California Adopts Strict Independent Contractor Test

Q.  What is the standard for whether an individual is an independent contractor under California law?

A.  On September 11, the California Assembly passed AB 5, a bill that codifies and expands the application of the strict independent contractor test (the “ABC test”) set forth in last year’s decision of the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018). If Governor Newsom signs the bill, as expected, it will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

AB 5 creates a presumption that workers are employees unless the “hiring entity” can meet the ABC test by demonstrating that each of the following three conditions is satisfied:

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

For more information, click here.

Susan K. Lessack

New York and New Jersey Ban Salary Inquiries

Q.  Is my company allowed to inquire about an applicant’s salary history when considering him or her for employment?

A.   The growing trend to eliminate inquiries into a job applicant’s salary history continues. In July, New York and New Jersey became the latest states to enact legislation that will restrict employers from obtaining and utilizing an applicant’s salary history information during the hiring process.

For more information, click here.

Leigh H. McMonigle

 

New York Human Rights Law Amendments Effective October 12, 2019

Q: I am a New York employer. What are the key parts of the new amendments to the New York Human Rights law and when do they go into effect?

A.  As we detailed in an earlier post, New York state recently passed a bill that makes numerous changes to the New York Human Rights Act (“NYHRL”). Governor Cuomo signed the bill on August 12, 2019, and most of the amendments go into effect on October 11, 2019.

Among the amendments that go into effect on October 11, 2019 are the significant expansion of protected categories under the NYHRL to include age, creed, color, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence, victim status or because an individual has opposed any practices prohibited by the NYHRL or participated in any proceeding under the NYHRL. The amendments also make it much easier for a plaintiff to demonstrate harassment, changing the standard of liability from “severe and pervasive” to whether the alleged harasser subjected the victim to “inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”

Also effective October 11, 2019, New York employers are prohibited from including non-disclosure provisions in a settlement agreement of any discrimination claim (not just claims for sexual harassment), unless the complainant prefers to include the provision, has 21 days to consider it, and seven days to revoke it.

Other aspects of the new law have later effective dates. Specifically, effective February 8, 2020, the NYHRL will apply to all employers, rather than those with four or more employees. Also, effective August 11, 2020, the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim with the New York State Division on Human Rights will increase from one to three years.

Jessica Rothenberg

California Supreme Court Decision Could Expand Standing For Website Accessibility Claims

Q.  Does a consumer need to actually try to buy a product or service at a store to have standing to sue under the ADA for failure to maintain an accessible website?

A.  Evolving case law regarding website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and comparable state laws continues to impact companies across the country. In the past, courts have required plaintiffs to show that the allegedly discriminatory website prevented their full use and enjoyment of a connected brick-and-mortar location. More recently, however, courts have looked favorably on claims even absent such an alleged deprivation. A recent opinion from the Supreme Court of California not directly addressing ADA website compliance appears nevertheless to further cement this shift, allowing standing for discrimination claims regarding a website under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act based on an individual’s intent to use the website’s services in and of themselves. This shift further emphasizes the need for commercial website owners to ensure that their online content is accessible to the visually impaired in compliance with the widely adopted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

For further information, click here.

Jeffrey M. Goldman, Tracey E. Diamond and Victoria D. Summerfield

New York State Expands Equal Pay Protections

Q: What do New York employers need to know about the recent amendment to the state’s pay equity law?

A: In November 2015, New York became one of the first jurisdictions to pass a pay equity law that was more extensive than the federal equal pay laws.  On July 10, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed an amendment to New York Labor Law Section 194, further expanding its scope.

Under the current law, employers are prohibited from paying an employee a lower rate than someone of the opposite sex for “equal work” that is performed under similar working conditions. The amended law makes it illegal for an employer to pay an employee less based on numerous characteristics in addition to sex.  These additional protected characteristics include age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, and domestic violence victim status.

The amended law not only expands the current prohibition against gender-based pay inequity, but it also requires equal pay for “substantially similar work,” as opposed to the previous requirement of “equal” work. Specifically, it requires only a showing that employees are engaged in “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

Employers should be aware that a violation of this law could result in an award to an employee of attorney’s fees and triple damages.

Importantly, the new pay equity legislation will still maintain four exceptions protecting employers from liability where employees do not receive equal pay for substantially similar work. These are where pay is based on a:  (1) seniority system; (2) merit system; (3) system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; and (4) bona fide factor unrelated to protected class status (such as education, training or experience) that is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

This new legislation will take effect on October 8, 2019.

Next Steps for Employers

These developments follow the trend of the equal pay movement taking place in cities and states across the country. It is recommended that employers review their payroll to ensure that salaries, hourly rates, benefits and all forms of compensation are equal among employees performing substantially similar work.  As a reminder, when evaluating what is “substantially similar work,” the focus should be on the job duties being performed and not simply on job titles.

For assistance in ensuring that your policies and practices comply with this amendment, we recommend consulting with labor and employment counsel.

Leigh McMonigle