Last week, the Court of Appeal for California’s Fourth Appellate District ruled that an agreement prohibiting former staffing company recruiters from soliciting their former employer’s employees is unenforceable under California Business & Professions Code section 16600. The court reasoned that the employee non-solicitation provision was too onerous on the recruiters’ ability to practice their profession i.e., recruiting employees. In rendering the decision, the court called into question long-standing precedent that upheld employee non-solicitation provisions, which are routinely included by California employers in employment and confidentiality agreements with their employees.
Late last month, the New York State Department of Labor released model sexual harassment prevention training videos that employers can use to train their employees, available here. While a welcome development, the videos alone do not fully comply with the State’s requirement that sexual harassment prevention training be “interactive” – employers must ensure that employees have the ability to ask questions and receive answers to their questions. The New York City Commission on Human Rights has also provided some new and welcome guidance to employers, releasing FAQs regarding NYC’s new sexual harassment prevention laws, available here. The FAQs primarily address which employers must conduct sexual harassment prevention training and how to calculate an employer’s number of employees for purposes of determining whether the employer is subject to the training requirements. READ MORE
The Ninth Circuit recently sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), holding that employers can’t require applicants to pay for follow-up post-offer medical exams. Specifically, in EEOC v. BNSF Railway Company, No. 16-35457 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2018), the court affirmed that BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by conditioning the plaintiff’s job offer on his getting an MRI at his own expense.
As you’ve likely been monitoring, last month the California legislature passed several bills to Governor Brown for signature relating to sexual harassment. The hashtag #TakeTheLead emerged as a symbol reflecting California’s potential to become the state at the forefront of passing additional legislation characterized as increasing protection for women – and workers generally – in the face of the #MeToo movement. Late Sunday night, in the last moments before Governor Brown’s September 30 deadline, he vetoed the most contentious bill – AB 3080 – and signed into law many of the other pending bills. READ MORE
Employers across the country should dust off their background check policies and forms and be mindful of recent developments related to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
FCRA mandates specific, technical steps for employers using consumer reports to make employment decisions, including hiring, retention, promotion or reassignment. While many employers are familiar with the importance of following FCRA requirements, actual compliance with the law can be tedious and challenging. As the law continues to evolve, employers should be aware of recent updates to the model federal form for consumer rights and recent guidance from a California federal court related to the “stand-alone” disclosure and authorization requirement. READ MORE
A recent ruling of the Federal Labor Court will invalidate thousands of forfeiture clauses in employment contracts in Germany. Companies need to review and revise their standard employment contracts now and explore options to amend existing contracts to exclude potential liabilities. Otherwise there may be significant exposure for the employer. The time to act is now! READ MORE
Taking a second look at the use of “no future employment” provisions in a settlement agreement between a doctor and his former employer, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that two of the three provisions constituted “restraints of substantial character” that ran afoul of California’s restriction on noncompete clauses. Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group, No. 16-17354 (9th Cir. July 24, 2018) (“Golden II”).
In 2007, Dr. Donald Golden, an emergency room surgeon, sued his former employer, California Emergency Physicians Medical Group (“CEP”), claiming that he had been fired because of his race. After mediation, the parties orally agreed to settle the dispute. However, Dr. Golden later refused to sign a written settlement agreement, arguing that three provisions therein violated the restriction on noncompete agreements embodied by California Business and Professions Code Section 16600. Section 16600 provides that, aside from certain exceptions, “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”
Dr. Golden challenged the following provisions of the proposed settlement agreement as violative of Section 16600:
- A provision preventing Dr. Golden from working or being reinstated at any facility that CEP owns, manages or contracts with.
- A provision allowing CEP to terminate Dr. Golden without any liability if CEP contracts with an emergency room at which Golden is employed or rendering services.
- A provision allowing CEP to terminate Dr. Golden without any liability if CEP contracts with a facility at which Golden is employed or rendering services.
The district court originally granted a motion to enforce the agreement and ordered Dr. Golden to sign, reasoning that the provisions would only prevent him from working for, not competing with, his former employer CEP, and thus Section 16600 did not apply. When the Ninth Circuit first considered this issue on appeal (Golden I), it reversed, holding that Section 16600 applies not only to noncompetition agreements but to any contractual provision that places a “restraint of a substantial character” on a person’s ability to practice a profession, trade, or business. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the district court to apply this standard, but the district court again ordered Dr. Golden to sign the settlement agreement, concluding that the disputed provisions did not constitute a restraint of a substantial character.
Addressing the dispute a second time in Golden II, the Ninth Circuit clarified that to meet the “restraint of substantial character” standard, “a provision need not completely prohibit the business or professional activity at issue, nor does it need to be sufficient to dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in that activity…[b]ut its restraining effect must be significant enough that its enforcement would implicate the policies of open competition and employee mobility that animate [Business and Professions Code] section 16600.”
The Ninth Circuit concluded that the first clause prohibiting Golden from working at any facility contracted by, owned, or managed by CEP was valid, as its effect on Golden’s ability to practice medicine was minimal. However, the court held that the second and third restrictions proposed by CEP would “easily rise to the level of a substantial restraint, especially given the size of CEP’s business in California.” CEP currently staffs 160 healthcare facilities in California and handles between twenty-five and thirty percent of the state’s emergency room admissions. Because the second and third restrictions would affect Golden’s “[existing] and future employment at third-party facilities” where CEP provided services, even if the CEP services began after Golden’s employment, and even if CEP’s services did not compete with the services Golden provided, the provisions ran afoul of Business and Professions Code Section 16600.
The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision is a good reminder that California generally disfavors noncompete agreements. California employers may wish to review their separation/settlement agreements with this case in mind or to consult with counsel to ensure that their agreements comply with California law.
Late last week and in anticipation of the October 9, 2018 deadline for compliance with the statewide sexual harassment prevention mandate (the “Mandate”), New York Labor Law § 201-g, New York State released a model policy, complaint form, and training module. The materials are still in draft form and the State is accepting public comments through September 12, meaning these documents are subject to change. The model policy, complaint form, training module, and FAQs are available here. Several portions of the sample documents exceed the Mandate’s minimum requirements, and some directly conflict with the position of other agencies.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights has released the Fact Sheet and mandatory Notice referenced in the recent Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (the “Act”). Effective September 6, 2018, all employers in New York City must conspicuously post the Notice in the workplace and must distribute the Fact Sheet to all new employees upon hire. Alternatively, the Fact Sheet may be incorporated in an employee handbook distributed to new employees upon hire. READ MORE