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...
Tagged: Terms and Conditions
On May 2, 2018, Governor Murphy signed the comprehensive paid sick leave bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature in April. For a description of the law and how it will affect New Jersey employers, please see our previous blog post. For questions regarding this bill, or paid sick leave laws generally, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.
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 the heels of sweeping pay equity legislation, the New Jersey Legislature has passed a comprehensive paid sick leave bill that, if signed, will require employers to provide employees with paid time off for a variety of purposes. For What Purpose Can Leave Be Taken? Employees can use paid sick leave for the following purposes: diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to the employee’s illness; to care for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to a family member’s illness; for certain absences resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence; for time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, in connection with a public health emergency or a determination that the presence of the employee or child in the community would jeopardize the health of others; or to attend school-related conferences, meetings, or events, or to attend other meetings regarding care for the employee’s child. Paid time off used for these purposes must be paid at the same rate of pay with the same benefits...
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.
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Windsor Striking Down DOMA Will Expand Workplace Protections for Employees in Legally Recognized Same-Sex Marriages
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a critical decision on June 26, 2013, striking down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that limited the definition of marriage for federal purposes to unions of opposite-sex couples. The Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor will have far-reaching implications for employers, at least in those states that recognize same-sex marriages, in terms of leave administration, benefits eligibility and workplace protections. In another case decided the same day, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court let stand a Federal District Court ruling in California that an amendment to the California Constitution limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was unconstitutional. In neither case did the Court require all states to recognize same-sex marriages.
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.
On May 30, 2012, the National Labor Relations Board’s Acting General Counsel issued a third report on social media cases. This report follows the Board’s August 2011 and January 2012 reports on the subject, which we previously discussed. The guidance contained in the three social media reports is applicable to most private sector employers, unionized or not.
On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Community issued its long awaited Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, updating and clarifying its prior guidance on the subject. The good news? Employers may continue to use criminal background checks as a screening tool for applicants and employees. However, employers are specifically discouraged from asking about a criminal record on the application and are encouraged to conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant/employee when job exclusion occurs because of a criminal record. Employers should review their policies to ensure compliance with the EEOC’s latest recommendations.
On January 3, 2012, The National Labor Relations Board issued its decision in, D.R. Horton, Inc. Case No. 12-CA-25764. This is a significant decision for all employers as it prohibits the use of class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements. Specifically, the Board held that arbitration agreements that contain provisions that prohibit employees from filing joint, class or collective claims addressing their wages, hours or other working conditions against their employer, in any forum, violate Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).