In a split 2-1 decision that likely raises more questions than it answers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cast some doubt upon the ability of employers to implement mandatory arbitration agreements with their employees. In Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Bonta, the Ninth Circuit upheld portions of California Labor Code section 432.6, which prohibits employers from making arbitration agreements a condition of employment and imposes significant criminal and civil sanctions for violations. The Ninth Circuit’s decision holds that arbitration agreements signed by parties remain enforceable (even if they violate section 432.6), while parties who refused to sign an arbitration agreement may still seek a remedy against the employer under the statute.
The California Legislature will soon send Senate Bill (SB) No. 606 to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is likely to sign the bill into law. The bill would make substantial changes to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) citation structure by creating two new categories of violations: “enterprise-wide” and “egregious.” The bill would also provide Cal/OSHA with additional subpoena power during investigations.
In May 2021, the Arizona Legislature passed and Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill (SB) 1268, which imposes stricter reporting requirements on private-sector labor unions by requiring “similar fiduciary guidelines as required by employers or third-party [benefits] administrators.”
On September 6, 2021, New York State Commissioner of Health Howard A. Zucker designated COVID-19 as “a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health in New York State.” As a result of the commissioner’s designation, employers are required to activate their airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans in accordance with the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act).
Massachusetts is seeing an increase in Tips Act claims, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) just reinforced that a lack of clarity in fee- and tip-related documentation may result in employer liability, including mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees. The Massachusetts Tips Act requires that an employer or person who collects “service charges” or “tips” (as those terms are defined under the act) remit the proceeds of those charges to service employees and waitstaff in proportion to the services the employees provided to the employer.
On August 11, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision of significance to any owner or manager of residential properties in Minnesota that employs live-in caretakers or property managers. The court confirmed that such businesses and their live-in employees may enter into agreements that include the payment of rent credits toward employees’ wages, as long as those agreements comply with certain legal requirements.
In July 2021, Maine enacted a new “ban-the-box” law that limits employer inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history. Under the new law, entitled “An Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment,” employers are prohibited from including criminal history inquiries in an application, but can engage in such inquiries during an interview or once the employer has determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.
Navigating the unemployment benefit administrative process under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act can be difficult for employers. The act limits the type of conduct that may disqualify a claimant from receiving benefits, but it does provide for disqualification “if the individual was discharged for misconduct connected with the individual’s last work.” Employers’ notions of “misconduct” do not necessarily match the act’s definition of “misconduct.” A recent Texas appellate court decision, Texas Workforce Commission v. Dental Health for Arlington, Inc., provides guidance for employers regarding the factors required to establish misconduct that would disqualify a former employee from receiving unemployment benefits.
For years, Scott Dinin was one of South Florida’s most prolific filers of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cases. His run ended two years ago, when, after obtaining default judgments against two gas stations on behalf of his client, Alexander Johnson, Dinin submitted a request for attorneys’ fees whose billing entries caught the attention of Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
On August 28, 2021, Missouri joined a number of other states in extending unpaid leave and reasonable safety accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or whose family or household members are victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
As we previously reported, on February 22, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), which, among other things, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey for adults age 21 and older. In addition, CREAMMA imposed on employers certain obligations with respect to marijuana and the workplace, including certain antidiscrimination and drug testing provisions.
The New York attorney general’s August 3, 2021, report regarding the sexual harassment allegations brought against former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, “Report of Investigation Into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo,” contains extraordinary detail to support the conclusion that Cuomo “sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees.” Beyond noting the political consequences of the investigation, employers in New York and elsewhere may wish to consider utilizing these recent developments as an opportunity to reassess their workplace practices to minimize the likelihood of events occurring similar to those described in the report. Among the many potential action items and considerations, below are tips on training, education, and communication that employers may wish to explore as a result of the Cuomo report.
On August 5, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) adopted a temporary rule on an emergency basis requiring healthcare providers and healthcare staff who work in healthcare settings to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face periodic COVID-19 testing by September 30, 2021.
On August 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appellate court to expressly rule on the application of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective actions.
On August 13, 2021, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 672, an amendment to the Illinois Freedom to Work Act. While the law codifies substantive Illinois common law on restrictive covenants, it also sets forth new and important limitations and requirements regarding the use of noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements.
Over the past 16 months, a quiet labor and employment law revolution has been underway in Virginia. In the first quarter of 2021, the Virginia General Assembly doubled down legislative initiatives, imposing several additional labor and employment changes that will present challenges for many employers across the Commonwealth. By way of example, consider the new Virginia Overtime Wage Act (VOWA), Va. Code § 40.1-29.2, the wage and hour implications of which significantly deviate from requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
As the number of new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to grow nationwide, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced, on August 18, 2021, measures to prioritize patient safety in nursing homes and hospitals. Effective August 18, 2021, Maryland is requiring employees in the state’s nursing homes and hospitals to provide proof of vaccination or to adhere to a regular COVID-19 screening and testing protocol. This protocol includes mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing on-site for individuals who fail to show proof of full vaccination status and the required wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the facility.
On August 3, 2021, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that proof of vaccination would be required for individuals to enter certain indoor establishments. In a first of its kind mandate, New York City officially implemented the “Key to NYC” through Emergency Executive Order 225, which became effective on August 17, 2021.
On August 12, 2021, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the City of New Orleans Health Department announced updated Guidelines for COVID-19 Reopening, which require individuals to provide proof of “having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine” or “evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before entry” in order to access certain indoor establishments.
On August 5, 2021, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held for the first time that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) allows an employee to sue his or her employer for taking an adverse employment action based on the employee’s status as a certified user of medical marijuana.
In 2021, Washington established a long-term care benefit program for Washington workers called the WA Cares Fund. In short, the program implements a mandatory 0.58 percent payroll deduction on employee wages to create a state trust fund, which, beginning in 2025, will be used to fund certain long-term care costs for eligible Washington workers. Each eligible Washington worker is entitled to a lifetime benefit of up to $36,500, which will be adjusted annually for inflation. The regulatory scheme implementing the program is still being developed, and we will update the below information on our Washington blog about the program as the regulatory rules are finalized and implemented.
On August 1, 2021, Louisiana stopped paying the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit payment provided by federal law. Prior to the elimination of the benefit, six Louisiana residents sued the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Governor John Bel Edwards to compel the restoration of the $300 weekly benefit payment.
On August 11, 2021, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins signed an emergency executive order, taking effect at 11:59 p.m. that same day, requiring “all child care centers and Pre-K through 12 Public Schools operating in Dallas County,” as well as “all commercial entities in Dallas County providing goods or services directly to the public,” to “develop and implement a health and safety policy” that requires “universal indoor masking” regardless of vaccination status.
In recent weeks, Oregon has seen a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, which threatens to overwhelm local hospitals. On August 5, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) adopted a temporary rule on an emergency basis in response to Governor Kate Brown’s direction to curb and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
California Assembly Bill (AB) 1003 would create a new type of grand theft in the state: a company’s “intentional theft of wages” of more than $950 from any individual employee, or $2,350 total from 2 or more employees, in a 12-month period. The bill requires that the theft be intentional, through fraud and while knowing that the wages are due to the employee. The bill also defines “wages” to include “wages, gratuities, benefits, or other compensation.”
On June 9, 2021, the Louisiana State Legislature passed House Bill (HB) No. 707, a measure that prohibits discrimination in employment based on criminal history records and that provides criteria for employers making hiring decisions in conjunction with criminal history records. This development will likely be good news for formerly arrested or incarcerated applicants reentering the workplace.
On September 29, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 2537, one of the latest in a series of legislative enactments designed to protect employees from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
On July 28, 2021, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an indoor mask mandate via executive order that requires “all persons in an entity or a public place [to] wear a facial covering or mask over the mouth and nose at all times when indoors.”
On August 2, 2021, the City and County of San Francisco updated Health Officer Order No. C19-07y, entitled “Encouraging COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage and Reducing Disease Risks (Safer Return Together),” to require all individuals, including the fully vaccinated, to wear face coverings in indoor public settings, with some exceptions.
Louisiana has become the first state with a Democratic governor to pass a law eliminating the $300-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit created by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Under the new measure, Act No. 276, which Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law on June 15, 2021, Louisiana eliminated the $300 benefit, effective August 1, 2021, while increasing the weekly maximum benefit amount.