Workplace Harassment & Prevention

A proposed bill in California seeks to protect workers against nondisclosure agreements and empower them to speak out about alleged acts of discrimination, including racism. Senate Bill 331, known as the Silenced No More Act, was introduced in February 2021 and seeks to expand protections against confidential settlements to cover all forms of harassment or discrimination under California law, including on the basis of race, ancestry, religion or gender identity. If passed, the law will impose greater restrictions on companies’ freedom to contract settlement and non-disparagement agreements.

New Obligations if SB 331 Passes

  1. SB 331 will expand the existing prohibition of provisions that prohibit discussing sexual harassment in the workplace to discussing any type of harassment (i.e., race, age, religious harassment). (See discussion of SB 820 below.)
  2. The law will prohibit non-disparagement agreements that prohibit the disclosure of information about unlawful acts in the workplace.
  3. The law also will create new obligations, such as the requirement to notify the employee that the employee has a right to consult an attorney regarding the agreement and giving the employee “a reasonable time period of not less than five business days” in which to do so.

Several Employer-Friendly Changes to Observe

  1. The law clarifies that including a general release or waiver of all claims in an agreement related to an employee’s separation from employment does not violate the statute.
  2. It verifies that the law does not prohibit a provision that precludes the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.
  3. It confirms that employers may protect trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that does not involve unlawful acts in the workplace.


Continue Reading #MeToo 2.0: New California Bill Proposes Greater Restrictions on Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement Agreements

We recently published an update to our 50-state Shelter-In-Place / Reopening Tracker.

Please see HERE. This is updated weekly.

For your convenience, here is a summary of the major updates from around the country:

  • The following jurisdictions extended their state-wide orders and/or the duration of the current phase of their reopening plans: Delaware, Maryland

Special thanks to guest contributor Aleesha Fowler.

Baker McKenzie’s Labor and Employment and Compliance and Investigations lawyers discuss the key considerations organizations encounter when faced with high profile sexual harassment and misconduct allegations and subsequent investigations involving powerful authoritative figures, executives and celebrities.

Click here to watch the video.

 

We recently published an update to our 50-state Shelter-In-Place / Reopening Tracker.

Please see HERE. This is updated weekly.

For your convenience, here is a summary of the major updates from around the country:

  • The following states extended their state-wide orders and/or the duration of the current phase of their reopening plans: Connecticut,

America’s political divisions seem to be deepening. And, what’s troubling for employers is that our polarized political climate appears to be affecting employee productivity significantly, according to research by Gartner. According to a nationwide survey in February, 47% of employees reported that debate surrounding the 2020 elections is impacting their ability to get work done.

On June 11 and June 17, 2020, the EEOC updated “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” its Q&A technical assistance guidance for COVID-19 related issues. The new guidance expands its previous guidance, answering additional questions on several topics, including COVID-19 antibody tests, “high risk” employees (which we blogged about here), accommodations for employee screenings, how to handle national origin discrimination, and whether an employer’s safety concerns permit the exclusion of pregnant or older people from the workplace. We have summarized the new Q&A below.

Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams

A.7. CDC said in its Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” In light of this CDC guidance, under the ADA may an employer require antibody testing before permitting employees to re-enter the workplace?

No. An antibody test constitutes a medical examination under the ADA. In light of CDC’s Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace,” an antibody test at this time does not meet the ADA’s “job related and consistent with business necessity” standard for medical examinations or inquiries for current employees. Therefore, requiring antibody testing before allowing employees to re-enter the workplace is not allowed under the ADA. Please note that an antibody test is different from a test to determine if someone has an active case of COVID-19 (i.e., a viral test). The EEOC has already stated that COVID-19 viral tests are permissible under the ADA.

The EEOC will continue to closely monitor CDC’s recommendations, and could update this discussion in response to changes in CDC’s recommendations.


Continue Reading More on the Return to Work: the EEOC Issues New COVID-19 Related Guidance

Last week, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a comprehensive breakdown of the workplace discrimination charges received in 2019. The report shows that fiscal year 2019 continued the trend of declining numbers of pending charges. Interestingly, the number of charges filed in 2019 is the lowest intake in any fiscal year since at least 1997. While there may be any number of explanations for the decrease, one possibility is that employees are turning to expanding state anti-discrimination laws and more active state administrative agencies rather than the EEOC.

Continue Reading While EEOC Report Shows Overall Decrease In Charges, Retaliation Continues To Be Top Charge

In May, we gathered nearly 100 inspiring leaders and thinkers from the business and academic world to predict and plan for the future of work. We are delighted to share key messages and insights from our fourth Global Employer Forum in the link below.

However, in case you’re short on time, here’s the tldr:

We are in a period of unprecedented transformation, driven by technological development, globalization and significant demographic changes. Our world is hyper-connected, and the pace of change is rapid, bringing social and political transformation and creating profound global shifts in expectations. Global employers must evolve at speed to meet these disruptive forces head-on and to thrive in this future of work.


Continue Reading The Future Of Work: Insights From Our 2019 Global Employer Forum

California is known as one of the most progressive, pro-employee states in the country. But if the last several months are any indication, Illinois is quickly catching up.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s happening in the prairie state:

Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act   

What’s New? As of January 1, 2019, employers must reimburse employees for all “necessary” expenses. So what’s a necessary expense? Anything required of the employee in the discharge of his/her employment duties that “inure to the primary benefit of the employer.” Computers, cell phones, uniforms, etc. may all constitute “necessary” expenses that the employer is required to reimburse.

Takeaway: Employers should review their policies, job descriptions, and third party contracts to determine which positions/roles may result in necessary expenditures.


Continue Reading Is Illinois The New California For Employers?

In June, a federal district court in New York ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts a recent state law prohibiting mandatory arbitration agreements in sexual harassment cases. Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC  marks the first time that a federal court has ruled on this issue.

Continue Reading NY Ban On Mandatory Arbitration Of Sexual Harassment Claims Overturned