Earlier this week, Wendy Moore, a former partner at Jones Day, filed a representative action against the law firm in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging a single cause of action pursuant to the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) for alleged violations of the California Equal Pay Act, as amended by the Fair Pay Act of 2015, and related violations of the California Labor Code. The PAGA permits employees to bring civil suits to recover penalties on behalf of themselves and other aggrieved employees for Labor Code violations. Unlike class actions, PAGA claims can proceed regardless of whether the plaintiff can meet the requirements to certify a class.
Late last year, a bipartisan coalition in the United States Senate sponsored legislation to ban the use of mandatory arbitration agreements to settle sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims (H.R. 4734/S. 2203). While that bill—titled the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017”—remains pending, a similar bill is also now pending before the California legislature (A.B. 3080). If enacted, A.B. 3080 would prohibit employers from requiring mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, such as a bonus.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a number of states are considering legislation that would limit an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”) when settling sexual harassment claims. New York was the first state to enact such legislation, which was passed as part of a wide-ranging budget bill that takes effect July 11, 2018. New York’s law bans non-disclosure provisions in settlements of claims involving sexual harassment allegations, unless confidentiality is the “complainant’s preference,” provided some onerous procedures are complied with. Washington State passed a similar law. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to restrict the use of NDAs.
As we previously reported, a federal district court in Philadelphia recently struck down the provision of Philadelphia’s salary history ban prohibiting employers from asking about salary history (the “inquiry provision”), but upheld the provision of the law prohibiting employers from relying on such information (the “reliance provision”). The law was initially scheduled to take effect May 23, 2017, but had been stayed by the district court pending resolution of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to the law. The Judge’s decision ostensibly resolved the litigation at the district court level, however, both the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Philadelphia have appealed the ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Third Circuit has not yet issued an order staying the reliance provision, which the district court upheld. We therefore caution Philadelphia employers to act as though the reliance provision is in full effect, and to refrain from relying on salary history information in determining employees’ compensation. We will continue to report on the appellate process as it unfolds.
As a reminder, the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law”) became effective on May 5, 2018. The Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law applies to all employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours a year in New York City and requires employers to provide up to 40 hours (5 days) of paid safe and sick leave. Employers with less than five employees must provide unpaid sick and safe leave. In order to notify employees about their rights under the Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law, New York City employers must distribute written notice to their employees on the first day of employment or by June 4, 2018. Employers can find the new Notice of Employee Rights on the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) website, available here. The DCA also provides the new notice in Spanish, Chinese and 24 other languages.
On April 30, 2018, a federal district court issued a long-anticipated ruling on Philadelphia’s salary history ban. The ban, scheduled to take effect May 23, 2017, has two parts: (1) the “Inquiry Provision,” precluding employers from inquiring about a prospective hire’s wage history; and (2) the “Reliance Provision,” prohibiting employers from relying on the wage history of a new employee in determining the employee’s pay, unless the employee “knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history to the employer.”