News & Commentary

May 29, 2017

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA) introduced legislation on Thursday to promote innovative ways to offer portable benefits to workers engaged in temporary, contract, or on-demand work.  The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act would establish a $20 million grant fund for states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations that design, implement, and evaluate models to deliver employment benefits that independent workers can maintain as they move from job to job.  According to BuzzFeed News, Senator Warner recognizes the criticisms that his portable benefits proposal does not require cost-sharing and may make it easier for companies to misclassify employees as independent contractors, but underscored that “[the proposal] tries to meet the workforce where it’s at, and where it’s headed.”

Last week, the Rhode Island Superior Court held that a local company is guilty of discrimination for refusing to hire a prospective employee that actively used medical marijuana pursuant to the state’s medical marijuana program. ACLU’s Carly Beauvais Iafrate, an attorney representing the plaintiff, remarked, “This decision sends a strong message that people with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities because of the medication they take.”

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) approved rule changes last week to increase protections for whistleblowers and improve the claims review process. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act established the agency’s whistleblower program, which now, according to the Financial Times, allows the CFTC and whistleblowers to bring anti-retaliation actions against an employer. Furthermore, employers can no longer prohibit would-be whistleblowers from contacting the CFTC directly.

A federal district court in Pennsylvania held earlier this month that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not exclude coverage of “disabling conditions that persons who identify with a different gender may have —such as . . . gender dysphoria, which substantially limits . . . major life activities of interacting with others, reproducing, and social and occupational functioning.”  According to JD Supra, the decision implies that transgender individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria can seek reasonable accommodation and disability discrimination protection under the ADA.

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