On August 28, 2013, New Jersey Governor Christie signed Assembly Bill No. 2648, amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who disclose to or request information from other employees or former employees regarding job title, occupational category, pay (including benefits), gender, race, ethnicity, military status and national origin for the purpose of investigating or taking legal action against potential pay discrimination. The amendment, effective immediately, does not require employees or former employees to divulge this information.
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.
You have heard about bullying on the playground but, did you know it has moved into the workplace? Bullying is now an important employee relations issue for businesses and employers must be aware of the problem and address it. In their recent article published by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel entitled “The Case For Getting Aggressive With Workplace Bullies,” Kelly Bird and Lindsay J. Jarusiewicz focus on the following concerns: What is workplace bullying? How can workplace bullying impact employers and employees? Are there any laws against workplace bullying? How can employers address the issue?
On July 17, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act). Effective October 1, 2013, the law requires private and public employers with at least 25 employees to provide unpaid leave to any employee who was a victim of domestic violence or whose child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner was a victim of domestic violence.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released an updated Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. Beginning May 7, 2013, the new Form I-9 must be used for all new hires, including reverification or rehires. The new Form I-9 denotes a revision date of March 8, 2013 in the lower left hand corner of the form and is available on the USCIS’s website. Employers are not required to complete the new Form I-9 for current employees if they have maintained properly-completed unexpired forms on file for those employees.
At the Gibbons Second Annual Employment & Labor Law Conference last week, one panel discussion addressed the National Labor Relation Board’s (“NLRB”) recent activity, and offered a list of topics to watch in 2013. This blog post contains the highlights from that discussion as related to employer policies. Of prime interest in our predictions for 2013 is the “recess appointment” issue. Just three weeks ago, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Canning v. NLRB, No. 12-1115 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 25, 2013) held that three 2012 recess appointments of officers to the NLRB by President Obama were unconstitutional because they lacked the “Advice and Consent” of the Senate and were not authorized by the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause.
Employers must use an updated form in order to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), which covers background checks for job applicants and existing employees. The new form is for use effective January 1, 2013. No other provisions of the FCRA have changed. The FCRA Regulates the Use of Consumer Information – The FCRA regulates the use of consumer information. Consumer Reporting Agencies (“CRAs”) compile consumer information into detailed “consumer reports,” which may be used by employers for hiring and retention decisions. Employers also may conduct their own investigative consumer reports, which are covered by the Act as well. The FCRA provides notice and authorization requirements for the use of consumer reports and investigative consumer reports.
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.
Agreement to Arbitrate Trumped “Not a Contract” Language in Employee Handbook and Acknowledgement Form
The District of New Jersey recently held that a binding arbitration procedure contained in an employee handbook and the corresponding waiver in a signed acknowledgement form were enforceable despite a disclaimer in the handbook declaring the document to be unenforceable as a contract. In Brooks v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc., No. 12-CV-2821 (RBK/AMD) (D.N.J. Dec. 20, 2012), the defendant employer moved to dismiss the employee’s complaint and compel arbitration on the grounds that the employer had a binding arbitration procedure in its handbook and the employee executed a waiver of her right to sue the employer in court under two New Jersey statutes.
As we near the end of the year, now may be a good time to dust off your employee manual and training programs! An annual review of policies is a good best practice that can save your company both time and money in the long run. For instance, have you considered revising your policies or offering trainings in areas that have been the focus of recent legal activity such as: social media, confidentiality, reasonable accommodations, or bullying.