On December 5, 2014, San Francisco enacted two ordinances, dubbed the “San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights,” that will extend benefits to part-time retail and food service employees and require certain employers to make schedules more predictable for all employees. The ordinances are believed to affect approximately 35,000 employees in San Francisco (approximately 5 to 6% of the City’s total wage and salary employment) and are also believed to provide the broadest protections in the country in terms of rights for part-time workers and scheduling requirements.
In a game-changing 3-2 decision on December 11, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) overruled its 2007 Register Guard decision, which upheld the right of employers to limit employee access to company email systems, calling it “clearly incorrect” and holding that employees have a presumptive right to use their employers’ email systems for non-business purposes, like communications about union organizing, wages and working conditions, during “nonworking time.” Register Guard, which has long been criticized by organized labor, held that an employer may completely prohibit employees from using an employer’s email system for Section 7 purposes, even if they are otherwise permitted access to the email system—without demonstrating any business justification—so long as the ban is not applied discriminatorily.
In Berman V. Neo@Ogilvy LLC, 1:14-cv-523 (Dec. 4, 2014), Judge Gregory Woods of the Southern District of New York dismissed a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim on the ground that internal reporting is not protected under the statute. In so holding, the court rejected the reasoning of a majority of district courts to address the issue to date (including several Southern District of New York decisions), as well as the SEC’s interpretation of the statute, and instead adopted the reasoning of the Fifth Circuit in Asadi v. GE Energy (USA), L.L.C. and a minority of district courts, which have held that “the language of the statute unambiguously requires that a person provide information to the [SEC] in order to qualify as a whistleblower under the Act.” You can find our prior blog posts on the split over this issue here (March 4, 2014), here (January 28, 2014), here (October 3, 2013), and here (July 18, 2013).
Thus, until the Second Circuit and other Circuit courts weighs in on this issue, the answer of whether internal reporting is protected under Dodd-Frank may hinge largely upon which district judge is assigned the case.
In Khazin v. TD Ameritrade, No. 14-1689, 2014 WL 6871393 (3rd Cir. Dec. 8, 2014), the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision compelling arbitration of a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim. This is the first circuit court decision to address whether such claims are arbitrable, and the decision is consistent with two district court opinions that have previously addressed the issue.
On December 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final rule barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The final rule implements an Executive Order signed by President Obama in July 2014 amending Executive Order 11,246 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases of employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors.
In a long awaited 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that employers are not required to compensate employees for time spent waiting for and undergoing security screenings (aka bag checks) under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It concluded that security screenings were noncompensable postliminary activities because they were not the “principal activities” the employees were employed to perform, nor were they “integral and indispensable” to those activities. The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, 574 U.S. ____ (2014) and a copy of the opinion can be found here.
California employers are facing a healthy dose of new requirements next month as the notice and posting provisions in the state’s recently enacted paid sick leave law take effect. To help employers comply before ringing in the New Year, the California Labor Commissioner has published a revised Wage Theft Notice and a new workplace poster.
For the second time in less than two months, a federal district court judge has dismissed a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) challenge to an employer’s separation agreement due to the agency’s failure to conciliate. On December 2, a federal district court judge in Colorado dismissed the portion of a lawsuit against CollegeAmerica alleging that the college’s separation and release agreements interfered with employees’ rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). In dismissing the claim, the judge held that the EEOC failed to give notice to the college or engage in conciliation efforts regarding the separation agreements being challenged in the lawsuit. This decision comes on the heels of a dismissal of a similar suit brought by the EEOC against CVS Pharmacy, which we wrote about in an earlier blog post.
Recently, there’s been a wave of Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) rulings adverse to employers in the adult entertainment industry. Early this year, a Southern District of New York judge approved an $8 million settlement for a class of dancers at an adult establishment who alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors. See In re: Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, Case No. 1:10-cv-01145, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5864 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2014). And just last month, the court in Hart, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., Case No. 1:09-cv-03043, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160264 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 2014) which previously had held that dancers at the New York club were employees under the FLSA, denied a motion to decertify the class and awarded almost $11 million in damages to the dancers for FLSA violations.
The SEC released its Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report (the “Report”) to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program on November 18, 2014. The Report analyzes the tips received over the last twelve months by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”), provides additional information about the whistleblower awards to date, and discusses the Office’s efforts to combat retaliation against whistleblowers.