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Nondisparagement clauses have long been a staple in settlement agreements between employers and employees as a way to discourage disgruntled employees from debasing the company after they have departed. Nondisparagement clauses often require employees to refrain from saying anything negative about their former employer at all. But employers should keep a few things in mind to ensure that the use of a nondisparagement clause does not create additional risk for the company.

  1. Keep an Eye Out for Activity by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

The NLRB has signaled it may revisit current Board precedent holding nondisparagement agreements in employee settlement agreements are legal-meaning employers should watch out for Board action or decisions reverting to restrictions on nondisparagement agreements. On August 12, 2021, in her first memo as NLRB General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo issued a Mandatory Submissions to Advice Memorandum, setting forth that NLRB Regional Directors, Officers-in-Charge, and Resident Officers must submit certain types of cases to the NLRB Division of Advice (“Advice”) (which, in addition to other duties, provides guidance to the NLRB’s Regional Offices regarding difficult and novel issues arising in the processing of unfair labor practice charges).

Abruzzo identified 11 areas of Board case law involving doctrinal shifts from previous Board precedent that the Board, through submissions to Advice, would be examining-including “cases finding that separation agreements that contain…nondisparagement clauses…lawful.”

Abruzzo highlighted cases involving the applicability of Baylor University Medical Center, 369 NLRB No. 43 (2020), overruling Clark Distribution Systems, 336 NLRB 747 (2001), and International Game Technology, 370 NLRB No. 50 (2020) to be submitted to Advice for review.

Before it was overruled, Clark Distribution Systems stated that a provision in the confidentiality clause of a severance agreement prohibiting the employee from voluntarily appearing as a witness, voluntarily providing documents or information, or otherwise assisting in the prosecution of any claims against the company unlawfully chilled the employees’ Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)(which guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.”)

The provisions at issue in the severance agreements in Baylor University Medical Center included a “No Participation in Claims” provision in which the departing employee agreed not to assist or participate in any claim brought by a third party against Baylor (unless compelled by law to do so), and a “Confidentiality” provision in which the employee agreed to keep confidential any of Baylor’s confidential information made known to the employee during their employment. The complainants alleged that by offering the severance agreements with these provisions, Baylor violated Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA (which makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the Act). The Board disagreed, in part because the severance agreement only pertained to postemployment activities having no impact on terms and conditions of employment. The Board also found that Baylor’s mere offer of the separation agreement was not coercive or otherwise unlawful, and that there was no sign that the agreement was offered under circumstances that would tend to infringe on the separating employees’ exercise of their own or their co-workers’ Section 7 rights.

International Game Technology (IGT) applied Baylor to a separation agreement with a nondisparagement clause,  finding in that case that the severance agreement at issue was entirely voluntary, did not affect pay or benefits that were established as terms of employment, and was not offered coercively-and the nondisparagement provision did not tend to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights under the Act.

What to do?

What should employers do now given the NLRB review of cases applying Baylor and International Game Technology to ensure they don’t run afoul of the NLRA when using nondisparagement clauses in settlement agreements with employees? Employers should:

  • Keep an eye out for changes in the law stemming from the NLRB’s review of cases applying Baylor and International Game Technology.
  • Use precise language to make it clear that a nondisparagement clause only applies at the time of and after termination, to avoid claims that the terms of the clause interfere with an employee’s Section 7 rights under the NLRA.
  • Consult with counsel regarding the possibility of using a savings clause stating that the severance agreement, and specifically the nondisparagement clause, are not intended to prevent the employee from engaging in protected activity under the NLRA.


Continue Reading “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…” Keep These Tips in Mind When Using Nondisparagement Clauses in Settlement Agreements with Employees

On March 3, President Biden signed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,” H.R. 4445, into law. The landmark legislation allows a plaintiff to elect not to arbitrate covered disputes of sexual assault or sexual harassment. To understand the implications of the new law, click here.

President Biden is expected to sign into law landmark #MeToo legislation, which allows a plaintiff to elect not to arbitrate covered disputes of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021,” amends the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), by narrowing its scope and applicability. The bill’s passage had bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

Historically, some employers have implemented arbitration programs that require both the employer and its employees to arbitrate most or all types of employment claims, including claims alleging sexual harassment or sexual assault. Largely in response to the #MeToo movement, which began in late 2017, some states passed laws designed to prohibit or restrict employers from requiring employees to arbitrate sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. For example, in New York, employers are prohibited from requiring the arbitration of sexual harassment claims except where inconsistent with federal law. New York’s prohibition on mandatory arbitration in relation to sexual harassment claims went into effect on July 11, 2018, and it has applied to contracts entered into on or after that date. New Jersey and California have enacted similar laws. New Jersey’s law prohibits any provision of an arbitration agreement that waives a substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. This law applies to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or amended on or after March 18, 2019. Further, on October 10, 2019, California enacted a law, which prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign new mandatory arbitration agreements concerning disputes arising under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or California Labor Code.  California’s law applies only to agreements dated January 1, 2020 or after. However, courts have found these statutes to be pre-empted by the FAA.

On February 7, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4445, 335 to 97. Shortly thereafter, on February 10, 2022, the bill passed the Senate in an unrecorded voice vote.

Continue Reading Landmark #MeToo Legislation Allows Employees To Pursue Sexual Harassment & Assault Claims In Court, Rather Than Arbitration

Special thanks to Guest Contributor Harry Valetk.

In early May, private sector employers in New York will face new disclosure requirements for electronic monitoring of employees.  Beginning May 7, 2022, New York will join Connecticut and Delaware among the states that now require employers to provide written notice to new hires who are subject to electronic monitoring.  These new disclosure requirements come after Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law amendments to Civil Rights Chapter 6, Article 5, Section 52-C*2.

Here’s what New York employers need to know now about the new law:

Who is covered under the law? All private employers with a place of business in New York regardless of size. “Employer” is defined as any individual, corporation, partnership, firm, or association with a place of business in the state (not including the state or any political subdivision of the state).

What does the law require?  In practice, the law requires employers to (1) provide employees with a notice of electronic monitoring, (2) obtain proof of acknowledgement, and (3) prominently post the notice for all to see.

Continue Reading New York’s New Electronic Monitoring Disclosure Law Requires Action Before May

This year New York employers have had to scramble to keep up with many new employment laws, and next year promises more of the same. The latest: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s December 6 mandate that private sector employers require COVID-19 vaccines for their workers in NYC. If it survives expected legal challenges and takes effect December 27 (Happy Holidays!), the rule will be the broadest mandate of any state or large city in the US. From minimum wage increases, to regulations on the use of artificial intelligence tools in employee recruitment, to notice requirements for electronic employee monitoring, to New York’s fulsome response to COVID-19 through the HERO Act—private sector employers in New York have a laundry list of changes to implement and prepare for.

Below we highlight the 10 major employment law changes and updates that businesses need to know.

  1. New York City Vaccine Mandate To Hit All Private Employers December 27

By the end of the month, all in-person private sector New York City employees must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to an announcement by Mayor de Blasio. The mandate, which will take the form of an order issued by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will apply to nearly 184,000 businesses and will not be limited to businesses in certain industries or based on company size. The mandate will most likely parallel the city worker mandate in that employers will, in certain instances, be permitted to make reasonable accommodations to mandatory vaccination policies for employees with legitimate religious or medical reasons, but will not permit any testing options in lieu of the vaccine. The mandate will not apply to fully remote employees or those who are alone at a worksite. The city has not yet announced whether employers will face inspections or fines if they fail to follow the mandate, but it intends to release implementation and enforcement guidelines by December 15, 2021.

The new mandate is the first of its kind on a local level while the federal vaccine rule for private employers with 100 or more employees remains on pause amid several legal challenges. The city mandate is also set to go into effect only days before the New York City mayoral transition, leaving future enforcement of the mandate uncertain.

 Employer Takeaways

  • Stay abreast of further city announcements concerning additional guidance on the vaccine mandate.
  • Operate under the assumption that the vaccine mandate will take effect December 27, 2021, and notify employees of the new mandate so unvaccinated employees have sufficient time to get vaccinated.
  • Implement procedures to verify applicable in-person employees vaccination status and prepare to collect vaccination records as confidential medical information.
  • Prepare to establish a mandatory vaccination policy and a process for employees to request exemptions, to the extent your business has not already done so.
  • Begin considering operational contingency plans if your business expects that a significant portion of the workforce will not get vaccinated.


Continue Reading Top 10 New York Employment Law Updates For 2021/2022

When world economies face challenges, employment litigation claims of all types arise. In this Quick Chat video, our Labor and Employment lawyers discuss the range of trending employment-related claims and cases and share what employers can do to best position themselves to manage impending litigation.

Click here to watch the video.

Review our brochure, COVID-19

Ordinarily, courts defer to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) factual findings and its remedial orders given the Board’s broad discretion when fashioning a remedy. However, in the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in RAV Truck & Trailer Repairs Inc. v. NLRB, 997 F.3d 314 (D.C. Cir. 2021), the Court refused to do so.

Sometimes being too persuasive can have a downside, as Peter Robb, former General Counsel of the NLRB can attest. Robb had convinced the NLRB to find an owner had illegally closed his business and had further persuaded the NLRB to order it reopened. Contrary to common practice, the Court refused to rubber stamp the NLRB’s factual findings or to defer to the remedy, stating that the NLRB’s order “does not purport to explain how restoration is even factually possible.” Instead, the Court gave the NLRB a second chance at finding the necessary evidence in the now closed record.

Continue Reading DC Circuit Court Reins in NLRB: No “Rubber Stamp” of NLRB’s Findings and Remedy

A second court of appeals has refused to adopt a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision declaring an employee’s speech violated the National Labor Relations Act.  See Tecnocap, LLC v. NLRB, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 18080 (4th Cir., June 17, 2021). Similarly, in a decision issued earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit vacated an NLRB decision, finding instead it was not unlawful for an employer to make a false statement. See Trinity Servs. Grp. v. NLRB, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 16314 (D.C. Cir., June 1, 2021) (which we blogged about here). In Tecnocap, the Fourth Circuit deemed the NLRB’s decision out of bounds because in its view the employer’s speech “communicated accurate and lawful information,” and did not constitute unlawful “direct dealing” with its employees.

Continue Reading NLRB Loses Second Recent Speech Decision

On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed Senate Bill S2588, which grants time off for public and private employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The newly enacted legislation is effective immediately, and expires on December 22, 2022.

New Paid Leave Entitlement

Employees receiving the COVID-19 vaccination will be provided with a paid leave of absence from their employer for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection, unless an employee is permitted to receive a greater number of hours pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or as otherwise authorized by an employer. Time is to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each COVID-19 vaccine injection.

Continue Reading New York Enacts COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave Law