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Blowing the Whistle on Antiwhistleblower Severance Agreements

The Securities and Exchange Commission is showing its commitment to keeping the lines of communication open between the SEC and whistleblowers willing to report wrongdoing. The SEC recently announced stiff penalties for two companies that included language in separation agreements that required employees to waive financial rewards they might be eligible for if they disclose employer wrongdoing to the SEC.

Big Data: The Rise of Talent Analytics is a Cause for Concern

Back in 2012, Forbes caused a stir when it published an article detailing how Target was tracking customer purchases so closely that it figured out a teen was pregnant before she had even told her parents. For many people, it was their first real glimpse of how big data - the ever-growing mass of our electronically-stored personal information - is being analyzed to predict behaviors and spot trends. The idea that a retailer could have such detailed knowledge of the most intimate aspects of our lives raised many concerns about how that information was being used.

Chief among those concerns was whether or not the rise of big data would lead to greater discrimination. Could someone, for example, be denied health insurance based on their grocery store purchases? What if they had their DNA analyzed by a geological service out of a benign interest in tracing their ancestry? Could that be used against them in an entirely unforeseen way?

What about the workplace? Could big data play a role in employment decisions? The answer to this appears to be yes -- and it's already happening.

Working Families in America Are Forced to Wait for a Raise

Yesterday, millions of American workers were denied a long overdue raise. On December 1, 2016, a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule should have made millions of Americans in salaried jobs eligible for overtime pay. Instead, a coalition of businesses and states sought a nationwide injunction blocking the new DOL rule from taking effect, forcing working families to wait indefinitely - and unnecessarily - for relief.

Gracia v. SigmaTron Int'l, Inc., No. 15-3311 (7th Cir. Nov. 29, 2016)

The Seventh Circuit affirms a jury award of $50,000 compensatory and $250,000 punitive damages in a Title VII retaliation case. The jury could have found, based on conflicting testimony, that the employer fired the plaintiff just two weeks after she filed an EEOC sex-harassment charge, based on an unsubstantiated complaint - reported by the alleged harasser himself - of a minor work-rule violation.

Fitness Trackers in the Workplace: A Risk for Employees?

So-called "wearables," such as fitness trackers, are becoming more and more ubiquitous every day. It's easy to see why. They count our steps, monitor our heart rate, measure the quality of our sleep, and we can use that information to improve our health.

But, while they offer certain benefits, fitness trackers may also present risks for employees who bring them into the workplace.

Illinois' New Sick Leave Law - A Mixed Bag for Illinois Workers

Illinois recently enacted legislation purportedly giving workers across the state greater flexibility when using their sick leave benefits. The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2017, is a noble attempt to balance people's family caregiving duties with their job responsibilities, but to many, its protections don't go far enough.

Former Employees Believe Wells Fargo Used FINRA Forms and Firings to Retaliate Against Them

News that Wells Fargo opened more than two million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts has filled the headlines over the past few months. While there is no question that the customers were harmed by the bank's unlawful sales practices, other victims have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down in the scandal - innocent Wells Fargo workers who claim the bank used regulatory filings and other tactics as retaliation, jeopardizing their careers.

DeJesus v. WP Co. LLC, No. 15-7126 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 15, 2016)

The D.C. Circuit holds that even facially benign statements about an employee - in a given context - can constitute evidence of discriminatory intent. The panel finds that a supervisor's alleged compliment to a Black employee for "speaking well," and later telling the same employee that he was not a "good fit" for the organization, might be evidence of racial stigmatizing. It also discusses that an employer's "honest belief" must also be reasonable under the circumstances.

Pushing Back: How Women Can Influence Change in a Male-Dominated Workplace

Women often find themselves in a workplace culture dominated by traditionally male values, approaches to work, and ways of measuring success. To be included, accepted and advanced, women in a wide variety of professions, including finance, technology, medicine, and the law, must walk a fine line between seeking acceptance and ensuring equal treatment.

DOJ/FTC Publication Empowers Workers by Taking Aim at No-Poaching Agreements

In apparent support of U.S. workers and economic realities, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued guidelines for human resources professionals regarding anti-competitive hiring practices.

Citing the advantages of competition to our economy, the guidance demonstrates the agencies' view that "firms that compete to hire or retain employees are competitors in the employment marketplace, regardless of whether the firms make the same products or compete to provide the same services," and that express or implicit agreements between companies to not compete for workers, even if driven by cost-reduction objectives, violate federal antitrust laws.

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