Christopher Wilkinson

Partner

Washington, D.C.


Read full biography at www.orrick.com

Chris Wilkinson maintains a broad practice in labor and employment, Equal Pay, health and safety, government relations and administrative law.

Chris most recently served as Associate Solicitor for Civil Rights and Labor-Management. In that role, Chris was the senior career civil rights and labor management lawyer for the Department of Labor providing advice on regulatory, policy and enforcement matters for seven DOL agencies including the Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Civil Rights Center and Office of Labor Management Standards.

Chris counseled the Department on a broad array of equal employment opportunity regulatory and policy initiatives and advised on a wide range of constitutional and statutory matters in federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition to EEO matters, Chris led the Solicitor Office’s union election and reporting enforcement work, counseled on transit labor certification matters and advised on appellate matters related to labor union practices.

Chris also has significant litigation experience having served as trial attorney and then Counsel for Civil Rights Programs in the Department’s San Francisco region. In those roles, he litigated a number of complex class wage-and-hour, class discrimination, health and safety citations, and Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower matters.

Chris is an active member of the America Bar Association, having presented on numerous federal contractor compliance, LGBT and compensation discrimination topics at the ABA Conference on Equal Employment Law.

Posts by: Christopher Wilkinson

DOL Issues New Rules to Try to Beat the Clock

In a possible attempt to implement new rules before they can be rescinded by a Democratic Congress and administration, the Department of Labor recently finalized regulations regarding wage and hour issues and the Labor Secretary’s power to review administrative decisions.  These administrative moves are the result of a little-known but important statute aimed at curbing midnight rulemaking by outgoing administrations.  The Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) establishes special congressional procedures for disapproving a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies.  By joint resolution, Congress can approve or disapprove of a regulation, which then goes to the President to sign or veto.  If Congress adjourns its annual session less than 60 “legislative days” in the House of Representatives or 60 “session days” in the Senate after a rule is submitted to it, the rule is carried over to the next session of Congress and subject to possible disapproval during that session. While it is difficult to calculate the CRA deadline—particularly given COVID-19’s impact on Congress’ schedule—if the Trump administration fails to finalize the rules before the CRA deadline and Republicans lose control of the White House and Senate, a Democratic-controlled Congress could successfully rescind the rules under the CRA. READ MORE

D.C. Expands Paid Sick Leave and Unemployment Benefits in Response to COVID-19

On April 10, 2020, the District of Columbia enacted the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Act”). Relevant to employers, the Act (1) creates a new category of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons, (2) expands eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits for District residents who lost work due to COVID-19, and (3) modifies the District’s work-share program. The Act is effective as of April 10, 2020 and will remain in effect for 90 days. The Act follows the District’s COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, enacted March 17, 2020, which amended the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act to grant unpaid leave to employees for reasons related to COVID-19. READ MORE

CARES Act: What Do Employers Need to Know?

On Friday afternoon, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). The Act addresses the coronavirus pandemic by directing funds to address the strains on the health care system as well as alleviate the intense economic stress facing the country’s employers and workers. The President has stated that he will sign the bill immediately. This post focuses on those provisions that may impact employers. Below are answers to some questions that we expect employers will have about the CARES Act.

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OFCCP Loosens Requirements for Employers Engaged in COVID-19 Response Efforts

OFCCP announced Wednesday that it will grant a limited, three-month exemption and waiver from some of its regular requirements for federal contractors responding to COVID-19. The exemption and waiver applies to new construction or supply and service contracts that are entered into from March 17, 2020 through June 17, 2020 specifically for the purpose of providing coronavirus relief. Director Craig Leen authorized such contracts to be exempted from: READ MORE

Try To Restrain Yourself: California Is Temporarily Restrained From Enforcing Arbitration Ban

Remember California’s new ban on mandatory workplace arbitration agreements? The Eastern District of California has put it on ice, granting a temporary restraining order against the ban’s enforcement. As a refresher, and as we wrote about here, on October 10, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law California’s latest afront on workplace arbitration—AB 51. Under AB 51, employers may not, “as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, require an applicant or employee to waive any right, forum, or procedure” for FEHA and Labor Code claims. Violations of the new statute carry hefty consequences, including criminal penalties. Many employers see arbitration agreements as necessary to manage employment disputes and an outright ban on this efficient process strongly affects their bottom line. The ban was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2020, but the TRO put enforcement on hold for now. READ MORE

Fifth Circuit Takes a Bite Out of EEOC’s Criminal Background Guidance

In the first-of-its-kind ruling last week, the Fifth Circuit held that the EEOC’s investigators and lawyers cannot rely on its “Enforcement Guidance on Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII” to bring enforcement actions. Finding that the guidance amounted to a substantive rule, the Fifth Circuit panel determined that the guidance overstepped EEOC’s authority to force the State of Texas to consider hiring convicted felons to state-wide positions.  The decision on its face confirms the general principle that EEOC does not have the authority to engage in rulemaking on substantive discrimination laws and was limited to a specific injunction.  However, the decision could have far-reaching consequences for the EEOC’s various substantive guidelines. READ MORE

Ninth Circuit “Cleans House” in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Decision by Holding ABC Test Applies Retroactively and Opining on Its Effect on Franchisors

On May 2, 2019, the Ninth Circuit in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l, Inc. held that the California Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court applied retroactively. Dynamex adopted the “ABC” test for independent contractor classification for claims arising under California’s Wage Orders. For those claims, an employer must show that all three prongs of the ABC test are met to justify independent contractor status. For information on Dynamex’s adoption of the ABC test, read our prior coverage here. READ MORE

SCOTUS to Finally Decide if Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Protected by Title VII

On April 22, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in a trio of employment discrimination cases for which the Court’s forthcoming rulings—expected to be published by June 2020—could ultimately settle whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The three cases that the high court agreed to hear are Bostock v. Clayton Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, No. 17-1618 (filed May 25, 2018), Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623 (filed May 29, 2018), and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., No. 18-107 (filed July 20, 2018). The first two cases involve sexual orientation specifically, while the third case pertains to gender identity. READ MORE

Teachable Moment on Equal Pay Act and Title VII as Fourth Circuit Rejects Claim that Professors Perform “Equal” or “Similar” Work

The Fourth Circuit recently issued a decision discussing whether a university professor established pay-related claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.  This case has important implications for professional occupations where complainants seek to compare themselves to their colleagues for purposes of alleging pay discrimination.

Zoe Spencer, a sociology professor at Virginia State University (“VSU”), sued her employer for allegedly paying her less than two male professors because she is a woman.  The district court granted summary judgment, and plaintiff appealed to the Fourth Circuit.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision because (1) plaintiff failed to present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact that the two male professors are appropriate comparators; and (2) in any event, unrebutted evidence shows that the VSU based the two male professors’ higher pay on their prior service as VSU administrators, not their sex.

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