In late May, California announced new amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) strengthening the protections afforded to applicants and employees, including those who are undocumented, on the basis of national origin. The changes go into effect July 1, 2018. The new regulations significantly broaden the definition of “national origin” as well as conduct that constitutes discrimination based on national origin.
Originally posted in the Daily Journal.
The California Supreme Court recently made a sweeping change to California’s gig economy. In Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, the Supreme Court ruled that in deciding whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the employer must begin by presuming that the worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the employer must begin by presuming that the worker is a common law employee.
Although the Dynamex ruling is limited to classifying workers under California’s wage orders, its practical effect will be much broader. Employers commonly use one definition of employee for wages, hours and working conditions, including employee benefit plan eligibility. The impact of the Dynamex decision on employee benefit plans that are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 is an open question. It will turn on the language found in each of those plans.
Click here to read on about the impact of the decision on employee benefit plans.
In a narrow ruling on June 4, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a couple celebrating a same-sex wedding on the basis of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages. (Same-sex marriages were not legal in Colorado at the time.) After the baker rebuffed the couple in 2012, they filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursuant to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in a “place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services . . . to the public.”
Two recent events in the US vividly illustrate the growing centrality of gender pay equity issues. On one side of the ledger, in early April 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, held that an employee’s prior salary—either alone or in a combination of factors—cannot be used to justify paying women less than men in comparable jobs. On the other side of the ledger, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, on April 20, 2018, announced that it is upending standards implemented during President Obama’s administration designed to promote gender pay equity among federal contractors. Under this new policy, employers will be able to decide for themselves how their employees should be categorized and analyzed for purposes of fair pay investigations by the government.
These two US events are merely the latest examples of increased activity around the globe with regard to the issue of pay equity. Click here to read more.
The legal landscape for employers – particularly those in New York – has evolved significantly over the last few months. On April 12, 2018, Governor Cuomo signed the FY 2019 Budget Bill, which includes significant measures targeting sexual harassment in the workplace, such as harassment prevention policy and training requirements. Not to be outdone, on May 9, 2018, Mayor de Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a collection of bills that require anti-harassment training and increase worker protections against sexual harassment.
Despite the longstanding nature of equal pay and pay equity legislation in Canada, on average, women still earn less than men. The Ontario Government and the Federal Government recently took steps aimed at improving women’s equality in the workforce and addressing the gender pay gap in these jurisdictions.
Click here to download the full report, which includes helpful information on how employers can prepare for Ontario’s upcoming Pay Transparency Act.
But Are They Right for Your Workforce?
The US Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision on May 21, 2018 in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, holding that class action waivers in arbitration agreements are fully enforceable, notwithstanding the right to engage in concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.
Although employers now have a tool to effectively eliminate most employment class actions through the use of arbitration agreements, several other important nuances remain to be considered before rolling out an arbitration program.
Click here to learn more about the decision and what it means for your business.
Welcome news for employers: companies can require their workers go through arbitration to pursue any legal claims against their employers, rather than go to court or join together in class lawsuits or grievances, the US Supreme Court held today in a 5-4 vote.
Writing for the majority in three consolidated cases (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris), Justice Neil Gorsuch said the Federal Arbitration Act sets a strong policy favoring the enforcement of arbitration agreements, and employees of the three companies failed to show they had any right to disregard the arbitration agreements they signed.
The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written. While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the NLRA — much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act. Because we can easily read Congress’s statutes to work in harmony, that is where our duty lies.
The ruling means that companies can enforce their class action waiver agreements and their employees will have to pursue their claims in individual arbitration proceedings. Please stay tuned for more to come from us on the actions employers should take now in response to this important decision.