United States: Louisiana: Updates Impacting Employers In 2018

Each year, activity in the Louisiana Legislature and courts bring about changes to employers in the state. Below is a brief summary of recent changes and items for employers to consider as they look forward to 2018.

Written Agreements with Hospital Executives

SB 36: The Louisiana Legislature amended and reenacted La. R.S. 46:1056(A)(B) to allow a hospital to enter into a formal written employment agreement with any "hospital executive." The previous version of La. R.S. 46:1056 provided for a hospital service district commission to contract for a "director" with approval of the medical staff. The law, as amended, adds the option of the commission contracting with "hospital executives," including but not limited to the senior members of management such as the vice president, assistant administrator, and department director. The amended law also removes the requirement for approval by the medical staff. This law became effective on August 1, 2017.

State Retirees

HB 4: The Louisiana Legislature amended La. R.S. 11:710(A)(8) and enacted La. R.S. 11:710(A)(5)(d) and (9) relative to the reemployment of retired members of the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana ("TRSL") in school nurse positions. The new law allows retired members to return to work as school nurses without losing retirement benefits. The previous law provided that a TRSL retiree could not return to work in a position covered by the TRSL without losing retirement benefits. A retiree may now return as a school nurse but subject to a 25% earnings limitation. The number of school nurses shall not exceed a statewide average of one certified school nurse for every 1,500 students. Retirees, under pre-existing law, may also return to work as a substitute classroom teacher, adjunct professor, or instructor in an adult literacy program and continue to receive a benefit check, but they are subject to a 25% earnings limitation. This law became effective on July 1, 2017.

HB 683: Similar to the reemployment of retirees under the TRSL, the Louisiana Legislature amended La. R.S. 11:1762(A) to allow members of the Municipal Employers Retirement System of Louisiana (MERS) to return to work with benefit suspension and to receive a supplemental benefit. Under the new law, if a retiree returns to work, his or her retirement benefit shall be suspended, and the retired member shall become a member of the system and accrue a supplemental benefit. If the retiree returns to work full time for a period of at least twelve months, upon subsequent retirement the retired member shall again receive his original retirement benefit plus a supplemental benefit based on his salary and service earned during reemployment. The new law limits the supplemental benefit so that it shall not exceed the amount which, when combined with the original benefit, equals 100% of the average final compensation figure used to compute the additional benefit. This law became effective on June 30, 2017.

Disability Benefits

SB 222: The Louisiana Legislature amended La. R.S. 39:1533(A) to provide disability benefits for law enforcement officers and firemen permanently and totally disabled as the direct and proximate result of a catastrophic injury arising out of and in the course of the performance of their official duties. The law defines "catastrophic injury" as an injury occurring on or after July 1, 2016, caused by an individual having the specific intent to kill the officer who is engaged in the performance of his official duties, the direct and proximate consequences of which, as provided by clear and convincing evidence unaided by any presumption of disability, leaves the officer permanently and totally disabled. A Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen's Survivor Benefit Review Board will need to reach a unanimous vote on all claims for disability benefits within 60 days after receipt of documentation. Disability benefits are not payable, however, (1) for catastrophic injuries caused by the intentional misconduct of the officer or by the officer's intention to bring about his death, disability, or injury; (2) if the injury is due to voluntary intoxication; (3) if the officer was performing his duties in a grossly negligent manner at the time of the catastrophic injury; or (4) if the officer qualifies for federal or state life, health, accident, accidental death and dismemberment, hospital, surgical, or medical expense programs. This law became effective on June 23, 2017.

Failed or Pending Legislation

Gender Expression

SB 155: This Bill would have made it unlawful for any employer to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate with respect to compensation, terms, conditions of employment, or segregate, limit, or classify employees or applicants due to that individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Bill, as proposed, included provisions that nothing in the Bill would be interpreted to infringe upon the freedom of expression, association, or the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article 1, Section 8 of the Louisiana Constitution. The Bill would have also carved out exceptions for corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies that are exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. 2000(e)-1(a) or 2000(e)-2(e). The Bill failed on the Senate floor.

State Minimum Wage

SB 153: This Bill would provide a minimum wage for Louisiana that is different from Federal law. Specifically, the Bill would establish the State minimum wage and set it at $8.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2018, with an increase to $8.50 per hour beginning on January 1, 2019. The Bill would further require that if the Federal minimum wage is raised, the State minimum wage will be raised to the same level. The Bill passed the Senate Labor Committee and is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

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