On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) – which bans employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex – prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status. This decision marks a pivotal change from prior decisions of federal appellate and district courts which held that Title VII only banned discrimination based on the biological distinctions between persons born as male and female. It also obviates the need for the types of bills that have been submitted to Congress annually to expand the language of Title VII to include references to sexual orientation, gender stereotyping, and gender identity.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Federal Anti-Discrimination Law Protects Gay And Transgender Workers

The Department of Labor (the “DOL”), the Treasury Department (the “Treasury”), and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”)  have recently issued guidance extending certain deadlines and providing certain relief for retirement plans in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Discussed below are (1) EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01, (2) DOL “COVID-19 FAQs for Participants and Beneficiaries,” (3) IRS Notice 2020-23, and (4)  IRS “Coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs questions and answers.”
Continue Reading Guidance and Relief for Retirement Plans Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued two noteworthy enforcement memos. The first memo announced the reversal of OSHA’s April 10, 2020 policy that limited the requirement to track on-the-job cases of COVID-19 to health-care facilities, emergency response providers, and corrections facilities. The new policy, which goes into effect on May 26, 2020, mandates that all employers who are required to maintain OSHA injury and illness logs determine whether employees’ cases of the COVID-19 virus are “work-related” and record those that meet certain requirements. Specifically, employers subject to OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements must record a case of COVID-19 as job-related if (1) it is a confirmed case of the virus as defined by the CDC, (2) it is “work-related” in that an event or exposure in the work environment either contributed to or caused an employee to contract the virus, and (3) it results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness or involves a significant diagnosed injury or illness. Employers who have no recordkeeping obligations need only report work-related COVID-19 illnesses resulting in an employee’s death or in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
Continue Reading OSHA Addresses Reporting COVID-19 Cases as Job-Related and In-Person Workplace Inspections

Day-to-day life has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and many businesses have been forced to close or limit their service to slow the spread of COVID-19. In response, Congress has passed several pieces of legislation to assist individuals and businesses affected by the virus.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Federal Legislative Response

Today the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in this landmark case concerning punitive damages.  The six justices in the majority opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit and resolved a circuit split on this issue.  The question presented was whether punitive damages may be awarded to a Jones Act seaman in a personal injury suit alleging a breach of the general maritime duty to provide a seaworthy vessel.  Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Thomas, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.  Justice Ginsburg dissented, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.


Continue Reading SCOTUS Decides Dutra Group v. Batterton

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court issued a June 10 opinion holding that California’s wage-and-hour laws do not apply to workers on oil and gas platforms located in open water on the Outer Continental Shelf. The plaintiffs in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, were offshore rig workers who filed a class action asserting that their employer violated California’s minimum wage and overtime laws by failing to pay them for stand-by time while they were on the drilling platform. Both parties agreed that the platforms were governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), but they disagreed regarding whether the California’s wage-and-hour laws were incorporated into OCSLA and therefore applicable to workers on the platform.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds State Wage and Hour Laws are Inapplicable to Offshore Drilling Platforms

Commercial and employment agreements often include provisions requiring arbitration of disputes between the parties. Some of these agreements contain “delegation clauses” requiring the arbitrator (as opposed to a court) to decide whether the dispute is subject to arbitration. Despite such provisions, one party may sue the other because it perceives an advantage to proceeding in court or wants to test the outer limits of the arbitration provision. The first battle in these suits is over who—the court or an arbitrator—decides whether the dispute must be arbitrated. In unanimous decisions issued over the last week, the Supreme Court addressed two scenarios where the parties fought over this question, despite having delegated questions of “arbitrability” to an arbitrator. Read together, the Court’s decisions clarify that a court should first decide whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to the parties’ agreement. If so, the court must honor the delegation clause and refer the matter to arbitration.


Continue Reading New U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Clarify the Courts’ Authority to Compel Arbitration

The United States Supreme Court ruled today that contracts requiring individualized arbitration of employment-related disputes are enforceable and do not violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Background

Some employers require their employees to enter into agreements binding the parties to arbitrate employment-related disputes.  In recent years, many of those employers have drafted their mandatory arbitration agreements to prohibit employees from pursuing class or collective actions, which can be costly and eliminate the informality and speed of arbitration.  For example, the plaintiffs in the three cases decided by the Supreme Court today agreed not to pursue unpaid overtime claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on behalf of other employees in class or collective actions.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Validates Employer’s Right to Require Class and Collective Action Waivers in Employment-Related Arbitration Agreements