Employee handbooks typically contain an overview of company history, a set of employment policies and general guidance, and a clear and prominent disclaimer that nothing in the handbook creates a contract of employment between the company and its employees. The Raymours Furniture Company handbook went one step further—it also contained a mandatory arbitration agreement, which purported to require employees to arbitrate any and all employment related claims against the company. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc. v. Rossi, Civ. No. 13-4440 (D.N.J., Jan. 2, 2014). After an employee sent a demand letter to Raymours asserting various claims of discrimination, the company moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the handbook’s arbitration agreement. The court ruled against the company, finding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. It noted that the clear disclaimer on the handbook’s first page, which began: “THIS HANDBOOK IS NOT A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT,” did not expressly exempt the arbitration policy. As such, the handbook did not clearly and unambiguously confirm the employee’s agreement to arbitrate. Moreover, Raymours’ reservation of its right to change the contents of the handbook at any time without notice rendered the arbitration provision illusory and unenforceable.
A 2019 L&E Forecast for In-House Counsel, Part III: Section 7 and Joint Employment Issues on the Horizon
In 2019, employers can expect positive developments as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) addresses a number of significant issues under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
In the early hours of February 16, 2018, the Austin City Council passed a new ordinance on earned sick time that affects employers in Austin, Texas. The ordinance will not take effect until October 1, 2018, and is likely to be challenged in court almost immediately. Nevertheless, local employers should be aware of the basic requirements of the law so that they can prepare for the possibility of enforcement this fall. Likewise, employers in other cities should keep informed on this issue as sick leave laws are becoming more prevalent across the country.
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed increasing the fees that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges for certain immigration and naturalization filings. The proposal would increase USCIS fees by a weighted average of 21 percent and add one new fee specific to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.