PHMSA Raises Random Drug Testing Rate to 50% for 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced December 8, 2017 that during calendar year 2018, the minimum random drug testing rate will be increased to 50%.

Operators of gas, hazardous liquid, and carbon dioxide pipelines and operators of liquefied natural gas facilities must randomly select and test a percentage of all covered employees for prohibited drug use. The minimum annual random drug testing rate was 25% of all covered employees for calendar year 2017.  However, the PHMSA regulations require the Administrator to raise the minimum annual random drug testing rate from 25% to 50% of all covered employees when the data obtained from the Management Information System reports (required to be filed by covered entities under PHMSA regulations) indicate the positive test rate is equal to or greater than 1%.  In calendar year 2016, the random drug test positive test rate was greater than 1%.  Therefore, the PHMSA minimum annual random drug testing rate shall be 50% of all covered employees for calendar year 2018.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017
This post was written by Kathryn J. Russo of Jackson Lewis P.C.
Check out the National Law Review Labor and Employment page for more information.

Yoga and Massage Therapist Fired for Being “Too Cute” Sees Gender Discrimination Revived on Grounds of Unjustified Spousal Jealousy

A New York appeals court recently ruled in Edwards v. Nicolai (153 A.D.3d 440 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2017)) that an employment termination motivated by the sexual jealousy of an employer’s spouse may support a claim for gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”).

Defendants Charles Nicolai and his wife Stephanie Adams – a former Playboy model – were co-owners of a chiropractic center located in New York City. In 2011, Nicolai hired plaintiff Dilek Edwards, a female yoga and massage therapist, and was her direct supervisor. Edwards’s complaint alleged that during the course of her employment, her relationship with Nicolai was “purely professional” and that Nicolai “regularly praised [her] work performance.”

However, in June 2013, Nicolai purportedly told Edwards “that his wife might become jealous of [her], because [Edwards] was too cute.” Several months later, Adams sent plaintiff a text message saying, “You are NOT welcome any longer at Wall Street Chiropractic, DO NOT ever step foot in there again, and stay the [expletive] away from my husband and family!!!!!!! And remember I warned you.” A few hours later, Edwards allegedly received an email from Nicolai stating, “You are fired and no longer welcome in our office. If you call or try to come back, we will call the police.” One day later, Adams filed an allegedly false complaint with the New York City Police Department claiming that Edwards placed “threatening” phone calls to Adams which caused Adams to change the locks at her home and business. Edwards’s complaint alleges that she has “no idea what sparked . . . Adams’ [sic] suspicions.”

Edwards’s NYSHRL and NYCHRL gender discrimination claims were dismissed at the trial court level. However, that decision was overturned on appeal, with the court holding that “adverse employment actions motivated by sexual attraction are gender-based, and therefore, constitute unlawful gender discrimination.” The court explained that while Edwards does not allege that she was subjected to sexual harassment, it can be inferred that Nicolai was motivated to terminate Edwards “by his desire to appease his wife’s unjustified jealousy.” Further, it can also be inferred that Adams was motivated to terminate Edwards based on Adams’s own jealousy. Accordingly, the court found it plausible that each defendant’s motivation to terminate Adams was sexual in nature and therefore unlawful.

In reaching its decision the court observed that, “while it is not necessarily unlawful for an employer to terminate an at-will employee at the urging of the employer’s spouse,” a plaintiff may find relief for such a discharge if the spouse requested the termination for unlawful, gender-related reasons. Here, assuming Edwards’s allegations are true, her termination was unlawful not because Adams asked Nicolai to fire Edwards, but because she did so for no other reason than her belief that Nicolai was sexually attracted to Edwards.

Laura Doyle contributed to this post.

This post was written by Jonathan Sokolowski of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP., Copyright © 2017
For more Labor & Employment legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

The Law of Unintended Consequences: BIPA and the Effects of the Illinois Class Action Epidemic on Employers

Has your company recently beefed up its employee identification and access security and added biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or retina scans? Have you implemented new timekeeping technology utilizing biometric identifiers like fingerprints or palm prints in lieu of punch clocks? All of these developments provide an extra measure of security control beyond key cards which can be lost or stolen, and can help to control a time-keeping fraud practice known as “buddy punching.” If you have operations and employees in Illinois (or if you utilize biometrics such as voice scans to authenticate customers located in Illinois), your risk and liability could have increased with the adoption of such biometric technology, so read on ….

What’s the Issue in Illinois?

The collection of biometric identifiers is not generally regulated either by the federal government or the states. There are some exceptions, however. Back in 2008, Illinois passed the first biometric privacy law in the United States. The Biometric Information Privacy Act, known as “BIPA,” makes it unlawful for private entities to collect, store, or use biometric information, such as retina/iris scans, voice scans, face scans, or fingerprints, without first obtaining individual consent for such activities. BIPA also requires that covered entities take specific precautions to secure the information. BIPA also carries statutory penalties for every individual violation that can multiply quickly … and the lawsuits against employers have been coming by the dozens over the past few months.

The Requirements of BIPA

Among other requirements, under BIPA, any “private entity” — including employers — collecting, storing, or using the biometric information of any individual in Illinois – no matter how it is collected, stored or used, or for what reason – must:

  1. Provide each individual with written notice that his/her biometric information will be collected and stored, including an explanation of the purpose for collecting the information as well as the length of time it will be stored and/or used.
  2. Obtain the subject’s express written authorization to collect and store his/her biometric information, prior to that information being collected.
  3. Develop and make available to the public a written policy establishing a retention schedule and guidelines for destroying the biometric information, which shall include destruction of the information when the reason for collection has been satisfied or three years after the company’s last interaction with the individual, whichever occurs first.

Also, any such information collected may not be disclosed to or shared with third parties without the prior consent of the individual.The Money Issue

Under the law, plaintiffs may recover statutory damages of $1,000 for eachnegligent violation and $5,000 per intentional or reckless violation, plus attorneys’ fees and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. Moreover, if actual damages exceed liquidated damages, then a plaintiff is entitled under the Act to pursue actual damages in lieu of liquidated damages.

These damage calculations are made and awarded under BIPA on an individual basis. Do the math: If an employer has 100 employees in Illinois and has allegedly been negligent in obtaining required BIPA consent from employees, this can be a potential exposure of an employer to $500,000 in penalties, before you add in the ability to recover attorneys’ fees.

Who is Getting Sued?

The list of companies sued under BIPA spans industries. The initial groups of defendants included companies such as Facebook, Shutterfly, Google, Six Flags, and Snapchat. Also, a chain of tanning salons and a chain of fitness centers were each sued for using biometric technology to identify members. Between July and October, nearly 26 class-action lawsuits were filed in Illinois state court by current and former employees alleging their employers had violated the BIPA. Companies range from supermarket chains, a gas station and convenience store chain, a chain of senior living facilities, several restaurant groups, and a chain of daycare facilities.

Facts vary from case to case, but nearly all of the recent employee BIPA cases implicate fingerprint or palm-print time-keeping technologies that collect biometric data to to clock employees’ work hours. The plaintiffs allege their employers failed to inform employees about the companies’ policies for use, storage and ultimate destruction of the fingerprint data or obtain the employees’ written consent before collecting, using or storing the individual biometric information.

In at least one case, the employee has also alleged fingerprint data was improperly shared with the supplier of the time-tracking machines, and has named that supplier as a defendant as well (Howe v. Speedway LLC, No. 2017-CH-11992 (Ill. Cir. Ct. filed Sept. 1, 2017)).

What Do I Do Now?

In order to avoid becoming the next target, employers with operations and employees in Illinois should ask some basic questions and review processes and procedures:

  1. First question to ask: are we collecting, storing or using individual biometric data for any purpose?
  2. If the answer is yes, has your company issued the required notice and received signed releases/consents from all affected individuals? This release/consent should be obtained at the commencement of employment before any collection of individual biometric data begins. Do you have a publicaly available written policy to cover the collection, storage, use and destruction of the data? The employee handbook is the most logical place for this policy.
  3. Review your processes: (a) make sure that any collected data is not being sold or disclosed to third parties, outside of the limited exceptions permitted by the Act, and this includes vendors and third party suppliers of biometric technology who process and store the information in a cloud-based service, and (b) make sure that you evaluate your internal data privacy protocols and processes for protecting this new data set, and be prepared to prove that you have “reasonably sufficient” security measures in place for the individual biometric data.
  4. Review your vendor processes: If a vendor has access to the individual biometric data (such as a software-as-a-service provider), make sure the vendor has sufficient data privacy protocols and processes in place and that you have representations regarding this protection from the vendor.
  5. Review insurance coverage for this type of exposure with your broker.
  6. Remember the data breach issues: Make sure your data breach policies recognize that individual biometric data is considered personal information under Illinois laws addressing data breach notification requirements.

This post was authored by Cynthia J. Larose of © Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. For more Labor & Employment legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Impact of the Trump Administration’s Decision to Terminate DACA

On September 5, 2017, Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), issued a memorandum rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The DACA program, instituted in 2012 under the Obama administration, defers deportation and provides work authorization for individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who pass criminal and national security background checks. The DACA program was designed to assist individuals who were raised in the United States but who do not possess lawful status in the United States. These individuals are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

Citing a recent 4-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in effect allowed a lower court injunction of a program providing similar relief for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to stand, the Trump Administration determined that the DACA program should end on March 5, 2018. Effectively, this provides Congress with six months to provide a legislative solution for the nearly 800,000 individuals impacted by the DACA program rescission.

For individuals eligible or currently enrolled in the DACA program, this will have the following impact:

  • Currently valid DACA benefits, including Employment Authorization Documents (“EAD”s) and Advance Parole documents (I-131 applications, authorizing beneficiaries of DACA to travel) will remain valid until their expiration. These documents remain subject to termination or revocation under the existing DACA program rules.
  • No new DACA applications (I-821D applications) will be accepted as of September 6, 2017.
  • Currently pending initial DACA applications and extensions will be adjudicated.
  • USCIS will not accept any new advance parole applications where the basis of that application is an approved I-821D.
  • Currently pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed, and I-131 filing fees will be refunded.
  • Individuals whose DACA benefits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 will be allowed to file an extension of their DACA benefits until October 5, 2017. If approved, we anticipate that extensions will be valid for two years, and not end on March 5.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”, the agency that oversees administration of the DACA program) will not affirmatively provide information regarding DACA recipients to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”, the agency in charge of interior immigration law enforcement) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”, the agency in charge of border security) unless the DACA recipient meets existing deportation enforcement guidelines.

Once an individual’s DACA benefits expire, that individual will no longer have work authorization, and his or her deportation will no longer be deferred. This does not mean that individual will be automatically deported by ICE. However, it does mean that the individual will no longer be protected from deportation. In essence, without congressional action, Dreamers will once again become subject to potential removal from the United States.

A lawsuit has already been filed challenging the DACA program’s termination. It is hard to know whether the case will succeed, however. In the meantime, Dreamers plan to press Congress to pass a legislative solution before March 5.

A DHS memorandum outlining rescission of the DACA program is here. An FAQ is here.

 

This post was written by David J. Wilks of Miller Mayer LLP. All Rights Reserved. © Copyright 2013 – 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review

The Changing Landscape of Sexual Orientation Discrimination Law

From the time Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until earlier this year, federal courts have consistently held that the Act’s protections against employment discrimination did not apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, in March, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) became the first court to rule the other way, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. What has occurred in federal courts in the wake of that decision, however, has only muddied the waters.

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Prior to the Seventh Circuit’s notable decision, courts had only permitted gay employees to make claims of sex discrimination if the employee could show the discrimination occurred because the employee did not conform to gender stereotypes, not simply because of the employee’s sexual orientation. The Seventh Circuit found that the gender stereotype argument is unnecessary, stating “it is . . . impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex.”

The question is far from settled. In April, in a case involving a gay skydiving instructor who claims he was fired because of his sexual orientation, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled that it could not follow the Seventh Circuit’s decision. It held that a three-judge panel could not overturn precedential decisions regarding Title VII’s application to sexual orientation discrimination. Such a ruling would require a review by the entire panel of judges. The Second Circuit has granted such a review (an en bancreview), indicating that perhaps the full panel of judges may be willing to follow the lead of the Seventh Circuit.

The picture becomes fuzzier still because of conflicting input from two government agencies. In preparation for its en banc review, the Second Circuit invited the EEOC to offer an opinion on the matter. The EEOC restated a stance it has held since 2012, saying sexual orientation discrimination is inextricably linked to gender and gender stereotypes and should fall under the protection of Title VII. However, on July 26, 2017, the Department of Justice filed a brief taking the opposite position. The DOJ argued Congress did not intend Title VII to apply to sexual orientation, and that expansion of the protection should be left to Congress, not implemented by the courts. The DOJ also says that the court owes no deference to the EEOC.

Because the federal circuits are now split on the issue, the question may eventually be decided by the United States Supreme Court. The Court has already been asked to review a case in which a former security guard at a Georgia hospital claims she was forced to quit because she was gay. The Court has not yet said whether it will hear the case. Ultimately, as the DOJ suggests, Congress could pass legislation to decide the issue one way or the other.

The takeaway from this flurry of activity is that this is an area of law that is very much in flux. For decades, the position of federal courts in regards to sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII was clear. Now, the landscape has shifted, and the ground is still settling. Employers should be aware that changes are happening quickly in this area and proceed cautiously when a situation potentially involving a sexual orientation discrimination claim arises.

This post was written by Mark G Jeffries of  Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.
Much more legal analysis at the National Law Review.

California Employers Face New Notice Requirement for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Time Off

The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has published a new form that must be added to the growing list of documents that employers are required to provide to employees at the time of hire.

The new form refers to employees’ rights under California Labor Code Section 230.1 relating to protections of employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. Last October, we notified California employers about this new law amending Section 230.1, Assembly Bill (AB) 2337. The amended law requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide an employee with written notice of his or her rights to take time off for the following purposes:

  1. “To seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  2. To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  3. To obtain psychological counseling related to an experience of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  4. To participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including temporary or permanent relocation.”

The law requires employers to provide the notice “to new employees upon hire and to other employees upon request.”

As we reported previously, employers were not required to distribute this information until the California Labor Commissioner published a form employers could use to comply with the law. The law gave the Labor Commissioner until “on or before July 1, 2017” to develop and post the form.

As required by AB 2337, the Labor Commissioner’s office recently released the notice. The DLSE has made both an English and Spanish version of the notice available on its website. The notice also contains information on employees’ rights to reasonable accommodation and to be free from retaliation and discrimination.

Finally, the new law clarifies that employers that do not use the Labor Commissioner’s notice may use an alternative that is “substantially similar in content and clarity to the form developed by the Labor Commissioner.”

This post was written by Christopher W. Olmsted and Hera S. Arsen of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Read more legal analysis on the National Law Review.

Defendants’ Timing Defense to DTSA Claims Faces Mixed Results

With the law’s first anniversary in the rear view mirror, defendants have established a viable defense to claims arising under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) – a plaintiff may be precluded from bringing a claim under DTSA if it only alleges facts that show acts of misappropriation occurring prior to May 11, 2016 (the date of DTSA’s enactment).   In the last few months, four different courts have tackled this “timing defense,” and defendants raising it in motions to dismiss DTSA claims have encountered mixed results.

In Brand Energy & Infrastructure Servs. v. Irex Contr. Grp., No. 16-cv-2499, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43497 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 23, 2017), a Pennsylvania federal court rejected the defendants’ attempt to invoke the timing defense because the plaintiff’s amended complaint alleged various times after the enactment of the DTSA that the defendants “used” the plaintiff’s alleged trade secrets.  The court also noted the plaintiff’s inclusion of allegations in the amended complaint showing that “to this day, the defendants continue to ‘obtain access to [its] confidential and proprietary business information ….”  Based on this pleading, the court held that the plaintiff could pursue its DTSA claim.  Similarly, in AllCells, LLC v. Zhai, Case No. 16-cv-07323, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44808 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2017), a California federal court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss a DTSA claim because “even if [defendants] copied and thus acquired the alleged trade secrets before May 11, 2016, [the plaintiff] has sufficiently alleged that there was at least use of the trade secrets after that date.  Hence, the Act applies.”

In Molon Motor & Coil Corp. v. Nidec Motor Corp., No. 16-cv-03545, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71700 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2017), a plaintiff’s DTSA claim survived dismissal, overcoming the defendant’s argument that “no acts occurred after the effective date of the Act.”  The court held that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the inevitable post-enactment disclosure of its trade secrets to the defendant by its former employee were sufficient to state a plausible DTSA claim:  “[i]f it is plausible that some of the alleged trade secrets maintain their value today, then it is also plausible that [defendant] would be continuing to use them.”  The court noted, however, that further discovery would be needed to determine whether post-enactment disclosure of the trade secrets was in fact inevitable.

By contrast, a California federal court granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss where a complaint lacked sufficient allegations regarding the timing of the alleged appropriation in Cave Consulting Grp., Inc. v. Truven Health Analytics Inc., No. 15-cv-02177, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62109 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2017).  In Cave, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant acquired trade secrets and used them in a 2014 client meeting, but that conduct predated the enactment of the DTSA.  The court held that plaintiff had failed to make any “specific allegations that defendant used the alleged trade secrets after the DTSA’s May 11, 2016 enactment.”  Because the plaintiff failed to allege that any “postenactment use occurred,” the plaintiff had not stated a plausible DTSA claim.

These decisions illustrate that the likelihood of success of the timing defense largely is a matter of drafting, and provide an important takeaway for both sides of a trade secrets dispute. A plaintiff should be mindful in drafting its pleading to include factual allegations showing that the defendant’s misappropriation occurred (or inevitably will occur) after DTSA’s enactment.  The defendant, on the other hand, should carefully scrutinize the complaint to determine whether a timing defense applies.

This post was written by Jonathan L. Shapiro by Epstein Becker & Green, P.C..