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.

Given the ever-increasing reliance on digital technology, employees are more and more tethered to their smartphones – checking email during their commute, at the dinner table, and even from their beds – essentially creating a never-ending work day.  A bill filed by a New York City councilman aims to curtail this trend. The bill, introduced on March 22, 2018, would prohibit employers in the city of New York from requiring employees to check and respond to work-related electronic communications outside of usual work hours.

Continue Reading Time to Put Down that Smartphone? – Proposed Bill Would Give NYC Employees a Right to Disconnect from Work

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

Phew – it has been a whirlwind of a month in the employment law world! Just in time for spring, new laws are popping up like crocuses just about everywhere we turn.

Here is your monthly rundown of the most recent developments in labor and employment law: The Supreme Court significantly narrowed whistleblower protections under Dodd Frank with its decision in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers.  The Second Circuit became the second circuit court to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination when it issued a decision holding that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. In New York, just as employers finished preparing for and implementing the New York Paid Family Leave law, New York City passed new legislation requiring employers to grant temporary schedule changes for qualifying personal events, and amending the requirements for employers and employees engaging in a cooperative dialogue concerning a reasonable accommodation. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office issued guidance on the pay equity law scheduled to take effect in July; Austin, Texas became the first Texas municipality to enact a paid sick and safe leave law; and new legislation intending to crack down on sexual harassment has been proposed in several jurisdictions, including Connecticut and New York City. Stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19!

On Monday, for the second time in less than a year, a federal appeals court ruled that Title VII forbids sexual orientation discrimination because it is a form of sex discrimination.  This time, in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. the Second Circuit overturned decades of precedent and ruled that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation.   The decision is also an apparent rebuke of the position taken by the United States Department of Justice (contrary to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position) that sexual orientation discrimination was never intended to by Congress to be covered by Title VII.  The issue is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court in its next term.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Becomes the Second to Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

On April 19, 2018, Mintz Levin will be hosting its Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit at the Princeton Club in New York City. This half-day seminar will feature as its keynote speaker Kevin Berry, the District Director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. District Director Berry will discuss the main objectives of the EEOC’s recently-released Strategic Enforcement Plan, as well as sexual harassment in the workplace and best practices for responding to charges of discrimination. The seminar will also offer various segments on the most important workplace issues of the day, including sexual harassment in the wake of #metoo, family leave and caregiver accommodations, implications of the new federal tax law, wage and hour issues, and more. It’s a program you will not want to miss, so register now!

This event is intended for C-Level Executives, HR Executives, Compliance Officers, In-house Counsel, and HR Directors and Staff.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

As reported by our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, a federal district court in New York held that an arbitrator could not certify a “class” that included non-appearing members. While neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor various Courts of Appeal have grappled with the viability of a class arbitration award, courts in the Second Circuit are taking the lead in addressing such issues.

Did you get your first request for paid family leave yet?  Well it’s finally here – New York State’s Paid Family Leave law finally touched down in workplaces across the state on New Year’s Day.  As of this writing, millions of New York employees are now entitled to eight weeks of paid family leave benefits and the job protection rights that come along with it.  This is a significant development for the State, legally and culturally.  Employers have spent many months preparing (and we’ve spent many months helping them prepare) for the new law’s arrival and now it’s time to execute on those implementation plans.

We wrote extensively about the new law and its interpreting regulations here.  We encourage you to read or revisit that post as it serves as a guide for employers seeking to comply with the new law.  For specific questions, please feel free to contact us directly.  And stay tuned as we will be updating this blog with new developments in the coming months.  In the meantime, for those of you who are getting a bit of a late start, here is a brief summary of the new entitlement and what is required to comply.

Continue Reading Reminder: New York Paid Family Leave Is Now In Effect

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.

Last year New York State made significant changes to its wage orders resulting in increases to the State’s minimum wage, white collar overtime exemption salary thresholds, tip, meal and lodging credits, and uniform allowances.  The latest changes go into effect on December 31, 2017.  We quickly summarize the minimum wage and overtime salary threshold changes below, but urge you to visit our prior post here for more in-depth coverage, including best practices for compliance.

Continue Reading Reminder: New York Wage Thresholds Increase on December 31, 2017