Friday, January 26, 2018

Trade Secrets Lawsuits Keep Trending Up: Are You Minding the Store?

Lawsuits involving claims for misappropriation of trade secrets are continuing to trend upward, even in an era when litigation as a whole is believed to have decreased. At a time when companies’ most sensitive confidential and proprietary business information is becoming ever more digitalized – and thus easily transportable – all employers should maintain vigilance in protecting their crucial business information. Not surprisingly, a significant amount of trade secret litigation involves situations where former employees accessed company information before their departures, copied it and later used that information to compete against the former employer.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

First Sick Leave Settlement Reached in Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights has settled its first case of retaliation under the paid sick-leave ordinance that went into effect on July 1, 2017. The paid sick-leave ordinance requires that employers with six or more employees provide Minneapolis employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked within Minneapolis. The ordinance applies to full and part time employees, temporary employees, and paid interns. Under the ordinance, retaliation against employees for exercising their sick leave rights is strictly prohibited.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Employer Beware: Your Current Bonus Program May Be Irrevocable

Last week, in Boswell v. Panera Bread Co., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Panera Bread illegally imposed caps on amounts paid to managers under its bonus program. In order to recruit and retain managers, Panera had created a program under which managers were eligible to receive a one-time bonus to be paid five years after the managers signed at-will employment agreements containing the bonus program. In order to receive the bonus, the manager had to be employed as a manager at the time of payment.

However, after a downturn in profits, Panera decided to place a $100,000 cap on the manager retention bonus. Managers were notified of the cap in 2011 and informed that the cap would become effective in 2012. Plaintiff, Mark Boswell, sued Panera in 2014 on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated managers. Boswell argued that Panera’s unilateral bonus cap was a breach of contract. Panera disagreed, maintaining that its 2011 notice of the cap constituted a new oral contract with the managers that they accepted by continuing employment. Panera also argued that the managers waived any potential contract claim by continuing to work for Panera with notice of the program change and that the managers were estopped from raising any claims due to the passage of time since 2011.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Tax Law Eliminates Employer Deductions for Certain Types of Sexual Harassment Settlements

In the midst of the growing “Me Too” movement, employers may find it more expensive to settle employment claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse. A provision in the new tax law signed by President Trump on Dec. 22, 2017 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) provides that, effective as of the signing of the law, a business can no longer deduct the costs incurred to settle employment sexual harassment or abuse claims if a nondisclosure agreement is included in the settlement.  This provision was added to the tax law in response to the “Me Too” movement and growing criticism of the historic practice of conditioning settlements on confidentiality. In addition, the new tax law contains limits on the ability to deduct attorney’s fees related to a sexual harassment or abuse settlement.