The new year brought some good news for California employers. On January 1, 2024, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller issued a decision permanently enjoining California state officials from enforcing AB 51, the contested law that sought to prohibit employers from “forcing” job applicants or employees to enter into pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements covering certain discrimination and retaliation claims. The permanent injunction reaffirmed the ability of employers to mandate arbitration for most employment disputes.

This decision comes less than a year after the Ninth Circuit found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Bonta. As noted in our blog post on the Bonta decision, the Ninth Circuit ultimately upheld a temporary injunction against AB 51, allowing California employers to continue to use employment arbitration agreements while the matter was litigated, and which—given Judge Mueller’s permanent injunction—now can continue indefinitely.

The Lead Up: Recap of the AB 51 Litigation Battle

Here is a quick summary of the AB 51 litigation leading up to the January 1, 2024 permanent injunction:

  • In December 2019, Judge Mueller issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting California from enforcing AB 51.
  • In September 2021, the Ninth Circuit struck down Judge Mueller’s decision to temporarily restrain California from enforcing AB 51, holding that AB 51 was not largely preempted by the FAA.
  • In August 2022, the Ninth Circuit withdrew its September 2021 decision and voted to take another look at the case through a panel rehearing.
  • In February 2023, the Ninth Circuit, backtracking on their September 2021 decision, held that AB 51 is preempted by the FAA because the deterring penalties that AB 51 imposes on employers is antithetical to the FAA’s policy of favoring arbitration agreements.

Continue Reading End of the AB 51 Saga: California Employers Can and Should Continue Using Arbitration Agreements

In late breaking news out of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul has vetoed legislation that would have imposed the most restrictive state-level ban on employee non-competes in the United States. Last June, the New York State Assembly passed S3100, which if signed by Governor Hochul, would have voided any contract restraining anyone from engaging in a

Special thanks to co-presenters Ricardo Castro-Garza, Alfonso García-Lozano and Javiera Medina-Reza.

This year our team helped Mexican employers overcome a range of challenges across the employment law landscape — from keeping up with evolving health & safety obligations, defending contentious employment disputes, supporting the legitimization of collective bargaining agreements, and much more.

In

We are pleased to share a recent LegalDive article, “Why companies should review noncompetes in equity award agreements,” with quotes from Barbara Klementz.

Given increased government scrutiny, employers need to be mindful of the time periods noncompetes cover and review state-specific requirements.

In the light of the sharp focus the federal government and a growing

Special thanks to co-authors Cynthia Cole, Heiko Burow, Inez Asante and Alysha Preston.

In June, New York Senate Bill S5640 unanimously passed both houses of the NY legislature. It seeks to enact restrictions on invention assignment agreements used in the employment. S5640 now moves to the desk of Governor Kathy Hochul and if signed into law, it will amend the New York Labor Law effective immediately.Continue Reading Creating IP in New York? Watch out! Your employee may soon own more than you think

Special thanks to Geoff Martin and Maria Piontkovska.

On March 3, 2023, the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) published details of a three year Pilot Program Regarding Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks (the “Compensation Pilot Program”). The Compensation Pilot Program is effective March 15, 2023 and from that date it will be applicable to all corporate criminal matters handled by the DOJ Criminal Division. At the same time, DOJ also updated its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs guidance document to reflect the criteria introduced by the Compensation Pilot Program, among other updates.
 
Background and Objectives of the Compensation Pilot Program

The concept of incentivizing corporate compliance by structuring compensation programs to reward compliant behaviors and punish non-compliant ones, is nothing new. For example, prior editions of the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs addressed appropriate incentives for company management and executives to promote good governance and compliance, and expectations about the consistent application of discipline against employees found to be involved in misconduct.

However, in a September 2022 memo to DOJ prosecutors titled: “Further Revisions to Corporate Criminal Enforcement Policies Following Discussions with Corporate Crime Advisory Group“, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco indicated that DOJ intended to go further on this particular topic. In the memo, Monaco indicated that DOJ would expect companies to design compensation structures not only to incentivize and reward good compliance practices, but also to financially penalize individual employees found to have been engaged in misconduct, including by clawing back compensation after the fact.

DOJ’s objective in this initiative is to encourage companies to redistribute some of the cost and penalties associated with individuals’ criminal conduct away from the company (and its shareholders) and onto the individuals themselves. Because misconduct is often discovered after the fact, measures that enable retroactive discipline and clawback of compensation already paid, are of particular importance to DOJ. These measures also reinforce DOJ’s continued focus on individual accountability which has been another of DOJ’s recent areas of focus in addressing corporate criminal matters.

Six months after Monaco’s memo, the Compensation Pilot Program now puts concrete DOJ policy in place to implement those objectives. At the end of the three year pilot period, DOJ will determine whether the Compensation Pilot Program will be extended or modified. If it is deemed a success, we can expect the Compensation Pilot Program to be fully adopted by DOJ. Continue Reading Practical Considerations When Addressing New DOJ Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks Program

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.

California’s latest attempt to restrict employment arbitration was foiled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last Wednesday. On February 15, 2023, a three-judge panel decided that AB 51 (which prohibits employers from “forcing” job applicants or employees to enter into pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements covering certain discrimination and retaliation claims) is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In doing so, the Ninth Circuit reversed its prior decision in the same case, issued by the same three-judge panel, which partially upheld AB 51 in 2021. While we expect the California Attorney General to challenge the Ninth Circuit’s February 15 decision, California employers can breathe a sigh of relief for now knowing it’s still lawful for most to continue to require arbitration agreements.Continue Reading California Employers Still Can Require Arbitration. For Now.

Special thanks to Mark Hamer, Creighton Macy, Nandu Machiraju, Jeffrey Martino, Darley Maw, Kayleigh Golish, Will Woods, Abhishek Dube, Bradford Newman and Nicholas Kennedy.

Over the past week, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) took a major step to expand competition policy deeper into labor markets.

On