Discipline & Termination

Last week, a unanimous US Supreme Court held that an employee need only show “some harm” from a change in the terms and conditions of employment, rather than a “significant” employment disadvantage, to assert a claim for discrimination under Title VII. The decision resolves a circuit split over the showing required for discrimination claims based on changes less drastic than demotions, terminations, or pay reductions, and underscores the continued importance of taking a thoughtful approach to any change in the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment.Continue Reading Less is More: SCOTUS Shifts Title VII Threshold to “Some” Harm (Though Plaintiffs Must Still Show Discriminatory Intent)

We are pleased to share a recent SHRM article, “EEOC General Counsel: Anti-Discrimination Damages Caps Are Too Low,” with insights from our own JT Charron. Million-dollar jury verdicts in equal employment opportunity cases sometimes mask large cuts in final judgment due to federal caps on compensatory and punitive damages. Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general

Combining the views of 600 senior in-house lawyers at multinational companies across four continents with the insights of Baker McKenzie experts in tax, employment and antitrust, the 7th Edition of our Global Disputes Forecast helps in-house counsel see around corners as they prepare for 2024. The forecast includes detailed predictions for disputes involving ESG, cybersecurity

As discussed in our blog here, in February the National Labor Relations Board issued the McLaren Macomb decision prohibiting employers from “tendering” to employees separation or severance agreements that require employees to broadly waive their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Then, on March 22, the NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued guidance addressing

We are pleased to share a recent HRD America article, “Severance agreements can’t include non-disparagement, confidentiality clauses,” with quotes from Michael Brewer. This article discusses the recent NLRB ruling that companies can no longer offer severance agreements that include non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses. This ruling could potentially discourage some companies from offering severance packages altogether, while other

On February 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in McLaren Macomb holding that employers may not offer employees separation or severance agreements that require employees to broadly waive their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In McLaren, a hospital furloughed 11 employees, presenting each with a severance agreement and general release that contained confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions. (See the exact provisions copied below.) The Board majority held that merely “proffering” a severance agreement containing unlawful confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions violated the NLRA because conditioning the receipt of benefits on the “forfeiture of statutory rights plainly has a reasonable tendency to interfere with, restrain, or coerce the exercise of those rights.”

At first blush, this may feel like a sweeping change requiring immediate action. However, it is important to consider this decision with a grain (or two) of salt, breathe and thoughtfully plan your next steps. The key points identified below are designed to help you think through a tailored approach for your organization¾there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your approach will depend on the type of workforce you have, your risk tolerance and what you are trying to protect. We are standing by, ready to assist, should you need further guidance.

Key Points

  • For most private, nonunion employers, the risk of an unfair labor practice charge is relatively low. While it is absolutely true that the NLRA does indeed apply to most private sector employers, the NLRB and unions tend to focus more on unionized workplaces. (If you have a unionized or partially unionized workforce, the risk is higher but read on.)

Continue Reading You’ve Heard That The NLRB Restricted The Use of Confidentiality & Non-Disparagement Provisions In Separation Agreements. Here’s What Employers Need To Do About It.

With concerns intensifying about an economic downturn, unfortunately some layoffs or other reductions-in-force may be necessary for employers to weather the storm. 

What’s different now as opposed to early-on in the pandemic? Because of the ups and downs in the market, and phenomena like the “great resignation” and remote work on a scale never seen before

The Supreme Court of California has just resolved a long-standing debate over whether employees may recover additional statutory penalties if employers do not include unpaid premium payments for meal period and rest break violations (commonly referred to as “break penalties”) on employee paystubs, or include such premium payments with an employee’s final wages due immediately

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

California has always kept employers on their toes when it comes to changing employment laws. This year is no exception. Here is our roundup of the top 10 developments California employers need to know. (And scroll down to see what’s on the horizon!)

  1. Minimum Wage Increases

Effective January 1, 2022, the California state minimum wage increased to $15.00 per hour ($14.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees). As a result, the minimum monthly salary for California exempt employees increased to $5,200, or $62,400 on an annual basis (which is two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment).

For computer software employees, their minimum hourly rate of pay increased to $50.00 and the minimum monthly salary increased to $8,679.16 ($104,149.81 annually).  And for licensed physicians and surgeons, the minimum hourly rate of pay increased to $91.07 .

Some counties and cities have imposed their own higher minimum wage rates, including Los Angeles, where a $15 minimum wage for all employers took effect in July 2021. The following local minimum wages took effect on January 1, 2022, regardless of employer size:Continue Reading Top 10 California Employment Law Updates for 2022