On April 3, 2018, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division (“DOJ” or “Antitrust Division”) filed an antitrust complaint against Knorr-Bremse AG (“Knorr”) and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (“Wabtec”) for agreeing not to “solicit, recruit, hire without prior approval, or otherwise compete for employees” (collectively, “no-poach agreements”). According to the complaint, Knorr and Wabtec are “each other’s top competitors for rail equipment used in freight and passenger rail applications” and also compete with each other to “attract, hire and retain various skilled employees, including rail industry project managers, engineers, sales executives, business unit heads, and corporate officers.”
2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us. A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans. Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers). Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon. We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief. Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act. Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here: (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.
Many state legislatures spent 2017 tinkering with post-employment covenants. Given the growing trend to legislate locally and the employee mobility issues that seem to nag every employer, we thought the New Year would be a perfect time to review and revisit your post-employment covenants. So for our multi-jurisdictional employers (which seems to be everyone these days), how do your post-employment covenants legally measure up?
Summertime is vacation time. And vacation time means headaches for employers who engage in vacation float. Vacation “float” is the practice of advancing vacation to employees before they actually accrue it under an employer’s vacation policy. So the question becomes, if you allow an employee to take vacation time the employee hasn’t actually earned, how do you get the value of that time back if the employee leaves before “repaying” it?
New job to-do list: (1) send goodbye email; (2) attend goodbye party; (3) update LinkedIn account; and (4) then use said LinkedIn account to send old colleagues new contact information. This sounds like a pretty standard modus operandi for the modern job-hopper, right? In fact, this last act, that LinkedIn contact, provided the nub of a recent non-solicit case out of Illinois state court.
In Bankers Life v. American Senior Benefits, an appellate court found that an ex-employee’s invitation to connect with old colleagues via LinkedIn did not violate his non-solicitation agreement with his former employer. The Bankers Life opinion, though not designated for publication by the Illinois appellate court, provides insight into the line between the permissible and the prohibited in the context of solicitation via social media.
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.
Our friends at Privacy & Security Matters recently posted an important update on the New York State Department of Financial Services’ new cybersecurity regulations. The regulations, which became effective March 1, 2017, impose a series of requirements on banks, insurers and financial services firms as well as on third party service providers that have access to these entities’ nonpublic information, such as IT vendors, law firms and accounting firms. Among other requirements, covered entities must designate chief information security officers within their organizations, create detailed response plans for dealing with security breaches and institute employee training programs. The regulations establish several compliance deadlines and we strongly encourage employers to take a proactive approach in revising their policies and practices to meet these new obligations.
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.
Last week the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice jointly issued guidance to educate companies, and in particular human resource professionals, on how antitrust laws apply in the employment arena, particularly with respect to hiring and compensation matters. Human resource professionals should familiarize themselves with this guidance, which we summarize below, as the DOJ and FTC made it clear that HR professionals may be held individually responsible for certain employment-based antitrust violations.
My colleagues Bret Cohen, Michael Renaud and Nicholas Armington wrote an American Bar Association Business Law Today article entitled Explaining the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which provides an overview of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, including how it provides American companies with greater protection against trade secret misappropriation. The article examines key provisions of the act such as a uniform definition of “trade secret”, the new civil seizure mechanism as a preventive tool for trade-secret owners, and whistleblower immunity.