Legal Alerts Archive
Slots chain employer Dotty’s recently agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle litigation alleging its “100-percent-healed” policy discriminates against disabled workers. The June 5 settlement and consent decree entered in the federal court case of EEOC v. Nevada Restaurant Services Inc. is just the most recent victory in the EEOC’s campaign to target employer “maximum-leave” and “100-percent-healed” policies.
The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel, Peter Robb, recently outlined the agency’s plan of action for evaluating workplace rules in his latest memorandum to regional offices—and the message is welcome news for employers. The 20-page memo is a reaction to the Board’s December 2017 decision in Boeing Co. that upended the controversial Lutheran Heritage standard and helped start to restore balance to workplace rules. This memo takes the next step in that process.
In a rare procedural move that caught many by surprise, the National Labor Relations Board announced on Wednesday that it will soon start the rulemaking process to clarify the current joint employment standard. Perhaps frustrated by uncertainty resulting from the recent reversal of a Board decision on the topic and the seemingly stalled litigation sitting at the D.C. Circuit, Chairman John Ring said that he hopes NLRB rulemaking would bring resolution to this matter “as soon as possible.”
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster recently signed the Pregnancy Accommodations Act into effect, ushering in one of the most significant pieces of workplace legislation in recent history. The new law has the stated purpose of combatting pregnancy discrimination, promoting public health, and ensuring full and equal participation in the workforce by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
In a 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that a baker’s Free Exercise Clause rights under the Constitution were not properly considered by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it held that he was legally required to bake and sell a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, today’s much anticipated decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission does not create any sort of safe harbor for businesses defending against bias claims. Instead, this narrow decision is more of a rebuke to the state commission that expressed impermissible hostility toward the baker’s religious beliefs when ruling on his case, requiring the commission to reconsider its earlier action.
A federal court in Virginia ruled in favor a transgender teenager who wanted to use the boys’ bathroom at his former school, finding that the local school district violated his constitutional rights when it prescribed which bathroom he should use. On May 22, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sided with a growing number of courts when it concluded that sex discrimination can encompass a claim for discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity—in this case, under Title IX and the United States Constitution.
A recent decision by a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge has re-affirmed that “personal gripes” made by employees are unprotected by federal labor law. This decision comes from the NLRB’s regional office in Baltimore, but is in line with the Board’s recent commitment to clarify this issue for employers across the country (Bud’s Woodfire Oven d/b/a Ava’s Pizzeria).
To the relief of employers across the country, the Supreme Court today ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and are, in fact, enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The decision in the three consolidated cases—Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis; Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris; and NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.—maintains what had long been the status quo and halts the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB’s) crusade to invalidate mandatory class waivers. What do employers need to know about today’s monumental decision, and what adjustments can you make to capitalize on the Court’s ruling?
New York City recently expanded its paid sick leave law to provide protected time off to employees who are the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking and to broaden the definition of a covered family member. The expansions to the city’s sick leave law, now dubbed the NYC Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (the “Act”) took effect May 5, 2018. Employers must take immediate steps to comply with the expanded law.
On the heels of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a slate of legislation last week aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Entitled the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” the package of 11 separate bills is the first major legislative initiative undertaken by new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has lowered the bar when it comes to the type of evidence plaintiffs need to present in order to have their claims certified as a class action. The federal appeals court panel ruled that courts are permitted to certify class actions based on evidence that is not even admissible at trial. The May 3 ruling will make it easier for class claimants to advance their claims against employers, and should spur employers and their defense counsel to adjust their litigation strategy accordingly.
The Colorado Court of Appeals recently held that the Colorado Wage Claim Act does not categorically bar individual liability for unpaid wages, rejecting arguments that a 2003 Colorado Supreme Court decision precluded any and all such claims. In other words, managers may now be personally on the hook for unpaid wage claims brought by current or former employees. The decision highlights the need for employers to create best practices to ensure the state’s wage and hour laws are followed, and should spur managers to take a specific interest in confirming compliance at their workplaces (Paradine v. Goei).
New Jersey has now become the tenth state to enact a statewide mandatory paid sick leave law. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act was signed into law today by Governor Phil Murphy and will go into effect on October 29, 2018. Once effective, it will require New Jersey employers of all sizes to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to covered employees.
In a groundbreaking decision, the California Supreme Court adopted a new legal standard today that will make it much more difficult for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, drastically changing the legal landscape across the state. The decision will directly affect the trucking and transportation industry because the workers involved in the case were delivery drivers, but also has the potential to affect nearly every other industry—including the emerging gig economy. Specifically, the court adopted a new standard for determining whether a company “employs” or is the “employer” for purposes of the California Wage Orders.
19th-century British poet Alfred Tennyson once said, “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” And while you might hold a certain amount of affection for your employees this time of year and want to show them how much you care, you might want to refrain from saying “I love you” to them. That’s because an employer who did just that, and encouraged its workforce to share the same sentiments with coworkers on a regular basis, learned the hard way that such comments are not necessarily appropriate for the workplace.
New Jersey will become the latest state to mandate a comprehensive equal pay law as Governor Phil Murphy announced that he will sign the “Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act”—recently passed by the state legislature—on April 24, 2018. What makes this law different and more robust than laws in other states is that the New Jersey equal pay law will soon extend legal protections beyond gender and provide relief to all classes of employees protected under the state’s antidiscrimination law.
Employers operating in New York will soon face a raft of new sexual harassment laws. The state budget bill for the 2019 fiscal year approved by the New York State Legislature on March 31 and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo late last week contains a host of significant provisions to strengthen the state’s sexual harassment laws.
On the heels of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the New York City Council passed a slate of legislation earlier this week aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Entitled the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” the package of 11 separate bills is the first major legislative initiative undertaken by new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
- John Ring’s Confirmation Gives NLRB 3-2 Republican Majority4.13.18
With the Senate’s confirmation of John Ring to the National Labor Relations Board on April 11 and the administration’s subsequent announcement on April 12 that he will be designated as the agency’s Chair, the Board is once again in a position to restore balance to the nation’s labor laws. During most of the eight years of the Obama administration, the Board was stocked with a majority of Democratic appointees, and the NLRB issued decision after decision tilting the playing field decidedly in favor of unions and workers. However, now that the NLRB has a full complement of five members, three of whom were nominated by President Trump, changes are soon to follow. What do employers need to know about this latest development?
- Pennsylvania Federal Court Finds UberBLACK Drivers Are Contractors4.12.18
In another victory for gig economy companies reliant upon the independent contractor business model, a Pennsylvania federal court ruled yesterday that a collection of UberBLACK drivers were properly classified as contractors and could not maintain wage and hour claims against the ride-sharing company.
- 9th Circuit Ruling Gives Boost To Pay Equity Claims4.9.18
In a landmark decision that will accelerate the growing pay equity movement, especially for employers on the west coast, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today became the latest federal court of appeals to rule that employers cannot justify a wage differential between men and women by relying on prior salary. By tightening the language contained in the Equal Pay Act, the 9th Circuit has just made it more difficult for employers to justify pay differentials and defend pay equity claims. This is a wake-up call for all employers to ensure their compensation structures do not unfairly limit the amount of money women earn at their organizations.
- Supreme Court Gives Dealerships The Green Light: Service Advisors Are Exempt From FLSA Overtime Requirements4.2.18
The Supreme Court today handed auto dealerships—especially those on the west coast—a long-awaited 5-4 victory by holding that service advisors are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirement because they are “salesm[en]... primarily engaged in... servicing automobiles.” The ruling returns the law to the place it had been for decades prior to a stunning and controversial 2011 agency decision that upended what had been standard practice at many dealerships.
Washington has joined a growing list of states and cities to restrict criminal history inquiries in the hiring process with adoption of the Washington Fair Chance Act (2SHB 1298), signed into law on March 13, 2018. Beginning June 7, 2018, state law will prohibit public and private employers from asking about arrests or convictions until after an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, Washington employers will soon need to comply with two new laws aimed at preventing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace while encouraging open discussion about such problems. The new laws—which most notably restrict your ability to require nondisclosure agreements covering sexual harassment—were unanimously passed by the state legislature on February 28, and Governor Jay Inslee signed them into law on March 21, 2018. What do you need to know about the new laws in order to stay in compliance?
With heightened attention on gender-based workplace discrimination, Washington recently passed new legislation that creates additional pay equity requirements for Washington employers. Signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on March 21, 2018, HB 1506 will update and expand the state’s Equal Pay Act (EPA) for the first time since it was enacted in 1943.
On March 12, 2018, the New York State Senate passed a bill aimed at strengthening and reforming the state sexual harassment laws. The legislation comes on the heels of the #MeToo movement and mirrors much of what Governor Cuomo proposed in his January State of the State Address, including a ban on confidential settlements and mandatory arbitration clauses. If ultimately enacted into law, the legislation will significantly impact both public and private employers in New York.
- Three Things You Need To Know About The 6th Circuit’s Monumental Ruling3.7.18
In what appears to be the first time a federal appeals court has extended the nation’s main federal employment discrimination statute to cover transgender and transitioning employees, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that employers cannot discriminate against such employees without violating Title VII. The appeals court also rejected the employer’s attempt to claim that its religious beliefs should shield it from such discrimination claims, opening the door for other applicants, employees, and former employees to avail themselves of statutory anti-bias law.
- The Long-Anticipated Document Raises As Many Questions As It Answers3.5.18
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey just issued much-anticipated and long-awaited guidance regarding the amended Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), which is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2018. As most know by now, the law will prohibit employers from paying employees of a different gender at different rates provided they are doing “comparable work,” and will also bar inquiries about salary history. The guidance, issued on March 1, is intended to help employers to comply with the new law. Unfortunately, employers are likely to find that the guidance raises as many questions as it answers
In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court today issued a ruling that will have far-reaching effects for employers who pay employees a flat rate bonus and overtime. Specifically, the court ruled that when calculating overtime in pay periods in which an employee earns a flat rate bonus, employers must divide the total compensation earned in a pay period by only the non-overtime hours worked by an employee.
- Title VII Evolution Continues: Another Appeals Court Finds Sexual Orientation Discrimination Actionable2.26.18
Another federal court of appeals decided today that Title VII covers claims of sexual orientation discrimination, continuing the evolution of workplace discrimination law that has begun to sweep over the country in recent years. With today’s ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals—covering federal claims arising in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont—employers across the country have been put on notice that Title VII is increasingly being interpreted more expansively than it had been just a few short years ago (Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.).
In what employers are sure to hope is just a temporary—but stinging—setback, the National Labor Relations Board today vacated its December ruling that had freed employers from having to deal with an unworkable and expansive legal test for determining whether an entity was considered a joint employers. Because of allegations that one of the three-member majority was ethically compromised due to his former law firm’s involvement in a related case, the Board decided that it would pull the new legal test and instead revert to the troubling and controversial standard that had been in place since August 2015. What do employers need to know about this development?
Today, in a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to broaden the definition of “whistleblower” in federal anti-retaliation law, ruling that employees who simply raise complaints with their employers are not protected by the Dodd-Frank Act despite regulations which sought to provide additional protections. This is a positive decision for employers because it significantly limits the type of reports protected by the Act, while decreasing the likelihood that you could face liability for discharging an employee (Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers).
- New Justice Department Policy Could Aid Employers Defending Against Federal Claims2.20.18
A short policy memorandum quietly issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s No. 3 official late last month could end up having positive implications for employers defending claims brought by the federal government. The January 25 memo introduces new stringent limits on the use of guidance documents by Department of Justice officials in civil actions against businesses, including employment claims. By limiting the effectiveness of such guidance documents—and in some cases, eradicating them altogether—the Trump administration may have handed employers a gift that could pay off in the long run.
- Employers Need To Prepare Now To Avoid Federal Enforcement Action2.16.18
Federal enforcement officials are amplifying their efforts to crack down on undocumented workers and the businesses that employ them, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have raided over 120 businesses in just the past five days. While most of these latest efforts have been concentrated in California, no business in the country is immune from this show of strength from the federal government. Moreover, President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal includes a 35 percent increase in penalties for employers that hire undocumented workers, so the stakes could soon be much higher for employers. What can you do today to minimize the risk of your business being a target, and what should you do if you are visited by federal officials?
A unanimous block of attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, not to mention several U.S. territories, sent a letter to Congress yesterday asking federal lawmakers to prohibit the use of mandatory arbitration agreements when it comes to claims of sexual harassment. If Congress responds by passing legislation as requested, employers would need to adjust to a new reality that would have significant implications on human resources practices and employment litigation.
- 5-Step Plan To Come Into Compliance2.9.18
The City Council in Kansas City, Missouri just passed an extension of its 2013 public sector “ban the box” rule, which will soon be extended to apply to private sector employers. The new ordinance will go into effect on June 9, 2018, requiring most businesses operating in the city to adjust their hiring practices.
- Three Things All Gig Economy Companies Need To Know About Decision2.8.18
What do all gig economy companies (and other businesses using a freelance or independent contractor model) need to know about today’s historic ruling in the Lawson v. Grubhub trial? Here are the three key takeaways from the ruling.
New York City employers will soon be required to expand existing protections against sexual orientation and gender discrimination due to an amendment to the definitions of these terms under the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). The broadened definitions take effect on May 10, 2018.
The New York City legislature just enacted an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) which codifies an employer’s obligation to engage in a cooperative dialogue with any employee who may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Although the amendments do not take effect until October 15, 2018, you should start the process of adjusting to this new reality right away.
In just a few days’ time, the Philadelphia Eagles will be playing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52, and no doubt your employees are very much aware of the upcoming game. A good many of them will be among the estimated 115 million television viewers who will be watching, whether they are passionate fans, more interested in the halftime show, or just there for the commercials.
Following national attention on the #metoo movement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans as part of his State of the State address earlier this month to strengthen New York’s laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, an effort that he called a “long overdue reckoning.” Governor Cuomo unveiled a multi-pronged agenda, including several legislative initiatives that he intends to advance, which he hopes will impact both public and private employers.
One of the key provisions of New York City’s Fair Workweek Law was just put on hold while a federal judge sorts out a constitutional challenge brought by two restaurant advocacy organizations. The “Deductions Law” portion of the new city statute allows certain employees of fast food establishments to authorize a portion of their wages to be paid to registered and approved not-for-profit organizations, and also directs fast food establishments to deduct, collect, and remit those employee wages to the designated organizations. However, thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Restaurant Law Center and the National Restaurant Association, enforcement of the Deductions Law has been put on pause, and could be permanently scrapped if found unconstitutional.
In a 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that any statute of limitations applicable to an employee’s state law claims are suspended during the pendency of a federal lawsuit in which the state law claims are included.
If Congress cannot approve a budget by this Friday at midnight, the federal government will shut down. What will this mean for employers across the country? A look back at the most recent government shutdown will provide lessons on what you can expect.
The New York City Council passed a bill allowing employees to make temporary schedule changes to attend to a “personal event.” The bill is an amendment to the recently enacted Fair Workweek Law.
Slurpees are not the only ICE-y things being served at 7-Eleven these days. For the second time in five years, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores across the country in search of undocumented workers and managers who knowingly employ them. Yesterday’s raids involved 98 stores in 17 states from coast to coast, and resulted in at least 21 arrests.
The case arose from a feud between young women that culminated in a brawl in a Brooklyn department store. When Caroline Cort and her sister entered the Marshalls Department Store during the busy holiday shopping season in December 2013, they first heard a “rowdy” woman yelling foul language on a phone. Later, while shopping, they noticed the same woman was following them.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie began his final week in office by signing 40 bills into law, including an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination that immediately bars discrimination against breastfeeding employees. The new law also requires employers to provide such employees with reasonable accommodation. New Jersey employers should take steps to familiarize themselves with the new legal requirements and adjust policies and practices to ensure compliance.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a one-page memorandum yesterday rescinding Obama-era guidance that had allowed states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana with marginal federal interference, eliminating any doubt about his position against the trend towards legalization. The bad news is that the current state of the law regarding the legality of marijuana use remains confusing, to say the least: it is dependent on the state you are in, and while the legislatures and courts across the country continue to revisit and shape the laws at issue, marijuana continues to be classified as an illegal Schedule I drug pursuant to the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
- FAQs Regarding California AB450 – The Immigrant Worker Protection Act12.27.17
Soon after ringing in the New Year, California employers will need to spend the beginning of 2018 coming to grips with a significant new law that will require an immediate adjustment to immigration-related business practices. California Assembly Bill 450, also known as the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, will go into effect on January 1, 2018, bringing about strict new requirements for all employers in the state regarding the handling of a government audit or investigation of premises or employee records. The new law includes mandatory notice requirements and additional prohibitions against access to public workspaces that goes above and beyond what is required under federal law.