Many thanks to our colleagues in London, Yindi Gesinde, moderator, and Monica Kurnatowska, for co-presenting.

Moving the Dial on Inclusion & Diversity in Your Organization

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce remains a business imperative for global employers. Despite stakeholder and social pressure to accelerate progress, many companies have been unable to move the dial towards greater equality and diverse representation in the workplace. Stubborn I&D challenges are showing no sign of disappearing of their own accord.

A campaign to improve diversity must be fought on many fronts. Join our panel of Inclusion & Diversity experts on May 11th as they discuss the findings of our recent Mind the Gap Survey and the steps diversity and HR leaders are taking to accelerate I&D progress and the challenges they are encountering.

Guest Speaker: Dr. Stefanie Johnson

Best-selling author Dr. Stefanie Johnson studies the intersection of leadership and diversity, focusing on (1) how unconscious bias affects the evaluation of leaders and (2) strategies that leaders can use to mitigate bias. Dr. Johnson works with the best companies in the world to create more inclusive leaders, including presenting her work at the White House for a summit on diversity in corporate America on National Equal Pay Day.

Her latest Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Inclusify: Harnessing the Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams, shares the surprising ways the leaders undermine inclusion and provides actionable ways that leaders can pivot to build more inclusive teams.

Wednesday, May 11 | 90 minutes
8:00 am PST (Los Angeles) / 10:00 am CST (Chicago) /
4:00 pm GMT (London) / 5:00 pm CET (Frankfurt)

Click here to register.


Continuing Education Credit | Approved for 1.5 elimination of bias California CLE credit, 1.5 diversity and inclusion Illinois CLE credit, 1.5 areas of diversity, inclusion and elimination of bias New York CLE credit. Pending approval for 1.5 ethics Texas CLE credit. Participants requesting CLE for other states will receive Uniform CLE Certificates. Baker & McKenzie LLP is a California and Illinois CLE approved provider. Baker & McKenzie LLP has been certified by the New York State CLE Board as an accredited provider in the state of New York. This program is appropriate for experienced New York attorneys only. Baker & McKenzie LLP is an accredited sponsor, approved by the State Bar of Texas, Committee on MCLE.

This 1 hour and 30-minute program has been applied for EDI credit under the Law Society of Ontario. Approval pending.

**While CLE credit may be pre-approved in certain jurisdictions, final CLE accreditation approval is anticipated, but not guaranteed.

We are pleased to share a recent Bloomberg Law article, “How Employers Can Keep ‘Me Too’ Evidence From the Jury,” which provides guidance for employers to keep “me too” evidence—not to be confused with the #MeToo movement—out of trial. This evidence, which is from parties not involved in the litigation, can taint the jury and must be vigorously dealt with before trial, they say.

Click here to view the article.

Originally published in Bloomberg Law.

The latest version of our signature handbook, The Global Employer: Focus on Global Immigration and Mobility, is now available in an easy-to-search e-version.

Bookmark our site today to review the large scale global immigration, employment, compensation and tax issues related to the movement of employees across 40 jurisdictions* directly from your desktop.

Click here to access now.

For support accessing the new site, questions, or to request bulk access for additional colleagues, contact us.

*Jurisdiction chapters available for Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Republic of Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, The Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and  Vietnam.


Global Employment & Compensation Resource Suite

Looking for additional resources to ensure your HR and legal counsel remain up-to-date on the latest employment law regulations globally?

Access our Global Employment & Compensation Practice Group’s full digital library of legal content on-demand.

The Global Employment & Compensation Resource Suite is a self-service database that provides our clients with 24/7 access to our global employment resources. Once registered, users can browse our range of Global Employer Handbooks, 30+ Jurisdictional Guides, Blogs and Media, and Legal Updates.

Click here to request access.

Employers across the U.S. are requiring employees to return to the brick and-mortar workplace as COVID-19 cases drop, and they are looking forward to having employees work together again face to face.

But employers beware: employees have had little in-person interaction with their colleagues over the past two years, and some employees who were onboarded during the pandemic have only met their coworkers virtually.

Employees returning in-person may be rusty when it comes to interacting with others in the same physical space, increasing the risk that lines will be crossed into inappropriate or unlawful behavior.

What should employers do as employees return to the office to try to keep claims of discrimination and harassment to a minimum?

Click here to continue reading this Article.

Original article published in Law360.

On April 1, a state court judge in Los Angeles ruled that the California law (AB 979) mandating publicly traded companies include people from underrepresented communities on their boards violates the California Constitution. We initially reported on AB 979 here, noting that it was the first law of its kind in the US and was the second time California sought to mandate diversification of public company boards through legislation. In 2018, the first piece of California legislation (SB 826) aimed at increasing gender diversity; in 2020, AB 979 sought to increase diversity from underrepresented communities.

AB 979

The 2020 law requires publicly held corporations headquartered in California to include at least one person on their boards from an underrepresented community by the end of last year, with additional appointments required in future years. People from underrepresented communities are defined as anyone who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Under AB 979, the California Secretary of State must report annually on companies’ compliance with the law and may impose fines of $100,000 for an initial violation and $300,000 for each subsequent violation.

Continue Reading California’s Board Diversity Law Struck Down in State Court, But Movement for Inclusion and Diversity on Boards Persists

 

Many thanks to our colleague in London, Julia Wilson, for co-presenting.

 

An influx of high profile whistleblowing cases have made headlines in recent years, and claims (and awards) are on the rise. At the same time, more defined and greater protections for whistleblowers are coming into play in the US, UK and European Union.

It’s essential that multinational employers be aware of the whistleblower regulations proliferating across the globe and the notable differences between regimes.

In this Quick Chat video, our Labor and Employment lawyers provide an overview of the changing landscape of whistleblower protections in the US, UK and EU.

Click here to watch the video.

New state and federal limits on post-employment restrictive covenants mean employers must stay on top of more than just vaccination policies or the logistics of office reopenings. The swath of new and on-the-horizon legislation aimed at limiting the enforceability of post-employment non-compete agreements deserves employers’ attention too. Part One of our blog post series on restrictive covenants addressed the intersection of remote work and state non-compete laws. Now, in Part Two, we summarize recent updates to state non-compete laws, pending state legislation that could impact non-competes, and new federal-level activity aimed at limiting non-competes.

State Updates

  • Colorado

Colorado recently raised the stakes for violations of its non-compete law. Effective March 1, 2022, under SB 21-271, a person who violates Colorado’s non-compete statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor.

Colorado’s non-compete statute (C.R.S. section 8-2-113) voids agreements that restrict trade, such as non-competition and non-solicitation of customers covenants, unless they fall within a specific statutory exception: (i) a contract for the purchase or sale of a business or its assets; (ii) a contract for protecting trade secrets; (iii) a contract provision recovering education or training expenses associated with an employee who has been with an employer for less than two years; or (iv) a restriction on executive or management personnel or each of their professional staff. As of March 1, 2022, a person who violates this statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail and / or a fine of up to $750.

Many questions remain about the enforcement of this amendment, such as who will face ultimate liability for the employer (e.g., in-house counsel, HR staff, line managers, etc.). And though there is no indication that the new law is retroactive, Colorado employers were subject to criminal penalties for a violation of Colorado’s non-compete law even prior to SB 21-271 being passed, under C.R.S. section 8-2-115. SB 21-271 repealed C.R.S. section 8-2-115 while simultaneously inserting language into the non-compete statute itself making a violation a class 2 misdemeanor. It remains to be seen whether this is simple statutory consolidation, or a signal that Colorado plans to increase enforcement of violations of its non-compete statute. Employers should review their non-compete agreements and internal policies regarding which employees are required to sign such agreements to make sure they are in compliance with this new law.

Continue Reading The Only Constant is Change: Recent (and Potential) Changes in State and Federal Non-Compete Legislation

On March 30, Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5761, amending the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunity Act, to require all employers with 15 or more employees to disclose the wage scale or salary range along with a general description of all benefits and other compensation in every job posting. Beginning January 1, 2023, many Washington employers must make affirmative compensation-based disclosures to both applicants and employees.

With this requirement, Washington joins Colorado (read more here) and New York City (read more here) in mandating such public disclosures in job postings. While a number of other states (e.g. California, Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island) require disclosure of salary information to job applicants at various points during the hiring process, this law is more far-reaching as it requires public disclosure.

SB 5761

SB 5761 revises a 2019 amendment to Washington’s 2018 Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA) that was added to include protections for applicants for employment, transfer, or promotion, expanding the EPOA’s purview beyond current employees. Per the 2019 amendment, the law required disclosure of wage scale and salary range information to applicants only upon request. As explained above, the new law requires affirmative disclosure of wage, salary, and benefit information in job postings, however, it leaves unchanged an employer’s requirement to provide the same information to employees offered new positions or promotions within the company only when requested.

Defined Terms

“Posting” is broadly defined under the new law to include both written and electronic job solicitations. Specifically, “posting” is defined as “any solicitation intended to recruit job applicants for a specific available position, including recruitment done directly by an employer or indirectly through a third party, and includes any postings done electronically, or with a printed hard copy, that includes qualifications for desired applicants.”

Neither “wage scale or salary range” or “benefits and all other compensation” are defined or described. Hopefully, future guidance from the state will address these open issues.

Violations

Under the EPOA, job applicants and employees may be entitled to certain damages and other remedies, potentially including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, for violations of the statute.

Takeaways

Because the EPOA Amendments only define high-level requirements, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) will likely issue further guidance. We will continue to update our readers on developments.

In the meantime, here are several things employers should keep in mind:

  • Multi-state employers should consider a national policy for salary transparency given the growing number of jurisdictions requiring salary transparency.
  • Set (or review) standard salary ranges for all existing positions. Along those lines, consider an internal audit with counsel of current employee salaries to make sure there are no significant discrepancies or inequities. Equal pay claims are on the rise and this is a good time to review how you determine salary and the relevant factors you rely on for determining compensation.
  • Develop a process for consistently publishing information in connection with internal and external job postings.
  • Beyond just job postings, review any other related human resources documents (e.g., job descriptions and compensation policies) to ensure that any salary representations are consistent with the salary range set for a given position.
  • Last, be sure to train supervisors, managers, compliance personnel and human resources professionals on the implications of the new law.

Employers across the US are requiring employees to return to the brick and mortar workplace as COVID cases drop, and are looking forward to having employees work together again face-to-face. But employers beware: employees have had little in-person interaction with their colleagues over the past two years, and some employees who were onboarded during the pandemic have only met their coworkers virtually. Employees returning in-person may be rusty when it comes to interacting with others in the same physical space, increasing the risk that lines will be crossed into inappropriate or unlawful behavior. What should employers do as employees return to the office to try to keep claims of discrimination and harassment to a minimum?

  1. Update the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies

With a focus on health and safety measures such as mask mandates and vaccine policies for the last two years, updating anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies may not have been front of mind. But employers should review and update these policies now to ensure they comply with any newer laws in the jurisdictions where they have employees-such as Illinois’ Public Act 102-0419, effective January 1, 2022, which specifies that disability discrimination in Illinois now includes discrimination against an individual because of their association with a person with a disability. Updated policies should be distributed to employees, who should be required to acknowledge in writing that they have received and understand them.

  1. Train employees that the company prohibits discrimination and harassmentand requires respect

Employers should also train employees on the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies-especially before employees who have been working remotely for months or years return-to increase awareness of what is and is not appropriate workplace behavior. In one study, employees who received sexual harassment training were more likely to indicate that unwanted sexual gestures, touching, and pressure for dates are sexual harassment. Awareness of what is considered unacceptable behavior can help employees think twice before acting, and training showing specific examples of discrimination and harassment-such as actors portraying behavior that could be discrimination or harassment-may help employees understand behavioral boundaries.

Employers should ensure the training covers “to the moment issues” related to discrimination and harassment that may impact the workplace. For example, on March 18, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) which would prohibit discrimination based upon hairstyles in employment (as well as in public accommodations, housing, and other venues). Several states already have similar laws in place, including California, New York, Washington and Delaware. Even if the CROWN Act stalls at the federal level, training employees to respect each other-including each other’s hairstyles-can reduce complaints of discrimination.

Another example is microaggressions in the workplace. A recent Future Forum study indicated that only 3% of Black professional workers (compared with 21% of white professional workers) wanted to return to the office full time post-pandemic, after finding they faced fewer microaggressions from colleagues while working remotely. Aside from diversity and inclusion training (which many employers offer to employees), training all employees on the importance of respect in the workplace can keep all employees feeling welcome, included and valuable-whether they’re working remotely or in-person.

Employers should also ensure the training:

  • Explains the company’s structure for reporting concerns of discrimination or harassment
  • Emphasizes that the company prohibits retaliation for making reports or participating in workplace investigations of alleged harassment or discrimination
  • Describes the steps the company takes when handling complaints, and
  • Reminds employees they are subject to discipline for violation of the company’s policies relating to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.

Some jurisdictions, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New York State and New York City require employers to train employees on workplace harassment. But even if training is not required, employers should train employees before they return to the office-and regularly thereafter-to remind employees what inappropriate behavior looks like, how to report it, and the consequences for not following company policy.

Continue Reading Returning Employees to the Workplace? Consider These Tips to Minimize Discrimination and Harassment

Many thanks to our Franchise, Distribution & Global Brand Expansion  colleagues Abhishek Dubé, Kevin Maher, and Will Woods for co-authoring this post.

Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute applies to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and is not in conflict with the franchisor’s disclosure obligations under the FTC Franchise Rule (the “FTC Rule”), according to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision on March 24, 2022 in Patel v. 7-Eleven, Inc., No. SJC-13166, 2022 WL 869486 (Mass. Mar. 24, 2022) answering a certified question from the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. What does this mean for franchisors in Massachusetts? They cannot rely on required compliance with the FTC Rule to exempt them from Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute (G. L. c. 149, § 148B) and ensuring their franchisees do not cross the line to “employee” status when Massachusetts’ independent contractor ABC Test is applied.

The Franchisees’ Argument, Massachusetts’ ABC Test and the FTC Franchise Rule

7-Eleven franchisees filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging they were 7-Eleven employees instead of franchisees, and that they were misclassified as independent contractors in violation of Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute, as well as the Massachusetts’ wage act (G. L. c. 149, § 148) and minimum wage law  (G. L. c. 151, §§ 1, 7). On the one hand, the franchise agreements classified the plaintiffs as independent contractors, and instead of receiving a “regular salary” under the agreements, each plaintiff could draw pay from the store’s gross profits after paying various fees required by the franchise agreement to 7-Eleven for the privilege of doing business with it. Patel v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 8 F.4th 26, 28 (1st Cir. 2021). On the other hand, the plaintiffs were “obligated to operate their convenience stores around the clock, stock inventory sold by 7-Eleven’s preferred vendors, utilize the 7- Eleven payroll system to pay store staff, and adhere to a host of other guidelines.”  Id.

The case was removed to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The judge allowed summary judgment in favor of 7-Eleven, concluding that Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute did not apply to franchisee-franchisor relationships because there is an “inherent conflict” between the independent contractor statute and the FTC Rule. Patel v. 7- Eleven, Inc., 485 F. Supp. 3d 299, 309 (D. Mass. 2020). The plaintiffs appealed, and the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified the question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, asking whether the three-prong test for independent contractor status set forth in Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute applied to the relationship between a franchisor and its franchisee where the franchisor must also comply with the FTC Rule, and noting the apparent conflict between the Commonwealth’s independent contractor statute and the so-called “exerting control” prong of the FTC Rule.

Massachusetts’ ABC Test

The Court found the Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute does not limit “employees” to include only individuals under the control and direction of a would-be employer. Instead, the statute allows a presumption that an individual “”performing any service” for a putative employer is considered an “employee” for purposes of the wage statutes. (G. L. c. 149, § 148B.)

Once the individual has shown the performance of services for the putative employer, the alleged employer can rebut the presumption by establishing each of the following three prongs by a preponderance of the evidence (known as the “ABC test”):

  1. the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the individual’s contract for the performance of service and in fact;
  2. the service is performed outside of  employer’s usual course of the business; and
  3. the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.

If the alleged employer fails to show any one of these criteria, the individual is an employee for purposes of Massachusetts’ wage statutes (and entitled to the protections provided by them), but the first prong–the “free from control and direction” prong–was the one particularly at issue in the certified question.

The FTC Franchise Rule

The Court described the FTC Rule as not concerning employee misclassification, but instead a rule requiring pre-sale disclosure to combat deception in the sale of franchises, including misrepresentations related to the costs to purchase a franchise and the terms and conditions under which a franchise would operate. A franchisor’s failure to provide presale disclosures proscribed by the FTC Rule to a prospective franchisee is considered an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1), and the FTC Rule prohibits a franchisor from making unilateral, material alterations to the terms and conditions of the franchise agreement without providing timely notice to the franchisee.

The Court noted that under the FTC Rule, the disclosure requirements apply to, among others, “franchisors,” including “any person who grants a franchise and participates in the franchise relationship.” 16 C.F.R. § 436.1(k). And a “franchise” is a continuing commercial relationship where, inter alia, the franchisor “will exert or has authority to exert a significant degree of control over the franchisee’s method of operation, or provide significant assistance in the franchisee’s method of operation.” 16 C.F.R. § 436.1(h)(2).10. As such, according to the Court, under the FTC Rule, a franchisor triggers required disclosures when it elects either (i) to exert a significant degree of control over the franchisee’s method of operation, or (ii) to provide significant assistance in the franchisee’s method of operation.

The Court: No Conflict Between the “Free from Control and Direction” Prong of the ABC Test and the FTC Rule

The Court found there was nothing in the statutory construction or the legislative intent of the independent contractor statute to exempt the franchise relationship from the ambit of Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute-application of the criteria for identifying independent contractors.

The Court also found there was no conflict between the first prong of Massachusetts’ ABC test and the FTC Rule, pointing out:

  • The FTC Rule is a pre-sale disclosure rule that does not regulate the substantive terms of the franchisor-franchisee relationship.
  • A franchisor does not need to exercise any particular degree of control over a franchisee to comply with the FTC Rule’s disclosure requirements. Rather, the FTC Rule establishes rules for when the franchisor chooses to exercise a certain degree of control.
  • Disclosure requirements under the FTC Rule can be triggered even without the franchisor exercising any control over the franchisee’s method of operation if the franchisor provides “significant assistance” in the franchisee’s method of operation.

“The Two Tests Are Not the Same”

The Court also addressed the certifying court’s concern that a franchisor electing to exercise a “significant degree of control over the franchisee’s method of operation” might not be able to show that the individual is “free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service” under the first prong of Massachusetts’ ABC Test. However, the Court stated that even where the franchisor makes that election, the FTC Rule’s disclosure obligations do not negate proper classification of employees under the independent contractor statute. Instead, a franchisor can comply with the FTC Rule to make the prescribed disclosures, and in situations where a franchisee is deemed an employee under the independent contractor statute, the franchisor can also comply with its obligations under the wage statutes.

But the Court was careful to highlight that the franchisor’s election to exercise “a significant degree of control over the franchisee’s method of operation” does not make every franchisee an employee under the first prong of the ABC Test, because the two tests are not the same: “control over the franchisee’s method of operation” does not require a franchisor to exercise “control and direction” in connection with the franchisee’s “performing any service” for the franchisor, which is the relevant inquiry under the first prong of Massachusetts’ ABC Test. The Court emphasized “significant control” over a franchisee’s “method of operation” and “control and direction” of an individual’s “performance of services” are not necessarily coexistent.

And in response to 7-Eleven’s argument that applying the ABC test to franchise relationships would result in all franchisees being employees under the ABC Test, the Court noted that the court and courts in other jurisdictions had previously applied the ABC Test to franchising relationships, “yet franchising continues in the Commonwealth.” Patel v. 7-Eleven, Inc., No. SJC-13166, 2022 WL 869486, *24.

Key Takeaways

Patel is not the end for Massachusetts franchisor-franchisee relationships, but does provide some pointed guidance. If franchisors are careful to craft and implement franchise agreements without directing and controlling how the franchisee performs services, franchisors that have more typical structures should be able to maintain a proper franchisor-franchisee relationship and avoid becoming inadvertent employers–or coming within the ambit of the Massachusetts wage law and wage act.

The Court provided some “[a]dditional guidance,” which included a couple of “take home” points:

  • Nothing in the independent contractor statute prohibits legitimate franchise relationships among independent entities that are not created to evade employment obligations under the wage statutes, but referencing the Attorney General’s fair labor and business division Advisory 2008/1 at 5, the Court highlighted that “[t]he difficulty arises when businesses are created and maintained in order to avoid the [independent contractor statute].”
  • Distinguishing between legitimate arrangements and misclassification requires examination of the facts of each case, beginning with a threshold determination whether the putative employee “perform[s] any service” for the alleged employer–which is not satisfied merely because a relationship between the parties benefits their mutual economic interests, and is not satisfied by required compliance with federal or state regulatory obligations in isolation.

Under any standard, an accidental misstep could have the unintended consequence of converting a franchisee into an employee. Franchisors in Massachusetts and elsewhere should work with counsel to review both their franchise agreements and implementation and supervisory practices to avoid inadvertent conversion of a franchise relationship into an employment one.