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As employment law constantly changes, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman stay up to date on the law as it develops. Our blog topics focus on those changes and what you need to know about them, ranging from severance agreements and the FLSA to social media in the workplace and recent court decisions. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Federal contractors, take notice: did you know that it is now illegal as a federal contractor to prevent your employees from discussing their compensation? The Department of Labor’s recent ruling may significantly impact your business and necessitate changes to your policies and practices. Continue reading to determine whether your business will be affected and how.

In a landmark decision on Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”), by a 3-2 vote, determined that its long-standing “joint-employment jurisprudence” had grown “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances, particularly the recent dramatic growth in contingent employment relationships, i.e., shift work, contract workers, and temporary employee relationships[,]” across the U.S.

Workplace violence has become a growing concern for businesses across the country. In Virginia, employers of all sizes are actively considering, many for the first time, whether it would be prudent to have extra security personnel on hand and wondering whether they can be held liable for actions taken by security guards on their premises. The good news for employers in the Commonwealth is that such liability can be mitigated with the right policies in place.

Part 1 of this article can be found here.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Having considering the perils summarized above, an employer who still decides to use employee criminal background checks faces additional restrictions under other federal statutory provisions, namely the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). An employer who uses consumer reports to make employment decisions, including hiring, retention, promotion or reassignment, must comply with the FCRA. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) enforces the FCRA.

Use of employment-related background checks by employers to discover information about the work history, education, criminal record and financial history of job applicants has become ubiquitous. In one recent survey of employers, 92% of those responding stated that they subjected all or some of their job candidates to criminal background checks. The reasons for increased employer reliance on criminal background checks are straightforward - to control theft and fraud and address heightened concerns about potential liability for workplace violence and negligent hiring. It is not illegal for an employer to ask questions about an applicant’s or employee’s background, or to require a background check. However, anytime an employer uses that information to make an employment decision, irrespective of how the employer has obtained the information, the employer must comply with federal anti-discrimination and credit reporting laws, and state and local restrictions.

Effective March 27, 2015, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, will extend coverage to all legally married same-sex couples to take FMLA leave to provide care for their spouse. FMLA leave entitles eligible employees, as defined by the statute, to take unpaid leave for a “qualifying event” for a period of up to 12 weeks. In addition to serious health conditions of the employee, qualifying events include the care of a spouse or child with a serious health condition and leave due to a spouse’s covered military service.

Selection Sunday has passed, the brackets are set and employers across the US find themselves once again on the eve of March Madness. Businesses are faced with the issue of whether to embrace the “madness” or to strictly enforce office policies, which likely prohibit distractions such as streaming basketball games and participating in bracket pools. While numerous studies indicate that employee productivity is at record lows this Thursday & Friday, there are great benefits to be had if handled correctly.

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) established that it is unlawful for employers with fifteen or more employees to discriminate against pregnant workers “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” That remains the basic law of the land today. What has remained unclear, however, is whether Congress, in passing the PDA, meant to compel employers to provide pregnant employees who are not able to work for medical reasons with accommodations, such as a light duty job, to the same extent as similarly situated, non-pregnant employees.

The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in a case brought by Peggy Young against United Parcel Service (“UPS”) that is expected to provide some guidance as to whether and under what circumstances an employer may be required to accommodate pregnant employees under the PDA. Irrespective of what the court decides, however, covered employers should continue to ask whether such accommodations may still be necessary under recently implemented amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, adopted by 47 states including Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, generally defines protectable trade secrets as information that derives independent economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable and that is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.  In an age of electronic information storage and immediate communication, and in a world where flash drives, SnapChat and portable electronic devices are common, the business world’s increasing dependence on technology is challenged by the ease of downloading and absconding with essential business information. The Trade Secrets Acts provides a critical tool for avoiding this risk, but security requires careful and proactive monitoring and planning as well as hard-headed practical judgment.

April 28, 2014
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Money Sign Protected.jpgPart 1 of this post discussed a suit brought by Wings LLC to enforce a noncompete against two defector employees. The letter opinion said that the noncompete was unenforceable. In this post, I examine the role of noncompetition agreements and when other agreements may be better options in cases such as this one.

The Role of Noncompetes – Protecting the Investment

A closer look at this case also reveals a common misunderstanding about the purpose of noncompetes. Put simply, a noncompete is designed to protect a business from losing its investment. This can be seen most clearly in the context of a business sale. When one person buys a Pizza Hut franchise from its owner, the person also “purchases” the customer market that comes with it. If the former owner then opens a Little Caesar’s across the street, the purchaser’s investment is severely compromised in the form of lost customers and lost profits. A noncompete prohibiting the former owner from engaging in the same or similar business within the customer market for a sufficient period of time will help protect the purchaser from being undermined by immediate competition. And it prevents the seller from double-crossing the purchaser by profiting twice—once from the sale of the Pizza Hut and again from the profits made from Little Caesar’s.