As California goes, so goes the nation. When it comes to employment law, the Golden State is continuing down a path of increased regulation. With 2017 right around the corner, here are some new laws California employers must prepare for – all effective Jan. 1, 2017 unless otherwise stated: READ MORE
Erin M. Connell, Co-chair of Orrick's EEO & OFCCP Compliance Group and Pay Equity Task Force, represents employers in high stakes employment litigation and is a leader in equal employment opportunity law, pay equity, and OFCCP compliance.
Erin's practice covers all aspects of employment law. She defends employers in class actions and other complex cases, as well as in systemic investigations and audits by the EEOC, OFCCP, and the California CRD. Erin has led dozens of internal pay equity analyses and is a trusted advisor for several of the nation's most prominent employers on developing areas of employment law, including pay equity and pay transparency, DEI best practices, and the use of AI in employment decision making.
Erin also is an accomplished first chair trial lawyer. She has tried several cases before juries and in arbitration, and has obtained numerous defense summary judgment rulings and other favorable resolutions in state and federal court. Erin led the trial team that obtained a complete dismissal for Oracle in OFCCP v. Oracle, the largest pay equity case ever brought by OFCCP, which garnered national media attention and earned Erin recognition as a "Litigator of the Week" by the American Lawyer and a 2021 Employment MVP by Law360. As lead counsel, Erin also successfully obtained decertification in a statewide California pay equity class action, Jewett v. Oracle.
Erin's clients include leading technology and Fortune 500 companies, including: Oracle, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter, Workday, PayPal, Sony Interactive Entertainment, NVIDIA, Airbnb, SiriusXM, Dropbox, Amgen, Zendesk, Splunk and Goldman Sachs.
Erin is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Bar Association of San Francisco, a faculty member with the Institute for Workplace Equality (IWE), and frequently speaks on California and national employment law issues, including for IWE, the ABA, the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) and the American Employment Legal Council (AELC). She was formerly the management chair of the ABA Equal Employment Opportunity Committee. She has published numerous articles on employment law in publications around the country, including the ABA Journal of Law & Employment Law. She also provides employment law training and conducts internal investigations on employment-related matters.
Posts by: Erin Connell
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.
On May 18, 2016 the EEOC held a commission meeting to address the topic of promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces in the tech sector. Orrick’s Erin Connell was asked to testify at the meeting and provide examples of the types of diversity initiatives tech companies are using. Watch our blog for updates on workplace diversity and new developments in the equal pay space as they continue to unfold. Included below is the text of Erin’s testimony before the EEOC:
Plaintiff Lynne Coates filed a class action lawsuit against Farmers on April 29, 2015 alleging gender discrimination claims under Title VII and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, including violations of the federal and California equal pay acts and California’s Private Attorneys General Act. In this post on Orrick’s Equal Pay Pulse blog, Orrick attorneys Erin Connell, Allison Riechert Giese and Megan Lawson examine Coates v. Farmers and what it means for employers as well as future equal pay claims in California.
Three months after the California Fair Pay Act took effect on January 1, 2016, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) has issued answers to FAQs about the new law, which by all counts is the most employee-friendly equal pay law in the nation. But for California employers who anxiously have been awaiting official guidance on the Act’s many new terms and standards, the FAQs provide little satisfaction. Rather, they focus more on informing employees on how to bring a claim. Nor has the DLSE otherwise spoken publicly about how it plans to enforce the new law; instead, the agency appears to be taking its time and exercising caution as it potentially sets the stage for the rest of the nation.
Following months of waiting the UK Government has finally published its draft regulations on the new “gender pay gap reporting” requirements in the UK. On publication of the draft regulations, the UK Government has asked one final consultation question: “What, if any, modifications should be made to these draft regulations?” – And so it would appear that the draft regulations are nearing but possibly not quite in final form, pending any pertinent responses received.
With the holidays now behind, many employees view the New Year as an opportunity to lose weight, exercise more, or make any number of other resolutions to improve their health. And it’s not just individuals seeking healthier lifestyles—in recent years, companies have started to promote healthy behavior among their employees with corporate wellness programs.
The use of big data in employment decisions—a practice often referred to as “people analytics”—has exploded in recent years. Lately, however, the concept is gaining more and more attention not only for its appeal of faster and more efficient hiring, but also for the significant risks it can pose. One key risk is the potential for a disparate impact claim, particularly on a class-wide basis. So while proponents of using software tools and algorithms to identify and select job candidates claim people analytics is more efficient and effective than traditional recruiting and selection procedures, employers should take care when choosing tools and vendors, and should proactively monitor their implementation to avoid big liability.
On April 16, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a proposed rule addressing how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to wellness programs that are part of group health plans and that include medical examinations or questions about employees’ health. Although not final and still open for public comment, this proposed rule provides important guidelines for employers in administering wellness programs.
On December 31, 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Second District of California held in an unpublished opinion that employers are not required to relieve employees of all duty during rest periods mandated by California state law. In so holding, the court in Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., No. B243788, 2014 WL 7463154 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 31, 2014), reversed the trial court’s award of approximately $90 million dollars in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees to the employees.