On May 17, 2024 Colorado Governor Polis signed the landmark Colorado AI Act (Senate Bill 24-205) into law. Colorado is now the first US state with comprehensive AI regulation, adopting a classification system like the European Union’s recent AI Act. The law will take effect February 1, 2026

The law exempts small employers (fewer than fifty full-time employees) from some of its requirements but otherwise requires companies to take extensive measures to protect Colorado residents against harms such as algorithmic discrimination.

SB 205’s Details

SB 205 requires “developers” and “deployers” of “high-risk artificial intelligence systems” to use “reasonable care” to protect Colorado resident consumers from any known or reasonably foreseeable risks of “algorithmic discrimination.” As written, the law most likely applies to both creators of high-risk AI systems, as well as employers adopting high-risk AI technologies within their organization.  Continue Reading From Brussels to Boulder: Colorado Enacts Comprehensive AI Law with Significant Obligations for Employers on the Heels of the EU AI Act

The regulatory landscape for immigration compliance is constantly evolving. To protect and keep top talent and to avoid tangles with the law, US multinational employers must stay on top of the latest legal decisions and guidance.

In this blog series, our team of Global Immigration and Mobility experts will share significant legal updates and practical strategies for maintaining compliance. In our first post, we highlight the possible implications of the SEC v. Jarkesy case for immigration courts, and highlight the DOJ’s recently-released Fact Sheet addressing I-9 compliance when using electronic platforms.

1. Challenge to the Validity of Administrative Judges Could Have a Major Impact on the DOJ’s Ability to Investigate Employers for Immigration Misconduct

    A case currently pending in the US Supreme Court could have high stakes for administrative law judges in the immigration context–and, depending on the outcome, could theoretically open the door for challenging the ability of the DOJ to investigate employers for immigration-based discrimination.

    Background

    On November 29, 2023, the US Supreme Court held oral argument in SEC v. Jarkesy. Jarkesy, an investment advisor, had been found guilty by an ALJ of securities law violations. As a result, he was fined, barred from securities industry activities, and his firm was required to repay investors. Jarkesy challenged the SEC’s enforcement action at the 5th Circuit, which agreed with Jarkesy, and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Notably, a core question before the Court is whether Congress’ decision to allow ALJs to be removed only for “good cause” violates Article II of the Constitution (requiring the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”)

    Possible impact on ALJs responsible for deciding cases involving immigration-based discrimination by employers

    During oral arguments, conservative justices expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the SEC’s current process, where ALJs handle violations and defendants are not entitled to a jury trial.

    The arguments that could potentially weaken the authority of ALJs in the Jarkesy case–i.e., that defendants are unconstitutionally deprived of a jury trial when administrative judges address infractions–could also be extended to ALJs sitting within the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), potentially depriving them of their ability to adjudicate cases. Defendants are already using this argument in ongoing cases in an effort to invalidate the DOJ’s immigration-related proceedings against them.

    If the Supreme Court’s decision leads to the removal of ALJs at the SEC, it is likely that the authority of ALJs at other agencies will face subsequent legal challenges, including enforcement actions brought against employers by the DOJ for allegations of: (i) citizenship-based discrimination; (ii) national-origin-based discrimination; (iii) document abuse (relating to I-9s); and (iv) retaliation.Continue Reading Beyond Borders: How US Multinational Employers Can Master Immigration Compliance

    On Tuesday this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued its highly anticipated final rule on noncompetes, imposing a near-total ban on worker noncompetes in the United States. Barring injunctive relief from legal challenges (which have already started), the rule will take effect 120 days from publication in the federal register.

    Interestingly, the rule exempts noncompete covenants entered into pursuant to a bona fide sale of a business. While “bona fide” is not defined in the final rule, the Supplementary Information for the rule explains that the FTC considered but rejected percentage and dollar minimum thresholds for the sale of business exception to weed out “exploitative and coercive” noncompetes and clarified that excepted noncompetes must be given “pursuant to a bona fide sale.” The Supplementary Information further explains that the FTC considers a bona fide sale to be one that is made between two independent parties at arm’s length, and in which the seller has a reasonable opportunity to negotiate the terms of the sale. In contrast, the FTC specifically calls out as problematic “springing noncompetes,” which apply to employees in the event of a sale and mandatory stock redemption or repurchase programs because the employee has no goodwill to exchange in the sale for the noncompete and no meaningful opportunity to negotiate at the time of contracting.

    Nevertheless, the bona fide sale exception is broad and preserves the status quo by allowing buyers in M&A transactions to obtain noncompetes from individual sellers in circumstances where such noncompetes are otherwise permitted currently. While the pending and anticipated legal challenges to the rule are significant and place the entire rule in jeopardy, the sale of business exception is not likely to be narrowed because of these challenges.

    So, what does this new regime mean for M&A?

    What Type of Noncompetes Are Impacted?

    The Supplementary Information confirms that the new rule does not apply to B2B noncompetes or nonsolicits. Instead, the focus of the rule is noncompetes with workers that limit their ability to work for others. So the rule does not impact current B2B agreements.

    Second, the FTC repeatedly makes the point that noncompetes must meet existing state and federal law restrictions (e.g., reasonable in scope and duration; limited to the goodwill to be acquired, etc.) to be enforceable, even if they otherwise fall within the sale of business exception in the new rule. This is the case because the FTC rule creates a new floor for noncompetes by preempting more lax state rules, but it does not preempt more stringent state laws or federal antitrust restrictions.Continue Reading Still Going Strong: M&A Noncompetes and the FTC’s Final Rule on Noncompetes

    On April 23, the Federal Trade Commission voted 3-2 to issue its final rule on noncompetes, imposing a near-total ban on all employer-employee noncompetes in the US. Barring challenges (the first lawsuits have already been filed), the rule would become effective 120 days from publication.

    The rule will be a game-changer for companies operating in the US if it takes effect as issued.

    Breaking it Down

    What does the rule do?

    With only a few exceptions, the FTC’s now-final rule declares employer-employee noncompete clauses an “unfair method of competition,” and a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The rule targets both formal noncompete clauses and “functional noncompete” clauses that have the effect of prohibiting the worker from seeking or accepting employment with a person or operating a business after the conclusion of the worker’s employment with the employer. This can include broad nondisclosure agreements that have the effect of precluding workers from seeking employment opportunities in the same field.Continue Reading Breaking News: The FTC Bans Nearly All Employer-Employee Noncompetes Except Those Given as Part of a ‘Bona Fide’ Sale of Business

    The Department of Labor’s “new” rule for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act took effect March 11, 2024. The DOL’s Final Rule returns employers to a familiar pre-Trump administration totality of the circumstances test that focuses on the “economic realities” of the worker’s situation. The practical impact is that it is now harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, and it will likely increase federal wage and hour claims.

    There are mounting legal challenges to the Final Rule contesting the DOL’s rulemaking authority. However, to date, none of the suits have been successful at blocking implementation of the Final Rule. So, for now, it stands.

    Practice pointer: different legal tests for different laws

    Employers new to the US are often baffled to learn that no single test exists to evaluate independent contractor status for all purposes. This means compliance is complicated since different tests may apply depending on the context. And yes, this also means that it’s feasible for a worker to be an independent contractor for some purposes and an employee for others (such as under state and federal law, for example). Continue reading for a summary of the key tests that come up most often for US multinationals.Continue Reading New DOL Rule Makes it Harder to Classify Workers as Independent Contractors (Plus a Quick Recap of the Key Misclassification Standards Across the US)

    As a consistent trend-setter in passing employee-friendly legislation, California has enacted the country’s first workplace violence prevention safety requirements applicable to nearly all employers in the state.

    SB 553 requires California employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, train employees on workplace violence, and begin logging incidents by July 1, 2024.

    Detailed Requirements for a Written Plan

    The workplace violence prevention plan must be written, available and easily accessible to employees (as well as authorized employee representatives and Cal/OSHA representatives).Continue Reading California Employers: Prepare Your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (Deadline In T-Minus 3 Months)

    Earlier this year, many of you tuned into our 2023 – 2024 Employer Update webinars to plant seeds for success for the year ahead.

    Now, to ensure your compliance efforts are blooming, we’re sharing detailed checklists to help you ensure you’re ticking all the boxes!

    The US Supreme Court’s SFFA decision ending affirmative action in higher education continues to have ramifications for corporate America. Attacks to workplace DEI are gaining momentum with targeted challenges from a variety of angles, not the least of which are those coming from conservative advocacy groups filing lawsuits, requesting agency investigations and pursuing other complaints. Just last week, as many prepared to watch Taylor Swift’s boyfriend perform in the Super Bowl, America First Legal (a nonprofit founded by a former adviser to Donald Trump) filed an EEOC complaint against the NFL challenging the Rooney Rule, a widely used hiring practice that emanated in the NFL and is followed across corporate America. For in-house counsel, this just further emphasizes the need to continue to diligently monitor the changing DEI landscape for signals warranting targeted audits or adjustments to workplace DEI programming.

    When should in-house counsel take action? Let’s start to answer that question by looking at where we are now and the escalation of events in the past 7 months.

    Timeline of Recent Material Attacks on Workplace ID&E

    July 2023 | Letter to Employers from 13 State AGs

    Thirteen attorneys general used SFFA to support their opposition to corporate DEI programs (see letter to Fortune 100 CEOs here). In response, attorneys general from other states wrote to the same CEOs stating that SFFA “does not prohibit, or even impose new limits on, the ability of private employers to pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion.”Continue Reading Is The Risk Calculus Related To Workplace DEI Shifting For US Employers This Election Year?

    Special thanks to co-authors Thomas Asmar, Victor Flores, Denise Glagau, Christopher Guldberg, Jen Kirk, Maura Ann McBreen, Lindsay Minnis, Kela Shang, Aimee Soodan and Brian Wydajewski.

    As many readers likely know, last fall California doubled-down on the state’s hostility to noncompete agreements. Assembly Bill 1076 codified the landmark 2008 Edward v. Arthur Andersen decision that invalidated all employment noncompetes, including narrowly tailored ones, unless they satisfy a statutory exception.
       
    AB 1076 also added new Business & Professions Code §16600.1, requiring California employers to notify current (and certain former) employees that any noncompete agreement or clause to which they may be subject is void (unless it falls within one of the limited statutory exceptions).

    Individualized written notice must be sent by February 14, 2024 or significant penalties may apply.Continue Reading Don’t Miss California’s Noncompete Notice Requirement (Deadline 2/14/24) |Review Equity Award Agreements & Other Employment-Related Contracts ASAP

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    You signed a noncompete,
    That may not be true.

    Last year, California lawmakers double-downed on the state’s hostility to noncompete agreements. One of the new provisions requires written notice to current and former employees that their noncompete is void – unless an exception applies – by Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2024).

    Two New Bills Restricting Noncompetes in California

    First, as covered in our Legislative Reference Guide, SB 699 extends the reach of the state’s ban on noncompetes to contracts signed out of state; creates a private right of action for employees whose agreements include restrictive covenants and provides for attorney fees for any current, former, or even prospective employee who successfully brings suit against an employer’s use of those restrictive covenants.

    Second, AB 1076, codifies the 2008 Edward v. Arthur Andersen decision that invalidated all employment noncompetes, including narrowly tailored ones, unless they satisfy a statutory exception. In addition, impacting your Valentine’s Day plans, the legislation requires California employers to individually notify current and former employees employed since January 1, 2022 in writing by February 14, 2024 that their noncompete clauses are void. Individualized notice is required to the employee’s last known mailing and email addresses.Continue Reading No Love Lost: California’s Continued Crackdown on Noncompetes Requires Breakup Letters Sent Before Valentine’s Day