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Posts by: Kathryn Mantoan

Uber Rolls Along, Despite Driver Challenges to its Arbitration Agreement

Companies operating in the “on-demand” or “gig economy” have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, as emerging technologies and shifts in consumer tastes have buoyed their growth. These companies span a cross-section of industries (transportation, food delivery, lodging) but have one thing in common: each aims to deliver traditional services more efficiently by connecting consumers directly with service providers.

But as we all know by now, success often begets legal challenges. Take Uber, for example.  The company has faced a thicket of litigation in recent years, most notably related to the question of whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors.

Like many companies in today’s economy, Uber has implemented an arbitration policy as a way to efficiently resolve disputes. Below we recap some of the developments in this area and preview some legal issues that companies will want to monitor in the months ahead. READ MORE

Post-Tyson Foods: No, The Sky Is Not Falling

This past March, we blogged about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 136 S. Ct. 1036 (2016), a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that Tyson Foods improperly denied compensation for time spent putting on and taking off required protective gear at a pork processing facility.  At trial, the plaintiffs presented experts who, based on sample data, determined the average number of minutes employees likely spent donning and doffing and the aggregate damages that would be owed to the class as a result.

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OFCCP Files Discrimination Complaint Targeting Tech Hiring Practices

Earlier this year, we predicted that the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) would ramp up investigations directed at rooting out alleged discrimination by information technology companies.  Many tech companies have indeed been the focus of increasingly intense and acrimonious investigations in 2016.

OFCCP took its enforcement efforts to the next level this week by filing a formal administrative complaint for violations of Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors).  The complaint alleges that Palantir Technologies – a private software company headquartered in Palo Alto and recently valued at $20 billion – discriminated against Asian applicants for three positions (QA Engineer, Software Engineer, and QA Engineer Intern).  Specifically, the OFCCP alleges that the company hired largely based on an employee referral system that resulted in statistically significant underrepresentation of Asian hires, given that the vast majority of applicants for these jobs were Asian.  The complaint seeks to debar the company from future federal contracts and require “complete relief” for Asian applicants for these roles, including lost compensation, hiring, and retroactive seniority.

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To Free or Not to Free: The DOL’s New Overtime Regulations May Give Employees the Ability to “Unplug”—But at What Cost?

Today, mobile technology allows many exempt employees to work remotely and perform work outside traditional working hours.  Some commentators assert that the smartphone has stretched the traditional 9-to-5 workday into a 24/7 on-call period, where employees are expected to respond to work-related communications long after they leave the office and late into the night.  The expectation that employees will be available to respond on evenings and weekends, however, has sparked pushback, causing some employees to call for more work-life separation and the ability to “unplug.”  In France, this push to unplug recently resulted in a new law that gives employees a “right to disconnect.”  Under that law, many French employers soon will be required to implement rules governing work-life balance and reasonable use of digital tools.

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Not So Fast: Administrative Review Board Vacates Discrimination Finding Sought by OFCCP

A recent decision from the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board serves as a warning to federal agencies against overreaching in their efforts to identify alleged employment discrimination.  It also serves to highlight the heavy burden that plaintiffs—whether government agencies or private litigants—must carry in cases alleging a pattern or practice of disparate treatment.

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There’s No Longer an “App for That” in Austin: Lyft and Uber Pull Out Over Driver Fingerprinting Requirements

Rideshare companies Lyft and Uber announced on May 9 that they were no longer offering their services in Austin, Texas, after voters there rejected a proposed ordinance that would have eliminated fingerprint-based background checks for drivers.  In a Saturday election, 56 percent of Austin voters, despite what some have called confusing ballot language, rejected the proposed ordinance, known as “Proposition 1,” which was supported by the companies.

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Supreme Court Ties Underscore Justice Scalia’s Missing Influence

After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, we predicted: “Justice Scalia’s passing will immediately impact several employment-related cases pending before the Court.” Specifically, cases in which Scalia was expected to provide the needed fifth vote were at risk of ending in a tie. After two recent rulings from the Court, this prediction appears to have come true.

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Justice Scalia’s Employment Law Legacy

On February 13, 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia, the anchor of the Court’s conservative wing for nearly three decades, passed away.  He leaves behind a distinguished legal career that involved experience in wide range of roles.  After graduating from Harvard Law School, Justice Scalia entered private practice and then became a law professor at the University of Virginia.  He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, eventually becoming Assistant Attorney General.  Scalia then began his judicial ascension when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Soon thereafter, Reagan nominated Scalia to the Supreme Court to replace Justice William Rehnquist, whom Reagan had named to the Chief Justice position.  Scalia was unanimously confirmed.

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Please Pass the Settlement: Second Circuit Widens Split Over Stipulated FLSA Dismissals

A recently filed petition for certiorari asks the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the procedural requirements for ending private causes of action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Specifically, petitioner Dorian Cheeks is asking the Supreme Court to review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 (“FRCP 41”) prohibits the dismissal of FLSA claims through private, stipulated settlement agreements absent approval from either a federal district court or the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”).

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California Legislature Tries Again to Thwart Arbitration With Bill Purporting to Make Mandatory Arbitration Unlawful

California employers should keep an eye on a new challenge to arbitration provisions on its way to the Governor’s desk.  On August 24, 2015, the California Senate passed AB 465, which would make it unlawful for any employer or other company to “require another person to waive any legal right, penalty, remedy, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of [the California Labor Code], as a condition of employment, including the right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, the Labor Commissioner, state agency, other public prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or any court or other governmental entity.”  The Senate version eliminates the originally proposed $10,000 per violation penalty, but continues to authorize an award of injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff seeking to enforce the section. The Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments on August 27, 2015, and the bill will reach the Governor shortly.

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