Appellate Division Panel Issues Ruling Broadly Interpreting New York State Human Rights Law

On January 14, 2015, in a case of first impression, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department held that an employee can sufficiently demonstrate his membership in a protected class by virtue of his association with another person – in this case, his wife.  In Jeffrey Chiara v. Town of New Castle, 2015 Slip Op. 00326 (2d Dep’t Jan. 14, 2015), the Second Department held that Chiara could show he was discriminated against by the Town of New Castle based on religion as a result of his marriage to a Jewish person, even though he was not Jewish himself.  In so holding, the Second Department reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to the Town with respect to Chiara’s claim that he was subject to religious discrimination when he was terminated.

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AFL-CIO’s Industry Wide Agreement May Have Wide Reach in Hospitality Industry

Mid-way through 2012, the Hotel Association of New York City and the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO (the “Union”), renewed a seven-year collective bargaining agreement known as the Industry Wide Agreement, or IWA.  While the IWA controls nearly all aspects of the employer-employee relationship for covered hospitality organizations, it does much more and can potentially bind the unsuspecting.  One important part of the agreement which hospitality employers must heed is the “accretion clause,” which has the potential to bind non-signatory parties to the terms of the IWA.  An already powerful document, the renewed IWA increased the reach of the accretion clause to not only signatory corporations and individuals, but also to related companies and entities.  This can complicate an already multi-layered industry whose members often use third-parties to manage or operate their businesses—as well as potentially increase the labor costs exponentially for those businesses.

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UPDATE: San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights

We wanted to provide an update on our earlier report about recent legislative happenings in San Francisco. (A link to our earlier article can be found here.)  The San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights became law on December 5, 2014, 10 days after it was passed by the Board of Supervisors and presented to Mayor Lee.  Under Section 3.103 of the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco, an ordinance becomes law if the mayor neither signs nor disapproves of the ordinance within 10 days of the date it was presented to the mayor for consideration.

The effective date of the San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights is January 4, 2015, and the law becomes operative on July 3, 2015.

Employers Beware! Employees are Permitted to Use Employer’s Email Systems for Non Work Purposes, Including Union Organizing

Overturning existing precedent, the NLRB has ruled that certain employees have a right to use employer email systems for protected communications, unless special circumstances exist. This decision potentially has far-reaching implications and all employers who allow employees to access their email systems should promptly review their policies and practices in light of this decision.

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An In-Depth Analysis of the NLRB’s Decision to Permit Employees to Use Employer Email Systems for Union Organizing and Other Non-Work Purposes

The rights of employees under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act have been given quite the digital treatment over the last few years.  In its newest decision issued on December 11, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that “employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems.”  The full decision can be found here.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Security Screening Time is Non-Compensable Under Federal Law and The Portal-to-Portal Act

In a decision issued on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that employees are not entitled to compensation under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for the time they spend waiting to undergo, and actually do undergo, security screenings.  The Court’s unanimous decision in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, et al., reverses a judgment of the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit which found that Integrity Staffing employees could state an unpaid wages claim under the FLSA for undergoing a daily security screening because the screenings were required by, and for the benefit of, their employer.

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San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights

On November 25, 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed two ordinances that are collectively referred to as the San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights:  (1) the “Hours and Retention Protections for Formula Retail Employees” ordinance and (2) the “Fair Scheduling and Treatment of Formula Retail Employees” ordinance.  The San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights must be passed by Mayor Edwin Lee in order to take effect.  However, even if the mayor were to veto the ordinances, the Board of Supervisors may be able to override the veto and enact the ordinances.

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How Will the White House Announcement on Immigration Affect Your Company?

Most companies will be impacted by the immigration initiatives announced by the White House this week.  It will take up to several months for the initiatives to be implemented in order to give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) time to ramp up.  And some of the initiatives are aspirational in nature so the end result and timing is unclear at this time.  Be advised that because these are executive acts, they are subject to repeal in the future.  The impact to employers includes the following:
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Ninth Circuit Rules That Twombly Standard of Specificity Applies to FLSA Pleadings

On November 12, 2014, in Greg Landers v. Quality Communications Inc., the Ninth Circuit clarified a previously unsettled point of law by confirming that Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) pleadings must meet the specificity requirements established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).  Affirming the dismissal of a proposed class action against cable services company Quality Communications Inc. for unpaid overtime wages, the three-judge panel ruled that the trial court had acted properly in dismissing the suit because, in light of Twombly and Iqbal, the plaintiff’s pleadings lacked sufficient specificity to state a claim under the FLSA.

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