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What Kansas Employers Should Know About Rising Unemployment Fraud Claims
By: Sarah Otto

Fraudulent unemployment claims across the country have risen over the last year. Kansas has been hit particularly hard – in some of the opening weeks of 2021, Kansas received the third highest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits of any state, behind only California and Illinois. Some believe the high number of claims indicate that Kansas is experiencing a greater number of fraudulent claims than other states.

The Kansas Department of Labor recently divulged that the state’s unemployment insurance program paid what it believes to be around $140 million in fraudulent claim payments in 2020. The Kansas Department of Labor and Kansas lawmakers are analyzing multiple solutions to the issue, including an overhaul of the unemployment system and additional legal protections for employers.

Often, scammers are filing fraudulent claims using the names and personal information of people who have not lost their jobs. In many cases, scammers use personal information they obtain through buying stolen personally identifiable information or information that was released after a data breach. These fraudulent claims not only result in costs to the state, but also may result in problems for the employer and employees who were targeted in the scam.
What Should Employers Do To Mitigate Fraud?
A well-trained and vigilant human resources department can be your first line of defense against unemployment fraud. Fraudulent claims are often discovered when an employer receives a notice to verify the employment status of a current employee. Your human resources department should scrutinize unemployment      Continue Reading...
Weather and Work: Save This for a Rainy (or Snowy) Day
By: Sarah Otto

Inclement weather is a perfect storm for unusual employment law issues. If the forecast predicts bad weather (and in the Midwest, we know it’s just a matter of time!), read this article to make sure your inclement weather policies and practices are right as rain.

Should my business have an inclement weather policy?
Yes! It is helpful for both the company and your employees to have a written policy outlining clear expectations in the event of inclement weather. Consider adopting policies that explain what employees can expect if you have to close your business for a full or partial day, how you will notify employees of weather-related closures, who will make the decision to close the business in the event of inclement weather or another emergency, and whether employees will be paid for their time off. (Keep reading if you don’t have the foggiest idea about whether to pay those employees.)
You may also want to inform employees who they should call if they cannot safely come to work because of the weather. Your inclement weather policy can also provide safety information for employees. For example, if you work in an office building that has a tornado shelter, inform your employees of its location so they will be prepared when tornado season arrives.
Inclement weather can arise quickly, so having a plan in place is crucial so your employees aren’t left high and dry. An employment attorney can help your business develop an inclement weather      Continue Reading...
SCOTUS Decides Kansas I-9 Case – What Does It Mean for Employers?
By: Sarah Otto

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Kansas vs. Garcia, ruling that the State of Kansas could prosecute individuals for identity theft under Kansas law when they used other persons’ Social Security numbers to gain employment. While the case involved criminal law issues, read on to see the practical impact this could have on Kansas employers.

The controversy arose when three undocumented immigrants without Social Security cards were charged with and convicted of identity theft after they used another person’s Social Security number on a Form I-9 to be hired at a restaurant. The three immigrants also used the false Social Security numbers on other documents, including federal and state tax withholding forms.

In 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the State of Kansas is not permitted to base prosecutions on information contained on an I-9. But on March 4, 2020, the United States Supreme Court reversed. All nine justices agreed that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) does not expressly preempt states from prosecuting individuals for identity theft and fraud. A five-justice majority also agreed that IRCA does not impliedly preempt states from applying their state identity theft and fraud statutes. The majority noted that the State of Kansas’s prosecutions were based on the false Social Security numbers the immigrants provided in tax-withholding forms, rather than their I-9s.

So what does this decision mean for employers? The case clears the way for employees to be prosecuted for state      Continue Reading...

Overland Park Enacts LGBTQ Discrimination Ban
By: Sarah Otto

The Overland Park City Council recently approved a nondiscrimination ordinance that makes it unlawful to discriminate an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In doing so, Overland Park, the state’s second-largest city, follows other Kansas cities such as Kansas City (Kansas), Lawrence, Manhattan, Merriam, Mission, Prairie Village, and Roeland Park.

About half the states now prohibit discrimination against applicants and employees based on LGBTQ status, but Kansas is not among them. However, companies that have contracts with the State of Kansas are subject to an executive order that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Overland Park City Council approved its ordinance just one day before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a set of cases that test whether federal nondiscrimination laws protect LGBTQ employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex. The Supreme Court will decide whether the statute protects employees who claim they were subjected to discrimination because of their sexual orientation or transgender status.

Even if the Court decides that Title VII doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, employers still need to be aware of state and local laws, like the Overland Park ordinance, that extend legal protections to LGBTQ employees.

Is It Time to Update Your Parental Leave Policy?
By: Sarah Otto

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), nine out of 10 new fathers in the United States took some time off work for the birth or adoption of a child, but the amount of time that new dads take off work is generally very low. Seven out of 10 fathers took 10 days or less of parental leave. The DOL notes that fewer employers offer paid parental leave for men than for women, and fewer men report receiving paid parental leave than women. While 21% of women take parental leave, only 13% of men do the same.

Updating your parental leave policy to offer leave for new dads could be good for your business. A recent study by Ernst & Young found that 83% of millennials would be more likely to join a company that offered paternity leave. Additionally, the Council of Economic Advisers found that allowing more expansive parental leave improved an employer’s recruitment and retention of employees and also improved employee motivation and productivity. Many companies are taking note: Netflix is offering “unlimited” paternity leave for fathers and mothers during the child’s first year. Microsoft offers 12 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers, Ford Motor Company offers eight weeks paid leave, and Amazon gives all parents six weeks of paid leave.
Ensuring your parental leave policy complies with the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and the Family Medical      Continue Reading...
Increased Workplace Violence and Why You Need a Plan to Address Recognized Hazards
By: Sarah Otto

Unfortunately, workplace shootings are on the rise as an emerging issue for employers. Even courts and judges have taken note in their judicial opinions that workplace violence is increasing. While there are, of course, different degrees of violence that employees may be exposed to at work, the incidence of a shooting is a particularly concerning type of violence.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, workplace shootings in recent years have increased by over 10%. As a result, employers should be aware of the risk and legal issues involved. Employers should also adopt a plan and policy to help employees prepare in the event a worst-case-scenario occurs.
Legal Issues for Employers
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, an employer has a general duty to render its workplace free from serious recognized hazards. The Act was originally motivated by a wish to cut down on the numbers of workplace deaths caused by industrial accidents and exposures, but the Act addresses many types of hazards.
According to guidelines published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are not strictly liable for violence in the workplace, including workplace shootings. There are no standards in OSHA      Continue Reading...

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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