Keeping Up With New Jersey Employment Law Developments

It was a busy January 2020 in Trenton, with the state enacting several new employment laws, with more apparently on the way. This is in addition to the slew of new laws adopted in 2019 impacting New Jersey employers. Here’s a summary of recent employment law developments in New Jersey just one month into 2020, a look at what may be on the way, and a recap of 2019’s changes.

CDC Issues Coronavirus Guidance

On February 7, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), February 2020. The interim guidance contains numerous recommendations employers may wish to consider as questions relating to the coronavirus 2019-nCoV arise.

Federal OSHA Releases Guidance on 2019 Novel Coronavirus for Employers

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released guidance for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov). OSHA notes that measures for protecting works depends on the “the type of work being performed and exposure risk, including potential for interaction with infectious people and contamination of the work environment.”

Love at Work: 5 Things for Employers to Know

Workplace romances are inevitable. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, one out of every three American adults is or has previously been in a workplace romance. Given this reality, coupled with the #MeToo movement and the resulting renewed emphasis on preventing workplace sexual harassment, it is important to have a basic understanding of the key practical and legal issues surrounding workplace relationships.

The Who, What, and When on Illinois’s Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Now a little more than one month into the new year, Illinois employers are under pressure to comply with several new laws increasing protections against discrimination and harassment. Among them, amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act require employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training before December 31, 2020, and each calendar year after that. New guidance published January 31, 2020, by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) clarifies key aspects of the new law.

Ohio Appellate Court Finds Overly Broad Arbitration Agreement Unenforceable

In Thomas v. Hyundai of Bedford, No. 108212 (January 23, 2020), the Eighth District Ohio Court of Appeals held that an arbitration clause in an employment contract was substantively and procedurally unconscionable because it sought to include as arbitrable all conceivable claims between the parties, even those outside the employment relationship. The Eighth District’s decision serves as a reminder of the benefits of well-tailored arbitration agreements.

Coronavirus Update for U.S. Employers

Recent fast-paced developments, increasing employee apprehensions, and uncertainty regarding the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV have left employers and employees with some concerns. We recently discussed the emergence of the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, and the first confirmed cases in the United States, which were deemed to be travel related and acquired by individuals traveling from China.

Negotiating and Enforcing Anti-Disparagement Clauses: A Primer for Employers

Severance and litigation settlement agreements often include a provision that prohibits one or more of the parties from making “disparaging” statements about the other. Such non-disparagement clauses are commonly used, but infrequently litigated. Consequently, employers negotiating these terms (as well as their counsel) may not be familiar with how they might be triggered and the practical effects of trying to enforce them. Here are a few thoughts for employers considering incorporating non-disparagement clauses in their settlement agreements.

Eleventh Circuit Holds Alleged ‘Unsavory and Unpleasant’ Behavior Not Legally ‘Pervasive’ for Purposes of Title VII Harassment Claim

In Allen v. Ambu-Stat, LLC, No. 18-10640 (January 16, 2020), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a Georgia district court’s dismissal of a former employee’s sexual harassment claim and delivered a strong rebuke to a plaintiff seeking to temporarily enjoin the district court’s use of summary judgment in Title VII claims. The decision may provide guidance for employers as to what behavior constitutes pervasive harassment in the workplace.

Sixth Circuit Considers Whether Comparator Info Is Discoverable in a Failure to Promote Case

In Jones v. Johnson, No. 18-2252 (January 9, 2020), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the discoverability of comparator information in a case involving an allegation that an employer failed to promote an employee. The court reversed a district court’s decision in favor of an employer on the grounds that it had improperly limited the scope of discovery.

Supreme Court Generally Disapproves of a Discovery-Rule Exception to Federal Statutes of Limitations

Not so long ago, federal courts began to hold that a federal statute of limitations did not begin to run until the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known of his or her claim.  This is commonly called the “discovery rule.”  The rule originated in state court tort cases involving surgical implements left in patients who did not discover their surgeons’ negligence until long after the limitations period had run.

“Presents” of Mind for the Holidays: Six Q&As on Sensible Workplace Gift Giving

’Tis the season of generosity, random acts of kindness, and selfless gifts. But not all gifts are well received—or positively perceived. In the employment law context, where compliance and best practice remain the watchwords, presents exchanged by colleagues, however well-intentioned, must still pass muster under law and corporate policy.

FMLA Retaliation Case Illustrates the Practical Significance of Effective HR Documentation

In Simpson v. Temple University, et al., the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff’s claims of interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The decision illustrates the practical significance of documenting performance issues and termination decisions as soon as possible.

California Prohibits Most “No Rehire” Provisions in Settlement Agreements

Employment litigation settlement agreements often include a mutually negotiated “no-rehire” provision by which the departing employee agrees not to seek employment with the company in the future. A recently enacted California law will require companies to refrain from including such provisions in most instances.

SCOTUS Case Watch 2019-2020: Welcome to the New Term

The Supreme Court of the United States kicked off its 2019-2010 term on October 7, 2019, with several noteworthy cases on its docket. This term, some of the issues before the Court will likely have great historical significance for the LGBTQ community. Among these controversies are whether the prohibition against discrimination because of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses discrimination because of sexual orientation. In addition, the Court is slated to consider Title VII’s protections of transgender individuals, if any. Here’s a rundown of the employment law related cases that Supreme Court watchers can expect this term.

Workplace Preparation for Natural Disasters in View of Hurricane Dorian

As the East Coast braces for yet another hurricane, we should contemplate the impact that natural disasters can have on employees and employers, both personally and professionally. While individuals prepare their homes and employers prepare their businesses for the physical damage, employers will benefit from also assessing the practical and legal implications surrounding the unpredictable events Mother Nature throws our way—and planning accordingly.

First Circuit Rules Inconsistent SSDI Statements Doom ADA Claim

In Pena v. Honeywell International, Inc., issued on July 22, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied a former employee’s petition for rehearing en banc of the court’s April 26, 2019, decision addressing whether her inconsistent statements on her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits application and complaint precluded her from bringing a claim pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADA Litigation Lessons Surfaced From a Zamboni Machine

Employers, you see this movie all too often. You tolerate, and then ultimately discharge, a poor-performing employee who displays a bad attitude. Unfortunately, supervisors have not documented the employee’s prior instances of insubordinate and adversarial behavior. In addition, he hurt himself on the job, filed a workers’ compensation claim, and presented medical restrictions. In his mind, he cannot believe that he was the problem. So he sues, alleging that you failed to accommodate his disability and unlawfully terminated his employment.

Texas Legislative Roundup: New Laws Impacting Employers

The Texas Legislature’s 86th session adjourned on May 27, 2019, and there is little likelihood that the governor will call a special session. The legislature primarily focused on educational reforms this year. Regarding employment matters, most observers expected the legislature to adopt laws preempting any attempt by municipalities to pass paid sick leave laws. While the legislature failed to pass any such law, they did pass other laws impacting the employer-employee relationship.

Oregon Enacts Sweeping #MeToo Law

On June 11, 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act (SB 726), which will significantly impact all Oregon employers. The Act addresses concerns of the #MeToo movement by imposing strict requirements on how Oregon employers respond to complaints of harassment and discrimination. The legislation also significantly increases the statute of limitations within which an employee may assert a claim of discrimination, from one year to five years.

Supreme Court Keeps Auer, but Dilutes Its Power

On June 26, 2019, in Kisor v. Wilkie, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overrule its prior decisions in Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997) and Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 U.S. 410 (1945). These cases introduced the practice of judicial deference to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous regulation. Many courts and scholars criticize Auer deference for various reasons and believed that the Supreme Court’s decision in Kisor would overrule Auer. Instead, the Court upheld the longstanding precedent, but imposed new “guidance” on when to apply Auer deference.

Seventh Circuit Holds That Obesity Alone Is Not a Protected Disability Under the ADA

In a matter of first impression before the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 and 18-2199 (June 12, 2019), that obesity is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. With the decision, the Seventh Circuit brought clarity to a novel issue previously unresolved for employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Substantial Changes Coming to New York Employment Discrimination Laws

On the last day of the 2019–2020 legislative session, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed an omnibus bill. This legislation, once effective, will overhaul New York’s antidiscrimination laws and uproot precedent that employers have relied upon for decades in defending harassment claims.