With the summer kicking off, it is a good opportunity for employers to review and refresh their employment practices to ensure compliance with developments on the federal, state and legal landscape. This Bubbler Post will review our earlier guidance and (hopefully!) prompt you to review your employment practices:

  • Employment Applications: Equal pay laws have continued to gain traction on the state and local level, and there are a number of jurisdictions banning inquiries into the salary history information of prospective applicants. If you have employees working in the states, counties and/or cities listed below, you should review your application forms and employment documents to ensure that they do not request salary information.
  • Vendor Relationships: Given the pay inquiry laws discussed above, employers should communicate with recruiters and background check companies to ensure that these entities similarly comply with their obligations under applicable law. You can write a letter to your vendors detailing your expectations, you can enter into an amendment to your existing agreement outlining the legal framework, or you can reach out to your vendor contact to discuss the importance of compliance – from both a business and legal perspective – and request that they remove salary history inquiries from their screening process. Whatever you do, be conscious of the potential for joint liability to attach to these claims. Particular provisions to consider are ones regarding compliance with applicable laws and indemnification.

 

  • Employment Agreements: In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision holding that employers can enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements, employers should review and revise their employment agreements to include this language. You can include a class or collective action waiver either by (1) explicitly prohibiting class/collective claims or (2) explicitly requiring that all claims be brought by employees individually and not jointly. Here, we’ve laid out more guidance on this decision’s impact on employers, including factors employers should consider when deciding whether to adopt an arbitration provision with a class waiver and the impact on state law prohibitions on arbitration.

 

  • Employee Trainings: In the wake of the #MeToo movement, workplace professionalism trainings are more relevant than ever. And, in some jurisdictions, they are required. Read more here about the steps New York State and New York City have taken to implement stronger protections against workplace harassment. Employers in other jurisdictions should take note, and perhaps jump on board. While not a complete defense, evidence of thorough and detailed trainings around appropriate workplace conduct can limit liability for an employer defending against a sexual harassment claim. We almost always suggest more training.

 

  • Settlement Agreements: On the federal level, employers should be thoughtful of their obligations under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Pursuant to a new provision in the tax code overhaul bill – Section 13307 – employers can no longer deduct the taxable income of any sexual harassment settlement amount subject to a non-disclosure agreement. We’ve discussed this here and will continue to track employers’ obligations as additional guidance is issued. In the meantime, employers should tread carefully and make an informed decision about whether to take a tax deduction or include a non-disparagement provision.

In a landmark opinion on an important issue to employers, the Supreme Court held yesterday that employers can enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements – leaving employers nationwide asking “what does this decision mean for us?”  This post aims to answer that question.

Continue Reading Arbitration Provisions with Class Action Waivers Are Enforceable…Now What? A Guide for Human Resources Professionals and In-House Counsel on the Practical Implications of this “Epic” Decision

Welcome back for this month’s edition of the Bubbler!  There’s plenty to talk about, so let’s jump right in.

The California Supreme Court issued an important decision this week addressing the test for whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee.  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Seventh Circuit decision upholding an employer’s rule that a months-long leave of absence was not a reasonable accommodation. The Ninth Circuit held that employers are prohibited from using an employee’s past salary as a legitimate “factor other than sex” for purposes of defeating a Fair Pay Act claim, emphasizing that allowing the inclusion of prior salaries would only perpetuate gender pay disparity. The Fifth Circuit downsized ERISA fiduciary standards in a ruling that invalidated a set of seven expansive fiduciary rules. The Northern District of Illinois issued an unusual ruling, holding that two plaintiffs’ claims were subject to an enforceable arbitration agreement, yet refused to compel arbitration. The DOJ challenged a set of competitors’ no-poaching agreements as per se violations of the Sherman Act, which regulates concerted anti-competitive action. Finally, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, New York (state and city) have passed new laws concerning workplace sexual harassment.

As always, stay tuned for more employment matters updates!

This week, the California Supreme Court rejected the old “totality of circumstances” test to determine if a worker was properly classified as an independent contractor in favor of a new “ABC test” under which employers will be required to classify most workers as employees.

Continue Reading California Rewrites the Independent Contractor Test – What Your Business Needs To Do Now to Pass It

As reported by our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, the Northern District of Illinois recently issued an unusual decision. After finding that both plaintiffs were bound by arbitration agreements with the defendant and after finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were within the scope of the arbitration clauses, it denied defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. See Zoller v. UBS Secs. LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44170 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 9, 2018).

Lots to talk about in the Labor & Employment world!  The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on April 1, 2018, imposing stricter non-discrimination rules on employers of pregnant workers. The U.S. Department of Labor launched the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, which encourages employers to self-report wage and hour violations. The Sixth Circuit issued a decision in EEOC v. R.G. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes, holding that transgendered employees are protected under Title VII, even mounted against an employer’s religious objections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts lost a step in the legal challenge to the contraceptive mandate exemptions in the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that it did not have standing to assert the relief it sought. Still on the federal landscape, Congress added an amendment to the FLSA in the recent omnibus budget bill, providing that an employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purpose. The Supreme Court issued an important ruling holding that service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements and rejecting the principle that FLSA exemptions should be narrowly construed.   The State of Washington followed suit with many other states, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, becoming the most recent state to add an updated Equal Pay Act, and a “Ban the Box” law.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Washington also barred nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment suits.  As always, stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks, including a post on the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act coming up later this week.

Finally, there’s still time! Don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19.

What’s a financial advisor to do? On March 15, 2018, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. v. U.S. Dep’t. of Labor, No. 17-10238, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 6472 (5th Cir. Mar. 15, 2018) vacated – thereby invalidating – a series of seven rules (which we collectively refer to in this post as the “fiduciary rule”) issued in April 2016 by the Department of Labor (DOL). The fiduciary rule vastly expanded the reach of the ERISA fiduciary standards that apply to individuals and entities providing investment advice. This post first explains the state of the law prior to the fiduciary rule; it then discusses the impact of the rule on the arguments that the Court grappled with; and it concludes by handicapping the options available to regulated financial advisors and institutions as they endeavor to respond.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Invalidates the 2016 Final Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule and Related Prohibited Transaction Exemptions

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals holding that a multi-month leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiff in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc. had asked the Supreme Court to decide whether there is a per se rule that a finite leave of absence of more than one month cannot be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  Without the Supreme Court stepping in to resolve the split among the federal circuit courts, employers are left without clear guidance as to how to navigate the interplay between the ADA and extended leaves of absence.

Continue Reading Employers Left in the Dark After U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Issue Ruling on Long Term Leave as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

On Monday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit when it ruled in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro that auto dealership service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements. The justices’ analysis led the five-justice majority to conclude that service advisors fall squarely within the applicable exemption for “any salesman, partsman or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(10)(A). This case, however, promises broad national impact because the majority rejected the longstanding principle established through decades of FLSA jurisprudence that exemptions should be construed narrowly.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Broadens Construction of FLSA Overtime Exemption