Arbitration

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The following was written collectively by our Labor & Employment Department.

1. Excluding claims arising from Confidentiality provision from the arbitration clause was substantively unconscionable

In Farrar v. Direct Commerce, Inc., 9 Cal. App. 5th 1257, review filed 4/28/17, a successful entrepreneur, Farrar, negotiated with Direct Commerce (“Direct”) a contract to become its VP of Business Development. The contract excluded claims arising from the confidentiality provision from the arbitration clause. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the arbitration provision was substantively unconscionable, because it carved out more than provisional remedies and was therefore too “one-sided.” The Court of Appeal, however, found the offending provision could be severed so that the arbitration provision could be enforced. (more…)

Wage and Hour Law

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The following was written collectively by our Labor & Employment Department.

A. Federal Court Decisions

1.No Administrative Exemption for Mortgage Underwriters

In McKeen-Chaplin v. Provident Sav. Bank, 862 F.3d 847 (9th Cir. 2017), the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that mortgage underwriters qualified for the “administrative exemption” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). In particular, the plaintiff alleged that she and other underwriters often worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek and, therefore, were owed overtime compensation. The defendant argued that mortgage underwriters were exempt under the administrative exemption, and the district court agreed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, and focused on the distinction, imposed by Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations interpreting the scope of the FLSA exemptions, between “work directly related to running or servicing of the business” and “working on a manufacturing production line or selling a product in a retail or service establishment,” also known as the “administrative-production dichotomy.” According to the DOL, those engaged in management of the business are exempt from the overtime-pay requirements of the FLSA, while those involved in making the goods it sells or performing the services a business provides to the marketplace are not exempt. The Ninth Circuit noted that two other circuit Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit (which ruled underwriters are non-exempt) and the Sixth Circuit (which ruled they are exempt) have reached opposite conclusions.

(more…)

National Labor Relations Act

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The following was written collectively by our Labor & Employment Department.

A. The “New” National Labor Relations Board Decisions and Memos

As of this past fall, following confirmation of Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel as new members of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), that agency has obtained a 3-2 Republican majority for the first time in almost a decade. As expected, in the few short months thereafter, the Trump era NLRB has been on a path to reverse many of the decisions and actions taken by the Obama era NLRB. Here are the more significant NLRB decisions that fall in this category. Notably all were decided this past December.

1. NLRB Establishes New Standard Governing Workplace Policies

On December 14, 2017, in The Boeing Co., 365 NLRB No. 156, the NLRB overturned its standard for evaluating the legality of employee handbook policies. The standard that was overruled was established in Lutheran Heritage Village – Livonia, 343 NLRB 646 (2004). In Lutheran Heritage, the NLRB stated that a policy is illegal if employees could “reasonably construe” it to bar them from exercising their rights to engage in union or other concerted activities under the NLRA. In the Boeing case, the administrative law judge applied the Lutheran Heritage rule to Boeing’s workplace policy restricting workers’ use of camera-enabled devices and similar recording devices such as cellphones on company property violated the NLRA. Although Boeing’s “no-recording” policy would have violated the NLRA under Lutheran Heritage, the NLRB in Boeing stated that Lutheran Heritage’s “reasonably construe” standard entails a “single-minded consideration of NLRA-protected rights, without taking into account any legitimate justifications associated with policies, rules and handbook provisions.” (more…)

Premerger Notifications and Interlocking Directorates: FTC Increases Thresholds

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By Melanie Figueroa

On January 26, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced their annual update to the size-of-transaction thresholds for both premerger notifications and interlocking directorates. The FTC revises these thresholds annually based on changes in gross national product. This year’s update included significant increases.

Changes to Premerger Notification Thresholds

Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR), transactions that meet the following three tests are required to file premerger notifications with the FTC and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department: (more…)

New California Laws

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The following was written collectively by our Labor & Employment Department.

New California Laws

1. California Salary History Ban

AB 168, which enacted California Labor Code Section 432.3, is intended to promote equal pay, particularly between men and women. In passing AB 168, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, California joins a handful of states (Massachusetts, Delaware and Oregon) and municipalities (New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco) which have enacted similar measures. In sum, AB 168 prohibits all California employers (including public employers) from

  • Inquiring or seeking from job applicants, whether “orally or in writing, personally or through an agent,” salary history information (the law does not define the term “salary history); and
  • Relying on or considering salary history as a factor in determining whether to offer employment to an applicant or what salary to offer an applicant. (more…)

New York: New Laws

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The following was written collectively by our Labor & Employment Department.

New York: New Laws

1. NY State Paid Family Leave Law Goes into Effect

In 2016, New York State adopted a 12-week paid family leave policy for New York employees (the “Paid Leave Law”). Once fully implemented, the Paid Leave Law will provide New York employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave for the purpose of (1) caring for a new child, (2) caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or (3) relieving family pressures when a family member, including a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent, is called to active military service. Starting on January 1, 2018, employees will be eligible for eight weeks of paid leave, earning 50% of their weekly pay (capped at 50% of the statewide average weekly pay). The number of weeks of leave and amount of pay increases yearly until, by 2021, employees will be eligible for the full 12 weeks of paid leave, earning 67% of their weekly pay (capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly pay).

Paid leave to care for a new child will be available to both men and women and will include leave to care for an adoptive or foster child. An employee may take paid leave to care for a new child any time within the first 12 months after the child’s birth or 12 months after the placement for adoption or foster care of a child with the employee. Paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition includes leave to care for a child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, spouse or domestic partner. (more…)

How Does the Suspension of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions Impact Your Trust or Estate?

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By Jeffrey EisenS. Eva Wolf and Daniel Cousineau

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions (i.e., those deductions subject to a 2% floor) from 2018 through 2025, creating an incentive for taxpayers to try and characterize their expenses as giving rise to itemized deductions rather than miscellaneous itemized deductions. General discussion of the new tax law has overlooked this repeal’s impact on estates and non-grantor trusts (i.e., most irrevocable trusts), including a time-sensitive planning opportunity.

Prior to the new legislation, an individual could claim miscellaneous itemized deductions for certain types of expenses that were not specifically enumerated in Internal Revenue Code Section 67. These expenses were not deductible until they exceeded 2% of an individual’s adjusted gross income. Expenses specifically enumerated in Section 67 were itemized deductions not subject to the same 2% floor, making them more attractive to taxpayers than miscellaneous itemized deductions. The new legislation suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions but keeps itemized deductions (subject to certain other restrictions not relevant here). (more…)

#MeToo Can Be #Costly

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By Jeffrey Davine

General Rule- Deduction for Settlement Payments.

If an employer settles a claim made by an employee (or former employee), the employer may generally claim a deduction for the amount that is paid to the employee to resolve his/her claims.  The expense is treated as an ordinary and necessary business expense and a deduction may be claimed pursuant to Section 162(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

For example, if an employer pays an employee $25,000 to settle the employee’s claims for back wages, emotional distress, and age discrimination, the employer may deduct the $25,000 on its tax return (the employer’s tax reporting obligations with respect to the $25,000 payment and how the payment should be allocated among the claims made by the employee are topics for a different article). (more…)

New Tariffs: Trade War Washing Ashore?

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By Susan Kohn Ross

Yesterday, January 22, 2018, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced the imposition of safeguard tariffs on solar cells and modules. Much has been said in the general press about this case, but only now is the key point starting to register, and is something international traders immediately thought about – is President Trump starting a new trade war with China?

By way of a quick summary, after seeking relief through the antidumping and countervailing duty laws and not getting the desired market relief, Suniva, later joined by SolarWorld, invoked Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. The appropriate petition was brought, the International Trade Commission (ITC) conducted the required proceedings, found detrimental harm, and made recommendations to the President. While disagreement among the Commissioners was acknowledged, most favored an increase in duties, and President Trump agreed. Safeguard tariffs have been imposed for four years – the maximum length of time permitted – on a per year basis – 30%, 25%, 20% and 15%. The USTR announcement also states the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells are excluded from the safeguard tariff. A critical point here is these safeguards are being imposed on both the cells and the modules, regardless of where made, as would be expected from a global safeguard, but the solar cells are overwhelmingly made in China. (more…)

Border Searches of Electronic Devices

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By Susan Kohn Ross

Earlier this month, MSK attorneys David Rugendorf and Frida Glucoft published an Alert summarizing the latest directive issued by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding the search of electronic devices. A copy of their original article can be found here – Hold That Call International Travelers. Given the increasing likelihood of any traveler’s electronic devices being subjected to a search, whether arriving or departing the U.S. by air, ocean or land, these recent changes warrant a deeper dive.

First, for those who want to read the actual document, it is CBP Directive 3340-049A. As the earlier Alert noted, CBP has the broad rights to search any individuals, luggage, and cargo entering and leaving the U.S. Searches of cargo are governed by other laws and regulations. This directive deals only with arriving and departing travelers and their devices. (more…)