The Impact of COVID-19-Related Factors on Courts’ Enforcement of Employee Post-Employment Restrictive Covenants

In the best of economic times, some courts can be reluctant to grant immediate injunctive relief and enjoin an employee from working in order to enforce employee post-employment restrictive covenants. Now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession, that challenge has grown. Current economic considerations are causing some courts to weigh the “balance of harms” on injunctive relief applications in favor of employee defendants who are faced with the difficulty of finding other work in an economic downturn with high unemployment. Nevertheless, our review of recent decisions from around the country indicates that courts remain willing to consider injunction motions on an emergent basis to enforce restrictive covenants, particularly where there is a threat of trade secret misappropriation.

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NLRB Expands Employer Options for Social Media and Non-Disparagement Rules

With the COVID-19 emergency impacting employers’ operations and the way employees work, more and more employees may start taking to social media to vent their opinions about work and current events (sometimes intertwining the two). Employee social media expression can damage an organization’s brand and violate its social media and non-disparagement rules. Discipline for social media expression can run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which provides certain protections for employee speech, including social media speech, so that employees often believe that anything goes in this forum. Fortunately for employers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently clarified the types of employee social media activity employers may regulate, giving employers more latitude to discipline employees for social media conduct that violates employer rules and threatens the employer’s reputation.

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Political Strike Guidance for Employers: Preparing for ‘Strike for Black Lives’

On July 20, labor organizations across the country are planning a “Strike for Black Lives,” a national walkout in support of “dismantling racism and white supremacy to bring about fundamental changes in our society, economy and workplaces.” When preparing for this and any political strike, employers should develop a response strategy — grounded in NLRB interpretations of employees’ rights to conduct political demonstrations — to limit liability and keep their businesses running.

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NLRB Tightens Standard for Joint Employer Status

A business is a joint employer of another employer’s employees only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment, according to a recently unveiled and long-awaited final rule from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that will take effect on April 27, 2020. By tightening the legal test the NLRB uses to determine whether workers are jointly employed by affiliate businesses, including franchisors and franchisees, the rule provides welcomed clarity for franchisors, and will allow them to provide more operational support and guidance to franchisees.

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Bill Strengthens Enforcement Powers of Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

Philadelphia is poised to strengthen the enforcement powers of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (“PCHR”), the City’s primary civil rights and anti-discrimination agency.  Under legislation that passed City Council on May 8, 2017, the PCHR would have the authority to issue cease and desist orders—closing a business’s operations for an unspecified length of time—if the agency determines the business has engaged in “severe or repeated violations” of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“the Ordinance”).  The authority to shut down a business’s operation is an unheard of remedy for employment related civil rights violation and—given the significant ramification for employers—it is critical for Philadelphia employers to be aware of the potential consequences of the PCHR’s enhanced powers for their business operations.

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Preparing for the Future of the Overtime Eligibility Rule

One of the most significant wage and hour actions of the Obama administration—promulgating a new rule on overtime eligibility—remains frozen in legal limbo as the Trump administration decides whether to repeal and replace it or propose an alternative solution. With such uncertainty, what should employers do to ensure they are in compliance when the Trump administration finally takes action?

First, employers need to understand why the new overtime rule is not in effect. A federal district judge in Texas stayed the rule’s implementation on November 22, 2016, just nine days before it would have become effective nationwide. The judge held that the Department of Labor exceeded its regulatory authority by establishing a salary threshold under which employees were automatically overtime eligible regardless of their job duties. The Department of Justice appealed that decision, and the Texas AFL-CIO filed a pending motion to intervene in the event the Trump administration decides not to challenge the judge’s decision in the appeal’s court. After obtaining two filing extensions, the DOJ has until May 1 to file a brief stating its position on the appeal.

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