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Things you should know

Another record year for FLSA lawsuits

Data obtained from the Federal Judicial Center revealed that during the 12-month period preceding March 31, 2014, a total of 8,126 FLSA cases were filed (up nearly five percent from the preceding 12-month period, which saw 7,764 cases filed). FLSA cases have spiked across the country, rising 438 percent since 2000. Several factors including increased focus on minimum wage and availability of overtime pay, renewed examination of white-collar exemptions and tightening of the federal standards for class certification suggest this trend will continue.

EEOC issues white paper on retaliation law

Since 2007 retaliation has been the fastest growing of all EEO claims. Roughly 42% of all new claims filed allege some form of retaliation. The EEOC released a white paper on retaliation law. Employers will continue to be pushed on this issue and it's important to understand the actions that are considered retaliatory.

Construction worker deaths increased for first time since 2006: report

The number of construction deaths has increased for the first time since 2006, according to a report of 2012 data from the Center for Construction Research and Training.

Accounting for 18.3 percent of all U.S. work-related fatalities in 2012, 849 construction workers died on the job, an 8.7 percent increase over the previous year. According to the report, falls were the leading cause of construction worker deaths, accounting for 34.6 percent in 2012. Fall-related construction deaths increased to 294 in 2012 from 269 the year before.

FMLA proposed rule changes definition of spouse

On June 20, 2014, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule changing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rule's definition of "spouse" in light of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, the proposed rule that would allow an employee to take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse, regardless of whether the employee lives in a state that recognizes their marital status. The DOL has adopted a "state of celebration" rule, in which a spousal status for purposes of FMLA is determined not on the state in which the employee resides (as currently stated in the FMLA regulations), but based on the law of the state where the employee was married. The proposed rule also will recognize marriages abroad if valid in the place where the marriage occurred.

Employer group releases guide on promoting fleet safety

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has published a 61-page guide to help organizations promote safety within fleets of light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The free publication - NETS' Comprehensive Guide to Road Safety - includes examples of cell phone policies, alcohol and drug policies, and driver requirement policies, as well as guidance on managing driver fatigue and making checklists for vehicle inspections.

The document could serve as a primer for companies developing road safety programs, NETS states. Employers also can use the guide as an audit tool or as a template to compare fleet safety programs.

Exposure to solvents may cause long-term memory problems

Workers who are exposed to paint, glue or degreaser fumes may experience cognitive issues such as memory loss during retirement, according to a recent study from the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Time may not fully lessen the effect of the damage, according to the study abstract, which cited impairment in some retirees who were exposed up to 50 years before testing. The study was published online May 13 in the journal Neurology.

CDC publishes MERS control checklists for health care workers

To help protect health care providers and facilities from the dangers of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed checklists for infection control actions. MERS is an emerging viral respiratory illness. Emanating from the Arabian Peninsula, it has spread to other parts of the globe, due to international travelers.

CDC's checklists consist of actions that providers and facilities can take immediately to help prepare for a possible MERS infection.

NIOSH issues recommendations on preventing backover injuries in construction

NIOSH has released a document outlining dozens of safety recommendations aimed at reducing deaths and injuries caused by backing construction vehicles and equipment. More than 900 workers were killed at road construction sites from 2003 to 2010, with 143 of those fatalities caused by a vehicle or mobile equipment that was in reverse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dyes, perming products pose risks to hairdressers: study

The levels of certain carcinogens in hairdressers' blood may be linked to how often they use permanent dyes and perming treatments on clients' hair, according to a study from Lund University in Sweden. In addition to calling for further study, the researchers recommend several safeguards to help protect hairdressers from possible hazards, including wearing gloves when working with hair dyes or perming products. Hairdressers also should perform tasks in which gloves cannot be used, such as hair cutting, before moving on to dyes or perms.

The study was published online June 9 in the journal, Occupational & Environmental Medicine.