Congress Considers Limiting Pre-dispute Arbitration Agreements in the Employment Context

Many employers require employees to sign arbitration agreements at the inception of the employment relationship and prior to any disputes, such as part of their new hire packets or as a condition of their employment.  Recently, Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to invalidate such pre-dispute arbitration agreements.

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California Court of Appeal Affirms Validity of Hospital Meal Period Waivers

The ability of hospitals to use meal period waivers was called into question by a 2015 Court of Appeal decision in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (Gerard I), which held that the provision in Wage Order 5 allowing waivers even when employees work over 12 hours was invalid.  Following two more years of litigation, we can now inform you that the three-member panel that reached the 2015 decision in Gerard I, reversed itself on March 1, 2017 in Gerard II.  In its new opinion, the Court of Appeal adopted Sheppard Mullin’s argument and confirmed that the special meal period rules for health care employees in Wage Order 5 are, in fact, valid.

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2018: California Employment Laws on the Horizon

Are you finally caught up on all of the new California laws taking effect in 2017?  Then begin preparing for 2018 because the California legislature has been busy drafting another set of employment related laws.  Here is a sneak peak of some of the more notable proposals that may be coming down the pike.  For now, these are only proposed laws that have neither passed the legislature nor been signed into law.  If they do become laws, their substance may ultimately change substantially.

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Proposed Legislation May Significantly Limit Class Action Litigation in Federal Court

Twelve years after he introduced the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has introduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (“the Act”), which would significantly change the federal class action landscape by creating several procedural mechanisms designed to head off lawyer-driven class action litigation.  The stated purpose of the Act is to “(1) assure fair and prompt recoveries for class members and multidistrict litigation plaintiffs with legitimate claims; (2) diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation that are undermining the integrity of the U.S. legal system; and (3) restore the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution by ensuring Federal court consideration of interstate controversies of national importance consistent with diversity jurisdiction principles.”  The Act contains many game-changing provisions, five of which are detailed below.

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All Single User Restrooms In California Must Now Welcome All Genders

AB 1732, California’s Equal Restroom Access Act, goes into effect today, March 1, 2017.  Accordingly, all single-user toilet facilities in any California business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.  A single-user toilet is “a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.”  Essentially, single-user restrooms – restrooms with one toilet and/or urinal and sink – must now have a sign that states the restroom is for all genders.  For example, if your business establishment has two restrooms that are both single-user toilets, then both restrooms must be all-gender toilet facilities.  The signage must comply with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, including the required gender-neutral geometric sign (a triangle within a circle).  The new law will be enforced by inspectors, building officials, and other local officials who may perform inspections to ensure compliance.

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*UPDATE* New York State Department of Labor’s Direct Deposit and Debit Card Notice Regulations Held Invalid and Revoked

As we previously reported here, the New York State Department of Labor (“NYSDOL”) issued final regulations in September 2016 imposing new notice and consent requirements on employers who pay wages via direct deposit and debit card.  The regulations, which were scheduled to take effect on March 7, 2017, have been invalidated and revoked by the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals (“IBA”) which recently issued a decision finding, among other things, that the NYSDOL’s regulations exceeded its rulemaking authority by imposing restrictions on financial institutions.

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The Continued Uncertainty of Paid Sick Leave Laws

Just days after Cook County passed its Paid Sick Leave Ordinance on October 5, 2016, several Cook County suburbs began the process of opting out of the law.  So far, four have successfully done so.  On November 15, 2016, Barrington was the first to pass its own municipal ordinance opting out of Cook County’s Ordinance, which requires all employers in Cook County to allow eligible employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year.  Oak Forest, Rosemont, and Bedford Park passed their own opt-out ordinances on December 13, December 15, 2016, and January 12, 2017, respectively.

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Congress Considers National Right-To-Work Bill: Beginning of the End for Unions?

Organized labor in the United States has experienced a steady decline in the last several decades, from a peak union membership rate of 35% during the mid-1950s to 10.7% in the year 2016.  For the private sector, the decline has been even more precipitous:  a mere 6.4% of private sector workers in the U.S. were members of a union in 2016.

On February 1, 2017, Iowa Congressman Steve King (R-IA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives that would likely deal a crippling blow to already weakened organized labor in the U.S.:  the National Right-to-Work Act (H.R. 825).  The full text of the bill is available here.  A Senate counterpart will be introduced shortly.

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Trump Initiates Ideological Shift in Administration of EEOC and NLRB

President Donald Trump signaled an ideological shift in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and National Labor Relations Board, through two new appointments, during his first week in office.  President Trump appointed Republicans Victoria Lipnic, and Philip A. Miscimarra, as acting chairpersons for the EEOC and NLRB, respectively.  Both Lipnic and Miscimarra appear disposed to pursue more business-friendly labor policies than their Democratic predecessors.

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Sheppard Mullin Travel Advisory and Immigration Update

The last two weeks in Washington have been very eventful in the immigration field.  In light of the travel restrictions recently imposed by the President’s executive order, we are now advising our U.S. clients who have foreign national employees in the U.S. and who hold nationality from a country that has been the subject of significant security concerns to consider remaining in the U.S. until the State Department and DHS announce new procedures for applying for travel visas using additional background checks.  In some cases, foreign nationals may have to file an extension of status with USCIS in the U.S. to allow them to remain longer. In other cases, it may be impractical for individuals to stay, but they should know that they risk being unable to return for at least several months if they depart.  Affected clients should consult with counsel first.

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