist with any questions on BOLI's new guidance.