On Monday, March 18, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 121, which makes nondisclosure provisions in employment contracts or settlement agreements that are intended to conceal the details of claims of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment unenforceable and against public policy in New Jersey. Section 1 of the new law warns that a “provision in any employment contract that waives any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” is against public policy and unenforceable.” The law does not define “employment contract” and leaves open to interpretation whether it applies to all agreements between employer and employee, whether an employment agreement, a separation agreement, or a settlement agreement. The prohibition on waiving any procedural right would make arbitration agreements, which by their nature waive the right to a jury trial, also invalid and unenforceable in contravention of the Federal Arbitration Act and recent United States Supreme Court precedent. An immediate challenge to this aspect of the law is likely since it casts doubt on all arbitration agreements between an employer and employee that seek to include claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Section 1 also prohibits a prospective waiver of any right...
Category: Employment Agreements
New Jersey Senate Labor Committee Amends Bill Prohibiting Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Employment and Settlement Agreements
In response to the recent spotlight on sexual abuse and harassment claims in the workplace and the #MeToo movement, the federal government and numerous states, including New Jersey, have focused attention on the use of nondisclosure provisions in settlement agreements involving claims of sexual harassment and assault. As we previously reported, the Tax Cuts and Job Bills Act was passed in December 2017 and includes a provision that bars any settlement or payment related to claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse from being deducted as a business expense if the payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement. While the federal tax bill aims to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements, the proposed New Jersey legislation initially provided an outright ban on such agreements. At the time of its first introduction during the prior legislative session in December 2017, Senator Loretta Weinberg’s proposed bill prohibited New Jersey employers from including “a provision in any employment contract or agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.” The bill is unique because it is not limited to sexual harassment or abuse claims, but rather would apply to any type of discrimination,...
The New Jersey Legislature is poised to take up another thorny issue for employers, salary history. Described by legislative sponsors as an effort to promote pay equity, the legislation would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, or relying on it to determine salary at any stage in the hiring process. Two separate pieces of legislation have been introduced that prohibit an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 4119 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 2536 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.
In Lico v. TD Bank et al., a federal court in the Eastern District of New York upheld an employee’s right to bring claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against her employer, TD Bank (“the Bank”), for failure to provide adequate facilities and time for lactation breaks. The FLSA requires employers covered by the FLSA to provide employees (1) reasonable unpaid time at work to express breast milk for up to one year following childbirth and (2) a place, other than a restroom, that is not visible and is free from intrusion to do so.
“Five New Year’s Resolutions for Employers,” written by Employment & Labor Law Department Directors Kelly Bird and Carla Dorsi, was the featured cover story in this month’s Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. The article outlines the following five employment practices for clients to focus on in 2015. Resolution #1: I will review my company’s arbitration agreements. Resolution #2: I will examine my company’s hiring practices, from job postings through background checks. Resolution #3: I will ensure my company’s paid time off policies and practices are compliant with paid sick leave laws. Resolution #4: I will rethink my company’s policies and practices concerning pregnant employees. Resolution #5: I will equip my employees with the knowledge and ability to comply with and enforce my company’s policies and our legal obligations.
New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Agreements Shortening the Statute of Limitations for Employment-Related Claims
On June 19, 2014, in Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the validity of a provision in an employment application form by which the job applicant agreed that, if hired, he or she would bring any employment-related claim within 6 months after the claim arose. Plaintiff alleged he was terminated because of a disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) and in retaliation for having filed a workers compensation claim. The Appellate Division held that because the plaintiff brought these claims 9 months after his termination they were barred by the 6-month limitations period in the application form even though they were brought well within the 2-year statute of limitations period otherwise applicable to these types of claims.
It is common practice for employers in the process of terminating employees to present separation agreements that offer the employees severance benefits in exchange for a general release of claims. On February 2, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Commission”) filed suit in federal court in Chicago against the CVS drugstore chain, alleging that, since August 2011, CVS has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq.) by using separation agreements for their non-store employees that unlawfully interfere with the rights of these employees to file charges of discrimination with the Commission.
John C. Romeo, a Director in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department, will speak at the upcoming NJBIA Employment Seminar, “HR101: An Employment Law & HR Primer,” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at Pines Manor. Mr. Romeo’s panel, will discuss the fundamental HR topics that can affect your company. The panelists will provide insight into: at-will employment and its exceptions, dealing with difficult employees, hiring and firing procedures, and handling leaves of absence.
The federal government continues to take aim at those who violate trade secrets rights. On December 28, 2012, the Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act of 2012 (S. 3642) became law, expanding the definition of trade secrets under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). In addition, as previously reported in a Gibbons IP Law Alert blog, the President is expected to sign legislation recently passed by Congress that triples the damages for a violation of trade secrets protection laws and provides technical changes to patent applications and protections. Also worthy of note is an 82-page report from the U.S. Department of Justice issued last month detailing federal enforcement efforts concerning trade secrets theft.
Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement Provisions in Employment Agreement Deemed Unlawful by NLRB Judge
Over the past two years, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) has attacked various employment policies of union and non-union employers alike, ranging from social media policies to policies that establish protocol for employees to follow when responding to media inquiries. The Board also has been critical of at-will language commonly found in employee handbooks and policies used by employers throughout the country. In light of the Board’s recent actions, some employers–particularly non-union employers that have not historically focused on Board developments–have begun to reassess policy language that has long existed in their handbooks. Due to a recent administrative law judge (“ALJ”) decision, employers should add employment agreements to their list of employment practices to review and Board developments to watch in 2013.