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!”

Minimize Litigation Risks When Using Biometric Data

Ana Tagvoryan, Brooke T. Iley, and David J. Oberly

The following article was published on SHRM.org.

This is the second article in a two-part series on biometric technology and the law. The first article explains the legal requirements for using biometrics in the workplace. This article provides tips on avoiding liability.

Under various state laws, the potentially extensive legal exposure to individual and class-action lawsuits stemming from the collection, storage and use of biometric data should give employers pause before they implement biometric-data programs in the workplace.

Companies that acquire and use biometric data face the thorny task of complying with an intricate web of regulations governing the use of that data—a task that will only become more difficult as more states adopt their own versions of biometric data privacy legislation.

A new wave of biometric-data lawsuits, particularly in Illinois, will likely build as a result of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Jan. 25 ruling in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., No. 123186, which determined that plaintiffs can pursue claims for mere technical violations of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), even absent any actual injury or harm. Many lawsuits have not centered on challenges to employers’ use of biometric data but instead have focused on the collection of such data.

Fortunately, employers can implement several best practices to minimize the risk of becoming embroiled in litigation stemming from the use of workers’ biometric data. Continue reading “Minimize Litigation Risks When Using Biometric Data”

Learn the Rules on Employers’ Use of Biometric Data

Ana Tagvoryan, Brooke T. Iley, and David J. Oberly

The following article was published on SHRM.org.

This is the first article in a two-part series on biometric technology and the law. This article explains the legal requirements for using biometrics in the workplace. The second article provides tips on avoiding liability.

With the recent rapid advancement of biometric technology, more employers have begun relying on biometric data to accomplish a range of objectives in the workplace.

According to a 2018 survey by Gartner, 6 percent of U.S., European and Canadian companies surveyed tracked workers using biometrics.

Employers who use biometrics can achieve real economic and security benefits, but the practice comes with litigation risks.

Three states—Illinois, Texas and Washington—have enacted laws regulating biometric data to protect employee privacy concerns. An individual’s biometric information is not a secure identifying feature once it has been compromised. Continue reading “Learn the Rules on Employers’ Use of Biometric Data”

Trifecta! DOL Issues Proposed “Employer-Friendly” Joint Employer Rule

Jason E. Reisman

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) completed the wage and hour trifecta, issuing the third of its critically acclaimed proposed rules—this one redefines (or clarifies, if you prefer) the regulations addressing the concept of “joint employment.” Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is an important concept as it often is used to hold multiple entities liable for the minimum wage and overtime violations relating to a group of employees. The existing regulations have not been materially updated in more than 60 years—needless to say, the nature and scope of business interactions have changed materially over that time. Continue reading “Trifecta! DOL Issues Proposed “Employer-Friendly” Joint Employer Rule”

DOL Pulls Ripcord—Proposed Rule Clarifying “Regular Rate” Parachutes In

Jason E. Reisman

Yesterday, as anticipated (see our prior blog post here), the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) released its proposed guidance to clarify the rules regarding what is and is not required to be included in the “regular rate of pay” (“RROP”). Remember, the RROP is the rate used for the calculation of overtime pay to non-exempt workers.

Though completely unexpected when the DOL initially announced its plan to clarify these rules, employers will undoubtedly be pleased by the effort. Nothing—from the employer standpoint—is really ever perfect, but this is progress. Originally targeted to be released in December 2018, like many other DOL projects, it was delayed a bit.

According to the DOL’s announcement, this proposal attempts to clarify that employers can exclude the following from the RROP:

  • the cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes, and employee discounts on retail goods and services;
  • payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave;
  • reimbursed expenses, even if not incurred “solely” for the employer’s benefit;
  • reimbursed travel expenses that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System and that satisfy other regulatory requirements;
  • discretionary bonuses, by providing additional examples and clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary;
  • benefit plans, including accident, unemployment, and legal services; and
  • tuition programs, such as reimbursement programs or repayment of educational debt.

Though we’re still working our way through the proposal, we are hopeful that it actually does address certain items that have long created quagmires for employers. Of course, the proposal will be subject to 60 days of public comment. Then, once the DOL reviews all comments, it will issue a final rule. Please stay tuned for further updates as this process continues!

The Uncertain Future of Gender Pay Reporting

Mark Blondman and Emery Gullickson Richards

As you may recall, in 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a Rule requiring private employers with more than 100 workers to include certain pay data, based on gender, race, and ethnicity, on their Form EEO-1s. The Rule, which purportedly was aimed at encouraging employers to ensure that compensation was directly related to jobs being performed and as a means of combating pay disparities, was slated to go into effect with the filing of EEO-1 forms in March 2018.

Under President Trump, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) blocked enforcement of the Rule and announced that decision in August 2017.

On March 4, 2019, Judge Tanya Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in response to a 2017 lawsuit filed by advocacy groups including the National Women’s Law Center, issued an Opinion and Order directing that the OMB reinstate the EEOC’s 2016 pay reporting Rule. Continue reading “The Uncertain Future of Gender Pay Reporting”

DOL Drops a Bomb … Err, the New Salary Threshold—$35,308!

Jason E. Reisman

Don’t say I didn’t tell you so—you read it right here on Monday: the new Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) white collar exemption salary threshold was just about to hit the street. And, guess what?

It’s arrived—just last night—and our D.C. sources (that is, BR’s “deepthroat”) from Monday’s blog were right on point, missing the final threshold number by only $308.

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), which sets the new salary threshold that purports to make overtime pay available to another one million American workers. Remember, the last time the salary threshold was updated was in 2004, under the George W. Bush administration, which increased the threshold to $23,660 (or $455/week). Then, the Obama administration proposed to increase it to $47,476 (or $913/week)—yikes! No worries, though, a federal judge in Texas—appointed by President Obama, no less—struck down that proposed salary threshold. With the new Trump administration coming on board and promising to issue a new rule, the appeal of the Texas judge’s decision was placed on hold.

And, now, here we are Continue reading “DOL Drops a Bomb … Err, the New Salary Threshold—$35,308!”