Category: Employment Agreements

The NLRB’s Ongoing Shift Toward Employee-Friendly Standards

The labor law landscape is constantly in flux as changes in presidential administrations continue to play a significant role in the development of rulemaking and decisional law at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the “Board”). Over the past several months, various NLRB decisions and guidance memorandums have tipped the scales further in the employee’s favor, requiring employers to re-think their current policies and agreements to avoid the pitfalls created by these recent decisions. Employee Handbook Policies The NLRB’s August 2nd opinion in Stericycle, Inc., 372 NLRB No. 113 (2023), found an employee policy unlawful because, from the employee’s perspective, it had a “reasonable tendency” to discourage employees from exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This decision is a departure from the previous standard where the Board examined, “the nature and extent of the potential impact on NLRA rights, and [] legitimate justifications associated with the rule.” Now a policy is unenforceable if an employee could reasonably interpret it to restrict conduct protected under the NLRA, i.e., if the policy was enacted in response to such protected conduct, or if the policy, in practice, limits rights under the NLRA. In other words, the Board’s primary concern is whether an employee believes they cannot avail themselves of the concerted activities protected...

The Federal Speak Out Act and Implications for Employers

In December 2022, President Biden signed into law the Speak Out Act (the “Act”), which has become effective. As discussed below, the Act prohibits pre-dispute nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment disputes. In connection with the new law, Congress presented, inter alia, the following findings: Sexual harassment and assault continue to be pervasive in the workplace. 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men experience some type of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. One in three women has encountered sexual harassment in the workplace, yet an estimated 87 to 94 percent of those who have experienced harassment never file any type of formal complaint. Many women leave their job or industry or pass up advancement opportunities as a result of sexual harassment. To combat sexual harassment and assault, victims must be able to report and publicly disclose such issues. Nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions in agreements between employers and employees can allow harassment and assault to continue by silencing victims and those with knowledge of the conduct, while protecting those engaging in such conduct, thus allowing it to continue. Prohibiting nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses will provide transparency around unlawful conduct, allow victims to come forward, hold perpetuators accountable, and make workplaces safer. Explanation of the Act The Act...

New Jersey Supreme Court Confirms Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements Concerning Transportation Workers Under the NJAA

In Colon v. Strategic Delivery Solutions, LLC and Arafa v. Health Express. Corp., plaintiffs contracted with corporate defendants to provide transportation and delivery services as independent contractors and signed arbitration agreements governing the terms and conditions under which they were to provide services. The agreements at issue explicitly referenced the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), but neither referenced the New Jersey Arbitration Act (“NJAA”). In both cases, plaintiffs brought claims in New Jersey Superior Court asserting they were misclassified as independent contractors and alleging violations of wage payment and wage hour laws, and in both cases, defendants sought to compel arbitration and dismiss the lawsuits. Both trial courts granted the respective employers’ motions to dismiss the claims and compel arbitration, and plaintiffs appealed these decision to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. As detailed in a prior blog post, in June 2019, different panels of the Appellate Division issued divergent holdings concerning the appeals. The Colon panel observed that both the FAA and NJAA “favor arbitration” as a way to resolve disputes, and that the NJAA “governs all agreements to arbitrate” entered into on or after January 1, 2003 (with limited exceptions that did not apply). It further found that the FAA “does not occupy the entire field of arbitration” and, therefore, the...

Governor Murphy Signs Bill Making Nondisclosure Provisions Unenforceable and Against Public Policy

On Monday, March 18, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 121, which makes nondisclosure provisions in employment contracts or settlement agreements that are intended to conceal the details of claims of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment unenforceable and against public policy in New Jersey. Section 1 of the new law warns that a “provision in any employment contract that waives any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” is against public policy and unenforceable.” The law does not define “employment contract” and leaves open to interpretation whether it applies to all agreements between employer and employee, whether an employment agreement, a separation agreement, or a settlement agreement. The prohibition on waiving any procedural right would make arbitration agreements, which by their nature waive the right to a jury trial, also invalid and unenforceable in contravention of the Federal Arbitration Act and recent United States Supreme Court precedent. An immediate challenge to this aspect of the law is likely since it casts doubt on all arbitration agreements between an employer and employee that seek to include claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Section 1 also prohibits a prospective waiver of any right or remedy under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) or any other statute or...

New Jersey Senate Labor Committee Amends Bill Prohibiting Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Employment and Settlement Agreements

In response to the recent spotlight on sexual abuse and harassment claims in the workplace and the #MeToo movement, the federal government and numerous states, including New Jersey, have focused attention on the use of nondisclosure provisions in settlement agreements involving claims of sexual harassment and assault. As we previously reported, the Tax Cuts and Job Bills Act was passed in December 2017 and includes a provision that bars any settlement or payment related to claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse from being deducted as a business expense if the payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement. While the federal tax bill aims to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements, the proposed New Jersey legislation initially provided an outright ban on such agreements. At the time of its first introduction during the prior legislative session in December 2017, Senator Loretta Weinberg’s proposed bill prohibited New Jersey employers from including “a provision in any employment contract or agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.” The bill is unique because it is not limited to sexual harassment or abuse claims, but rather would apply to any type of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment claim under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Senator Weinberg’s bill was reintroduced...

NJ Legislators Look to Prohibit Asking Applicants about Salary History

The New Jersey Legislature is poised to take up another thorny issue for employers, salary history. Described by legislative sponsors as an effort to promote pay equity, the legislation would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, or relying on it to determine salary at any stage in the hiring process. Two separate pieces of legislation have been introduced that prohibit an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 4119 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 2536 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

Employee May Pursue Claims Under FLSA For No Lactation Breaks

In Lico v. TD Bank et al., a federal court in the Eastern District of New York upheld an employee’s right to bring claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against her employer, TD Bank (“the Bank”), for failure to provide adequate facilities and time for lactation breaks. The FLSA requires employers covered by the FLSA to provide employees (1) reasonable unpaid time at work to express breast milk for up to one year following childbirth and (2) a place, other than a restroom, that is not visible and is free from intrusion to do so.

Gibbons Employment Article Featured on Cover of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

“Five New Year’s Resolutions for Employers,” written by Employment & Labor Law Department Directors Kelly Bird and Carla Dorsi, was the featured cover story in this month’s Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. The article outlines the following five employment practices for clients to focus on in 2015. Resolution #1: I will review my company’s arbitration agreements. Resolution #2: I will examine my company’s hiring practices, from job postings through background checks. Resolution #3: I will ensure my company’s paid time off policies and practices are compliant with paid sick leave laws. Resolution #4: I will rethink my company’s policies and practices concerning pregnant employees. Resolution #5: I will equip my employees with the knowledge and ability to comply with and enforce my company’s policies and our legal obligations.

New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Agreements Shortening the Statute of Limitations for Employment-Related Claims

On June 19, 2014, in Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the validity of a provision in an employment application form by which the job applicant agreed that, if hired, he or she would bring any employment-related claim within 6 months after the claim arose. Plaintiff alleged he was terminated because of a disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) and in retaliation for having filed a workers compensation claim. The Appellate Division held that because the plaintiff brought these claims 9 months after his termination they were barred by the 6-month limitations period in the application form even though they were brought well within the 2-year statute of limitations period otherwise applicable to these types of claims.

EEOC Challenges Separation/Release Agreements

It is common practice for employers in the process of terminating employees to present separation agreements that offer the employees severance benefits in exchange for a general release of claims. On February 2, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Commission”) filed suit in federal court in Chicago against the CVS drugstore chain, alleging that, since August 2011, CVS has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq.) by using separation agreements for their non-store employees that unlawfully interfere with the rights of these employees to file charges of discrimination with the Commission.