Susan L. Bickley, Emery Gullickson Richards, and Jeanne M. Grasso
The #MeToo movement has shone new light on issues for employers in the maritime industry seeking to ensure that seafarers and shore-based personnel can participate in a work environment free of sexual harassment and assault, both shipboard and shoreside. Employees at sea, often for months at a time, can face special challenges associated with a work environment that can be thousands of miles away from any home office, and that can lead to feelings of isolation, make communications difficult, involve close proximity between work spaces and living quarters and generally require employees to remain at the workplace during rest periods.
In other sectors of the global maritime industry, companies engaged in international business can find themselves navigating scenarios that arise from expectations regarding workplace interactions between men and women that are as diverse as their workforces. We examine here the unique legal framework that applies to sexual harassment in the maritime context, what to keep in mind for addressing incidents and recent trends regarding steps employers are currently taking in response. Continue reading “What #MeToo Means for the Maritime Sector”
Caroline Powell Donelan
California employers are facing a harsh new reality as a result of the state Supreme Court’s recent decision adopting a new test for determining whether a worker can properly be classified as an independent contractor (versus an employee) “for purposes of California wage orders,” which generally impose obligations on employers relating to non-exempt employees’ wages, hours, and working conditions like meal periods and rest breaks.
The underlying claims were brought by two delivery drivers alleging Dynamex, a nationwide same-day courier and delivery service, had improperly classified them and other “similarly situated” drivers as independent contractors. In relevant part, these drivers:
- were paid a flat fee or percentage of the delivery fee received from the customer;
- were generally free to set their own schedules;
- were free to reject or accept jobs assigned by Dynamex;
- used their own cell phones and vehicles for work;
- were free to choose their own routes;
- could perform work for other companies; and
- were hired for an indefinite period of time.
Under most tests distinguishing independent contractors from employees, these facts would have weighed toward an independent contractor determination. However, in a densely-academic, 82-page opinion, the Court held that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage orders should replace the more flexible “right of control” test which has been used in California since 1989. Specifically, the Court adopted the “ABC” test as the proper way to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Continue reading “Independent Contractors in California—Misclassification Is Now “Easy as ABC””
Asima J. Ahmad
Maryland’s legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1010 in an effort to provide victims of sexual harassment additional workplace protections. The Bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Set to be effective October 1, 2018, and titled “Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018” (the “Act”), the Act voids any provision in an employment contract, policy, or agreement that waives substantive or procedural rights or remedies relating to a sexual harassment claim that accrues in the future, or to a retaliation claim for reporting or asserting a right or remedy based on sexual harassment (unless prohibited by federal law). Any employer who enforces, or attempts to enforce, such a provision will be liable for the employee’s attorney’s fees and costs. The Act will apply to any employment contract, policy, or agreement executed, “implicitly or explicitly extended,” or renewed on or after the effective date; so, it seems to cover policies and agreements implemented prior to October 1, 2018 that continue in place after that date. Continue reading “New Maryland #MeToo Bill Sets Up Public Shaming and Restrictions”
On April 12, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a budget bill that includes significant changes in the obligations of New York employers related to sexual harassment (the “Anti-Harassment Law”). According to the Governor, the Anti-Harassment Law provides the “strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation,” as part of a hefty $168 billion budget deal for the 2019 fiscal year (which started April 1, 2018). The Anti-Harassment Law is consistent with a recent push by states and localities to expand employee protections against unlawful harassment in response to the #MeToo movement.
The Anti-Harassment Law includes both immediate and ongoing implications. Here are some of the highlights: Continue reading “New York Says “#MeToo” as It Enacts Strict Anti-Harassment Measures”
Asima J. Ahmad
Attention New Jersey employers: It looks like the Garden State is next in line to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act has now been passed by both the state assembly and senate, and Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill into law.
Similar to the paid sick leave laws in other states, New Jersey will mandate that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours. In the alternative, employers can frontload 40 hours of paid sick time on the first day of each benefit year. This can be done through an existing paid time off (“PTO”) policy, so long as the PTO days can be used for any of the reasons permitted under the Act, and are accrued at an equal or greater rate than what the Act requires. The Act states that employers are not required to permit employees to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave from one benefit year to the next, but it appears that carryover is otherwise required. Additionally, employers are not obligated to pay employees for any accrued but unused time upon their separation from the company. Continue reading “New Jersey Jumps on the Paid Sick Leave Bandwagon”
Thomas J. Szymanski
The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (“Act”), directed at remedying discriminatory pay practices in the workplace, was passed by both houses of New Jersey’s Legislature and awaits the signature of Governor Phil Murphy. This is not the first time that the New Jersey Legislature has passed a bill modeled after the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which made it easier to pursue pay-discrimination lawsuits—former Governor Chris Christie previously vetoed nearly identical versions of this bill, based on his stated belief that they were overly-expansive and bad for business. Governor Murphy has pledged to sign the current version of the Act into law, with an anticipated effective date of July 1, 2018. Some of the Act’s provisions, notably those providing for treble damages and a six-year look back period, could provide more employees with much greater relief for violations than the federal Ledbetter Act or other state equal pay laws. Continue reading “Employers Should Take Notice of New Jersey’s Expected Equal Pay Law”
Stephen E. Tisman and Rither Alabre
Propelled by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the “#MeToo” movement, New York government officials have taken new steps to protect victims of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
- The New York County District Attorney’s Office has created a special “Work-Related Sexual Violence Team” of prosecutors to investigate reports of work-related sexual violence.
- The New York Attorney General filed suit, in response to the announcement of the proposed sale of the Weinstein Company, for civil penalties and an order of “restitution” to victims.
These actions make clear that new layers of scrutiny are being imposed to examine how employers handle sexual harassment claims. Importantly, companies and individuals faced with such claims will confront new areas of exposure—outside of traditional human resources procedures and concerns—which must be analyzed and addressed. Continue reading “New York #MeToo Initiatives—It’s No Longer Just an HR Issue”