Bryan Cave Labor and Employment Blog

Bryan Cave At Work

Litigation

Main Content

SEC Announces More than $20 Million in Whistleblower Awards

In the course of one week, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced awards to three whistleblowers totaling more than $20 million under the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program.

On November 30, the SEC announced awards of more than $8 million each to two whistleblowers. The first individual alerted the agency to conduct that became the subject of an enforcement action and continued to provide additional information throughout the investigation, while the second whistleblower provided information that allowed the agency to understand and asses the implications of the misconduct. Under the Whistleblower Program, eligible whistleblowers may receive awards of between 10% and 30% of the sanctions collected in actions brought by the SEC and related actions brought by other authorities. To maintain the confidentiality of the individual whistleblower, the SEC does not release information regarding the target of the investigation or the percentages of awards granted to the whistleblowers, but in

Biometric Privacy Targeted In Increased Class Action Litigation in Illinois

Even as technology advances and consumers become more accustomed to providing their fingerprints in routine, everyday transactions (such as unlocking their cellular phones), private entities, and employers in particular, are under attack in the courts for their use of finger-scan and biometric technology.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), effective since October 2008, regulates the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, destruction, and disclosure of biometric identifiers and information. The BIPA, however, was largely ignored until mid-2015 when the first wave of BIPA litigation was filed against social media and photo-storage/sharing services.

BIPA litigation has now turned its attention to employers. Since August 2017, in Cook County, Illinois alone, more than 30 class action lawsuits have been filed in state court alleging violations of the BIPA, mostly based on employers’ use of finger-scan technology for timekeeping tracking. The recent lawsuits generally allege that employers have collected, stored, and/or used

Investigate FMLA Fraud? Absolutely! But…

September 8, 2017

Categories

Courts have repeatedly affirmed employers’ right to investigate the perceived misuse or abuse by employees of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  After all, while eligible employees have the right to take FMLA leave, employers have the right to ensure that FMLA leave is used only for a proper purpose.

Of course, an investigation may lead to the conclusion that an employee has engaged in FMLA fraud, and thus may result in discipline – even termination – of the employee.  If the employee subsequently pursues a legal claim against the employer, the investigation itself will no doubt be subject to scrutiny, including for purposes of determining whether the employer acted on an “honest belief” that the employee had misused FMLA leave.

Accordingly, here are some tips for conducting an investigation into perceived FMLA fraud:

  • Have a solid basis for initiating an investigation. FMLA investigations should not

Temps in Tenth Circuit Face Stricter Scrutiny When Seeking Time Off as Reasonable Accommodation

On July 6, 2017, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reiterated that physical attendance in the workplace is an essential function of most jobs and emphasized this is particularly true for temporary workers filling short-term vacancies.

In Punt v. Kelly Services, the plaintiff, Kristin Punt, was a temporary worker assigned to work for GE Controls Solutions (“GE”) as a receptionist.  The essential functions of that job included being “physically present at the lobby/reception desk during business hours.”  However, during her six weeks in the position, Ms. Punt was absent or tardy on multiple occasions, often due to medical appointments related to a recent diagnosis of breast cancer.  GE terminated her assignment after she informed GE on a Monday morning that she planned to be absent the entire week and would need unspecified additional time off for “some appointments and tests” and “five

“My Employer Made Me Do It” — Texas Supreme Court Rejects a Claim for Compelled Self-Defamation

August 5, 2017

Categories

On May 26, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court addressed whether Texas recognizes a defamation claim for compelled self-publication.  The Texas Supreme Court, joining a number of other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Tennessee, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New York, rejected a claim of compelled self-defamation in Texas.  Other states, such as California and Colorado, recognize a claim for compelled self-defamation.

Generally speaking, a defamation claim includes the following elements:

  • The publication of a false statement of fact to a third-party,
  • That was defamatory concerning the plaintiff,
  • With the requisite degree of fault, and
  • Damages, in some cases.
  • The issue regarding “compelled self-publication” relates to the first element.  Specifically, does the publication have to be made by the defendant or can it be made by the plaintiff.

    In Exxon Mobile, the plaintiff, Gilberto Rincones, was a catalyst technician and was required to take and pass a drug test.  Mr. Rincones failed a

    $2.5 Million SEC Whistleblower Award Goes to Government Employee

    July 28, 2017

    Categories

    On July 25, 2017, the SEC announced another whistleblower award — this one for almost $2.5 million. What sets this award apart from earlier awards is its recipient — “an employee of a domestic government agency.” The Order spends more words in its footnote explaining why a government employee is entitled to a whistleblower award than the Order does in discussing the substantive award itself.

    Click here to read the Alert in full.

    Bryan Cave LLP has a team of knowledgeable lawyers and other professionals prepared to help employers understand the SEC Whistleblower Program. If you or your organization would like more information on this or any other employment issue, please contact an attorney in the Labor and Employment practice group.

    Other Perspectives on Trends in Employee Noncompetition Agreements

    In mid-May, the New York Times published a long article reporting a national trend that employers are expanding both the number of employees who are required to sign non-competition agreements and the types of employees required to sign these agreements.  The article emphasized stories of low-paid, low-level employees who could not find a new job, or had to take a lower paying job, because they signed a non-competition agreement.  The Times ran an editorial that urged legislatures to prohibit employers from restricting the employment opportunities of lower paid employees.

    What is missing from this picture?

    While the Times article mentioned states vary in enforcement of non-competition restrictions, noting that California prohibits all restrictions on employees moving to new jobs, it did not explain the important differences in how states other than California enforce non-competition restrictions.  The Times article also did not report the damage to a business that may

    Supreme Court Will Review Scope of Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Protections for Internal Reports

    Bryan Cave’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice recently published a Client Alert regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to review the scope of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections of employees who blow the whistle on their employers by reporting alleged misconduct internally rather than to the SEC.

    Follow the link below to read more.

    https://www.bryancave.com/en/thought-leadership/supreme-court-will-review-scope-of-dodd-frank-whistleblower.html

     

    Avoiding State Law Pitfalls (Part 4 of 4)

    June 19, 2017

    Categories

    This is the fourth hypothetical in our series showing how well-intentioned employers can violate unfamiliar state laws.

    Scenario #4

    A manager of a Minneapolis, Minnesota restaurant calls you regarding an employee who showed up for work exhibiting bizarre behavior and with white powder under her nose.  The Company has a written policy prohibiting the use of illegal drugs and authorizing the Company to conduct probable cause testing of employees.  In accordance with Company policy, the employee undergoes testing which confirms that the employee is under the influence of cocaine.  The manager is calling for approval to terminate the employee.  You know that some states prohibit random drug testing, but you are not aware of any law that would prohibit an employer from discharging an employee who shows up for work under the influence of cocaine, especially when the employer has probable cause to test the employee and the testing confirms

    Avoiding State Law Pitfalls (Part 3 of 4)

    May 29, 2017

    Categories

    This is the third hypothetical in our series showing how well-intentioned employers can violate unfamiliar state laws.

    Scenario #3

    The manager of a restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut calls you regarding an outspoken cook who frequently expresses his views on controversial topics. All of the cooks discuss a broad range of topics while working, and these discussions do not interfere with their performance. Nevertheless, the manager has advised the cook that he should be careful about offending others with his views on sensitive topics. The cook responds that this is America, and he has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants. The manager asks you whether this is true. You correctly advise the manager that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to private employers. Rather, federal constitutional rights only come into play if there is some form of “state action.” The next time the cook expresses

    The attorneys of Bryan Cave LLP make this site available to you only for the educational purposes of imparting general information and a general understanding of the law. This site does not offer specific legal advice. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Bryan Cave LLP or any of its attorneys. Do not use this site as a substitute for specific legal advice from a licensed attorney. Much of the information on this site is based upon preliminary discussions in the absence of definitive advice or policy statements and therefore may change as soon as more definitive advice is available. Please review our full disclaimer.