Where is the impact of alleged employment discrimination? That is the question when evaluating whether a remote worker can assert claims under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), according to a recent decision by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos. Relying on state law, Judge Ramos concluded that the basis for subject matter jurisdiction has not changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains grounded in New York’s “Impact Test,” meaning courts will look to where the impact of alleged discriminatory conduct was felt. Thus, regardless of whether an employer is located in New York, the anti-discrimination laws are intended to protect employees who live or work in New York.

Continue Reading New York’s Anti-Discrimination Laws Do Not Protect Out-of-State Remote Workers

Employees who resign from work, sue their employer, and assert “constructive discharge” shoulder a heavy burden to demonstrate that they had no choice but to resign. A recent decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Armato v. Town of Stoneham, shows just how heavy that burden is.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Appeals Court Rejects Whistleblower’s Constructive Discharge Claim

The Court has decided the latest in a series of important cases interpreting the reach of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U. S. C. §§ 1 et seq.

On March 31, in Badgerow v. Walters, by an 8-1 majority (opinion written by Justice Kagan, and a lone dissent by Justice Breyer), the Court reversed an order of the Fifth Circuit and held that the federal courts do not have authority to “look through” an arbitration dispute for a federal question that would establish jurisdiction to confirm or deny an arbitral award.

Continue Reading Court Limits Federal Jurisdiction Over Arbitration Cases: SCOTUS Today

Employers in New York State should be aware of recent new laws as well as some pending bills, all of which seek to bolster harassment and discrimination protections for employees.  As detailed below, New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed several bills into law that expand harassment and discrimination protections, while the New York Senate recently passed more bills that would further bolster safeguards for employees and independent contractors in the state.

Continue Reading New York Enacts New Laws to Bolster Harassment and Discrimination Protections, with Additional Proposed Laws Passing the Senate

Next month, New Jersey private employers will need to start informing drivers before using GPS tracking devices in the vehicles they operate. A new state law that becomes effective April 18, 2022, requires employers to provide written notice to employees before using “electronic or mechanical devices” that are “designed or intended to be used for the sole purpose of tracking the movement of a vehicle, person, or device.” The notification requirement applies to both employer-owned or -leased and personal vehicles.

Continue Reading Considering Tracking Employees in Vehicles? New Jersey Now Requires Employers to Provide Notice

On March 3, 2022, President Biden, as expected, signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 (“Act”) into law. As we previously explained, the Act amends the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) to make pre-dispute arbitration agreements for sexual assault and sexual harassment claims invalid and unenforceable. Parties remain free, however, to mutually agree to arbitration after a claim has been asserted. The new law delegates any disputes regarding the Act, including as to the arbitrability of claims, to the courts, and not an arbitrator, to decide.

Continue Reading President Biden Signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021

A bill that will prohibit mandatory arbitration of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims is on its way from the House and Senate to President Biden for his signature.  It appears likely that the President will sign the bill, given that a statement issued by the President’s Office earlier this month states that the “Administration supports” passage of the bill.

Continue Reading #MeToo Goes to the White House: Federal Legislation Awaits President Biden’s Signature

The Supreme Court’s January 24, 2022 decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University, has caused alarm in some corners, with panicked predictions of a proliferation of ERISA suits alleging that defined contribution plans provided imprudent investment options.  However, Hughes should be more properly understood as rejecting an attempt by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to impose a novel limit on excessive fee suits.  The Supreme Court instead emphasized the application of its existing precedent in Tibble v. Edison International, 575 U.S. 523 (2015).

The Seventh Circuit had dismissed a class action complaint alleging the trustees of Northwestern Universities’ retirement plans breached their fiduciary duties by including imprudent investments among the investment options offered under the plans.  The trustees offered more than 400 various investment options, several of which the plaintiffs asserted were imprudent and many of which were not.  The Seventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs’ allegations failed as a matter of law (that is, could be dismissed without discovery or trial) because plaintiff’s preferred investment options were available under the plan (albeit alongside the allegedly imprudent options).  Therefore, the Seventh Circuit considered the trustees to be blameless for any fiduciary breaches because the plaintiffs simply could have avoided the allegedly imprudent investments and chosen the prudent ones.

Continue Reading Addressing Excessive Fee Litigation Risk in the Wake of Hughes v. Northwestern

On January 27, 2022, the California Supreme Court, in Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. (Cal., Jan. 27, 2022) __ P.3d __, 2022 WL 244731, clarified the evidentiary standard for presenting and evaluating retaliation claims under California Labor Code Section 1102.5 (“section 1102.5 whistleblower retaliation claim”).   Lawson involved a workplace retaliation claim brought by a sales representative selling paint products to home improvement stores in Southern California. The plaintiff claimed his employer terminated him because he complained about being instructed to alter the tint of certain paint colors to avoid having to repurchase less popular paints from the retailer later.

In 2003, California lawmakers enacted Labor Code Section 1102.6, setting forth a framework for whistleblower retaliation claims that varied from the burden-shifting test established by the United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973) 411 U.S. 792 (“McDonnell Douglas”).  Despite section 1102.6’s enactment, some California courts continued to apply the McDonnell Douglas test to section 1102.5 whistleblower retaliation claims.

Continue Reading Burden Shifting: California Supreme Court Settles Confusion Over Section 1102.5 Claims

On January 26, 2022, legislation (“Amendments”) amending and significantly expanding the scope of New York’s whistleblower laws will take effect.

As our previous Insight explained in more detail, the Amendments make it much easier for individuals to bring a retaliation claim under New York Labor Law § 740 (“Section 740”) and increase coverage for workers who allege that they have been retaliated against for reporting suspected employer wrongdoing to include former employees and independent contractors.

Continue Reading New York’s Expanded Whistleblower Protections and Notice Requirements Take Effect January 26, 2022