The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued new, nationwide procedures allowing a Charging Party or his/her representative to request copies of Respondent employer’s position statement and non-confidential attachments during the investigation of his/her charge of discrimination. The new procedures apply to all position statements submitted after January 1, 2016. Employers must be cognizant of this new rule and strategically craft positions statements with an eye towards disclosure. Specifically, employers need to carefully separate confidential information into separately labeled attachments to avoid inadvertent disclosure to the Charging Party.
Category: Policies and Handbooks
On March 14, 2016, Plainfield became the 12th New Jersey municipality to approve paid sick leave. The Plainfield ordinance, which will take effect on July 14, 2016, requires that, with certain exceptions, employees working in Plainfield for at least 80 hours per year accrue at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers with ten or more paid employees must provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, and employers with less than ten paid employees must provide sick time up to 24 hours, except for employees who are child care workers, home health care workers and food service workers who are entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick time. Employees begin to accrue sick time on the first day of their employment and are entitled to begin using their accrued time on the 100th calendar day of their employment. Additionally, employees are permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to the next calendar year, but employers are not required to carry over more than 40 hours.
On March 14, 2016, the amendments to Philadelphia’s “ban the box” law went into effect. The amendments to the city’s Fair Criminal Record Screenings Standards Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), signed into law by Philadelphia’s then Mayor, Michael Nutter, on December 15, 2015, create additional restrictions under the Ordinance on how and when an employer may consider a prospective employee’s criminal background during the application process (beginning when an applicant makes an employment inquiry and ending when the employer has extended a conditional offer of employment).
Whole Foods Markets received the proverbial ugly holiday sweater in the form of a December 24, 2015, 2-1 decision by the National Labor Relations Board that declared its policy prohibiting recording in the workplace unlawful. The decision in the cases Whole Foods Markets, Inc. and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 919 and Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, focused on two rules contained in Whole Foods’ General Information Guide. The first prohibited the recording of meetings, with the laudable, express goals of encouraging “open communication, free expression of ideas, spontaneous and honest dialogue and an atmosphere of trust.” The only exceptions were when the recording was approved by management or all parties to the conversation consented. The second rule also prohibited the use of a recording device in order to “eliminate a chilling effect on the expression of views that may exist when one person is concerned that his or her conversation with another is being secretly recorded.” Seems fair, right? Not according to the NLRB.
Effective October 1, 2015, employers in the State of Connecticut are restricted from requiring or requesting employees and job applicants to provide access to “personal online accounts,” which include email, social media and retail-based Internet web sites used exclusively for personal reasons. Specifically, the new law (Public Act No. 15-6) (“the Act”), prohibits employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to: provide the username and password, password, or other means of authentication to access an individual’s personal online account; authenticate or access a personal online account for the employer to view; or invite an employer to accept an invitation or be compelled to accept an invitation from an employer to join a group related to a personal online account.
New Jersey Appellate Division Requires Arbitration Provisions to Include Specific Waiver of Right to Sue in Court
Two recent New Jersey Appellate Division decisions have serious implications for employers utilizing or contemplating arbitration provisions. In both decisions – Kelly v. Beverage Works NY Inc., decided on November 26, 2014, and Dispenziere v. Kushner Cos., decided on November 21, 2014 – the Appellate Division relied on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s September decision in Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, which held that an arbitration provision was unenforceable because it lacked “clear and unambiguous language” that the party signing the agreement is waiving its right to sue in court.
New Jersey Appellate Division Decision Stresses Importance of Meaningful Anti-Harassment Policy and Training
An effective anti-harassment policy has long been recognized as a key component to an employer’s avoidance of liability for allegations of sexual, racial, or other harassment under New Jersey law. The New Jersey Appellate Division in Dunkley v. S. Coraluzzo Petroleum Transporters recently reinforced this fact, and the decision provides a helpful reminder to employers that adopting clear anti-harassment policies, providing regular training to its workforce, and immediately addressing allegations of harassment/discrimination once presented, are important factors that may help them avoid liability for the conduct of employees who violate such policies.
NJ Adopts “Ban the Box” Prohibiting Inquiries into Criminal History During Initial Employment Application Process
On August 11, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law “The Opportunity to Compete Act” – more commonly referred to as “ban the box” – which prohibits employers from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process. The law will take effect on January 1, 2015 and preempts any local laws (such as Newark’s 2012 ordinance) addressing the same subject.
Employers often use arbitration programs with employees to elect a forum that eliminates jury trials and class actions. A New Jersey District Court recently found that the employer’s handbook containing a provision which, gives the employer the exclusive ability to change the provisions of the handbook without notice to employees, invalidated an employee’s arbitration agreement.
On August 28, 2013, New Jersey Governor Christie signed Assembly Bill No. 2648, amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who disclose to or request information from other employees or former employees regarding job title, occupational category, pay (including benefits), gender, race, ethnicity, military status and national origin for the purpose of investigating or taking legal action against potential pay discrimination. The amendment, effective immediately, does not require employees or former employees to divulge this information.