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Salvatore G. Gangemi is a Partner in the Litigation Department of Murtha Cullina and a member of the Labor and Employment Practice Group. He advises clients with respect to state, federal and local employment laws. In addition, he litigates matters involving misappropriation of trade secrets, restrictive covenants, breach of employment contract, fiduciary duty, and other work-related common law claims. Sal also counsels clients on day-to-day issues involving workplace management and administration, including requests for reasonable accommodation for disabilities, for family and medical leave, and wage and hour issues.  He conducts employment law training on a variety of topics, including sexual harassment prevention and wage/ hour compliance.  He also drafts employment policies and agreements, and assists clients in auditing worker classification practices and policies both in the context of the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws governing independent contractor determinations.

Allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against business leaders, politicians and artists, have become a front page staple of newspapers across the country.  Many are shocked by the allegations and claim to wonder how they could have stayed secret for so long.  Despite the numerous cases of sexual harassment filed each year in courts throughout the country, rendering the allegations a matter of public record, a bipartisan group in Congress is blaming the increased use of nonpublic arbitrations for keeping allegations quiet.  As a result, they seek passage of a bill intended to prohibit sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases from being resolved privately in arbitration.
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On October 17, 2017, the New York City Council passed a bill amending the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (which took effect on April 1, 2014)  to require paid time off for victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking, and their family members.  The amendment would take effect 180 days after Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it into law, which he is expected to do.
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To be exempt from state and federal overtime requirements, an employee must satisfy both a salary test and a duties test. In May 2016, we blogged about the Department of Labor’s issuance of a Final Rule modifying the so-called “white-collar” employee exemptions to overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The proposed Final Rule increased the minimum salary that must be paid to exempt employees from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to approximately $913 per week ($47,476 per year), and provided for subsequent annual revisions/increases. The Final Rule did not make changes to the duties test, which still must be satisfied for the exemptions to apply. The Final Rule was supposed to be effective on December 1, 2016, but on November 22, 2016, a federal court in Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Final Rule from taking effect. On September 6, 2017, that injunction was made permanent, and the minimum salary threshold under federal law will remain at $455 per week at least until new regulations are issued by the Trump administration’s Department of Labor.
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On August 22, 2017, a federal trial judge injected uncertainty into the ability of in-house counsel to communicate with company employees during an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation. In EEOC v. Day & Zimmerman NPS, Inc. (D. Conn. Aug. 22, 2017), Judge Victor A. Bolden concluded that an employer could be liable for ADA retaliation by sending a letter to its employees informing them of the existence of an ADA claim by an employee and advising them about potential interviews by the EEOC.

By way of background, the employee involved had filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging that a company had violated the ADA by firing him from working at the Millstone nuclear power station after he provided a doctor’s note indicating that he could not work around radiation. The EEOC soon commenced an investigation into the charge, requesting a list of roughly 150 employees who worked at Millstone during the time period at issue, including those individuals’ names, job titles, dates of employment, home addresses, and telephone numbers.
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Earlier this year, we blogged about the United States Supreme Court’s decision to consider whether requiring employees to agree to arbitration and a waiver of their rights to assert claims through class actions violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice supported the position of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that requiring class action waivers as a condition of employment violated the NLRA.  Now, the Justice Department has switched sides and is supporting business, acknowledging in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court on June 16 that “[a]fter the change in administration, . . . [it] reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.”
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On June 1, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers Connecticut, New York and Vermont, upheld a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) finding that Whole Foods Market Group, Inc.’s no-recording policy was overbroad and violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).

In Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. v. NLRB, Whole Foods’ employee handbook contained a provision that prohibited employees from recording conversations, phone calls, and meetings, without first obtaining managerial approval.  The court concluded that this no-recording policy violated the NLRA.  The NLRA deems it an unfair labor practice “to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights [to, among other things, engage in concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.]  Whole Foods insisted that its policy was not intended to interfere with employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity or to prevent them from discussing their jobs, and that it was merely a general prohibition against recording in the workplace.  Whole Foods argued that its policy was “to promote employee communication in the workplace” by assuring employees that their remarks would not be recorded.


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