Weeks before the uproar over revelations that U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty paid her chief of staff a $5,000 severance package and signed a non-disclosure agreement concerning sexual harassment allegations made against him, the Connecticut state Senate raised Senate Bill 503, An Act Requiring Approval of State Agency Settlement and Nondisclosure Agreements.”  The bill, if approved by the General Assembly – would require legislative approval of certain payments made to state employees pursuant to a nondisclosure or separation agreement. Continue Reading Connecticut Considers Requiring Legislative Approval of Agency Settlement Payments and Nondisclosure Agreements

A new Massachusetts law significantly enhances existing anti-discrimination protections for pregnant employees. The “Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” effective April 1, 2018, prevents discrimination against, and expressly protects, employees who are pregnant or are experiencing pre- and post-birth pregnancy-related medical needs, including, but not limited to, lactation, expressing breast milk, and recovering from childbirth. Continue Reading Take Note: the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Is Now In Effect!

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”), which amends the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, goes into effect July 1, 2018, and applies to all employers regardless of their size, including the state and its municipalities.   Massachusetts was the first state in the country to pass an equal pay law and, in fact, preceded the federal Equal Pay Act by 18 years. The 2018 amendments make MEPA one of the strongest pay equity laws in the country, intended to close the reported 84.3.% pay gap for working women in Massachusetts.   In advance of this upcoming deadline, Attorney General Maura Healey (“AG”) issued MEPA Guidance on March 1, 2018. Continue Reading Updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Law to Take Effect on July 1, 2018

In a significant decision reflecting the evolution of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers Connecticut, New York and Vermont, has ruled in Zarda v. Altitude Express, No. 15-3775, en banc, (2d Cir. 2018) that Title VII protects individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, even though Title VII itself does not expressly state that it applies to sexual orientation discrimination. The case provides fascinating insight into how courts’ interpretations of statutes may change over time in light of changing social mores and developing doctrine.  The issue is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court because although the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) agrees that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination, the Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Florida and Georgia) has held that it does not. Continue Reading Second Circuit Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Last week, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to leaders in Congress, urging the passage of legislation that would prohibit mandatory arbitration of workplace sexual harassment claims. In the letter, 56 attorneys general of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands called on Congress to allow victims of workplace sexual harassment claims to have their days in court and be afforded the “procedural and substantive due process” that comes with proceeding with a lawsuit.   Continue Reading Attorneys General Support Ending Arbitration of Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims

Apparently believing that employers are not capable of considering employees’ requests for reasonable accommodation on their own, the New York City Council has decided to dictate how those requests should be handled.  Continue Reading NYC Council Obligates Employers to Engage in “Cooperative Dialogue” for Reasonable Accommodation Requests

It is critical that organizations have a plan of action in place to manage operations during natural disasters in order to keep business going and disruptions to a minimum. In addition to preparing and implementing a disaster plan, it is important for business owners and human resource professionals to be aware of the employment laws that may be implicated as a result of these disasters. We will review possible steps in managing disasters in the workplace and discuss the employment law and wage and hour issues that arise when employees are prevented from working as a result of natural disaster. Continue Reading Labor & Employment Webinar: HR’s Role in Natural Disasters

On March 7, 2011, Peter Joyce, Jr. (“Joyce”) filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), claiming that Respondent CSX Transportation (“CSX”): (1) denied him a reasonable accommodation in the use of a computer device that he had difficulty mastering because he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and other cognitive limitations; and (2) he was disciplined and removed from service for an infraction which he claims was related to his disability.  Joyce asserted that the unwarranted discipline caused him great anxiety and distress resulting in his being placed on an occupational disability retirement.  More than five years later, the MCAD held hearings on the claim in September 2016.  Eight months later, Hearing Officer Eugenia Guastaferri issued her decision in which she awarded Joyce $224,070.39 in lost pay and $100,000 in emotional distress damages, both accruing twelve (12%) percent interest from May 7, 2011 until payment.

This case illustrates the difficulties inherent in evaluating the performance of long-term employees with respect to rapidly-changing job requirements due to technological advances – particularly when evaluating reasonable accommodations for claimed disabilities.

Continue Reading Running a 21st Century Railroad with 20th Century Job Skills: How to Accommodate Disabilities?

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.

Continue Reading Employer No-Recording Policies May Violate NLRA Says the Second Circuit