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Searching for Articles published in April 2014.
Found 8 Results.

New Implements of Husbandry Bill Now in Effect

Posted on April 28, 2014, Authored by Ruder Ware Attorneys,

In an effort to modernize state law with regard to the operation of farm machinery, Governor Scott Walker signed Act 377, often referred to as the "Implements of Husbandry Bill," on April 24, 2014. Act 377 increases weight limits and size restrictions for implements of husbandry (IoHs), eliminates restrictions on hours of operation, revises the definition of IoHs, and creates a new category of exempt vehicle referred to as "agricultural commercial motor vehicles." Weight limits. Act 377 increases previous gross weight limitations for IoHs and agricultural commercial motor vehicles by fifteen percent. The weight limitation depends on the number of axles on the vehicle and the distance between the first and last axle, for a maximum gross weight limit of 92,000 pounds. The increased weight limitations do not apply to vehicles operated on interstate highways and do not apply when municipalities and counties have posted other weight restrictions on roads that are under their jurisdiction. Act 377 also creates exceptions from any weight restrictions for specific IoHs under certain circumstances. For instance, specified IoHs, such as self-propelled combines and harvesters, are not subject to weight limitations when traveling between fields or between the farm and a field when the distance traveled is less than a half mile. When operating under this exception, farmers must use caution because not all IoHs qualify. Also, this exception to the weight restrictions does not apply to interstate highways or roads with posted weight restrictions. In addition, municipalities and counties can impose restrictions that supersede this exception on roads that are under their jurisdiction. Safety Requirements. Act 377 also added certain safety requirements that will be in effect on November 1, 2015. As of that date, all vehicles greater than fifteen feet in length will need front and rear warning lights and visible reflective material. Warning lights are not required if the vehicle operates in daylight with an escort vehicle and two orange or red flags are placed on the outer edges of the vehicle. In addition, all vehicles greater than twenty-two feet in length must have an escort vehicle with hazard lights turned on unless the vehicle is traveling less than a half mile. Implements of Husbandry Redefined. Act 377 completely revises the definition of an IoH. In the past, the definition of an IoH was vague and often hinged on how the vehicle was used in the farming operation. This caused problems for farmers, as avoiding a traffic citation for failure to register the vehicle required proving the vehicle was designed for agriculture purposes, used exclusively in the conduct of agricultural operations and used principally off the highway. Under Act 377, the definition specifically defines an IoH by type of vehicle, and identifies various vehicles, such as farm tractors, combines and harvesters as IoHs. The new definition eliminates the need to prove, among other things, that the vehicle is used "principally" off the highway in order to justify non-registration. Agricultural Commercial Motor Vehicles. Act 377 creates the term "agricultural commercial motor vehicles." In the past, some vehicles that now qualify under this definition were arguably IoHs even if they were initially designed primarily for highway use. As with any IoH, however, the possibility of receiving a traffic citation was a possibility unless the farmer could prove the vehicle fit under the definition of IoH. The new category of vehicle provides clarity, specifying that an agricultural commercial motor vehicle is specifically exempt from registration requirements. This new classification should assist farmers when a vehicle is used exclusively on the farm, even though it could arguably be used as a highway vehicle. The owner of the vehicle must complete a "self-certification form" beginning on May 24, 2014. This certification will need to be presented to a law enforcement officer in order to demonstrate exemption from registration requirements. Conclusion. Act 377 provides clarity for farmers, as well as revising Wisconsin's laws to reflect the realities of modern agriculture. Because of these changes, it is important for all farmers to ensure their vehicles and machinery operate in compliance with the new law. To do so, verify that all machinery complies with current weight restrictions by consulting the Wisconsin Department of Transportation weight chart on their website.  Also, always be aware that counties and municipalities may override weight restrictions in certain instances and be aware of seasonal road restrictions and roads posted with special weight limits.

No More Friend Me or You're Fired: Walker Signs Bill to Regulate Employer Access to Employee Social Media Sites

Posted on April 11, 2014, Authored by Sara J. Ackermann,

On April 8, Gov. Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act. Prudent Wisconsin employers should make sure to understand how this law affects both workplace and recruiting practices. With some exceptions, the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act prohibits employers from requesting that employees provide passwords for (or any access to) an employee's personal Internet account, such as Facebook. According to legislation proponents, this law was necessary to prevent employees from retaliation and intimidation in the workplace. Under the new law, management is unable to pressure an employee to reveal what the employee wrote - or what a "friend" might have written - about the company on a social media website. It further prohibits employers from refusing to hire an applicant for employment because the applicant refused to disclose access information for, grant access to, or allow observation of the applicants personal Internet account. The exceptions to the Act allow an employer to engage in the following conduct: Request a password to gain access to any device that is paid for or provided by the employer; Request a password to gain access to any account or service provided by the employer; Discharge an employee for transferring employer confidential information to his/her personal Internet account; Request that an employee allow the employer access to a personal Internet site, if the employer has reasonable cause to believe that employee has violated employer policies and needs to conduct an investigation (employer still may not ask for the password in these cases). Wisconsin joins several states who have enacted similar laws, including its neighbor Michigan. Further, the federal law known as the Stored Communications Act also prohibits employers from similar conduct, and other federal legislation has been introduced that would further protect employees on the federal level, including The Social Networking Online Protection Act and the Password Protection Act of 2013 (PPA). If you have questions regarding the above, please contact Sara Ackermann, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

2015 Health Savings Account Cost of Living Adjustments

Posted on April 23, 2014, Authored by Mary Ellen Schill,

The Internal Revenue Service today announced the cost-of-living adjustments for the HSA contribution limits and for High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for 2015. HSA/HDHP Requirement Cost-of-Living Adjustments Limit on HSA Contributions - Self-only HDHP 2014 - $3,300 2015 - $3,350 Limit on HSA Contributions - Family HDHP 2014 - $6,550 2015 - $6,650 HDHP Required Deductible - Self-only HDHP 2014 - $1,250 2015 - $1,300 HDHP Required Deductible - Family HDHP 2014 - $2,500 2015 - $2,600 HDHP Out-of-pocket Maximum - Self-only HDHP 2014 - $6,350 2015 - $6,450 HDHP Out-of-pocket Maximum - Family HDHP 2014 - $12,700 2015 - $12,900 HSA Catch-up Contribution Limit 2014 - $1,000 2015 - $1,000 All of the above are for calendar year 2015. For further information, please contact Mary Ellen Schill, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group, or the Business Transactions Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

"Quickie Election" Rule Under Attack

Posted on April 1, 2014, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

The National Labor Relations Board will be holding public hearings on April 10 and April 11 regarding the proposed "quickie election" rule that would expedite the election process and reduce the ability of an employer to campaign against a union representation election. Several prior blogs have addressed some of the elements of the proposed rule, but now the U.S. Senate may take up legislation that would override the changes in the proposed rule. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed in the Senate. The first would set specific timelines for the conduct of a union organizing election by using the current 38-day requirement for holding an election, being 38-days after the petition has been filed. The proposed legislation would also establish different timeline requirements for providing the Excelsior List to the union similar to what is currently required under the NLRB election rules that exist today. A second piece of legislation centers around privacy concerns and would limit the type of information a company would be required to provide to a union after an election petition has been filed and a hearing held on who is eligible to vote in the election. The bill would limit the employer to providing one method of communicating with the employee such as phone number or e-mail address, which would depend upon the method preferred by the employee. This legislation counters the proposed rule requirement that addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses must be provided in the Excelsior List. One of the more important aspects of the proposed legislation would be to continue the requirement that a hearing be held to determine who would be eligible to vote in the election if there is a contest over which employees are eligible to vote. The proposed new rule would only allow a contest regarding election eligibility if more than 20 percent of the eligible employees were in dispute. Under the proposed legislation, a hearing would be held to determine whether employees would be eligible to vote or not eligible because of their supervisory status. The employer would be allowed to file a brief after a hearing and then a decision would be made by the NLRB Regional Director before any election would be held. It is obvious the issues regarding the "quickie election" will be the subject of a great deal of debate over the next several months. Stay tuned for more information.

Perfectly Clear Successor - Be Careful

Posted on April 30, 2014, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

Two recent events have refocused a concern about becoming a successor owner of a company in a setting where the company is being acquired/purchased. Situations arise on a regular basis where a company will purchase another business with the intention of operating the business as it has been previously operated and simply becoming the new owner of that business. In those settings, the new owner may be at risk of liability for the acts of the prior company such that the acquiring company needs to be very careful of assuming liability for such actions. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently announced its 2014 initiatives which highlight the legal issues the NLRB will be addressing and requiring oversight from the General Counsel Office. One of the areas involves "perfectly clear successors" which are situations where a successor company intends to retain all of the employees that are in a bargaining unit with a labor agreement with the purchased company. In most circumstances, the new owner has the right to set the wages and conditions of employment for the newly acquired company and then negotiate with the union over any changes to those wages and conditions of employment. The NLRB will be closely examining circumstances where a new company is deemed to be a "perfectly clear successor" and therefore required to adopt and follow the provisions of the labor agreement that previously existed with the purchased company. This could place the acquiring company at a great disadvantage if they are fully obligated to assume the terms and conditions of an existing labor agreement rather than having the right to re-negotiate over those terms and conditions. A recent decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals created the same risk for a successor company. The successor company was held liable for remedying Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations that had been committed by the purchaser company. The Court of Appeals held that the new company would be obligated to assume responsibility for FLSA violations under the federal common law standard holding that liability would be imposed on the successor company if (1) continuity of operations and workforce of the purchased and successor companies were the same; (2) notice was given to the successor company of the legal obligations of the purchased company; and (3) the extent of the ability of the purchased company to provide adequate relief for the alleged violations. Under this standard, it was easy for the Court to require the successor company to be responsible for the overtime violations that occurred during the time of ownership by the purchased company. Again, the new owner became responsible for the obligations of the purchased company. Similar liability can arise in other types of claims such as discrimination claims or ERISA claims. Acquiring a new business may be a positive thing but the acquiring company must be careful to ensure it is not assuming responsibility for violations that were made by the purchased company prior to the acquisition.

No More Record Keeping for Professionals

Posted on April 25, 2014, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

Wisconsin has always been a little different because it required employers to keep a record of the hours worked by a professional employee who was exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This requirement also applied to other exempt employees such as administrative or executive employees that were considered exempt from the FLSA requirements. Recent legislation adopted by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by the Governor removes the requirement of keeping a record of hours of work for exempt employees. 2013 Wisconsin Act 286 which is effective as of April 17, 2014 provides a specific exception to the record keeping requirement of Section 104.09 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Section 104.09 has been amended to provide that, "An employer is not required to keep a record of the hours of employment of an employee who is exempt under rules promulgated by the Department from the requirement under s. 103.02 that an employee being paid overtime compensation, as defined in s. 103.025(1)(c), and who is not compensated on an hourly rate basis." While this language is lengthy, the real impact of this language is that if you have an employee who is deemed exempt from overtime pay requirements and the employee is paid on a salary basis, an employer is not required to keep payroll records showing the hours worked by that employee. Employers may want to have an exempt employee sign a timesheet showing their regular hours of work for documentation purposes but a company is not required to do so as existed under the prior law. While many companies did not require these payroll timesheets be kept, it was a requirement of the law that has now been eliminated. Employers can now truly treat exempt employees as exempt professionals, executives or administrators that are not subject to overtime pay requirements. Each employer may want to review their payroll procedures and consider implementing this new statutory provision.

About Us

Posted on April 9, 2014, Authored by ,

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Age Discrimination Cases Can be Easy to Prove

Posted on April 15, 2014, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

Several recent stories have talked about huge layoffs because of a loss of federal contracts and a decline in available work. Companies are looking at large layoffs to reduce costs and survive the cutbacks in revenue from the loss of contracts. A reduction in the workforce can open the door for age discrimination claims if older employees are selected for layoff and younger employees remain employed. A recent decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes Wisconsin) again clarified the methods by which an employee can prove a claim of age discrimination. The Court briefly summarized the methods for proving a claim when it wrote the following: The direct method can be proved through direct evidence or circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Direct evidence required that the employer admit its discriminatory intent (e.g., the "smoking gun" case). The far more common case relies on circumstantial evidence, which allows the trier of fact to infer intentional discrimination by the decision maker. Circumstantial evidence typically includes (1) suspicious timing, ambiguous oral or written statements, or behavior toward or comments directed at other employees in the protected group; (2) evidence, whether or not rigorously statistical, that similarly situated employees outside the protected class received systematically better treatment; or (3) evidence that the employee was qualified for the job in question but was passed over in favor of a person outside the protected class, and the employer's reason is a pretext for discrimination. Circumstantial evidence must point directly to a discriminatory reason for the employer's action. It is good to remember an age discrimination claim can be proven by one of two methods. The more common method is proof based on circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Employers must be very careful to document their decisions when reducing the workforce to show the decision was not based upon age of the employee but rather based on the needs of the company and the type of work performed by different employees in the workforce.