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...
Non-compete agreements clearly are the subject of scrutiny by the New York Attorney General’s office, which just issued guidance called “Non-Compete Agreements In New York State – Frequently Asked Questions” (“Guidance”). The Guidance, in the form of FAQs, generally describes New York common law regarding enforceability of non-competition provisions in employment contracts or standalone restrictive covenant agreements. It notes that a court has the ability to invalidate or modify an overly-broad non-compete. It also provides guidance to employees regarding whether to sign a non-compete, which it states is not a legal requirement but only a potential mandate of an employer. The Guidance includes a list of considerations for employees before they sign a non-compete. Further, it provides contact information within the New York Attorney General’s Office for individuals to obtain assistance to address unreasonable non-competes. Finally, the Guidance describes Attorney General-proposed legislation to prohibit non-competes for workers earning below $75,000 per year. The Attorney General issued the Guidance after a recent matter it handled in which it obtained prospective compliance by an employer regarding its use of non-competes. The matter is the subject of an Attorney General press release. It is imperative that employers who use restrictive covenants in employment...
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the Federal agency that administers the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), just issued new Summary of Rights forms. An employer conducting a background check on an employee or applicant through a consumer reporting agency must provide such employee or applicant a Summary of Rights notice when first obtaining consent to conduct the background check — together with a written disclosure about the use of the background check — and when taking adverse action based on the background check. Starting today, September 21, 2018, the new Summary of Rights form must be used. The CFPB also issued forms called Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights that must be provided to consumers by credit reporting agencies when the subject of an identity theft. A new law also requires credit reporting agencies to implement a “national security freeze” at no cost to a consumer that restricts prospective lenders from access to a consumer’s credit report. Other changes include a one year (instead of 90 days) notification of a fraud alert in a consumer’s file. The notification informs a lender that the consumer may have been the victim of identity theft, for which the lender must take additional...
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,...
On June 27, 2016, in National Federation of Independent Business v. Perez, Judge Sam R. Cummings of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction precluding the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) from enforcing its recently introduced rule interpreting the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s (“LMRDA”) “advice” exemption. 81 Fed. Reg. 15,924 et seq.
Whole Foods Markets received the proverbial ugly holiday sweater in the form of a December 24, 2015, 2-1 decision by the National Labor Relations Board that declared its policy prohibiting recording in the workplace unlawful. The decision in the cases Whole Foods Markets, Inc. and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 919 and Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, focused on two rules contained in Whole Foods’ General Information Guide. The first prohibited the recording of meetings, with the laudable, express goals of encouraging “open communication, free expression of ideas, spontaneous and honest dialogue and an atmosphere of trust.” The only exceptions were when the recording was approved by management or all parties to the conversation consented. The second rule also prohibited the use of a recording device in order to “eliminate a chilling effect on the expression of views that may exist when one person is concerned that his or her conversation with another is being secretly recorded.” Seems fair, right? Not according to the NLRB.
Jury Awards $2.2 Million to Employees Over DNA Tests in Violation of GINA in “Devious Defecator” Case
A federal court jury in Georgia recently awarded $2.22 million to two employees in what is believed to be the first jury verdict in a Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) employment case since the law went into effect in 2008. Dubbed the “devious defecator” case by the court, Lowe v. Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services (Atlanta), LLC involved an employer’s testing of two employees’ facial cheek (or “buccal”) swabs to identify whether either was the individual who had been repeatedly defecating on the employer’s premises. All jokes aside, the decision is notable, not only because it is one of the few, if only, jury verdicts awarded under GINA, but because it serves as an important warning to employers that GINA may apply more broadly than some initially believed, while also possibly providing a blueprint for other courts on how to interpret the statute.
Effective October 1, 2015, employers in the State of Connecticut are restricted from requiring or requesting employees and job applicants to provide access to “personal online accounts,” which include email, social media and retail-based Internet web sites used exclusively for personal reasons. Specifically, the new law (Public Act No. 15-6) (“the Act”), prohibits employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to: provide the username and password, password, or other means of authentication to access an individual’s personal online account; authenticate or access a personal online account for the employer to view; or invite an employer to accept an invitation or be compelled to accept an invitation from an employer to join a group related to a personal online account.
NLRB Judge Strikes Down Employee Handbook Confidentiality Policy — Including Protection of Customer and Vendor Data
An employee handbook containing policies prohibiting (1) the disclosure of confidential company information, including personnel data, (2) use of the employer’s logo or trademark except as authorized by the company and (3) obstruction and interference with government investigations, including a requirement to notify the company’s human resources representatives or law department and to obtain approval to release information for a government investigation was found to violate Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in Macy’s Inc., JD(NY)-21-15. According to the ALJ’s decision, Macy’s employees when reading the policies could reasonably construe such policies to restrict their rights under Section 7 of the NLRA to engage in protected concerted activity for their mutual aid or protection.
On August 29, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that prohibits most employers from requiring employees or prospective employees to disclose user names and passwords for social networking accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The new law, which goes into effect December 1, 2013, makes New Jersey the 13th state to enact legislation protecting the social networking accounts of employees. The Gibbons Employment Law Alert previously covered the proposed bill before it became law.