The Supreme Court is set to weigh in on several key questions for employers this term related to employee discrimination. When does an employer have to accommodate a pregnant employee? How about a job applicant who wears a head scarf in an interview but does not make it clear she is doing so for religious reasons and needs an accommodation? Can a court decide whether the EEOC has done enough to resolve your case? Here are three key EEO cases to keep your eye on in the coming months. Read More
James H. McQuade
Jim McQuade, a partner in the New York office, is a member of the employment law and litigation group.
Orrick’s Employment Law and Litigation group was recently named Labor & Employment Department of the Year in California by The Recorder, the premier source for legal news, in recognition of their significant wins on behalf of leading multinational companies on today’s most complex and challenging employment law matters.
Mr. McQuade represents employers on a broad range of employment matters, including whistleblowing, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination matters. He has extensive experience handling matters involving misappropriation of trade secrets and the enforcement of non-competition and non-solicitation agreements. He also regularly defends financial services firms in the employment-related arbitrations before the AAA, JAMS and FINRA. Mr. McQuade is routinely engaged by public and private companies to conduct internal investigations.
Some notable engagements include:
- Trade Secret and Restrictive Covenant Litigation and Injunction Proceedings. Mr. McQuade has successfully obtained, or has opposed, injunctive relief in more than 30 cases filed in federal and state courts across the country, involving claims for misappropriation of trade secrets, employee raiding, and violations of post-employment restrictive covenants.
- Complex Discrimination Litigation. Mr. McQuade successfully defended Wyeth/Pfizer in connection with eight related race discrimination cases filed in federal court, obtaining summary judgment in seven cases and obtaining a complete defense verdict following a two-week jury trial in one of the cases. Mr. McQuade also successfully argued several of these cases on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
- Whistleblower Defense. Mr. McQuade has successfully defended employers against Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower and retaliation claims, including representing Wyeth/Pfizer in Livingston v. Wyeth, which was the first U.S. Court of Appeals decision on what constitutes protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley.
- Employment Arbitrations for Financial Services Industry Employers. Mr. McQuade has successfully tried a number of employment arbitrations for financial services industry employers before FINRA and AAA.
Last Tuesday, a Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted partial class certification in a case where plaintiffs allege that the United States Census Bureau used arrest records to screen out job applicants, thereby transferring disparities in arrest and conviction rates for African-Americans and Latinos into the agency’s hiring practices and setting up hurdles to employment that disproportionately affected these groups in violation of Title VII. Read More
Can employers enter into binding agreements with employees to shorten the statute of limitations on discrimination and other employment claims? A California Court of Appeal decision answered that question with a resounding “no” in a recent case, reinstating claims by a woman who filed suit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, but after the deadline she had agreed to in an employment agreement signed at the time of hire. Read More
In the decades since Post v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, 48 N.Y.2d 84 (1979), in which the New York Court of Appeals concluded it would be unreasonable to enforce a non-competition agreement requiring forfeiture of compensation against an employee terminated without cause, New York courts have struggled with articulating a clear rule as to whether an employee’s post-employment restrictive covenants are enforceable upon a termination without cause and, if so, when. Read More
Last week, the EEOC suffered another major loss when a New York district court found that the EEOC once again shirked its pre-litigation obligations under Title VII. Read More
On Tuesday, June 4th, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its first decision interpreting the Sarbanes Oxley Act’s whistleblower protection provision, affirming a decision by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (“ARB”), which held that Lockheed Martin violated SOX by constructively discharging employee Andrea Brown after she had engaged in protected activity. The court applied Chevron deference to the ARB’s employee-friendly interpretations of SOX’s requirements. Read More
Earlier last month, the California Supreme Court denied petitions to review and depublish the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District’s decision in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court, 210 Cal. App. 4th 889 (2012), a case of first impression on whether an employer can round an employee’s clocked time under California law. As a result, the Court of Appeal’s decision on the topic of employers’ rounding of employee time entries remains the law of the land in California.
On October 29, 2012, the California Court of Appeal confirmed that California law—like federal law—permits an employer to implement a policy rounding its employees’ recorded time so long as the policy is neutrally applied and does not systematically under-compensate employees for time worked.
The plaintiff in See’s Candy hoped to blunt this helpful precedent by asking the California Supreme Court to depublish the Court of Appeal’s ruling. However, thanks to the Supreme Court’s denial of the plaintiff’s petitions, employers and courts may continue to look to See’s Candy for guidance in the implementation of their timekeeping policies.
In a succinct opinion issued on November 26, 2012, the Supreme Court delivered a stern warning to state courts that fail to enforce arbitration clauses accompanying noncompetition agreements. In Nitro-Lift Technologies, L.L.C. v. Howard, 568 U.S. ____ (2012), the employment contracts between two energy-sector employees and their employer contained a two-year noncompetition provision and a mandatory arbitration clause. After the employees joined a competitor, the employer commenced an arbitration proceeding, prompting the employees to bring suit in Oklahoma state court seeking an injunction preventing enforcement of the noncompetition agreements. Despite the mandatory arbitration clauses, Oklahoma’s highest court declared the noncompetition agreements unenforceable under a state law prohibiting restraints on an employee’s ability to work in the same industry. Read More
Two federal district courts recently issued decisions adopting a broad interpretation of the anti-retaliation provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) and allowed Dodd-Frank whistleblower claims to proceed past motions to dismiss. Significantly, these cases stand for the proposition that to be protected as a whistleblower under the retaliation provision of Dodd-Frank, an individual does not have to meet the definition of a whistleblower for purposes of obtaining a bounty under Dodd-Frank and in particular, does not necessarily have to make a disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) in the manner required in connection with the bounty provision of the statute. While the issue is far from settled as Dodd-Frank retaliation cases are just beginning to work their way through the federal courts, these decisions could contribute to further increases in the number of Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claims filed against employers. Read More
The United States Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to review whether class action plaintiffs can avoid federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) by stipulating that their damages do not exceed the federal jurisdictional prerequisite. This issue is particularly significant to employers because they frequently rely on the CAFA to remove cases to federal court when hit with wage-and-hour and other employment class action lawsuits. The CAFA generally permits class action defendants to remove cases with minimal diversity to federal court where the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. Read More