The coronavirus pandemic has already had a massive impact on businesses. Many companies have announced layoffs, furloughs, or unpaid leaves of absence.
Employers aren’t prohibited from firing employees. Employment relationships are usually at-will, meaning that employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, there are still boundaries that apply, such as laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation.
The recent coronavirus outbreak raises a host of employment-law issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to take measures to eliminate or reduce dangerous hazards to their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates leave for “serious health conditions,” raising questions as to whether an infected employee is legally entitled to leave. And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, so an employer can’t tell someone not to come to work just because he or she is from China or Italy.
Many employers strongly prefer arbitration to litigating with their employees in court. Employers often believe—and the Supreme Court has agreed—that arbitration of employment disputes has many benefits, including potential cost savings, more limited discovery, a greater ability to keep the dispute confidential, and speedier resolutions.
Can a news organization avoid a discrimination claim by arguing that it was exercising its First Amendment right to choose who writes the news?
That’s the question that the California courts have been grappling with in Stanley Wilson’s case against CNN. And that question has now been answered in Wilson’s favor.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have a right of collective action, and employers are prohibited from interfering with that right. But these provisions can conflict with an employer’s desire and ability to regulate conduct in the workplace.
One such conflict arises when employers conduct internal investigations. Employers may want to keep those investigations confidential, so that employees do not spread information about them through the workplace or coordinate their responses.
As readers of this blog know, corporate executives (and regular employees) are often subject to non-competes in their employment agreements, as well as other provisions designed to ensure that if they leave their job, they will not be able to work for a competitor for some period of time. By contrast, law firms are ethically prohibited from imposing such restrictive covenants on their attorneys. The justification for this exceptionalism is the premise that clients have the right to choose their counsel and any restrictions on a lawyer’s right to practice could impede that choice. (Of course, why client choice is more imperative in an attorney/client relationship than other professional relationships of trust has always been a bit vague.)
In our last post, we analyzed the complaint that Jones Day ex-associates Julia Sheketoff and Marc Savignac filed against the firm. Sheketoff and Savignac, a married couple, allege that the firm discriminated against them and retaliated against Mark when he complained. They focus on the firm’s parental leave policy, under which new birth mothers receive 18 weeks of paid leave but new fathers receive 10 weeks.
On Tuesday, married couple Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac filed an attention-grabbing lawsuit against their former law firm, Jones Day, for gender discrimination and retaliation. Jones Day is one of the largest law firms in the United States, and was the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by female lawyers alleging a “fraternity culture.”
According to their complaint, Sheketoff and Savignac each clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, and then joined Jones Day’s prestigious Issues & Appeals practice as associates. They eventually each received half-million-dollar salaries. But all was not well.
Last week, President Trump made headlines when he tweeted that “‘progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen … originally came from countries” that were “totally broken and crime infested,” and that they should “go back” to the “places from which they came.” (Three of the Members he was referencing were born in the U.S., and one is a naturalized U.S. citizen. All are women of color.)
This is an employment law blog, so naturally, President Trump’s tweet raised our antenna on an employment law issue: can telling someone to go back to the country they came from constitute prohibited discrimination or harassment?
Even employers who are devoted to higher callings can find themselves in worldly disputes with former employees over access to emails and computer files.
For example, the National Institute for Newman Studies is devoted to researching Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be canonized later this year. While awaiting Newman’s ascent to sainthood, however, the Institute has been dealing with a mundane problem: a lawsuit brought by its former executive director, Robert Christie.
As the regulatory and business environments in which our clients operate grow increasingly complex, we identify and offer perspectives on significant legal developments affecting businesses, organizations, and individuals. Each post aims to address timely issues and trends by evaluating impactful decisions, sharing observations of key enforcement changes, or distilling best practices drawn from experience. InsightZS also features personal interest pieces about the impact of our legal work in our communities and about associate life at Zuckerman Spaeder.
Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.