News and Alerts
As they are looking ahead to 2020, employers should take note of three recent decisions issued by the National Labor Relations Board.
On July 15, 2019, Governor Gina Raimondo signed the Rhode Island Noncompetition Agreement Act into law. Beginning on January 15, 2020, the statute will place new limits on the enforceability of noncompete agreements in the Ocean State.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit (whose rulings apply to all Rhode Island employers) recently ruled an employee couldn’t establish she could still perform her job when she had previously sworn under oath—when applying for Social Security disability income (SSDI) benefits—she was totally disabled.
In Bonilla-Ramirez v. MVM, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit recently ruled that an employer didn’t discriminate against an employee based on gender or illegally retaliate against her when it terminated her for violating its standards of conduct. The 1st Circuit focused on whether the employer had a legitimate reason for terminating the employee and on the timing of the employee’s complaints.
In June 2018, Chief Judge William E. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island dismissed an employee’s disability discrimination complaint for failing to adequately allege that she had a disability. Less than two months later, Judge John J. McConnell (of the same court) denied an employer’s motion to dismiss that made the same argument.
Dr. L. C. is a faculty member at the University of New England (UNE). In a lawsuit brought in federal court, she alleged that her transfer to a new department reduced her teaching and career opportunities in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) even though she consented to the transfer.
Arbitration Agreements: Does continued employment compel arbitration? RI Judges are split.
Continued employment is sufficient to enforce a new arbitration agreement between an employer and an employee, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island recently ruled, disagreeing with another Rhode Island district judge. Because an arbitration agreement’s validity is a question of state contract law, the issue of enforceability based on continued employment is one the Rhode Island Supreme Court ultimately must decide.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island recently ruled that a cleaning company that subcontracted work to other cleaning companies wasn’t a joint employer for one of its subcontractors. The district court focused on the economic reality test for determining liability under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act (RIMWA) and found that the company wasn’t liable.
In a March 22, 2018, memorandum and order, Judge John McConnell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted summary judgment (i.e., dismissal without a trial) to Fidelity Investments on a female executive’s breach of contract and retaliation/discrimination claims associated with a temporary assignment, but her claims associated with a promotion she had been promised survived for trial.
Since 2009, “Erin L.” has been employed by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT), where she serves as a senior employment and training interviewer at the “call center,” assisting people seeking unemployment benefits. She is a black woman with a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degrees in public administration and library and information science. Despite her years of service and strong educational background, she claimed that she was stymied from achieving a promotion because of two seemingly neutral practices that have a racially discriminatory impact.
The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Rhode Island employers) recently upheld a six-figure jury award for a firefighter’s “sex-plus” discrimination claim, ruling that federal antidiscrimination law extends protections to gay and lesbian workers in cases where they claim discrimination based on both their gender and sexual orientation.
The ruling, Franchina v. City of Providence, contributes to a widening division among federal courts about whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin—covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) is a “no-ask” law that will become effective on July 1, 2018. California, Delaware, New York City, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and San Francisco also recently enacted no-ask laws. Rhode Island employers may need to change their hiring practices—including job applications, interviews, background checks, and the process of making initial compensation offers—in order to comply with these new state and local laws.