On June 2, 2019, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB75, a legislative response to the #MeToo movement. Governor J. B. Pritzker is expected to sign SB75 soon, as it aligns with his campaign promise to tackle sexual harassment.

SB75 creates three laws and amends a number of others to increase protection for employees in Illinois who are victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence, and domestic and gender-based violence. Employers should be aware of the following highlights:


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As we close the books on 2018, New York employers really cannot relax after the bombardment of last year’s employment law changes. Many of these laws will require new levels of compliance in 2019, not to mention the new laws on the horizon.

This post will provide employers with a brief recap of what we saw in 2018, and what we can expect in 2019.

LOOKING BACK ON 2018

As we mentioned in our blog post last January – The New Year Brings New Rules to New York – New York State and City lawmakers were busy in 2018 enacting sweeping employment legislation regarding a variety of topics.

New York State

Paid Family Leave

New York State kicked off 2018 with the implementation of New York’s Paid Family Leave law (“PFL”). We covered the roll-out of this law in November 2017 in our post A New Headache – New York’s Paid Family Leave. The law has now been effect for an entire year, and covered employers should have well-established policies and procedures in place to provide PFL to employees. This includes distributing to employees a written policy regarding PFL, ensuring the employer is covered to provide PFL payments either through an insurance carrier or a self-insured fund, and complying with workplace posting requirements.

Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation

The #MeToo movement dominated the headlines in 2018, and New York State lawmakers took notice. Throughout the year, the state implemented anti-sexual harassment legislation that touched on everything from employment policies and training, to mandatory arbitration clauses and settlement agreements. We covered these new laws at length in July with our client alert – Fall is Coming! New York’s New Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws Just Around the Corner.

The new State laws are in effect. This means all New York State employers should have already issued a written anti-sexual harassment policy that includes an investigation procedure and complaint form for sexual harassment complaints. Employers should be focused on implementing anti-sexual harassment training that meets all state requirements, which must be completed by October 9, 2019.

Employers should also revise mandatory arbitration agreements to specifically exclude sexual harassment claims. Also, employers cannot require confidentiality in settlement agreements regarding a sexual harassment claim by an employee, unless the employee prefers to have the provision.
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New York City employers were given some clarity this week regarding their obligations under the City’s Stop Sexual Harassment Act, as the New York City Commission on Human Rights released new FAQs about the law (found here). These FAQs touch on training and posting requirements that all employers should be aware of.

Training Requirements

The FAQs provide guidance on the types of employees and workers that employers must train. Specifically, the FAQs state that employers must train any employee who works 80 hours or more and works at least 90 days in a calendar year (so the training will cover a large number of part-time and short-term employees). Additionally, employers must also train independent contractors who meet these same working time requirements. However, employers will not have to train independent contractors who have received annual training elsewhere. Regardless, independent contractors will count toward the total number of employees for determining whether the employer has 15 employees, triggering the mandate to provide training.

Beginning in October 2019, New York employers will have to train all covered employees and independent contractors (who do not receive training elsewhere) once every calendar year. The City Commission explained that it is working with the New York State Division of Human Rights to release a training module that will meet the requirements of both the City law and the recently enacted State law. The employer will have to maintain proof of training documents for three years, including employee acknowledgments.
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Effective October 29, 2018, the New Jersey Sick Leave Law requires employers to allow employees to accrue 1 hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours work, up to 40 hours each year.  The law permits employers to create policies that provide additional leave time.  Here is a link to the law from the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.

Since we originally posted about the Paid Sick Leave Law, we’ve received a number of questions about how the Sick Leave Law will impact various employers.  Here are some FAQs that we’ve received.   Have a question that we didn’t cover?  Let us know.
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IRC §162(m) limits a publicly held corporation’s ability to take a tax deduction for compensation paid to covered employees in excess of $1 million. As mentioned in our January 2018 Client Advisory, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Act”) repealed the exception to §162(m) for qualified performance-based compensation and expanded the applicability of §162(m)

Medical marijuana occupies a gray space within the United States. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law and is included on the Drug Enforcement Administrations’ Schedule I, along with heroin and LSD. The drugs on this schedule are considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” In spite of the federal prohibition, thirty states have passed some form of legislation allowing for the medical use of marijuana.

This conflict between state and federal law may cause employers confusion—especially in states with expansive disability protections. For example, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) which provides extensive protections for individuals with disabilities. The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“NJCUMMA”) supplements the NJLAD by stipulating that employees using marijuana for a medicinal purpose are considered to have a disability and such use is protected. These protections, of course, do not force employers to allow employees to use marijuana at work but do pose a dilemma when it comes to workplace drug testing. Many companies require employees to pass drug tests for federally prohibited narcotics. However, the NJLAD requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals. Since the NJCUMMA classifies medical marijuana users as disabled, is a drug test a violation of their accommodations?
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While a slew of laws relating to sexual harassment are set to take effect in New York City and New York State this fall, the most imminent provision-applicable to all New York City employers-is set to take effect on September 6, 2018.

The provision requires all employers with employees working in New York City (regardless

On Friday, July 27, after a 3 week trial in Manhattan, a jury awarded $1.25 million in damages to Enrichetta Ravina, a former professor at Columbia University Business School, who claimed that she was denied tenure and forced to resign in retaliation for complaining that a senior professor, Geert Bekaert, had sexually harassed her.  Professor Bekaert will owe her $500,000 in punitive damages, and Columbia will owe $750,000 in punitive damages.

Ravina first prevailed Thursday on her retaliation claims against Bekaert and against Columbia based on his conduct.  The jury also held Thursday that Bekaert, but not Columbia, could be held liable for punitive damages.  Jurors rejected Ravina’s gender discrimination claims against both.  The money verdicts then came in on Friday.

Interestingly, the jury found that there was no sexual harassment or gender discrimination.  The verdict was on the retaliation claims.  The jury also did not give the plaintiff the back pay and front pay she had sought.  They awarded only punitive damages, against both defendants.
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In the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, employers are able to enforce individual arbitration proceedings if arbitration was agreed to in an employment contract. Settling a Circuit split on the issue, the Supreme Court decision affirmed the Fifth Circuit holding in Murphy Oil, and remanded the Ninth and Seventh Circuit decisions in Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris and Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. Justice Gorsuch, writing for the majority, found that “as a matter of law the answer is clear. [ . . . ] Congress has instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms–including terms providing for individualized proceedings.” (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 584 U.S. ___ (2018) (slip op., at 2).

The Court, when looking at the Arbitration Act and the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), decided the two provisions could be read in harmony. “When confronted with two Acts of Congress allegedly touching on the same topic, this Court is not ‘at liberty to pick and choose among congressional enactments’ and must instead strive ‘to give effect to both.’” (Id., slip op. at 10) (quoting Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 551 (1974). The Court was unable to find any “clear and manifest” intent, as required by Morton, of Congress to displace the Arbitration Act with the NLRA.

The Court found that their holding was consistent with the prior decisions in Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 32 (1991) and NLRB v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc., 858 F. 3d 393, 413 (CA6 2017) finding that the Fair Labor Standards Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act do not displace the Arbitration Act. The Court likened the employee’s theory to an “interpretive triple bank shot” that “raise[s] a judicial eyebrow.” (Epic Systems Corp., slip op., at 15). Justice Gorsuch also reminded the employees that Congress “does not, one might say, hide elephants in mouseholes.” (Id., quoting Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001). Therefore, the Court sided with the employers and held that “Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written.” (Id., slip op., at 25).
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