- Posts by Ashley KrezmienAssociate
Attorney Ashley Krezmien assists in developing the employment law strategies and solutions that employers need to protect their businesses.
Ashley helps employers navigate local, state, and federal employment laws to ensure ...
On November 13, 2023, in USA ex rel, Morgan-Lee, et al. v. The Whittier Health Network, LLC, et al., a Massachusetts federal district judge concluded that although the plaintiff engaged in protected activity when she raised suspicions about billing fraud under the False Claims Act, her termination was not retaliatory where she engaged in erratic, confrontational, and insubordinate communication exchanges with superiors and colleagues. Morgan-Lee is a positive development for employers because it reinforces that engaging in protected activity does not shield an employee ...
As we reported in the first installment of our series on pay transparency, pay equity legislation continues to trend nationwide. While Part I focused on salary range disclosure legislation, in Part II, we highlight mandatory pay data reporting requirements that are being considered in Massachusetts.
What is Mandatory Pay Data Reporting?
Pay data reporting laws require covered employers to submit detailed compensation data reports, often broken down by race and gender, to state-designated agencies. To date, California and Illinois have adopted such laws. Under California law ...
Important changes are coming to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law (PFML), which requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with paid time off for certain qualifying absences. First, the Massachusetts legislature recently adopted PFML amendments (HB 4053), which, effective November 1, 2023, permit employees to supplement their weekly PFML benefits with accrued paid leave, including vacation, sick time, and other paid time off (PTO). Second, the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has released the new contribution ...
On September 25, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit clarified what a whistleblower plaintiff must allege to demonstrate they had a “reasonable belief” that their employer violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). In Ronnie v. Office Depot, LLC, the Eleventh Circuit adopted an employer-friendly “totality of the circumstances” standard for evaluating whether a plaintiff’s belief was “reasonable.” Ronnie is a win for employers in the Eleventh Circuit because it makes clear that, to establish that they engaged in protected ...
The first of the year brought with it new pay transparency obligations for employers in several states, including Rhode Island, California, and Washington. Halfway through the year, this type of legislation remains a focus for legislators from coast to coast, including in jurisdictions like Colorado, where similar laws are already on the books. While these proposed laws are all generally rooted in pay equity principles, their substantive differences and sheer volume raise serious questions for employers looking to recruit, hire, and retain talented employees across the country.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, employers found themselves in uncharted territory – a new virus, public health emergency declarations, and legislation. Against this onslaught of emerging circumstances, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidance on the application of existing federal equal employment opportunity laws to COVID-19 workplace issues. Since first releasing “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and Other EEO Laws” in March 2020, the agency has followed up with several revisions. The EEOC published its latest version of the guidance on May 15, 2023, just ten days after the World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 global public health emergency and six days after the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) technically concluded. Below, are the most significant updates in what the agency has called its “capstone” guidance (the “Revised Guidance”).
On April 19, 2023, in Gulden v. Exxon Mobil Corp., a federal district judge in New Jersey concluded that federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to enforce preliminary orders to reinstate former employees under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”). In so doing, the district judge declined to enforce OSHA’s preliminary orders requiring ExxonMobil to reinstate two former employees to their jobs for the remainder of the agency’s investigation into the pair’s whistleblower complaint, reasoning that the statutory text only confers federal district courts authority to enforce final orders. Gulden is a win for employers because it joins the growing chorus of federal district courts that have concluded that the Department of Labor may not force a company to preliminarily reinstate an alleged whistleblower before the Secretary of Labor’s final order.
Under the Biden Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission has aggressively enforced its Whistleblower Program. As we previously reported here and here, the SEC has increased its focus on employers’ agreements or procedures that it contends interfere with employee access to the SEC. More recently, the SEC has for the first time turned its attention toward employer compliance programs with draconian results for employers whose internal compliance efforts do not pass muster. Specifically, on February 3, 2023, the SEC announced a dizzying $35 million fine against Activision Blizzard, Inc. (“Activision”), a video game developer, largely for failing to implement an effective compliance system to process and track workplace misconduct complaints. Activision’s fine also included a violation for including a “Notice Clause” in the separation agreement template that it used between 2016 and 2021. We discuss each violation below and what this means for SEC-regulated employers going forward.
In December 2022, New Hampshire opened enrollment to private employers in the Nation’s first voluntary paid family and medical leave insurance program, aptly named the Granite State Paid Family Leave Plan (Granite State Plan or NH PFML). The Granite State Plan, which was initially introduced in 2019 as part of a failed joint proposal with Vermont – the Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan – was enacted in 2021. Vermont has since adopted a similar voluntary program.
While most people were wrapped up in the inevitable hustle and bustle of the holidays, Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced the Nation’s second voluntary paid family and medical leave program, the Vermont Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan (VT FMLI). Initially part of a failed joint proposal with New Hampshire – the Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan – the VT FMLI largely mirrors New Hampshire’s Granite State Paid Family Leave Plan by establishing a State insurance program in which private employers and individuals may voluntarily participate.
On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act (“the Act”) into law, overhauling the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”). When initially passed, the AMLA met with extensive criticism by plaintiff-side whistleblower attorneys for failing to set a defined guaranteed rate for whistleblower awards, with the potential awards ranging from zero percent to thirty percent for identifying wrongful conduct in the anti-money laundering area. In response to this criticism and to correct other “shortcomings,” Congress amended the law in 2022 through its omnibus budget to expand enforcement measures within the United States and beyond its borders by clarifying who can be a whistleblower and the rewards for successfully raising compliance complaints. Below, we delve into these changes and their significance for employers. Essentially, these changes will increase employers’ potential liability for retaliation claims by emboldening newly eligible whistleblowers and their lawyers to raise non-compliance complaints.
On November 1, 2022, in Dusel v. Factory Mutual Ins. Co., the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that “close temporal proximity” alone does not establish pretext as this evidence “must be considered alongside the . . . record.” Nor does mere close temporal proximity establish pretext where the employer has a legitimate business reason for taking adverse action against the employee, and more particularly, where the employer subsequently discovers the employee’s misconduct in a separate, unrelated matter. Dusel is a win for employers because it signals that engaging in protected activity will not immunize an employee from the consequences of misconduct that violates company policy if the employer enforces its policy consistently and documents the reasons underlying the employee’s discipline.
On July 13, 2022, the Massachusetts Appeals Court signaled a victory for Massachusetts employers who rely upon independent contractors. In Tiger Home Inspection, Inc. v. Dir. of the Dep’t of Unemployment, the Appeals Court reversed decisions from the Department of Unemployment (“DUA”) and trial court, concluding that the inspectors were independent contractors under Massachusetts’s Unemployment Insurance statute (“Unemployment Law”) and, thus, ineligible for unemployment benefits. Focusing on Prongs A and C of the Unemployment Law’s “ABC” test for classifying independent contractors, the Appeals Court provided employers with excellent precedent and concrete guidance for navigating those elements of the test. Notably, the Unemployment Law’s ABC language largely tracks the Massachusetts Wage Act’s “ABC” test, with Prongs A and C using identical language. As a result, Tiger Home Inspection arguably provides employers with much-needed clarity for navigating both statutes.
- Video: The Department of Labor's New Rules and Rising Challenges - Employment Law This Week
- Fifth Circuit Applies Its New Broader Title VII Standard in Bias Case
- New York to Extend Window for Filing Administrative Complaints of Unlawful Discrimination
- Massachusetts Federal Judge Rules That Protected Activity Does Not Shield an Employee from the Consequences of Engaging in Misconduct
- Pay Transparency Remains in Vogue This Legislative Session – Part 2: Pay Data Reporting