On August 12, 2019, New York Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation that greatly strengthens protections against sexual harassment. The bill, SB 6577, makes sweeping changes to current sexual harassment and discrimination laws. Most will take effect 60 days from the date the Governor signed the bill, or on October 11, 2019. New York State employers should work with employment counsel to alter their policies and practices to comply with these new requirements.
Within the past two weeks, both California and New York have passed laws prohibiting employers from discriminating based upon hairstyle. Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s “CROWN Act” (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) on July 3, 2019. The law amends the state’s Education and Government Codes to define “race or ethnicity” as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” It takes effect on January 1, 2020. (more…)
In June, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) overturned a nearly 38-year old precedent when it ruled that employers may deny nonemployee union representatives access to areas of their property open to the public, like cafeterias or restaurants, when the union representatives are there to solicit for or promote union membership. In this ruling, the NLRB overruled its previous decisions that had recognized a “public space” exception under which employers were required to permit non-employee union organizers to engage in union activity in public cafeterias or restaurants if the organizers used the facility in a manner consistent with its intended use and were not disruptive. (more…)
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Fort Bend County v. Davis. The message received loud and clear for employers is that timing is everything when it comes to discrimination cases and the use of claim-processing rules, embedded in Title VII, as an affirmative defense. Employers would be well served to ‘watch the clock’ and avoid losing the opportunity to receive an early dismissal. The Court ruled that federal courts can hear discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act if employers do not timely raise the defense that workers failed to first file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or state enforcement agencies, as Title VII requires, before filing suit in federal court. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion. (more…)
On May 14, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) released an advice memorandum declaring that Uber drivers are independent contractors (not employees) and are, therefore, not eligible to unionize. The memo, dated April 16, 2019, said the drivers are independent contractors under the NLRB’s recently-adopted SuperShuttle test (see here), because they have “significant entrepreneurial opportunity” while driving for Uber. The NLRB’s standard only applies in the labor context. It does not apply to California wage claims and lawsuits, where the California Supreme Court has adopted the ABC Test set forth in Dynamex (see here). (more…)
On April 23, 2019, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law extending the Healthy Workplaces Act, Tennessee’s workplace bullying prevention law, to private employers. The law went into effect immediately upon signing. Tennessee’s anti-bullying law encourages employers to adopt policies to address and prevent “abusive conduct” in the workplace. The law defines “abusive conduct” as “acts or omissions that would cause a reasonable person, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the conduct, to believe that an employee was subject to an abusive work environment.” (more…)
The day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court applies retroactively (see here), California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) released an opinion letter concluding that Dynamex’s ABC test applies to both IWC Wage Order claims and certain Labor Code provisions that enforce Wage Order requirements. The California Court of Appeals has ruled that Dynamex applies only to claims brought under the IWC Wage Orders (see here) and the DLSE’s recent opinion letter seems to expand what that means.
While California state and federal courts are not bound by DLSE opinion letters (meaning they could reach a different conclusion as to exactly which California Labor Code claims fall under Dynamex), the DLSE’s opinion letter reflects the way that agency will be interpreting Dynamex moving forward. This will impact employers who face DLSE wage claims where employees contend they were improperly classified as independent contractors. (more…)
On Thursday, May 2, in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court applies retroactively. In Dynamex, the Supreme Court adopted a new standard for determining whether a California worker is an employee or independent contractor under the California Industrial Welfare Commission’s (“IWC”) wage orders. As we have previously discussed (see here, here, and here), Dynamex’s reach continues to grow and the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Vazquez should be of particular concern to employers, who now face potential liability for their past decisions to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees under a standard that did not exist at the time. (more…)
In early March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia revived an Obama-era rule that requires larger companies to report workers’ pay data broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity. Last week, the Court issued an order requiring employers to submit 2018 EEO-1 pay data by September 30, 2019. Just this morning, the EEOC announced it will also collect 2017 data. This means that employers with 100 or more employees (and federal contractors with 50 or more employees) will be required to report their employees’ 2017 and 2018 W-2 compensation information and hours worked by the September deadline. The deadline to submit all other EEO-1 data, such as race and gender information, remains May 31, 2019. (more…)
Late last week, the California Court of Appeals ruled in Diaz v. Sohnen Enterprises that an employee must arbitrate her discrimination suit against her employer because she consented to an arbitration agreement by continuing to work. The split, three-judge panel sent the employee’s claims to arbitration even though she never signed the written arbitration agreement and verbally rejected it.
In short, the Court held that “California law in this area is settled: when an employee continues his or her employment after notification that an agreement to arbitration is a condition of continued employment, that employee has impliedly consented to the arbitration agreement.” (more…)