[Webinar] Wage and Hour Best Practices

On Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, join Andrew J. Sommer and Ashley D. Mitchell for a webinar regarding Wage and Hour Best Practices.

Employers are subject to numerous federal and state laws governing employee wages, the hours of work for which an employee must be paid, and the frequency and duration of breaks an employee is entitled to during the workday. Wage and hour issues are further complicated by a shift to remote work during the pandemic. Even the best-intentioned employers could face a multimillion-dollar wage and hour class action. This webinar will give you a blueprint for best practices and common pitfalls to avoid and mitigate the risk of future wage and hour litigation.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

What Does the EEOC’s Updated COVID-19 Testing Guidance Mean for Employers

By Kara M. Maciel and Ashley D. Mitchell

As COVID-19 infections continue to climb, the EEOC rolled back its guidance that COVID-19 viral screening tests conducted by employers is always permissive under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The updated guidance requires employers to weigh a host of factors and determine whether COVID-19 viral screening is “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” the traditional standard for determining compliance with the ADA.

The Factors Employers Should Consider:

Under the EEOC’s updated FAQs, an employer may, as a mandatory screening measure, administer a COVID-19 viral test, if the employer can show it is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” In making this determination, employers should assess these factors:

  • The level of community transmission
  • The vaccination status of employees
  • The accuracy and speed of processing different types of COVID-19 viral tests
  • The degree to which breakthrough infections are possible for employees who are “up to date” on vaccinations
  • The ease of transmissibility of the current variant(s)
  • The possible severity of illness from the current variant
  • What types of contact employees may have with others in the workplace or elsewhere that they are required to work
  • The potential effect on operations of an employee enters the workplace with COVID-19

It is worth noting, that employers still cannot require antibody testing before permitting employees to re-enter the workplace.

The State of the Pandemic:

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DC Walks Back Certain Aspects of its Pending Ban on Non-Compete Agreements

DC employers may be aware of the District of Columbia’s impending ban on non-compete agreements, which originally was scheduled to become effective on October 1, 2021 and which was set to become one of the most explicit bans on non-compete agreements in the nation.

"upset,At,You,For,Breaching,The,Non-compete?,Of,Course,Not."The initial iteration of the law, titled the “District of Columbia Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Act”), prohibited employers from requiring employees who perform work in Washington D.C. (or a prospective employee whom the employer reasonably anticipated would perform work in Washington, DC), from signing any agreement that included a non-compete provision.  The Act also made it unlawful for employers to have any workplace policy prohibiting employees from (i) being employed by another person; (ii) performing work or providing services for pay for another person; or (iii) operating their own business.  In other words, the Act rendered virtually all non-compete provisions unenforceable and forbade employers from instituting workplace policies, such as anti-moonlighting rules, that limit employees’ ability to work for other people or start their own business.

However, along with the effective date of the Act being delayed several times (first to April 1, 2022 and now to October 1, 2022), the D.C. Council recently passed the Non-Compete Clarification Amendment Act of 2022 (the “Clarification Amendment Act”), which tempers certain aspects of the law.

First, the Clarification Amendment Act explains that Continue reading

Appearance Discrimination Issues, the CROWN Act, and Unconscious Bias [Webinar Recording]

On Wednesday, July 20th, Aaron R. Gelb and Ashley D. Mitchell presented a webinar regarding Appearance Discrimination Issues, the CROWN Act, and Unconscious Bias.

Appearance-based discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently based on how they look. Although there is no federal law that prohibits “appearance discrimination” in employment, claims involving such issues are typically brought in the context of prohibited race, sex, or disability discrimination allegations. While there was a case several years ago that garnered a good deal of media attention involving a female bank employee who claimed she was told she was “too sexy” for her position, it is more common to encounter claims by women (and men) that they were treated less favorably than a coworker whom the boss found attractive. Obese workers have alleged that they were perceived as disabled because of their weight and employees who wear certain garments and/or jewelry as part of their religion have also filed claims of discrimination. Meanwhile, hairstyles and types are now on the cutting edge of fair employment law compliance.

For years, savvy employers recognized that there may be a need to accommodate certain religious beliefs pertaining to hairstyles, but a growing number of jurisdictions have passed or are considering laws that prohibit race-based hair discrimination such as the CROWN Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) which is focused on ending the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

[Webinar] Appearance Discrimination Issues, the CROWN Act, and Unconscious Bias

On Wednesday, July 20th at 1 p.m. EST, join Aaron R. Gelb and Ashley D. Mitchell for a webinar regarding Appearance Discrimination Issues, the CROWN Act, and Unconscious Bias.

Appearance-based discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently based on how they look. Although there is no federal law that prohibits “appearance discrimination” in employment, claims involving such issues are typically brought in the context of prohibited race, sex, or disability discrimination allegations. While there was a case several years ago that garnered a good deal of media attention involving a female bank employee who claimed she was told she was “too sexy” for her position, it is more common to encounter claims by women (and men) that they were treated less favorably than a coworker whom the boss found attractive. Obese workers have alleged that they were perceived as disabled because of their weight and employees who wear certain garments and/or jewelry as part of their religion have also filed claims of discrimination. Meanwhile, hairstyles and types are now on the cutting edge of fair employment law compliance.

For years, savvy employers recognized that there may be a need to accommodate certain religious beliefs pertaining to hairstyles, but a growing number of jurisdictions have passed or are considering laws that prohibit race-based hair discrimination such as the CROWN Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) which is focused on ending the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

Participants in this webinar will learn: Continue reading

After the Supreme Court’s Ruling in Dobbs, Employers Explore Options in Providing Travel-for-Care Benefits

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et. al., employers across the country have faced uncertainty in how to navigate the various federal and state laws regarding health-related services for their employees.  This is particularly challenging for employers in states that have laws that provide for criminal liability.  The Dobbs decision may impact how employers modify their employee benefit plans or create new plans to cover the cost of travel and lodging for medical care, including abortion, that require travel out of state. 

Texas’ bounty law is likely the most novel and we have received many questions on whether a company could face criminal liability under that statute for providing benefits to travel of state.  Texas Senate Bill 8 prohibits physicians from performing or inducing abortions if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat or failed to perform a test to detect a fetal heartbeat. Notably, this law authorized a private civil right of action – allowing any individual in the state of Texas to bring a civil action against any person [which while undefined in the Bill, in other contexts in the Texas code, does include corporations] who:

(1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter;

(2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter; or

(3) intends to engage in the conduct described in subdivision (1) or (2).

See TX SB8 Sec. 171.208

If a company wanted to offer coverage for procuring abortions in other states through its health benefit plans, there are several legal considerations that the company should be aware of.  First, under TX SB8 Sec. 171.208 (2), it is unlawful for any individual to aid or abet an individual in procuring an abortion. The Texas statute specifically prohibits “abortion[s] of unborn child[ren] with detectable fetal heartbeat[s]” and outlaws the conduct of physicians that “knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physical detected a fetal heartbeat.” The statute itself defines a physician as “an individual licensed to practice medicine in this state.” So, the violations referenced in the statute arguably are limited only to those abortions conducted contrary to the statute by Texas physicians. If an organization’s health plan allows, as a benefit, costs to be recovered for traveling to procure an abortion in another state – then that would not be an action that would incur civil liability by a Texas physician. The statute legislates that abortions performed by Texas physicians are unlawful; it does not refer to travel to other states, and no court has yet opined on the scope of the statute in that context.  But, even if a lawsuit was brought under that theory, the company could raise the general presumption against extraterritorial application of state law.   

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Conn Maciel Carey Adds Two Exceptional OSHA and Employment Law Associates in California and DC

Conn Maciel Carey LLP is pleased to announce the addition of two talented new attorneys — Samuel S. Rose (Los Angeles), and Darius Rohani-Shukla (Washington, DC).

Associate Sam Rose supports both the firm’s OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice and the Labor and Employment Practice. He represents employers in a broad range of employment issues and Cal/OSHA compliance and enforcement matters, and he revises employee handbooks and workplace policies and procedures.

“I’m excited to grow as attorney and develop true expertise in employment and OSHA law,” Mr. Rose says. “The partners are all so knowledgeable and willing to mentor and train associates.”

Sam’s legal career began at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (Brooklyn, NY), where he Continue reading

D.C. Circuit Lessens Burden of Proof for Title VII Job Transfer Claims

On June 3, 2022, the full court of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned long-standing precedent regarding the burden of proof a plaintiff must carry in pursuing a Title VII Claim.  In Chambers v. District of Columbia (D.C. Cir. 2022), the D. C. Circuit held in a 9-3 en banc decision that when an employer transfers an employee or denies an employee’s request for a transfer because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the employer violates Title VII by discriminating against the employee in his or her “terms, conditions, or privileges” of employment. The court’s opinion overruled a nearly 24-year old precedent that held the denial or forced acceptance of a job transfer is actionable only if an employee suffers “objectively tangible harm.”  See Brown v. Brody (D.C. Cir. 1999).  The court’s decision could have sweeping effects on Title VII litigation throughout the country, as the diminished burden of proof is significantly more plaintiff-friendly and causes concern for employers when evaluating job transfers and potentially other employment actions.

Background

The plaintiff worked in the Attorney General’s office in the District of Columbia for more than two decades as a clerk, Support Enforcement Specialist, and investigator.  She requested several transfers to other units in the Attorney General’s office after complaining that she had a much larger caseload than her comparators.  All of her transfer requests were denied, and she ultimately filed an EEOC charge and a lawsuit in 2014 alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. 

The district court relied on Brown in granting the District of Columbia’s motion for summary judgement.  On appeal, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit upheld the district court’ ruling.  However, two of the three judges highlighted that Title VII does not make any reference to “objectively tangible harm” and requested the full court to further review the matter. 

The D.C. Circuit, in common with many other federal courts, has long imposed this tangible harm requirement articulated in Brown because of the view that Title VII is not a general “civility code” and that employees challenging discriminatory decisions should show more than de minimis harm lest courts be involved in supervising myriad routine business decisions. However, the en banc panel overruled Brown – holding that the refusal of a transfer request for one employee while granting similar requests to a similarly situated co-worker on the basis of a protected trait is discriminatory because it “deprives the employee of a job opportunity.”

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US Supreme Court Splits the Baby on Arbitrability of PAGA Claims

By Megan S. Shaked and Samuel S. Rose

In the latest chapter in the enforceability of employment arbitration agreements in California, the United States Supreme Court in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana (Viking River) weighed in on whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts California Supreme Court precedent set in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation (2014) preventing the enforceability of California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) waivers.

In Iskanian, the California Supreme Court held, in part, that the FAA does not preempt state law prohibiting waiver of PAGA representative actions in employment agreements.  Specifically, the California Supreme Court determined that “an arbitration agreement requiring an employee as a condition of employment to give up the right to bring representative PAGA actions in any forum is contrary to public policy.”

Now with the Viking decision, rather than treating a PAGA waiver as simply unenforceable in its entirety, the US Supreme Court, relying on a severability clause in the arbitration agreement at issue, decided that Continue reading

Artificial Intelligence in the Workforce

On June 7, 2022, Conn Maciel Carey LLP partners Kara Maciel and Jordan Schwartz interviewed EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling about the EEOC’s recent focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on workplace discrimination. 

AI refers to a “machine-based system that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing real or virtual environments.”[1]  It can feature in software used to complete tasks previously completed by human beings.  Relevant to the discussion with Commissioner Sonderling, employers can use AI in most employment and/or hiring decisions, such as who to inform about a new position, who to interview, and who to select for a position. 

When making those decisions, employers could suffer liability if they discriminate against an individual based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, pregnancy, disability status, or genetic information[2].  Unlawful discrimination can occur two ways – disparate treatment and disparate impact.  Disparate treatment occurs when individuals are intentionally discriminated against by an employer, whereas disparate impact refers to unintentional discrimination – where an employer’s neutral policies or procedures negatively impact individuals in a particular protected class.  

Employers should be aware, as Commissioner Sonderling stressed in his remarks, that AI technologies are only as good as the data and training used to develop them.  There have been numerous instances where employers who used AI tools to assist in employment and/or hiring decisions have been left with discriminatory results and potential disparate impact liability as a direct result of the technology.

Commissioner Sonderling offered some examples of ways that AI could unintentionally produce discriminatory results in employment decisions: