In our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, Don Davis explores back-to-back decisions by New York’s intermediate appellate court that applied very narrow state law principles permitting vacatur of an arbitration award on public policy grounds to vacate an arbitrator’s award that had reduced the employer-posed penalty of termination to a brief suspension.  In so doing, the court implicitly endorsed the employer’s decision to terminate an employee that it found, after an investigation, to have engaged in sexual harassment.  The court found that the arbitrator’s reduction of the penalty – despite having made findings of fact that supported the employer’s decision – would have operated to undermine the state’s strong public policy against sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Ban the Box” laws prohibit or limit an employer’s ability to ask a job applicant about his or her criminal record. States, counties and cities have enacted this legislation to help applicants with criminal records combat additional barriers to securing employment. We’ve written about these laws as enacted in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., New York City, and California.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of the “ban the box” provision in Massachusetts, discussing recent modifications which become effective October 13, 2018 and recent warnings issued by the Attorney General’s Office.

TLDR: All Massachusetts employers should ensure that their application forms and hiring practices comply with the “ban the box” provision.

Continue Reading “Ban the Box” Updates in Massachusetts

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.

Following in the footsteps of neighboring jurisdictions such as New York City, Albany County, and Massachusetts, on April 10, 2018, Westchester County enacted legislation to ban inquiries into a job applicant’s salary history. The stated purpose of the law is to halt the perpetuation of the gender wage gap and to assist older workers and others returning to the workforce after a long hiatus.

Continue Reading Update on Salary History Laws: The Ban Expands to Westchester, NY

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

On April 19, my colleague Andrew Bernstein and I will be discussing the increasingly complex web of federal, state, and local leave and accommodation laws that employers must navigate. As many companies are aware, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks (and in some cases, up to 26 weeks) of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, which may under some circumstances include flexible schedules and leaves of absence, to qualified individuals with disabilities.

Continue Reading Mintz Levin 4th Annual Employment Law Summit – Managing the Increasingly Complex Web of Leave and Accommodation Requirements

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

Join me in a discussion on the increasingly nuanced landscape of employee workplace investigations and best practices in managing their effect on corporate brand, attorney-client privilege and obligations to applicable governmental entities.

Continue Reading Mintz Levin 4th Annual Employment Law Summit — Navigating Unexpected Terrain in Workplace Investigations

Join me and a panel of corporate counsel and human resources professionals to discuss the #MeToo movement and its impact on the HR function at Mintz Levin’s Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit in New York City on April 19, 2018.

Continue Reading Mintz Levin 4th Annual Employment Law Summit — The Role of In House Counsel and Human Resources Professionals in the #MeToo Movement