• Posts by Lauri F. Rasnick
    Member of the Firm

    Attorney Lauri Rasnick is an experienced litigator, investigator, and trusted advisor to businesses and their executives. When employers face difficult workforce challenges, they call Lauri for a plan.

    With her analysis and ...

Blogs
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On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States issued three opinions. Of them, Groff v. DeJoy ("Groff”),in which the Court unanimously revised the standard for determining whether accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs would constitute an “undue hardship” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), will have the most immediate impact on employers. In Groff, the Court held that employers cannot deny a religious accommodation by demonstrating that it would result in only more than a de minimis cost, but rather must demonstrate that it would result in a substantial cost.

Blogs
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On September 20, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams announced that New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers is ending.  The City’s mandate for municipal employees, however, will remain in effect.

Blogs
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On March 14, 2022, the EEOC issued a technical assistance document, The COVID-19 Pandemic and Caregiver Discrimination Under Federal Employment Discrimination Laws, which provides guidance as to ways equal employment opportunity laws enforced by the EEOC (“EEO laws”) may apply to caregivers. In conjunction with this, the EEOC added a Section I (“Caregivers/Family Responsibilities”)  to “What You Should Know About COVID-19,” its primary COVID-19 related guidance document. Enforcement guidance issued by the EEOC in 2007, previously addressed circumstances in which discrimination against caregivers might constitute unlawful disparate treatment. The EEOC has issued this new guidance in response to how the COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected employees with caregiver responsibilities.

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As we previously reported, in December New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a mandate requiring that masks be worn in all indoor public places, unless the business or venue requires proof of vaccination for entry.  As part of the state’s “Winter Surge Plan 2.0”, the mandate, which was initially set to expire on January 15, has now been extended for an additional two weeks, through February 1, 2022.

Blogs
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New York City’s private employer vaccine mandate became effective Monday. December 27, 2021 and, the City has updated its FAQs document and the Accommodations Guidance document (“Guidance”).

Guidance Updates: The Guidance was amended to reflect that the New York City Human Rights Law provides for accommodations for pregnancy and for victims of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking in addition to medical and religious reasons. The Guidance also clarifies that the examples for medical exemptions for vaccination were those that had been found worthy by the CDC and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Further, the Guidance modifies some language on the religious accommodation checklist around the types of information needed to support religious accommodation requests. As we previously shared, the checklist the City recommends that employers maintain and complete in connection with each religious accommodation request does not alleviate an employer’s need to analyze such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Blogs
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On Monday, October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued updates to its online technical assistance for employers, providing guidance for managing workplace issues arising from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with the panoply of federal anti-discrimination laws that it enforces.

The updated guidance now includes a new section “L” entitled Vaccinations – Title VII and Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates. The new material includes links to federal regulations regarding religious discrimination as ...

Blogs
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On Friday, October 1, 2021, the New York State Division of Human Rights (“the Division”), the agency responsible for enforcement of the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), issued a notice, partially reproduced on the Division’s website, announcing a significant change in policy regarding the agency’s processes for complaint resolution: after October 12, 2021, the Division will no longer grant requests for discontinuance of complaints due to confidential private settlements.

As stated in the Division’s notice, if a complainant seeks to discontinue an ...

Blogs
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On June 17, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC” or “the Commission”) again updated its COVID-19-related technical assistance for employers (“Guidance”).  The Commission’s recent updates have focused on return-to-work issues (e.g., see June 11, 2020 Guidance update). This latest update advises employers that, at least for now, requiring employees to undergo antibody testing before re-entering the workplace violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”).

In reaching its conclusion, the EEOC relied on recent Interim ...

Blogs
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On May 5, 2020, and again on May 7, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) updated its technical assistance for employers, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”

The EEOC has updated its guidance multiple times since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, on April 17, the EEOC provided guidance on employers’ reasonable accommodation obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) and included a section on “Return to Work” issues (discussed here). On ...

Blogs
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On the heels of adding Return to Work guidance to its technical assistance for employers, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Law” (discussed  here),  on April 23, 2020 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued an update addressing COVID-19 testing by employers. This latest guidance acknowledges that COVID-19 presents a direct threat to the health of others sufficient to justify testing.  It cautions, however, that employers should only use tests that are “accurate and reliable.” Specifically ...

Blogs
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On April 17, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) once again updated its technical assistance for employers, titled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”

Previously, the EEOC (i) on March 17, 2020, issued initial guidance on COVID-19 in a series of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) (discussed here) (ii) on March 19, updated its publication titled “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act,” to address issues specifically concerning ...

Blogs
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On April 9, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued its latest guidance (“Guidance”) for employers on how to ensure compliance with their obligations under federal antidiscrimination laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we previously reported, the EEOC’s initial guidance on COVID-19 was released on March 17, 2020, as a series of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”). Two days later, the agency updated its publication titled “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act” (“ADA” ...

Blogs
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On April 5, 2019, FINRA published Regulatory Notice 19-10 (the “Notice”) addressing the responsibilities of member firms when communicating with customers about departing registered representatives.  As the Notice indicates, in the event a registered representative leaves a member firm, FINRA aims to avoid any disruption in the service of customer accounts and to ensure that customers can make a “timely and informed choice” about where to maintain their assets. The Notice contains two key points about what is expected of member firms in terms of customer communications ...

Blogs
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In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that employers may lawfully require employees to sign arbitration agreements that include a waiver of the right to participate in an employee class action lawsuit or arbitration. Below, we discuss the significance of this decision and highlight issues that employers may wish to consider in the wake of it.

Epic Systems—a Pivotal Win for Employers

The NLRB planted the seed for Epic Systems in 2012, when it first took the position that Section 7 of the National Labor relations Act (“NLRA”)—which affords employees ...

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We published an article with Thomson Reuters Practical Law summarizing key employment issues for financial services employers, highlighting those rules applicable to registered representatives regulated by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). With Thomson Reuters Practical Law’s permission, we have attached it here.

Blogs
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Equal pay for equal work has been required for many years, but, as of late, this rather static requirement has become the focal point of regulators, state and local governments, and activists. In order to achieve equality in compensation, the efforts are becoming increasingly creative with new pushes for transparency, privacy, and/or disclosures. Financial services firms are often the target and should not only be aware of these innovative measures and requirements but also consider what proactive actions to put in place.

Eliminating Pay Secrecy

The National Labor Relations ...

Blogs
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Once again seemingly appropriate work rules have been under attack by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). In a recent decision (Component Bar Products, Inc. and James R. Stout, Case 14-CA-145064), two members of a three-member NLRB panel upheld an August 7, 2015 decision by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) finding that an employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or the “Act”) by maintaining overly broad handbook rules and terminating an employee who was engaged in “protected, concerted activity” when he called another ...

Blogs
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We previously reported that on June 9, 2015, six federal agencies (“Agencies”) subject to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Act”) issued much-anticipated joint final standards (“Final Standards”) in accordance with Section 342 of the Act for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the entities that they regulate (“Covered Entities”). See our earlier client advisory for an overview of the Final Standards which are divided into five general categories: (i) organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion ...

Blogs
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In a recent decision, a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) ruled that Quicken Loans’s (the “Company”) Detroit, Michigan branch (along with five related entities) violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by using and disseminating an employee manual in its non-union workplace that the ALJ concluded interfered with employees’ rights under the NLRA.  This was yet another case in which the NLRB took aim against Quicken Loans for adopting work rules and/or policies that an ALJ found would “chill” ...

Blogs
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A recent National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decision by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found numerous violations of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) stemming from the reaction of a mortgage brokerage firm to a conversation in which one of its bankers used profanity and complained about a client in an office restroom.  While this decision may seem extreme to some, it is also an example of the expansive view that the NLRB is taking in deciding what types of employee communication and activities, particularly with respect to non-unionized workforces ...

Blogs
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Employers seeking to protect their competitive advantage and find an alternative method of influencing employees to not compete are increasingly relying on so-called “forfeiture for competition” agreements in place of traditional non-competes. This trend is driven, in large part, by the “employee choice” doctrine. In states that have adopted the employee choice doctrine, such as New York, a post-employment non-compete will not be subject to the usual reasonableness standard when it is contingent upon an employee’s choice between receiving and retaining a benefit ...
Blogs
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The SEC has become increasingly vigilant and aggressive about what employers say in their confidentiality agreements and the context in which they say it.  We previously cautioned employers when FINRA issued a Regulatory Notice cracking down on the use of confidentiality provisions that restrict employees from communicating with FINRA, the SEC, or any other self-regulatory organization or regulatory authority.  The SEC has now followed suit in In re KBR, Inc., (pdf) the SEC’s first-ever enforcement action against a company for using overly restrictive language in one of its ...
Blogs
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By Kenneth DiGia and Lauri F. Rasnick

FINRA just issued a reminder regarding its views on confidentiality provisions and confidentiality stipulations.

Settlement Agreements

In Regulatory Notice 14-40, FINRA follows up on its prior Notice to Members 04-44, in which it had cautioned firms about the use of certain provisions in settlement agreements that impede, or have the potential to impede, FINRA investigations and the enforcement of FINRA actions.  Specifically, FINRA had addressed settlement agreement provisions which limited, prohibited or discouraged employees from ...

Blogs
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With my colleagues Peter Stein and Dean Singewald II, I recently coauthored an advisory for employers in the financial services industry: Dodd-Frank Standards Proposed for Assessing Diversity Policies and Practices of Covered Entities in the Financial Services Industry.

Following is an excerpt:

Six federal agencies ("Agencies") subject to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 ("Act") issued much-anticipated jointly proposed standards in accordance with Section 342 of the Act for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the ...

Blogs
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By: Lauri F. Rasnick

At our October 2012 client briefing we discussed the new attitude of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) and the fact that non-unionized employers were not immune from the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  The NLRA has been increasingly applied in non-union workplaces.  And most recently, it has found its way into the financial services industry.  In a recent NLRB administrative law judge’s decision, provisions contained in a mortgage banker’s employment agreement were found violative of the NLRA.  The provisions at ...

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by Lauri F. Rasnick

FINRA is contemplating a new rule that would require brokers transferring firms to inform clients about their signing bonuses or other compensation they are receiving in connection with their moves.  The potential rule, which is now out for public comment, is being considered to protect customers.   By mandating disclosure of the money offered in connection with a move, the client can consider the true motivation behind the move and whether it is in the client’s best interest to transfer all of his or her business.  Indeed, many firms luring over brokers offer ...

Blogs
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Before the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd Frank”) was enacted, whistleblower claims by registered representatives, including those arising pursuant to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”) were subject to mandatory arbitration at FINRA.  See FINRA Notice 12-21 (PDF).  Dodd Frank changed that.  Dodd Frank specifically amended SOX to provide that “[n]o dispute arbitration agreement shall be valid or enforceable, if the agreement requires arbitration of a dispute arising under this section.”  In addition, SOX was also amended to ...

Blogs
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By: Lauri F. Rasnick

FINRA recently announced that it fined Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith (“Merrill”) one million dollars for failing to arbitrate claims with employees. See January 25, 2012 News Release.    The disputes at issue arose out of promissory notes executed by Merrill employees in connection with the Bank of America Corporation (“BOA”) acquisition.  After the BOA acquisition, Merrill created a program called the Advisor Transition Program (“ATP”).  Pursuant to this program, Merrill was to pay particular registered representatives lump sum ...

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