No company wants to be sued by its current or former employees, particularly for discrimination claims. Even if you prevail, litigating such claims inevitably exposes you to public stigma and internal discord. In such situations, an early “procedural victory” can be worth much more than the mere cost savings of legal fees. So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could do something now to either decrease the chance of such a suit being filed and/or increase the chance of obtaining a quick, procedural victory if litigation does ensue? As a recent decision in the Federal District Court, Morales v. FedEx, makes clear, a contractual “statute of limitations provision” may allow your company to achieve these objectives.
Hector Morales began working for Federal Express in 2015 and was terminated on July 31, 2017. In May 2018, Morales filed a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging that his termination was based on racial discrimination and was retaliatory. In July of 2020, Morales filed a complaint in the Federal District Court, alleging, among other things, that FedEx had discriminated against him in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 1981.
Eventually, FedEx moved for summary judgment on the § 1981 claim … Keep reading
Many states are now enacting laws to further promote pay transparency, and if you have employees in those jurisdictions, you need to take note. Not surprisingly, California’s Pay Transparency Act is a leading example of this and has a number of important and new requirements.
First, California employers with 15 or more employees will be required to include pay scales in new job postings. This obligation extends to employers engaging in a third party for recruiting (e.g., job posting boards). Employers, therefore, should ensure that contracts with third parties include this requirement and appropriate indemnification clauses.
Second, California now – like Massachusetts (see M.G.L. c. 149 § 105A(c)(2)) – prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history or using salary history as a factor in a hiring decision. However, if an applicant voluntarily discloses salary information, employers may consider that information in determining the salary for that applicant. Further, employers may ask about an applicant’s salary expectations – which is a great way to engage in a conversation that might yield information helpful to hiring without risking a statutory violation.
Third, California now requires employers to disclose a position’s pay scale to an applicant … Keep reading
When Massachusetts voters legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes four years ago, the impact on most employers was limited to clarifying that “legal” marijuana use was still generally prohibited in the workplace. Now, Massachusetts has legalized limited use of recreational marijuana. Although the recreational marijuana use law also provides that employers may prohibit employees from reporting to work or performing work under the influence of marijuana, the new law is raising practical challenges for employers. Here are three ways that employers may consider changing what they have been doing:
1. Pre-employment Drug Testing
Many employers require job candidates to successfully pass a drug test as a condition to receiving a job offer. Prior to the legalization of marijuana, a positive test for marijuana use by a job candidate was an indication of illegal drug use and clear grounds for rescinding an offer of employment. Since legalization of medical and recreational use, from a legal standpoint, rescinding a job offer based on testing positive for marijuana use is still generally permitted. From a practical standpoint, however, the rationale that marijuana use is illegal no longer exists and brings into question the rationale for drug testing for marijuana at … Keep reading
So your company is considering getting into a new area of business, and to do so, it will have to hire a variety of talent. While the launch of the new venture is not a certainty, the prospects of it are enticing, and time is of the essence. Thus, when talking to potential new hires, you want to focus on the positives and the possibilities. As a recent decision from the federal District Court, Bhammer v. Loomis Sayles and Company, Inc., makes clear, however, failing to disclose factors that may affect the viability of the new opportunity can be fraught with peril.… Keep reading
It is not unusual for employment agreements to mandate that when an employee leaves a company, whether voluntarily or by termination, he or she must return all company information. As the employer in EventMonitor v. Leness recently learned, however, relying on the courts to enforce such an obligation is risky, at best.… Keep reading
As regular readers of this blog know, a day that is scheduled to be filled with relatively routine and non-controversial matters can get turned upside and require immediate action without any advance notice. One such situation occurs when information comes to light that an employee is unfit to continue in his or her current position and should be terminated. Even if in-house counsel and the business decision-makers have complete confidence that the information justifies termination, however, there is a risk associated with not giving the employee a chance to at least explain his or her actions.… Keep reading
Last week I had the pleasure of being a panelist at the Association for Corporate Growth (Boston) and the Turnaround Management Association (Northeast) joint conference on “Challenges and Opportunities in US Manufacturing.” A theme common to all of the speakers was the need to address workforce issues, whether with respect to training, engagement or transition.
The challenges posed by human capital can often propel or derail improvement strategies, yet certain employment law issues are often overlooked or only addressed at the last minute. If in-house counsel are aware that an improvement plan that requires the exit of employees is being considered, the following issues in advance may help alleviate some last minute problems.
- Be sure that all employees have up-to-date, enforceable post-employment restrictive covenants. After implementing a layoff or termination of employees, the last thing that a company needs is to be surprised by a former employee’s attempt to use the company’s confidential information or goodwill to give a competitor an advantage. Reviewing existing confidentiality, non-solicitation and non-competition agreements for enforceability under applicable state laws, and even considering the company’s plan (and costs) for enforcement of post-termination restrictive covenants, will go far to help avoid unpleasant surprises.
… Keep reading
For entrepreneurs starting a new business, the focus often is on developing the products or services being offered by the business and, maybe, financing for getting (and keeping) the business off the ground. Yet, regardless of whether the business offers products or services, no business can succeed without people. Therefore, setting up proper intake systems for hiring at an early stage is critical in order to limit exposure to employment issues as the business grows. One easy way to do this is by using a hiring/on-boarding checklist like the one set out below. While this checklist is not intended to be a comprehensive list of issues that all businesses need to consider when hiring, it should provide at least some general guidelines for hiring and on-boarding new employees. Every state has different laws applicable to hiring and on-boarding, so be sure to check your applicable state’s laws.
Prior to hire:
- Prepare job application (for Massachusetts employees, you cannot request criminal history information and must include a statement that requesting the candidate to undergo a lie detector test is unlawful).
- Prepare employee handbook, including “at will” status, hours of work, absence policies, anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policies (be specific about no retaliation and
… Keep reading
Just as in romance, employer-employee relationships often are at their best in the courting stage. During the after-glow of an initial hire, many employers wish to make new employees feel welcome by sending confirmatory offer letters. Yet, in that warm and fuzzy moment, employers also should keep in mind that they may be binding themselves to certain obligations to which they never intended to be bound.
To minimize regret when the employer-employee relationship goes sour, here are my top six tips of things to avoid in offer letters:
- If you intend for the employee to actually stay on for a set period of time, the term may be included, but be sure to couch the term as “anticipated term” and allow yourself the ability to terminate the relationship before the end of the term. If the employment is “at-will,” specifically state “your employment is at-will, which means that you or the company may terminate your employment at any time for any reason or no reason at all.”
- Avoid stating compensation as an annual salary. For example, state that the compensation to be provided an employee is $X per week, which is the equivalent of $Y annualized. A promise of
… Keep reading
Many a day, I answer phone calls and emails about non-performing or even “toxic” employees who must be terminated. After grappling with the legal “dos” and “don’ts,” about half of the time the employer asks, “Why did I ever hire this person?”
The answer is not purely a legal matter. Marc Andreessen, a very successful entrepreneur, venture capitalist and software engineer, suggested his answer in a blog post entitled, “How to hire the best people you ever worked with,” several years ago. Simply stated, he recommends that employers take time to look at their criteria and their process. There are certainly many smarter and wiser than I who have written on the topic of the “perfect hire,” but after years of advising clients on terminating employees, I’d like to share a few tips that I’ve learned about hiring employees, in part, inspired by Andreessen’s sage advice.… Keep reading