Considering Offering Severance Pay in Exchange for Certain Post-Employment Obligations? Think Again.

An employer violated employee’s labor rights by offering her a separation agreement that contained unlawful terms ruled a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in Baylor Univ. Med. Ctr., Case No. 16-CA-195335 (Fort Worth, TX, February 12, 2018) (“Baylor”).

This decision is one of the first ALJ rulings to apply the NLRB’s new standard for addressing the legality of facially neutral work rules applicable to union and non-union workplaces under The Boeing Company, 365 NLRB No. 154 (December 14, 2017) (“Boeing”). In Boeing, the new Republican NLRB majority overruled Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB 646 (“Lutheran Heritage”) and announced a new standard it will follow when it evaluates a work rule that, when reasonably interpreted, could potentially interfere with union and other protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA (Section 7 conduct). Notwithstanding the new, more pro-business Boeing standard, the ALJ found that Baylor violated federal labor law when it offered a terminated employee $10,000 in exchange for signing a severance agreement and general release that included two unlawful provisions. The severance provisions at issue in the case were: Continue Reading

Obese Employees May Be Protected Under FEHA

In December 2017, the California Court of Appeal published a decision confirming obesity is a protected disability in California if it has a physiological cause.

In Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 18 Cal. App. 5th 908 (2017), Plaintiff was a woman diagnosed as severely obese, weighing over 350 pounds, at five feet five inches tall. Plaintiff began working for Defendant the Berkeley Tennis Club in 1997. Over the course of her employment, Plaintiff worked as a lifeguard, pool manager, and night manager. During her employment, Plaintiff received positive reviews, merit bonuses, and raises. Continue Reading

Actual Injury Required to Sue Under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

In recent years, the use of biometrics in business has been growing. In the employment context, for example, some employers use biometric time clocks, which allow employees to “clock in” with a fingerprint or iris scan. Unlike a password or social security number, however, an individual’s biometric identifier or information cannot be changed or replaced if compromised. In the event of a data breach, individuals may have no recourse against identity theft, due to the biologically unique nature of biometrics. Continue Reading

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act May Apply To More Than Sexual Harassment

Many employers rely on pre-dispute arbitration agreements to resolve employment litigation in private arbitration rather than in court. However, two recent bipartisan bills introduced in Congress may change the employment litigation landscape. Continue Reading

New Year, New Minimum Wage Rates in California

Beginning January 1, 2018, the new California minimum wage rate for employers with 26 or more employees will be $11.00 per hour and the new California minimum wage rate for employers with 25 or fewer employees will be $10.50 per hour.

As we previously reported, effective January 1, 2017, the California state minimum wage began increasing yearly through January 1, 2022 for employers employing 26 or more employees. Effective January 1, 2018, the California state minimum wage will begin increasing yearly through January 1, 2023 for employers employing 25 or fewer employees. Continue Reading

The End of Union-Dictated Micro-Units: NLRB Overturns Specialty Healthcare

On the eve of Chairman Phillip Miscimarra’s departure from the NLRB, he gave one final gift to employers: the overturning of Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011), an Obama-Era Board decision that allowed unions to organize “micro-units” of employees—drastically limiting any challenges employers could have to a petitioned-for unit before being forced to negotiate with fractured units of employees throughout its workforce. In PCC Structurals, Inc., 365 NLRB No. 160 (Dec. 15, 2017), the Board reinstated the traditional community of interest standard to be used when determining whether unions have included all necessary employees on a petition for union representation. The Board’s reversal is a welcomed relief to employers who have been forced to bargain with several small units of employees in one workplace, thereby preventing all employees at a worksite from exercising their rights to vote on union representation. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Rules That Hearst Interns Are Not Employees

In a decision issued earlier this month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that participants in unpaid internship programs offered by the Hearst Corporation could not be classified as “employees” of Hearst and therefore were not entitled to compensation for their internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Second Circuit’s decision in Wang v. Hearst Corp., No. 16-3302 (2d Cir. 2017) (available here) affirmed a 2016 decision by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granting summary judgment for Hearst and dismissing the claims of lead plaintiff Xuedan Wang and four other college-age individuals working as unpaid interns for Hearst’s various print magazines. The Second Circuit made clear reference to the case’s underlying significance, framing the question raised on appeal as “whether Hearst furnishes bona fide for‐credit internships or whether it exploits student‐interns to avoid hiring and compensating entry-level employees.” Continue Reading

Striking A New Balance – The NLRB Abandons the Lutheran Heritage Test and Devises a New Standard for Assessing the Facial Validity of Neutral Work Rules

In 2004, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB 646 (“Lutheran Heritage”), and held that the mere maintenance of a neutral work rule violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) if employees would reasonably construe the rule to prohibit union and other protected concerted activity (Section 7 conduct). For the purposes of this analysis, a neutral work rule is one that does not explicitly reference or restrict Section 7 conduct. In the ensuing years, primarily during the Obama administration, the Board relied on Lutheran Heritage’s “reasonably construe” standard to invalidate countless neutral work rules to the point that practically every employer in America was placed at risk of being found to be in violation of the NLRA by virtue of the wording found in their employment agreements, employee handbooks and work rules. Continue Reading

NLRB Overrules Browning-Ferris Joint Employer Standard

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) overruled Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015) (“BFI”) and returned to the pre-BFI standard that governed joint employer liability. Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd., 365 No. 156 (December 14, 2017) (“Hy-Brand”).

The BFI decision set forth a broad definition of “joint employer,” imposing liability and requiring bargaining in situations where a business possesses only potential and indirect control over the employees in question. BFI received widespread criticism from both unionized and union-free businesses, as the BFI test was unpredictable and fundamentally altered the law applicable to a number of business relationships including: user-supplier, contractor-subcontractor, franchisor-franchisee, parent-subsidiary, predecessor-successor, lessor-lessee, and creditor-debtor. Efforts to overturn BFI have been ongoing since 2015, including the Save Local Business Act which was advanced to the Senate in November 2017. Continue Reading

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