A highly-negative series in the Star Tribune has put the Minnesota Board of Nursing on edge. As we discussed early last month, the Star Tribune series uncovered a few hundred cases in which nurses were still working despite misdemeanor records that may disqualify them from direct patient care, and a few accused of serious misconduct.
35 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against pregnant women who wanted to continue working was not sex discrimination. Instead, the court said, it was merely discrimination between women who were pregnant and women who were not, which was not illegal.
A recent investigative series in the Star Tribune has shaken up the Minnesota Board of Nursing and nurses around the state. The investigation discovered some 294 licensed nursing professionals who were listed in the Minnesota Court Information System, or MNCIS, as having misdemeanor convictions that apparently disqualify them from licensure. That investigation prompted a joint hearing before the Minnesota House and Senate health and human services committees, scheduled for Nov. 13.
In May, Governor Dayton signed into law a bill that extends Minnesota’s “Ban the Box” law to private employers. “Ban the Box” was first passed in 2009 but only applied to public employers, but it will now require private employers to eliminate check-boxes about criminal convictions from job applications by the end of the year.
If you’ve ever worked as a home health aide or nursing assistant, you’re probably aware that these so-called “companionship services,” however vitally important, have not been subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that guarantees the minimum wage and overtime pay. Even when the U.S. Department of Labor revised the definition of companionship services in 2011, home healthcare workers were specifically excluded from FLSA coverage.
Across the arc of American history, our nation’s labor and employment laws have trended toward greater protection for workers from wage and hour abuse, but there have been setbacks. For example, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt 75 years ago, it had been watered down substantially from its original plan, which would have set a maximum workweek of 35 to 40 hours, with a minimum wage of $12 to $15 a week. Instead, the law as passed st the maximum workweek at 44 hours and the minimum wage at $11 a week. Moreover, it only applied to about 20 percent of the labor force.
In the past few years, the Great Recession has kept many employees locked into their current jobs out of concern about the tough job market. As the unemployment rate gradually improves and there are fewer applicants for each new job opening, however, people are beginning to look around for more interesting prospects.
Overriding a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Council just passed a major new piece of employee rights legislation. The new ordinance prohibits all employers in the city from discrimination in hiring based on a job applicant's unemployment status. New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have already passed laws protecting out-of-work applicants from discrimination. Should Minnesota follow suit?
The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has just announced that it is changing the way it will investigate pay discrimination by federal contractors. The mission of the OFCCP is to ensure federal contractors comply with equal employment policies, and it believes the change will bring federal contract compliance more in line with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The directive changing the enforcement policy went into effect March 1.
This Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the federal law that mandates that most companies provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in order to deal with personal or family medical issues or to care for a new baby. On the occasion of this anniversary the U.S. Department of Labor released the results of a survey of both employers and employees about how the law is working.