United States: 2018 Louisiana Employment Law Update: Louisiana's Own Version Of The WARN Act Is Working Its Way Through The Legislature

Passed Law: School Employment Restrictions to Protect Children

Act 634: Act 634 amends and adds to existing law protecting school children relative to the employment of teachers and other school employees convicted of certain offenses.

Louisiana law already prohibits the hiring and retention of a person convicted of, or who has pleaded no contest to, a crime which falls within La. R.S. 15:587.1(C) which, in turn, covers various crimes including, but not necessarily limited to, first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, various sex crimes, kidnapping, criminal neglect of family, contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, cruelty to juveniles, and child desertion. The sex crimes include, but are not limited to, rape, female genital mutilation, prostitution, pandering, carnal knowledge, "crime against nature," voyeurism, and obscenity.

Act 634 adds to existing law to prohibit hiring any person as a teacher who submits fraudulent documentation to the Louisiana Department of Education or Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as part of an application for a teaching certificate or other teaching authorization, even if that individual neither was convicted of nor entered a no contest plea for a crime listed under La. R.S.15:587.1(C). Act 634 also adds a prohibition on hiring a teacher who has been found to have facilitated cheating on any state assessment. A school board or non-public school, however, may hire a teacher who has been found to have submitted fraudulent documentation or facilitated cheating if the BESE approves a formal appeal request.

Act 634 also adds to existing law by allowing BESE to assess a civil fine against a school governing authority that knowingly employs a teacher in violation of either the pre-existing law or Act 634. Act 634 sets the civil fine at an amount equal to the average state yearly compensation for a public school teacher, inclusive of salary and benefits.

Act 634 became effective on July 1, 2018.

Proposed Law: Louisiana WARN Act

SB 209: This state senate bill would provide additional protections to workers facing massive layoffs. The legislature has not passed the bill.

SB 209, the "Louisiana Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act" or the "Louisiana WARN Act," would require "large corporations" to warn employees of impending "mass layoffs."

The Louisiana WARN Act would not supersede the federal WARN Act of 1988, which applies to employers who employ 100 or more employees. The Louisiana WARN Act would apply to companies who employ between 50 and 99 employees.

The Louisiana WARN Act defines "mass layoffs" as the closure of a workplace (or portion thereof), modernization of a workplace (or portion thereof), relocation of a workplace (of portion thereof), or implementation or any management policy, in which the employer permanently reduces the number of employees by 50 or more during any 90-day period.

SB 209 would require the employer to refrain from a mass layoff until 60 days after the employer serves written notice of the layoff to each of the following: affected employees, the executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), members of the state Senate who represent the parish (i.e. county) in which the workplace is located, members of the state House of Representatives who represent the parish in which the workplace is located, and the president of the parish-governing authority.

SB 209 would provide for limited exceptions to the 60-day notice period, such as mass layoffs due to natural disasters (such as a flood), disputes between labor unions and employers, layoffs at a construction site or other temporary workplace, layoffs that are the result of seasonal factors, layoffs which occur as a result of the completion of a particular project or undertaking where the affected employees were hired with the understanding that their employment was limited to the duration of the project or undertaking, or business circumstances not reasonably foreseeable at the time SB 209 would have required notice.

An employer violating the Louisiana WARN Act would face liability for lost wages and health benefits, as well as reasonable attorney's fees and costs, but SB 209 limits damages to a maximum of 60 days.

SB 209 is still in the Senate.

Proposed Law: State Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees

HB 126: The FLSA already requires that an employer shall compensate a tipped employee at a rate of $2.13 per hour, and if the employee fails to earn sufficient tips to bring his or her hourly earnings to the federal minimum wage rate, the employer shall pay the difference to ensure that the employee earns at least the federal minimum wage. HB 126 would create a state minimum wage rate for tipped employees and set it at the rate set by the FLSA. HB 126 would define a tipped employee as an employee who regularly earns at least $30 per month in tips.

HB 126 is still pending in the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

Proposed Law: Equal Pay for All

HB 605: Louisiana requires that women employed as public employees be entitled to the same compensation as men employed as public employees. HB 605 would extend the equal pay requirement to all persons employed in the state of Louisiana. HB 605 would also allow an aggrieved person to file suit in any district court of competent jurisdiction. Currently, since the state equal pay protection law applies only to state employees, an aggrieved employee must file suit in the Baton Rouge-based 19th Judicial District Court. An aggrieved individual must first file a complaint with the Louisiana Human Rights Commission.

In April 2018, the Louisiana House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee members voted 7-4 to involuntarily defer HB 605. An involuntarily deferred instrument may be rescheduled for a committee hearing only by motion adopted by the vote of two-thirds of the committee members present and voting. The author of HB605 vowed to continue to bring similar bills to address pay disparities between men and women.

Proposed Law: Workers' Compensation Benefits for Hearing Loss

HB 790: Currently, Louisiana law only provides for workers' compensation benefits for hearing loss when the loss is sustained in a single traumatic accident. HB 790 would delete the requirement that any hearing loss suffered must have been the result of a single traumatic accident in order to recover workers' compensation benefits.

HB 790 is still pending.

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