State governments continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of different ways that impact businesses and employers. Workers compensation has been a much-discussed topic within this context. In September of 2020, California enacted a new law that codified previous executive orders the created rebuttable presumptions relating to employees who test positive for COVID-19. In addition to the rebuttable presumption, the law created a number of reporting requirements for employers and their workers compensation carriers and administrators.
The rise of the gig economy radically transformed employment for many people in a very short time. The impacts and consequences of that transformation are still working their way through various parts of our country’s legal system. While legislators try to grapple with updating employment laws to cope with the change, judges are often stuck applying potentially outdated laws to modern situations.
There are many reasons why an employer may want to prevent employees from discussing their wages, salaries, bonuses, or other compensation. Pay disparities - even if based on differences in experience, training, or pay - can disrupt the working environment and lead to unhappy employees. Such discussions may lead to an increase in the number of employees demanding raises and seeking new positions if not granted. In the worst-case scenario, the information can lead to discrimination lawsuits with the high legal fees and detrimental reputation damage that such lawsuits cause.
Employment-related legislation continues to be a hot topic around the country. A number of state legislators have passed aggressive laws aimed at impacting employer-employee relationships. One of the most unique and far-reaching of these laws was just signed into law in the State of New Jersey. On August 16, 2019, the New Jersey Wage Theft Act became law.
A significant new regulation regarding the trucking industry has just had its effective date delayed by two years. The Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on February 7, 2020. Instead, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has pushed back the rule’s implementation to February 7, 2022.
Medical marijuana is still a controversial subject in the field of employment, even as it becomes less controversial generally. Thirty-three states now provide for legal medical marijuana. Many of those states legalized medical marijuana after the success of ballot measures in statewide elections. At the same time, the drug remains a controlled substance at the federal level and the Controlled Substances Act states that marijuana has no commonly accepted medical usage.
State governments have started to take strong action against what they view as unfair employment practices. Legislatures are passing new laws about hiring practices quite frequently over the last few years. These laws seek to create greater fairness in the hiring and salary negotiation process in order to overcome inequalities such as the gender pay gap and other issues.
No employer wants to face a class action lawsuit. Defending a class action lawsuit is an extremely costly endeavor, one where the legal fees begin mounting very early in the process. Such lawsuits often take far longer than traditional litigation to reach a resolution. Cases can easily take five to ten years before the final trial begins. These two factors often force class action defendants into settlement early in the proceedings if they cannot win dismissal of the case at one of the preliminary proceedings.
Employment contracts are different from most other types of commercial contracts. A host of unique rules apply to employment contracts. At the end of the day, though, they are still contracts and must adhere to the basic rules of contracts, even if those rules are sometimes applied in different ways. This is particularly true when discussing non-compete clauses.
In the aftermath of California’s aggressive attempts to crack down on the “gig” economy, other states have moved as well, though often in different directions. While many states have moved to pass laws specifically designed to protect the status of “gig” workers, New Jersey is in the process of passing its own attempt to regulate these workers. Indeed, the proposed New Jersey legislation would go so far that it would classify almost all workers in the state as employees and make it incredibly difficult for someone to claim independent contractor status.