Employment Law

AB 5 and AB 71: CA Legislature Dukes It Out Over Dynamex and Borello

The battle between Dynamex and Borello continues. Two competing bills – Assembly Bill 5 (“AB 5”) and Assembly Bill 71 (“AB 71”) – each seek to codify the respective worker classification tests. On May 29, 2019, the California State Assembly overwhelmingly passed AB 5, a bill seeking to codify Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, which adopted the three-factor “ABC” test to determine a worker’s classification for wage order claims. Now the bill is headed to the state Senate. Meanwhile, AB 71, a bill seeking to codify S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Industrial Relations, has thus far not enjoyed the same success. READ MORE

Not Your Call: California Employers May Pursue Damages for Employees’ Illegal Recordings

In the age of smartphones, virtually everyone has a recording device at his or her fingertips—including employees. This can present challenges in the workplace. For example, smartphones and other technology enable employees to secretly (read: illegally) record business meetings, disciplinary discussions with HR, and interactions with other employees. Not only does this violate privacy rights and trust, it also risks disclosing confidential company or employee information. Fortunately, employers are not without a remedy. California’s privacy laws offer protection against illegal recordings by employees. READ MORE

Up in Smoke: New York City Bans Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Marijuana

Effective May 10, 2020, New York City employers may no longer test prospective employees for marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. This bill- which is the first of its kind in the country- makes such testing an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law. READ MORE

A Gig Can be a Gig: US DOL Opinion Letter Breathes New Life into the Gig Economy Independent Contractor Model

On April 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued an opinion letter finding that “on-demand” service providers working for a virtual marketplace company are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The opinion letter comes almost two years after the DOL withdrew informal guidance on independent contractors issued under the Obama administration, in which the DOL concluded that “most workers are employees under the FLSA.” The new opinion letter signals an approach more friendly to “gig economy” virtual marketplace companies (or “VMCs”), online and/or smartphone-based referral services that connect consumers with service providers providing a wide variety of services, such as transportation, delivery, shopping, moving, cleaning, plumbing, painting, and household services. READ MORE

European Court of Justice: Employers Obligated to Systematically Record Working Time

According to a recent decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) (May 14, 2019 – C‑55/18), the Member States of the EU must oblige employers to systematically record the working time of their employees. Only in this way can it be ensured and enforced that the working time rules are observed and that the intended health protection of the employees is guaranteed. READ MORE

Inside-Out: CFTC Enhances Whistleblower Award For Internal Reporting

On May 6th, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) announced that it made a whistleblower award of approximately $1.5 million to an individual whistleblower. The individual provided information that assisted in the successful prosecution of a CFTC action and a related action brought by another federal regulator.  In particular, the CFTC recognized that the whistleblower initially sought to report his or her concerns internally prior to reporting to the CFTC, and it enhanced the individual’s award as an incentive.

In making the announcement, the Director of CFTC’s Whistleblower Office Christopher Ehrman explained, “While there is no requirement that a whistleblower report internally before approaching the Commission, today’s award demonstrates that the Commission may pay enhanced awards to those that do – that is one of the positive factors set out in our rules for the Commission to consider in making its award determination.”  Furthermore, the CFTC recognized that the information the claimant provided “was directly incorporated into strategy involving witness interviews, and his/her early assistance saved Commission resources through his/her explanation of a complex scheme.”

Since the beginning of the CFTC’s whistleblower program in 2014, the agency has awarded more than $85 million to whistleblowers.

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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Must-See Viewing: NYC Sexual Harassment Video Training Released

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”) released its long anticipated model anti-sexual harassment training on April 1, 2019.  The City’s model training satisfies all of the training requirements under both New York State and City laws, although the training is geared to educate viewers as to the broader sexual harassment protections afforded to workers by the New York City laws.  READ MORE