Well, so much for a slow legislative session. New proposals keep popping up with changes big and small for employers.
The latest was reported on by the CBIA in a post entitled “Double Trouble for Businesses?” and talks about Senate Bill 106, which you can download here.
The bill purports to protect immigrants, but as noted by the CBIA, a good portion of it is preempted by federal law. It would create a new class of discrimination and retaliation complaints entitled “unfair immigration-related practice” that would allow employees to file claims for a variety of reasons, including if an employer “contacted” immigration authorities.
But perhaps most concerning relating to these new immigration-related claims is a presumption that an employer has retaliated against an employee if any action occurs within 90 days of the employee “exercising” his or her rights. That would create a whole new class of retaliation claims far beyond what even the courts have been willing to do.
Despite its label as a immigration-related bill, the proposal would also amend the state’s wage & hour rules to remove “a judge’s discretion to award less than double damages in a civil action to collect unpaid regular and overtime wages.”
The CBIA notes:
What is gained by mandating double damages when a judge already has the power to impose the penalty on truly bad-acting employers?
Could the answer be that it is to make the penalty so harsh that employers would be forced to settle wage disputes every time, even when the employer believes they did nothing wrong?
If the business doesn’t cut its losses and settle, even when in the right, the only other option is to undergo the expense of defending themselves through costly litigation. In other words, even when the employer is right, they lose.
Hard to argue with the CBIA on this point. Wage & hour complaints have been one of the biggest areas of growth in employment law in the last decade and are outstripping all other class actions.
Again, it seems like a solution in search of a problem. Stay tuned.