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President Signs Executive Order: Federal Contractors, States Pass Summer Legislation, Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

President Signs Executive Order Limiting Use Of Arbitration Agreements Among Certain Federal Contractors

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding arbitration agreements with class action waivers in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, many employers have considered requiring their employees to sign arbitration agreements at the outset of their employment. The Obama Administration, however, issued an Executive Order titled “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” that limits the use of arbitration agreements in employment by certain federal contractors.

Who is covered? Federal contracts exceeding $1 million are covered by the arbitration provision of the Executive Order. Additionally, contractors must incorporate the arbitration provision’s requirements into subcontracts “where the estimated value of the supplies acquired and services required exceeds $1 million.” Excluded from coverage are (1) contracts or subcontracts for commercial items or commercially available off-the-shelf items; (2) employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement; and (3) employees or independent contractors who entered into valid arbitration agreements before the contractor or subcontractor bid on a covered contract—unless the contractor is permitted to change the terms of the arbitration agreement, or the arbitration agreement is renegotiated.

What is required? Contractors must agree that the decision to arbitrate claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion) or under any “tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment” will be made with employees’ voluntary consent after such claims arise. In effect, this means that covered contractors cannot require their employees to arbitrate covered claims at the outset of their employment…

Continue reading Executive Order

Other States Pass Summer Legislation: New Legislation For CA, MA, & NJ Employers

Why it matters: As summer came to a close, several state legislatures amped up their efforts to pass new employment-related legislation. Massachusetts approved a law providing leave for victims of domestic violence, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a “ban the box” bill addressing the use of background checks. As discussed, California notably enacted paid sick leave but also passed a new law allowing employees a longer time period for recovery of liquidated damages when pursuing minimum wage claims. Employers in the relevant states should familiarize themselves with the new laws and their new responsibilities.

Detailed Discussion

Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, employers must now provide up to 15 days of leave in a 12-month period for employees who are victims of “abusive behavior.” Effective upon Gov. Deval Patrick’s August 8 signature, the law covers employers with at least 50 employees and includes a private right of action with mandatory triple damages.

Employees and their family members are covered by the statute, which defines “abusive behavior” to include domestic violence, criminal stalking, or sexual assault. Leave may be taken for medical attention, to obtain counseling, to take action within the court system (to appear in court, meet with a district attorney, or attend child custody proceedings, for example), or “to otherwise address issues directly related to abusive behavior.”

The law allows employers to determine whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and employees can be required to exhaust available sick, personal, and vacation time. Absent a threat of imminent danger, employees must provide appropriate advance notice of the need for leave.

In addition to an anti-retaliation provision, the law provides for a private right of action for employees, as well as enforcement power for the state’s Attorney General. Any employee who prevails on a claim is entitled to mandatory triple damages and attorneys’ fees…

Continue reading States pass Summer Legislation

Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

A reminder that by September 30, 2014, employers with fifty (50) or more full-time employees within the jurisdiction of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (encompassing Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Napa county and portions of Solano and Sonoma counties) must provide their employees with one of four commuter benefits:

  1. Allow employees to exclude their transit or vanpool costs from taxable income (up to the maximum allowed by federal law – currently $130 per month).
  2. Provide a transit or vanpool subsidy to cover or reduce monthly expenses (up to a maximum of $75 per month).
  3. Provide free or low-cost bus, shuttle, or vanpool service.
  4. Provide an alternative benefit that is as effective as the other options in reducing single-occupant vehicle trips and/or vehicle emissions.

The program has various requirements for eligibility, participation, employee notice, registration and recordkeeping. Employers in cities that already impose commuter benefit programs (e.g., San Francisco) may be exempt from the local programs if they meet the requirements for the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program.

Companies should revisit their commuter benefit plan offerings to ensure compliance with this new program.

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