New York Labor And Employment Law Report

New York Labor And Employment Law Report

When Reclassifying Employees from Exempt to Non-Exempt, Don’t Forget the Wage Theft Prevention Act Notices

Posted in New York Law, Wage and Hour

Employers in New York are familiar with the requirement, imposed by the Wage Theft Prevention Act, that every new hire must be provided with notice of their rate of pay (including overtime rate of pay if applicable), how the employee will be paid (i.e., by the hour, shift, day, etc.), the regular payday, and information regarding the employer.  Employers are obligated to provide an additional written notice anytime that information changes, unless the employee’s wage rate is increased and the next pay stub reflects the increase.  Each time notice is given, the employer is required to obtain a signed acknowledgment from the employee, and must keep that signed acknowledgement on record for six years.  Upcoming changes to the white collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act may implicate a need to issue new notices if employees are reclassified from exempt to non-exempt. Continue Reading

NLRB Holds That Unions Can Organize Temp/Contract Workers Together With Host Employer’s Workers

Posted in National Labor Relations Board, Union Organizing

Temporary, contracted-for, or leased employees who are employed by a “supplier,” but are assigned to work at another employer’s premises, currently comprise as much as 5% of American workers, and are among the fastest growing sectors.  Noting this trend, the National Labor Relations Board, in its Miller & Anderson, Inc. decision this week, announced a new standard that makes it much easier for unions to organize these temporary employees working at another employer’s facility; and further, allows them to be organized in a single bargaining unit together with the host employer’s employees who perform similar functions, if both groups share a “community of interest.” Continue Reading

New York State DOL (Yet Again) Issues Draft Regulations on Payroll Debit Cards and Other Wage Payment Issues

Posted in New York Law, Wage and Hour

After a nearly eight-month delay, the New York State Department of Labor once again published draft Regulations governing the payment of employee wages via payroll debit cards, direct deposit, and other means.  As we previously reported, these proposed Regulations would impose several new requirements for New York employers, even for those who merely pay employees by direct deposit.  These proposed Regulations – now NYSDOL’s third version – are currently open for public comment.

The most recent version is almost identical to the version last proposed in October 2015, with NYSDOL making only two substantive changes:  (1) the newly-proposed Regulations make clear that the requirement to provide employees with a “list of locations” — where they can access and withdraw their wages — only applies to the use of payroll debit cards; and (2) the newly-proposed Regulations remove language included in the October 2015 version, which provided that, when paid by check, employees must have at least one means of no-cost local access to the full amount of wages through check cashing or deposit of a check at a financial institution (but NYSDOL nevertheless stated that employers must still “ensure that employees are able to access their wages in order for payment to be effective in accordance with the requirements of Section 191 of the Labor Law”).  Notably, NYSDOL reiterated that the proposed Regulations will not be effective until six months after they are published and adopted in final form.

The reason for the eight-month delay on the part of the NYSDOL in issuing these revised draft Regulations is unclear, but it is expected that final rule-making will now proceed in a timely manner.

NLRB’s “Quickie” Election Rule Upheld

Posted in National Labor Relations Board, Union Organizing

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision upholding the National Labor Relations Board’s “quickie” election rule.  As we previously reported, the final rule, among other things, significantly reduces the time period between the filing of an election petition to the date of the election, narrows the issues that may be raised at a pre-election hearing, and requires disclosure of employees’ personal information, including personal telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.  The rule was effective as of April 14, 2015.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas, Inc. (“ABC”) mounted the challenge to the rule’s lawfulness, asserting that the Board both exceeded its authority under the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.  ABC first argued that the rule unlawfully postpones the resolution of certain voter eligibility issues until after the election is complete, in contravention of the Act.  The Fifth Circuit rejected this argument, reasoning that under the plain language of the Act the purpose of the pre-election hearing is to determine whether a question of representation exists — not to resolve all voter eligibility issues.

Next, ABC contended that the rule arbitrarily and capriciously requires the disclosure of employees’ personal information to the petitioning union in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.  The Fifth Circuit found that the Board had sufficiently considered employees’ privacy concerns as well as the burden on employers when it expanded the disclosure requirement, and thus, the requirement was not arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

ABC also challenged the rule on the grounds that faster elections interfere with an employer’s right to free speech during organizing campaigns.  In rejecting this argument, the Fifth Circuit found that there is no language in the Act which requires a specified waiting period between the filing of the petition and the date of the election.  Additionally, the Fifth Circuit noted that the Board’s Regional Directors, who are responsible for setting the date of the election, are to consider the interests of both parties when setting an election date, which may include an employer’s opportunity to communicate its views concerning unionization to its employees.

Now that the Fifth Circuit has joined an earlier decision from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upholding the Board’s “quickie” election rule, employers must be prepared to respond before an election petition is even filed.  The time employers have from date of petition to date of election has been effectively cut in half (from about 6 weeks to about 3 weeks), making a successful counter campaign extremely difficult to mount without advance planning and preparation.  We recommend regular supervisory training and the creation of a tentative campaign blueprint that is ready for immediate activation in the event of a union petition.  As before, an employer’s best opportunity to remain union-free comes from early awareness of organizing activity and an effective pre-petition campaign that discourages employees from signing the number of union authorization cards needed for the union to trigger an NLRB election.

Employment Law’s “Hulk”-Like Superhero — The Faithless Servant Doctrine — Just Got Stronger

Posted in New York Law

One of the many joys of parenthood is the opportunity to relive one’s childhood.  To a parent who grew up on the old-school comic books, the steady roll-out by Marvel Studios of big budget super-hero movies offers a unique bonding opportunity with one’s children, which can take place over a uniquely unhealthy massive bowl of movie theater popcorn (with the glee from the experience outweighing the fear of the hyper-caloric intake).

My kids frequently ask me about my favorite superhero.  To me it is undoubtedly Hulk, a character who metes out just-desserts — an admirable goal for a management-side employment lawyer (the side of angelic innocence).  Hulk is not Hulk unless provoked.  As Bruce Banner he is a quintessential good guy, just like all of us in the world of Human Resources.

That brings us to Hulk’s relationship with employment law.  We need a Hulk when our employees steal from us, harass other employees, take our trade secrets, and secretly compete against us.  But in the real world where does one find a muscle-bound green skinned superhero that is pretty much indestructible?  Enter the faithless servant doctrine. Continue Reading

Division of Human Rights Adopts Regulation Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Relationship or Association

Posted in Employment Discrimination, New York Law

On May 18, the New York State Division of Human Rights adopted a new regulation prohibiting employment discrimination based on an individual’s relationship or association with a member of a protected category covered by the New York Human Rights Law.  The proposed rule was published in the State Register on March 9.  The agency did not receive any public comments regarding the proposed rule, and adopted the rule without making any changes. Continue Reading

EEOC Issues Strong Reminder to Employers About Their Obligation to Provide Accommodation Under the ADA

Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act

In theory, employers are all generally familiar with the “interactive process” and the need to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship.  But in practice are employers actually complying with these legal obligations?  Maybe not, says the EEOC. Continue Reading

Employers Need to Develop an Action Plan to Deal With Workplace Violence

Posted in Occupational Safety and Health

If the recent and tragic shootings at an office holiday party in San Bernardino, California, and at a lawn care company in Kansas have taught us anything, it is that these unfortunate incidents of workplace violence are becoming more and more commonplace.  In addition to the devastating human cost of these tragedies, workplace violence can also bring significant liability for employers.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace violence is responsible for $55 million in lost wages each year.  When the cost of lost productivity, legal expenses, property damage, diminished public image, and increased security are factored in, workplace violence costs the American workforce approximately $36 billion dollars per year.

Among other sources of potential liability, employers may be cited by OSHA for violating the “General Duty Clause” of the OSH Act, which requires employers to maintain workplaces free from “recognized hazards” that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.  OSHA has previously published guidance citing certain types of workplace violence as recognized hazards for “heightened-risk industries,” which include healthcare and social services, late-night retail establishments, and taxi and for-hire drivers.  But an employer in any industry may be considered to have a recognized hazard of workplace violence based on factors like previous incidents, employee complaints, injury and illness data, prior corrective actions, and its own safety rules and policies.

Last month, Bond attorneys presented a breakfast briefing on workplace violence at 12 locations across the state, providing guidance on developing an action plan to address workplace violence, identifying the potentially violent employee, and best practices for responding to an incident of violence in the workplace.  To avoid liability and prevent the unthinkable, employers should start taking steps to develop a workplace violence prevention program.

USDOL Issues Final Regulations Revising the FLSA White Collar Exemptions

Posted in Wage and Hour

The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued its final regulations revising the white collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Although the final regulations significantly raise the salary threshold for the administrative, professional, executive, and computer employee exemptions, employers can take some solace in the fact that the increase is actually lower than the one proposed by the USDOL last summer.  In addition, employers who still have extensive work to do in order to prepare for the implementation of the final regulations will have more time to do so than expected.  The final regulations will not become effective until December 1, 2016, which gives employers more than six months to make decisions regarding whether to increase salaries to retain the exemptions or reclassify formerly exempt employees as non-exempt. Continue Reading

New Federal Law Means You Should Update Your Non-Compete And Non-Disclosure Agreements

Posted in Trade Secrets
keys and padlock

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

President Obama on May 11 signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) of 2016. This is truly a landmark law; one that expands the federal remedies companies can pursue to halt the theft of trade secrets vital to a company’s operation and financial security. DTSA received unprecedented bipartisan support, with passage by 87-0 in the Senate, 410-2 in the House of Representatives.

This new law recognizes the vital role that trade secrets play in generating billions of dollars in annual revenues and millions of jobs as a key component of our national – and local – economy. It also comes in response to several high profile cases which demonstrate how vulnerable U.S. companies are from internal and external cyber-threats.

A trade secret is anything which gives a company a competitive advantage and is kept confidential, including a design, formula, manufacturing process, financial data, or customer information. Prior to DTSA, trade secrets did not receive the same protections afforded to other forms of intellectual property such trademarks, copyrights, and patents.

DTSA provides the first ever federal civil statutory remedies for theft of trade secrets. These remedies exceed those which may have been previously available under state law, including aggressive ex parte seizure mechanisms similar to those used to seize counterfeit goods under trademark law, exemplary damages, and attorney fees.

There is a caveat: imbedded within the text of DTSA is a warning that if you fail to include whistleblower immunity notice in any agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information you will not be able to take advantage of the exemplary damages and attorney fees available under DTSA.

This notice must inform the employee, among other things, that he or she cannot be held liable under any trade secret law for the disclosure of a trade secret that is made (1) in confidence to a government official or to an attorney for the sole purpose of reporting a suspected violation of law or (2) in a document in a lawsuit or proceeding filed under seal.

Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements play a key role in protecting a company’s trade secrets. The law governing the enforceability of these agreements is constantly changing. Failure to revise these agreements periodically could have disastrous consequences. The passage of DTSA provides yet another reason why you need to review and revise your agreements to maximize the protections available. A simple and cost effective way to have your agreements reviewed, along with your physical and digital security measures, is through Bond Schoeneck & King’s innovative Trade Secret Protection Audit.