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This post was written by Matthew C. Luzadder and Janine Fletcher and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

Medical marijuana occupies a gray space within the United States. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law and is included on the Drug Enforcement Administrations’ Schedule I, along with heroin and LSD. The drugs on this schedule are considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” In spite of the federal prohibition, thirty states have passed some form of legislation allowing for the medical use of marijuana.

This conflict between state and federal law may cause employers confusion—especially in states with expansive disability protections. For example, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) which provides extensive protections for individuals with disabilities. The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“NJCUMMA”) supplements the NJLAD by stipulating that employees using marijuana for a medicinal purpose are considered to have a disability and such use is protected. These protections, of course, do not force employers to allow employees to use marijuana at work but do pose a dilemma when it comes to workplace drug testing. Many companies require employees to pass drug tests for federally prohibited narcotics. However, the NJLAD requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals. Since the NJCUMMA classifies medical marijuana users as disabled, is a drug test a violation of their accommodations?


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This post was written by Barbara E. Hoey and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

On Friday, July 27, after a 3 week trial in Manhattan , a jury awarded $1.25 million in damages to Enrichetta Ravina, a former professor at Columbia University Business School, who claimed that she was denied tenure

This post was written by Steven R. Nevolis and Mark A. Konkel and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

For decades, technological innovation has changed our world at a rapid pace. Across industries and departments, businesses have a plethora of new and exciting technology and tools they can utilize to deliver products and services more effectively and efficiently to their customers. This is especially true of today’s human resources department and function. Recent trends have shown an increasing number of technology innovations aimed at HR professionals that offer to help more effectively recruit employees, manage workforce productivity, and address employee and labor relations issues as they arise. However, as businesses begin to adopt these new methods of workforce management, human resource professionals must stay ahead of the curve to ensure this technology is being used effectively and, in some cases, legally.

Technology Ahead of Laws and Regulations – Or Is It?
It’s generally accepted that technological advancement will outpace the legislatures and courts tasked with regulating that technology. But that isn’t to say the legislatures and courts won’t catch up. Just recently, we have seen social media enter the spotlight as the newest target of potential government regulation. And with the European Union enacting the General Data Protection Regulation, companies must be vigilant in how they collect and maintain job applicant information, or face the possibility of severe fines. As fast as new technology is introduced to the market, regulators are working to act just as quickly to mitigate potential harm from that technology.

However, one thing that may be lost in the shuffle is the unintended consequences of some of these technologies, and how that may expose businesses to potential claims under existing laws. Take for example a business that decides to shift its recruiting efforts from a more human-driven approach to a process that uses data to steer the course. There is a trove of data points that a company can collect on a job applicant, such as experience and education. But if HR allows these data points to drive the recruiting and interview process, they may be allowing this data to exploit innate biases, albeit unintentionally. If a data-driven process leans too heavily on quality of education, the process may filter out those candidates who may not have had a ready access to high-quality education, but still may be a good fit for the job. HR professionals need to be careful in implementing these types of processes and work to eliminate these issues, otherwise they may face heightened scrutiny.
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This post was written by Jennifer Fischer and Mark A. Konkel and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

On March 26th, the New Jersey Assembly passed legislation that requires employers in New Jersey to provide earned sick leave to their employees. The legislation was then passed by the New Jersey Senate on April 12th, and now heads to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk for signature. He tweeted out that he intends to sign the bill into law on May 2nd. He believes that enacting the law will “support working families and strengthen our economy.”

What is the New Bill?

The proposed legislation allows New Jersey workers to accrue paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The number of hours of leave that can be accrued per year is capped at 72 hours. There is no minimum amount of time an employee must be employed before they are able to start accruing paid sick leave. Employers are required to give employees the same pay rate and benefits for earned sick leave that the employees would regularly receive for working hours. Employers may offer to pay workers for their unused earned sick leave in the final month of the year. The sick leave can be used for physical and mental illness, to care for an ill or injured family member, or to attend a school-related event for a child. Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against an employee for using their paid sick leave. Employers also must not discipline, discharge, demote, suspend, or take any other adverse action against employees who are using their sick leave.

Why was this Bill Passed?

The intent of the new legislation is to ensure an employee does not have to choose between a paycheck and going to work sick. Governor Murphy tweeted “No one should lose a day’s pay due to sickness or because a loved one has fallen ill.”
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This blog was written by Barbara E. Hoey and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

On April 12, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the New York State budget bill, which makes some big changes in the obligations of New York employers relative to sexual harassment.

The new law has both immediate and rolling implications for all New York employers.

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY (I.E., RIGHT NOW)

The New York State Human Rights law now extends protections to certain non-employees, including contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, and other persons providing services pursuant to a contract.

This means that employers may now be held liable for the sexual harassment of non-employees if the employer, its agents, or supervisors knew or should have known that the non-employee was subjected to sexual harassment and the employer failed to take appropriate corrective action.

This is a significant change in the law and employers should make sure that Human Resources and managers are aware of it.


ROLLING PROVISIONS

July 11, 2018: No NDA’s and No Mandatory Arbitration – New York employers will be prohibited from using nondisclosure clauses in harassment settlements, unless the complainant prefers that the settlement be confidential. Like the OWBPA, the agreements must also give the complainant 21 days to consider signing, and 7 days to revoke.

New York employers may not require mandatory arbitration of claims of workplace sexual harassment, to the extent this is “not inconsistent with federal law.”

October 9, 2018: Mandatory Training Provision Roll Out – Employers must distribute written anti-harassment policies in the workplace; and Employers must conduct annual anti-harassment training for all employees, based on models to be developed and published by the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights.

The model training must include: (1) an explanation of sexual harassment; (2) examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment; (3) information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims; and (4) information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints. The training must also include information addressing the conduct and additional responsibilities for supervisory personnel.

January 1, 2019: Government Contractor Affirmation – Employers who wish to bid on certain state contracts will be required to affirm that the employer has implemented a written policy addressing sexual harassment in the workplace and that it provides annual sexual harassment prevention training to all of its employees.
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This post was written by Mark A. Konkel and Steven R. Nevolis and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

You can count Congress among the institutions caught in the ground swell of the #MeToo movement, and they’re using the tax code to prove it.

Buried in the various changes of the new tax bill, Congress included Section 13307, titled “Denial of Deduction for Settlements Subject to Nondisclosure Agreements Paid in Connection with Sexual Harassment or Sexual Abuse.” Specifically, Section 13307 amends the Internal Revenue Code Section 162(q) to state:

No deduction shall be allowed … for (1) any settlement or payment related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse if such settlement or payment is subject to a nondisclosure agreement, or (2) attorney’s fees related to such a settlement or payment.

Effective for amounts paid or incurred after December 22, 2017, this deceptively complex provision will have broad impact for businesses attempting to resolve sexual harassment claims.

Generally speaking, the old language of Section 162 allowed payments made under settlement agreements and attorneys’ fees paid in connection with the defense of an action as tax deductible for businesses as a business expense.

However, from the plain language of this new provision, businesses faced with the prospect of settling a sexual harassment claim will now have to make a choice – are they to choose between their bank account or their public image?


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This post was written by Barbara E. Hoey, Mark A. Konkel, Steven R. Nevolis and Diana R. Hamar and originally posted on Kelley Drye’s Labor Days Blog.

As January draws to a close, New York employers are confronting the reality of many new laws and regulations that govern the employment relationship – from the new Paid Family Leave law, to the new federal tax law. We are also tracking several newly-signed and proposed pieces of legislation, which could further complicate the employment relationship in New York.

Here is what there is so far:

New York Paid Family Leave

As we previously reported, effective January 1, most employers in New York State will be covered by the new Paid Family Leave law (“PFL”). Under the PFL, employers will need to provide eligible employees with 8 weeks of family leave with salary reimbursement capped at 50% of the state’s average weekly wage. This will increase on an annual sliding schedule until 2021 when employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of family leave with salary reimbursement capped at 67% of the state’s average weekly wage.

Eligible employees will be permitted to take leave to care for a qualified family member’s serious medical condition, to care for the birth or placement of a child, or for a qualified military exigency. Leave under the PFL will overlap with an employee’s leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act under certain circumstances.

For a more extensive analysis of the PFL, its requirements (including employer notice requirements), and suggested steps for compliance, we encourage you to read our previous blog post on this law: “A New Headache – New York’s Paid Family Leave
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