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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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01 Mar 2018 Sex, Power & the Workplace: Protecting Women who Work

With the Oscars in the spotlight this weekend, the lens of the #MeToo movement is re-focusing on Hollywood and the entertainment industry.   But, the challenges of sexual harassment transcend industry and geography.  Even Oprah, in accepting her recent Golden Globes award, powerfully reminded us about victims beyond Hollywood:  those who “had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”   Fundamentally, it is about those who work, at all levels, and it is incumbent on employers, legally, ethically, practically, to maintain a work…

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28 Feb 2018 U.S. Supreme Court to Take Up Independent Contractor Arbitration Case

  Our sister labor and employment blog, Labor Relations, recently posted about an important case on the horizon for those in the transportation industry. This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of New Prime, Inc., a transportation company that is asking the Court to overrule the First Circuit and find that an independent contractor’s class action claim should be compelled to arbitration.   Employers who rely on arbitration agreements with their employees and independent contractors will want to pay attention as the…

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28 Feb 2018 Dodd-Frank Whistleblowers: Supreme Court Holds Internal Complaints are Not Enough

  Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers case  that the definition of a “whistleblower” under the Dodd-Frank Act (“Dodd-Frank”) does not cover internal complaints made only to the company.  The employee is required to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to qualify for the increased remedies and greater protections as compared to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”).  The Court found no ambiguity in the express definition of a “whistleblower”…

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27 Feb 2018 Another Court Reverses Course: Second Circuit Holds Title VII Forbids Sexual Orientation Discrimination

  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion on Monday of this week and explicitly held that Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.   In the closely watched case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., a full panel of the Second Circuit revisited the question of sexual orientation coverage under Title VII.  In its decision, the Court cited the history and intent behind the passage of Title VII – namely, that it was intended to be a…

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26 Feb 2018 Beginning of a New Trend? Illustration of EEOC Stats Confirms Plummeting Number of Charges

  A few weeks ago, our team wrote about the latest charge filing statistics published by the EEOC.  The agency posts records of charges going back to 1997 – 20 years of data.  Since a picture speaks a thousand words, here is the latest information relative to the total number of charges filed with the agency since 1997:     Stepping back and putting the new numbers into their relative place, a few things are made clear.  The overall rise and fall of charges over…

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26 Feb 2018 Chicago says hands off the help – New law protects hotel workers from guest harassment

  Basic rules of etiquette and kindness should cover the workplace and extend to travel away from home – fundamentally, treat others as you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed.   And yet, some folks just can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves.  Thus, a law set to go into effect July 1 within the City of Chicago will provide “panic button” protection for hotel staff against harassment and assault by hotel guests.   Known as the “hands off, pants…

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23 Feb 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court Splashes Cold-Water on the Enforceability of Non-Solicitation of Employee Covenants

  Wisconsin is one of the states which has a statute regarding the enforceability of restrictive covenants.  Under Wisconsin law, such a covenant is enforceable within a specific territory and for a specified time, but only if the restrictions imposed are reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer or principal (Wisconsin Statute § 103.465).   Wisconsin courts historically have applied the statute to all forms of employee limitations, including non-disclosure covenants.  See Tatge v. Chambers & Owen, Inc., 579 N.W.2d 217 (Wis. 1998).  In…

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20 Feb 2018 Sexual Harassment 2.1: Keep Up, We Are Moving Fast…

Last week I wrote a post elsewhere updating business people on the latest developments arising from the tsunami of high–profile harassment reports and allegations in recent months. The bottom line:  we have had relatively few changes so far (this aspect of this year’s federal tax law a notable exception), but it seems almost certain there will be. For literally decades employers could protect themselves from most harassment claims with a good policy (easy), appropriate training (pretty easy), and responding appropriately to complaints of harassment (not necessarily…

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14 Feb 2018 Sexual Harassment In The Non-Profit World

  Much of my time is spent advising non-profits on human resources issues, and the employment issues they face are typically no different than those faced by for-profit employers.  Non-profits are legally obligated to put in place a policy that prohibits unlawful harassment in the workplace, to promptly investigate workplace harassment claims, and to take prompt and effective remedial measures to remedy the alleged harassment.   This is true – in the non-profit workplace – regardless of whether the alleged harasser is a supervisor, coworker,…

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13 Feb 2018 California Court Determines Gig-Economy Drivers Are Independent Contractors

  In a ruling that will likely have a significant impact on all sharing economy companies, San Francisco U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that gig-economy drivers are independent contractors.  In other words, platforms that are built on pairing customers with products and services through the use of mobile applications can continue to do so without having to reclassify their drivers as employees. The opinion holds that such workers do not qualify for the protections offered to employees under California law.   It was…

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