Have Employers Taken Home the Iron Throne with Lamps Plus?

Caroline Powell Donelan and Taylor C. Morosco

On April 24, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5–4 opinion in Lamps Plus, Inc., et al. v. Varela holding that class arbitration is only allowed when the parties’ agreement explicitly allows for it. In other words, when an arbitration agreement is silent or even ambiguous as to whether class-wide proceedings are allowed, claims must be arbitrated on an individual basis.

Lamps Plus is the latest decision from our highest court bolstering the enforceability of individual arbitration in the workplace.

In this post, we’ll take a semi-deep dive into Lamps Plus and evaluate potential implications for your workplace as well as for future litigation strategies. Continue reading “Have Employers Taken Home the Iron Throne with Lamps Plus?”

Third Circuit Indicates Support for Use of Broader Restrictive Covenants in Post-Hire Agreements Rather Than a Uniform Approach at Hiring

Kevin M. Passerini

We wrote an earlier post about the Third Circuit’s opinion in ADP, LLC v. Rafferty, et al., confirming courts’ blue penciling authority (see here); but the Third Circuit’s analysis of ADP’s two-tiered restrictive covenant structure is also worth discussing, as it may have employers doing some head scratching.

Why the focus on ADP’s two-tiered contracting approach?

ADP’s first-tier agreements for new hires included confidentiality obligations and a one-year customer non-solicit tailored to the employee’s assigned role and contacts, but no non-compete. ADP’s second-tier agreements (used in connection with stock incentives offered to high-performing employees) added a one-year territory-based non-compete and broadened the scope of the one-year non-solicit to include all customers and business partners for which ADP has provided services and all prospects for which ADP reasonably expects to provide services during the two-year period following the employee’s termination—regardless of the employee’s responsibility for them or access to confidential information about them during employment. Continue reading “Third Circuit Indicates Support for Use of Broader Restrictive Covenants in Post-Hire Agreements Rather Than a Uniform Approach at Hiring”

“The Times They Are A-Changing”: Can the Employer Affirmative Defense Survive in the #MeToo Era?

Asima J. Ahmad and Anthony B. Haller

Employers grappling with the reverberations of the #MeToo movement have been able to take some solace that, with the right policies and complaint process, they can insulate themselves against liability in sexual harassment cases where the employee does not make a complaint under the internal procedure. That insulation is possible given a well-established and objectively provable legal framework.

What we know…

Where the alleged harassment is by a coworker, if the employee/victim does not complain, there is no liability because the failure to lodge a complaint and allow the employer to investigate objectively avoids any inference of negligence. Essentially, where the employer would not otherwise know of the harassment involving coworkers, it cannot be responsible.

On the other hand, if the harassment is by a supervisor, there is no resulting tangible job action (such as demotion or termination), and the employee does not complain, the employer can assert the affirmative defense established by the Faragher-Ellerth cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Successful assertion of that defense involves the employer showing that it exercised “reasonable care” to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination and that the employee “unreasonably failed” to take advantage of the preventative or corrective opportunities that were in place. Continue reading ““The Times They Are A-Changing”: Can the Employer Affirmative Defense Survive in the #MeToo Era?”

Time to Start Collecting Pay Data—Judge Sets September 30 as Date for Filing of EEO-1s

Mark Blondman and Emery Gullickson Richards

As we reported last month Judge Tanya Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on March 4 that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) was to reinstate the EEOC’s 2016 pay reporting Rule, the enforcement of which had been blocked by the Trump administration. Under that Rule, which was to have been effective with the filing of EEO-1 forms in March 2018, employers with more than 100 employees would be required to collect and report aggregated W-2 data and hours worked, based on gender, race, and ethnicity, in 10 job categories, across 12 pay ranges, for each of a company’s physical locations.

The one issue left unanswered by Judge Chutkan’s March 4 Order was when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) was required to collect the employee pay data. This morning, Judge Chutkan, held that the Commission had to collect the data by September 30, 2019. The EEOC has indicated it will make the collection portal available by July 15 and provide information and training to employees prior to that date.

The clock is ticking and, absent a successful appeal of Judge Chutkan’s March 4 decision, employers should now be collecting the data required to be included in the EEO-1 form and be prepared to file those reports on or before September 30. Members of our Firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group are available to assist in navigating the EEO-1 Form.

Finally! U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Title VII LGBTQ+ Protection

Jason E. Reisman and Mark Blondman

Just this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed to hear three cases from the circuit courts that split on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The basic question boils down to whether the word “sex” includes a protection for LGBTQ+ employees.

EEOC Initiative/Trigger. Though there have been efforts over the last 50+ years to seek such protection under Title VII, the true impact came from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) push beginning in 2012, when it issued an administrative ruling holding that gender identity discrimination constitutes sex bias and therefore is protected. As everyone probably knows, in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit jumped into the fray with both feet in 2017, finding that Title VII’s “sex” does indeed include sexual orientation. In fact, before the full Seventh Circuit heard that case, a three-judge panel on that court had stated that it was a “paradoxical legal landscape in which a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act”—a reference to same sex marriage being legal. Continue reading “Finally! U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Title VII LGBTQ+ Protection”

New Jersey Governor Signs #MeToo Bill, Potentially Impacting All Employment and Settlement Agreements—Employers Beware!

Asima J. Ahmad and Kevin M. Passerini

As predicted in a previous post, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 121 last month. This bill has two primary effects:

      1. “A provision in any employment contract [(other than a collective bargaining agreement, which is excepted)] that waives any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” is now against public policy and unenforceable.
      2. “A provision in any employment contract or settlement agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” is now unenforceable “against a current or former employee who is a party to the contract or settlement,” but remains enforceable against the employer unless “the employee publicly reveals sufficient details of the claim so that the employer is reasonably identifiable.”

The practical effect of these provisions is a ban on companies’ use and enforcement of nondisclosure provisions to conceal claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment and a ban on companies’ efforts to avoid or frustrate application of New Jersey law through, among other things, forum-selection, dispute resolution, and choice-of-law provisions. While the law does permit employers to defend themselves against an employee who publicizes information related to such claims, in order to exercise that right, “[e]very settlement agreement resolving a discrimination, retaliation, or harassment claim by an employee against an employer shall include a bold, prominently placed notice that although the parties may have agreed to keep the settlement and underlying facts confidential, such a provision in an agreement is unenforceable against the employer if the employee publicly reveals sufficient details of the claim so that the employer is reasonably identifiable.” Continue reading “New Jersey Governor Signs #MeToo Bill, Potentially Impacting All Employment and Settlement Agreements—Employers Beware!”

“Obesity Alone” Is Not a Disability under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination

Rosemary McKenna

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel for the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed a 2018 trial court decision granting summary judgment against a self-described obese former bus driver for defendant Community Bus Lines, Inc. (“Community”), and dismissing the driver’s claim for violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJ LAD”). In doing so, the appellate court held that “obesity alone is not protected under the NJ LAD as a disability unless it has an underlying medical cause.” Because plaintiff, in part, failed to present any direct or circumstantial evidence that defendants perceived the driver as disabled due to a medical condition that caused him to be overweight, the appellate court found his claim was without merit.

Case Background

The plaintiff in this matter worked as a bus driver for Community for 10 years during which time he weighed between 500 and 600 pounds. To maintain his status as an active bus driver, he was required to undergo a medical examination every two years and obtain medical certification verifying his fitness to drive. In 2015, a doctor certified by the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) conducted plaintiff’s examination and temporarily disqualified him from driving a bus pending further testing. The plaintiff never followed through to complete the required additional testing and was therefore placed “out of service.” Despite his failure to schedule the follow-up testing, plaintiff’s supervisor referred him for a second opinion to another doctor, who confirmed the prior conclusions and found that further testing was needed before a medical certification could be issued. Neither doctor who examined plaintiff determined that he was disabled but only that further testing was required before he could be certified. Plaintiff again did not pursue the required testing and remained on leave. Continue reading ““Obesity Alone” Is Not a Disability under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination”