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Lindsay Colvin Stone is an associate in the Labor and Employment Practice Group in the firm's New York office.

In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Appellate Division determined that employers in the state must reimburse employees for medical cannabis following a workplace accident, despite federal prohibitions against cannabis distribution.  The January 13, 2020 decision in Hager v. M&K Construction, Case No. A-0102-18T3, is the first time a court in the state has required reimbursement for a cannabis prescription in the workers’ compensation context, and may signal a fresh judicial focus on the scope of lawful medical cannabis use in the employment context both in New Jersey and in states with similar laws.

The Hager decision has clear implications for New Jersey employers, who are now required to reimburse injured employees for medical cannabis (at least under circumstances similar to those presented in the case).  Employers in other states that have legalized medical cannabis but have yet to rule on the interplay between the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) and state law in workers’ compensation disputes should also take note in the event that similar reimbursement requests arise.


Continue Reading New Jersey Court Commands Cannabis Reimbursement in Workers’ Compensation Dispute

On August 12, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S.6577, a bill implementing a series of sweeping changes to the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”). As we previously reported, S.6577 provides for a number of notable updates to the NYSHRL designed to strengthen state protection for victims of sexual harassment. However, the signing of S.6577 also implements a series of changes that stand to significantly impact employers with respect to all claims of employment discrimination, not just sexual harassment. This post summarizes key changes to the NYSHRL created by S.6577, along with deadlines for employer compliance.
Continue Reading Update: Governor Cuomo Signs Significant Changes to New York Discrimination and Harassment Legislation Into Law – Employer Compliance Required

On April 22, 2019, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in a trio of cases challenging the scope of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s (“Title VII”) prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex.  The definition of “sex” in Title VII, and particularly whether the term incorporates sexual orientation and/or gender identity, is currently the subject of uncertainty and a hotly debated judicial and administrative divide.  Specifically, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and United States Court of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits have each determined that the term “sex” encompasses sexual orientation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  While the court has notably declined to hear cases aimed at resolving the meaning of “sex” in Title VII in recent years, its grant of certiorari signals that the Court is now prepared to address the issue.
Continue Reading SCOTUS To Rule On Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination

On March 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, an act designed to amend and strengthen the existing federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House by a vote of 242-187 on a largely party-line basis, is sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and would make sweeping changes to existing law.
Continue Reading Equal Pay Act Amendment Passes House of Representatives

On February 18, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “NYCCHR”) released new legal enforcement guidance (the “Guidance”) regarding discrimination on the basis of natural hair and hairstyles. In the Guidance, the NYCCHR advised employers that “[t]he New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their race or identities.” While the NYCCHR made clear that “hair-based discrimination implicates many areas of the NYCHRL, including prohibitions against race, religion, disability, age, or gender-based discrimination,” the Guidance’s directives particularly focus on prohibiting hair and hairstyle discrimination against Black people, defined as “those who identify as African, African American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin-x/a/o or otherwise having African or Black ancestry.” Specifically, the Guidance states that the NYCHRL protects the rights of Black New Yorkers “to maintain natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”[1]
Continue Reading New Dos and Don’ts: New York City Bans Discrimination Based On Hairstyle

On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandated payment of so-called “agency fees” by non-union members in the public sector violated First Amendment principles protecting freedom of speech and association. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, No. 16-1466, 2018 WL 3129785 (June 27, 2018) a 5-4 majority of the Court rejected the holding of the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), which permitted such fees, as a wrongly-decided imposition on individual constitutional rights. This landmark decision presents major implications for public-sector union funding in the future, and is notable for all employers with unionized workforces.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Deems Public-Sector Union Agency Fees Unconstitutional

On April 12, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a 2019 New York budget implementing the provisions of S-7848A (the “Budget”). Beyond the obligations created by S-7848A, which we summarized in a previous post, the Budget also obligates New York employers to: (i) distribute a written sexual harassment policy; and (ii) perform annual sexual harassment training. The full impact of the Budget on employers is detailed below.
Continue Reading Update: New York State Passes Budget, Creates New Sexual Harassment Obligations For Employers

On March 12, 2018, the New York State Senate passed S-7848A, a bill that, if enacted, would significantly change the legislative landscape for sexual harassment claims in the state. Most notably, S-7848A would: (i) prohibit mandatory arbitration agreements for sexual harassment complaints; (ii) ban confidential sexual harassment settlements unless the confidentiality provision is separately considered and consented to by the complainant; (iii) create a statutory definition of “sexual harassment”; and (iv) expand state-law protections against sexual harassment to independent contractors.
Continue Reading Bill Banning Confidential Settlements and Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Harassment Claims Passes New York Senate

Last month, New York’s highest court took the unprecedented step of construing the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) more narrowly than its state and federal counterparts to bar plaintiffs’ city law disability discrimination claims. Answering a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the New York Court of Appeals in Makinen v. City of New York, Nos. 16-973-cv(L), 16-1080-cv(XAP), 2017 WL 4621717 (N.Y. Oct. 17, 2017) held that two former New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers could not sustain disability discrimination claims on the basis of “perceived untreated alcoholism,” even though such claims would be recognized under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Continue Reading New York’s Highest Court Narrowly Construes New York City Human Rights Law To Bar Disability Discrimination Claims Based on Perceived Alcoholism

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB” or “the Board”) reversed standing precedent and held that student assistants at private universities, including both graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants, qualify as “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and may accordingly join unions to collectively bargain with their employers.  The case, Columbia University, 364 NLRB 90 (2016), offers yet another indication of the strength of the Board’s commitment to maintaining and expanding its presence in a rapidly changing employment environment – and its willingness to overrule itself to do so
Continue Reading NLRB Allows Student Assistants to Unionize, Signals Commitment to Expanding Its Reach