Gibbons Law Alert Blog

The New Jersey Appellate Division Expands Hostile Environment Liability Under the LAD

On June 2, 2022, in Morris v. Rutgers-Newark University, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided, in a case of first impression, the extent to which a plaintiff alleging harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“the LAD”) can use acts of harassment against others to establish the existence of a hostile environment. The case involved claims brought by members of the women’s basketball team of Rutgers-Newark University (“the University”), who were subjected to a hostile educational environment by the Interim Head Coach of the team. Although the case involved allegations of a hostile educational environment, the court’s decision is likely to be viewed equally applicable to hostile work environment claims and thus is one employers should be aware of. Background The plaintiffs included five players and the team manager for the University’s women’s basketball team for the 2014-2015 season, five of whom identified themselves as Black or African American while one identified as Hispanic. Four of the plaintiffs identified themselves as either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In addition to the University, the defendants included the team’s Interim Head Coach for that season, the University’s Athletic Director, and the University’s Associate Provost. The plaintiffs brought suit in the Law Division of the Superior Court under the LAD alleging they were the victims of...

Gibbons Recognized as a Leading Firm in 2022 ‘Chambers USA Guide’

The 2022 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business features the highest numbers of Gibbons P.C. practices and attorneys ever ranked in the publication in one year. The 2022 guide recognized 12 Gibbons practice areas, with 27 firm attorneys earning individual rankings. Three attorneys and one practice were selected for the first time this year. One of the legal industry’s leading client- and peer-review resources, Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through both comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, and extensive supplementary research. For the full list of Gibbons practice areas and attorneys highlighted in the 2022 guide, please click here.

Reminder to Alcoholic Beverage Licensees: Annual TTB Filing Due July 1, 2022

Businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages, such as liquor stores, grocery stores, bars, and restaurants, not only must obtain the appropriate retail license within the jurisdictions in which they operate, but also are subject to Alcohol Dealer Registration with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This often overlooked registration requirement must be satisfied prior to commencement of alcoholic beverage sales, and any changes in the ownership of the business, business locations, and certain other information must be disclosed annually in a filing that is due July 1. The registration requirement arises from Title 26 of the United States Code (specifically, Subtitle E, Chapter 51 of the Internal Revenue Code) and applies to any “dealer,” which is defined in 27 CFR § 31.1 as “[a]ny person who sells, or offers for sale, any distilled spirits, wines, or beer.” Thus, retail dealers include liquor stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs, fraternal organizations, grocery stores, supermarkets, hotels, sports stadiums, caterers, trains, aircraft, and vessels. Wholesalers and importers are also included within the definition of “dealer.” Subject to certain exceptions, both retail dealers and wholesale dealers must comply with the applicable registration requirements. Registration entails filing TTB Form 5630.5d before engaging in business and on or before July 1...

Crash Course: Court Provides Refresher on Rule 37(e) Spoliation Sanctions

A recent decision from the District of Arizona provided a refresher for litigants and judges alike in the framework under which electronically stored information (ESI) spoliation sanctions must be addressed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e). The author of the opinion – District Judge David Campbell – expressed his frustration that Rule 37(e) continues to be ignored by some judges and litigants in the application and adjudication of motions seeking ESI spoliation sanctions. Judge Campbell’s frustration is easily understood, as he chaired the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure during the 2015 revision to Rule 37(e). In Fast v. GoDaddy.com LLC, Judge Campbell seized the opportunity to meticulously explain each requirement of Rule 37(e) and then apply those requirements to adjudicate the spoliation claims before him. In this case, involving sex and disability discrimination claims, the plaintiff claimed she was fired for lacking the technical skills required for her employment, and that male employees with lesser technical skills were retained by the defendants. At the close of discovery, the defendants asserted discovery violations against the plaintiff, seeking sanctions for the spoliation of relevant ESI under Rule 37(e) and for the failure to produce relevant information under Rule 37(c)(1). Since the 2015 amendments to Rule 37(e), there has been controversy as...

IRS Provides Important Guidance for Employer Leave Programs for Donations to Aid Ukraine

Since the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, many employers have adopted or are considering adopting employer leave-based donation programs to aid citizens and residents of Ukraine, persons working, traveling, or currently present in Ukraine, or refugees from Ukraine. On May 19, 2022, the IRS issued Notice 2022-28, which provides important guidance on the federal income and employment tax treatment of cash payments made by employers to charitable organizations under these programs. The guidance is similar to the guidance in Notice 2001-69, as modified and superseded by Notice 2003-2, on charitable donations made after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Under employer leave-based donation programs, employees can elect to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for their employers making cash payments to charitable organizations to aid the victims of the invasion. The organizations must qualify as charitable organizations under Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Payments made before January 1, 2023 will not be treated as gross income, wages, or other compensation to the employees. Similarly, employees electing or who have the opportunity to elect to forgo the leave that funds the payments will not be treated as in constructive receipt of taxable income. Employers should not include the payments in Boxes 1, 3, or 5 of the electing...

Gibbons New York-Based Director and E-Discovery Task Force Co-Chair Mark S. Sidoti to Co-Present on ADA Website Accessibility Compliance

With the Department of Justice not yet issuing regulatory action on website accessibility pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), e-commerce and other businesses need to interpret and apply conflicting guidance to be prepared to deal with the seemingly inevitable demand letter or lawsuit. On May 24, Gibbons Director and E-Discovery Task Force Co-Chair Mark S. Sidoti will co-present the live, interactive Strafford webinar, “ADA Compliance and Website Accessibility: Circuit Split, Online Accessibility ACT, W3C Guidance.” This CLE program will provide corporate counsel with the necessary tools to mitigate liability for websites or mobile apps that do not comply with the ADA. Mr. Sidoti and his fellow panelists will discuss the conflicting legal authority in various jurisdictions, how this authority affects this type of litigation, and current trends in this area of the law. Additionally, they will address best practices for mitigating risks of an ADA website claim as well as navigating liability and damages when a claim has been filed. Mr. Sidoti, also Director of Commercial & Criminal Litigation at Gibbons based in the firm’s New York office, has extensive experience counseling clients regarding website access and compliance requirements under the ADA and other disability laws, and has represented numerous companies in website litigation. He has written and presented frequently on this topic....

District of New Jersey Denies Motion to Amend Invalidity Contentions, Citing Defendant’s Lack of Diligence and Timeliness in Filing Motion

In Razor USA LLC v. DGL Group, Ltd., the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently denied a defendant’s motion to amend its invalidity contentions to include an additional written description argument. The case involves utility and design patents pertaining to a hoverboard. After learning that the design patent issued with drawings had previously been rejected by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) (as opposed to those that the PTO later approved), the defendant sought to add an argument that the design patent was invalid pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 112(a) for the same reasons that the PTO had previously rejected the published drawings. The defendant asserted that it learned about this “new” defense after the plaintiff’s expert stated in a declaration that he had reviewed the prosecution history of the design patent, which prompted the defendant’s own investigation of the prosecution history. In evaluating whether the defendant’s application met the requirements of Local Patent Rule 3.7, the court looked to the defendant’s diligence and the timeliness of the motion. The court concluded that both were lacking. With respect to diligence, the “dominant consideration” in the motion to amend, the court concluded that the defendant had failed to act with the requisite diligence in discovering the information it sought to add...

Keeping the Curtain Closed: Connecticut District Court Denies Discovery on Discovery Where No Basis to Claim Deficiencies Shown

Despite the broad scope of discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, courts are generally reluctant to permit “discovery on discovery,” i.e., discovery requests related to a party’s efforts to search for, locate, preserve, and collect relevant electronically stored information (ESI). In a case brought against Wesleyan University (the “University”) by a student expelled for alleged cheating, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut recently declined to compel such discovery on discovery, where the plaintiff requested that the defendant identify and “catalog all of the devices on which responsive communications reside.” The discovery request was made well after the Rule 26 conference – discovery had been ongoing for nearly two years – and the plaintiff waited almost a full year after serving the requests to file her motion to compel. In light of these facts and the plaintiff’s failure to establish an “adequate factual basis” for requiring such discovery on discovery, the court denied portions of the plaintiff’s motion to compel. In Doe v. Wesleyan University, the plaintiff, a former student at the University, was expelled for allegedly cheating on her exams by improperly accessing the University’s “computerized learning management system” called “Moodle” during her exams. The University conducted an investigation and held an Honor Board proceeding, and the board decided...

The Russo-Ukrainian War’s Implication on Intellectual Property Rights

Following the 2014 so-called “Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity” and the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea, a major escalation of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War occurred in 2022, culminating in the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The invasion triggered Europe’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II, causing an unprecedented amount of human suffering and countless civilian casualties.