This past week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision addressing two on-the-bubble workplace confidentiality policies – one which made the cut, while the other one made its way over to the legal equivalent of the NIT. The decision explored the boundaries of workplace directives related to the discussion of salary and employee discipline information and non-disclosure in investigations.
Robert Sheridan is an Associate in the firm’s Boston office. He focuses his practice on litigation and counseling on federal and state labor and employment issues. He counsels clients on issues related to discrimination and harassment, wage and hour, employee classification, wrongful termination, and the enforcement of noncompetition and nondisclosure agreements. He has represented clients involved in employment litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including state fair employment and human rights agencies.
Today we continue with our Year in Review segment, which looks at the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in New York, the DC Metro Area, Massachusetts, and California, while offering our thoughts on 2017. Last week we covered New York and the DC Metro Area. Now we turn to Massachusetts. In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017. Register here.
2016 Massachusetts Employment Law Year in Review
From case law interpreting one of, if not, the most employee-friendly independent contractor statute in the country to Beacon Hill’s efforts to pass non-competition agreement reform, Massachusetts is certainly no stranger to key developments in the labor and employment arena. This blog post highlights the 2016 case law and legislative efforts about which every Massachusetts employer should be aware, and provides insight over what to watch for as we move our way along through 2017 and beyond.
The EEOC recently published guidance for mental health providers describing their role in an employee or applicant’s request for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). While the guidance is primarily aimed at providing information to mental health providers, it also presents the EEOC’s pronouncements on some fundamental precepts on the ADA and the reasonable accommodation process, which should interest employers and practitioners alike.
The Second Circuit recently adopted the “Cat’s Paw” theory of liability in Title VII cases. This was hardly a surprise as other Circuit Courts had done the same after the United States Supreme Court endorsed Cat’s Paw in a USERRA case. But the Second Circuit went even further, allowing for the use of the Cat’s Paw argument in Title VII retaliation cases and in cases where a non-supervisory employee’s discriminatory actions lead the employer to take an adverse employment action against that employee’s co-worker. Until now, Cat’s Paw had mostly focused on employer liability based on the actions of misbehaving supervisors in hostile work environment cases. The decision puts additional pressure on employers to identify and eliminate discriminatory behavior in their workplaces. This post will briefly examine the Cat’s Paw doctrine and explain how the Second Circuit’s expanded its use in Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., No. 15-3239 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016).
Algorithms and bots run our lives; we just may not know it. They help choose our music, buy our diapers and tell us when it’s time to change the water filter. Algorithms may someday determine when you or your company gets sued. Continue Reading Lawsuit by Algorithm, the Latest Big Data Rage
Does this sound familiar: employee disregards a non-compete and joins a competitor; former company calls foul and initiates a lawsuit; parties fight it out, but by the time litigation has run its course, the non-compete period in the underlying contract has expired. The dispute is moot, right? Not necessarily according to the Ninth Circuit in Ocean Beauty Seafoods v. Pacific Seafood Acquisition Company. There, the Court applied the doctrine of equitable extension to tack on a non-compete period to an agreement after the original period had run.
The Western District of Washington recently emphasized that the obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) to engage in good faith interactive dialogue when seeking an accommodation that will permit an employee with a disability to perform his or her job applies to employees as well as employers. In Huge v Boeing Co. (W.D. Wash. March 4, 2016), following a bench trial the court found the employee had failed to present evidence that her employer, Boeing Co., did not take reasonable measures to accommodate her Asperger’s Syndrome where the record showed the employee repeatedly engaged in obstructive and uncooperative behavior in response to Boeing’s proposed accommodations. Continue Reading Employee’s Failure to Participate in Interactive Process in Good Faith is Fatal to ADA Accommodation Claim, Says Washington Federal Court
Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a seminal ruling in Bulwer v. Mt. Auburn, which clarified the type of evidence an employment discrimination plaintiff needs to defeat a summary judgment motion. In doing so, the SJC lightened plaintiffs’ burden of proof concerning pre-textual terminations and may have changed the rules of the game for Massachusetts employers and employees alike.
Last week, Browning-Ferris Industries, the California-based waste management company, appealed two decisions issued by the National Labor Relations Board related to the definition of joint employer. Its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit represents just the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that began with a momentous ruling by the NLRB this past August. The outcome of this appeal could have serious implications for affected companies, workers and other stakeholders.
At the end of last year, a federal court in Massachusetts found that a forum selection clause in an Iowa company’s standard form service-provider agreement did not apply to claims asserted under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Massachusetts Wage Act (Wage Act). The decision in Chebotnikov v. LimoLink, Inc., therefore compelled the company to litigate in a distant forum and in doing so, taught practitioners and other interested parties some important lessons about forum-selection clauses.