There is a visceral and palpable dynamic emerging in global workplaces: tension.

Tension between what is potentially knowable—and what is actually known.   Tension between the present and the future state of work.  Tension between what was, is, and what might become (and when).  Tension between the nature, function, and limits of data and technology.

The present-future of work is being shaped daily, dynamically, and profoundly by a host of factors—led by the exponential proliferation of data, new technologies, and artificial intelligence (“AI”)—whose impact cannot be understated.  Modern employers have access to an unprecedented amount of data impacting their workforce, from data concerning the trends and patterns in employee behaviors and data concerning the people analytics used in hiring, compensation, and employee benefits, to data that analyzes the composition of the employee workforce itself.  To be sure, AI will continue to disrupt how virtually every employer views its human capital model on an enterprise basis. On a micro level, employers are already analyzing which functions or groups of roles might be automated, augmented, or better aligned to meet their future business models.

And, yet, there is an equal, counterbalancing force at play—the increased demand for accountability, transparency, civility, and equity.  We have already seen this force playing out in real time, most notably in the #MeToo, pay equity, and data privacy and security movements.  We expect that these movements and trends will continue to gain traction and momentum in litigation, regulation, and international conversation into 2019 and beyond.

We have invited Epstein Becker Green attorneys from our Technology, Media & Telecommunications (“TMT”) service team to reflect and opine on the most significant developments of the year.  In each, we endeavor to provide practical insights to enable employers to think strategically through these emergent tensions and business realities—to continue to deliver value to their organizations and safeguard their goodwill and reputation.

Continue Reading <i>Take 5</i> Newsletter – The Present-Future of Work: 2018 Trends and 2019 Predictions

When: Thursday, September 14, 2017 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Where: New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019

Epstein Becker Green’s Annual Workforce Management Briefing will focus on the latest developments in labor and employment law, including:

  • Immigration
  • Global Executive Compensation
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Internal Cyber Threats
  • Pay Equity
  • People Analytics in Hiring
  • Gig Economy
  • Wage and Hour
  • Paid and Unpaid Leave
  • Trade Secret Misappropriation
  • Ethics

We will start the day with two morning Plenary Sessions. The first session is kicked off with Philip A. Miscimarra, Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

We are thrilled to welcome back speakers from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Marc Freedman and Katie Mahoney will speak on the latest policy developments in Washington, D.C., that impact employers nationwide during the second plenary session.

Morning and afternoon breakout workshop sessions are being led by attorneys at Epstein Becker Green – including some contributors to this blog! Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai R. Feldblum, will be making remarks in the afternoon before attendees break into their afternoon workshops. We are also looking forward to hearing from our keynote speaker, Bret Baier, Chief Political Anchor of FOX News Channel and Anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier.

View the full briefing agenda and workshop descriptions here.

Visit the briefing website for more information and to register, and contact Sylwia Faszczewska or Elizabeth Gannon with questions. Seating is limited.

Big Data People Magnifying GlassHow, and to what extent, should “big data” analytics play a role in workforce recruitment, development, and retention?  These were some of the questions asked on October 13, 2016  at a meeting convened by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the use of big data analytics in the workplace.  Based on the exchange with the panel of seven experts, it is clear that the EEOC is cautiously approaching companies’ use of big data in informing employment decisions, and is beginning to think about its role in overseeing big data analytics as applied to the workforce.

Big data analytics in the workplace (sometimes referred to as people analytics) is the pairing of large data sets, comprising information gleaned from a variety of sources, with machine learning techniques in order to make successful, efficient, and non-discriminatory employment decisions.  But panelists cautioned that big data analytics is not a panacea.  Panelist Kelly Trindel, Chief Analyst of the EEOC’s Office of Research, Information, and Planning, expressed concern that the use of big data analytics may inadvertently perpetuate discrimination if the training set on which the analytical algorithms are based comprise a group that itself was the product of discriminatory decision-making.

Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows suggested that while big data analytics may reduce subjectivity in employment decisions, errors in the data sets or flawed assumptions underlying the algorithms may compound discriminatory effects.  Employers using or considering the use of big data analytics should be careful to take appropriate safeguards in designing (or working with a vendor to design) programs that will rely upon big data in order to make employment decisions.  Such precautions may include validation of any such programs over time, conducting appropriate job analyses, ensuring the variables considered adequately correspond to the representative population, training managers to properly interpret the data and results, and informing candidates whenever big data analytics will be used in hiring, said panelist Kathleen Lundquist, an organizational psychologist.

Appropriate precautions are especially important given the EEOC’s likely focus on this topic going forward.  Chair Jenny R. Yang announced the formation of an internal working group to study big data analytics in the workplace.  Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum suggested that, in the future, EEOC may convene additional panels to further discuss the implications of big data analytics in the workplace, and may play an educational role, among other things.

Complete statements of all of the panelists can be found on the EEOC website.  In addition, the EEOC will hold open the meeting record for 15 days, and members of the public are invited to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting.  If you are interested in contributing, public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to: Commissionmeetingcomments@eeoc.gov.

Any employer considering the integration of the use of big data analytics into its workplace management practices should discuss the implications of such usage, and development of best practices for same, with experienced counsel.

Throughout 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Commission”) has been examining initiatives to identify and attempt to rectify a perceived lack of diversity in the workplace. The EEOC has, in particular, identified the technology industry as an area where significant strides can be made to create a more diverse workforce.

Following a May 18, 2016, public meeting on diversity in the technology industry, the EEOC issued a “Diversity in High Tech” report (“Report”) summarizing research on the lack of diversity in the “high-tech sector,” defined as industries that employ a high concentration of employees in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) occupations and the production of goods and services advancing the use of electronic and computer-based production methods. The Report highlighted several demographic trends within the industry, generally showing that the high-tech sector is still predominantly white, male, and under 40 years old. Citing the high-tech sector as “a major source of economic growth fueling the U.S. economy,” the Report also identified demographic differences among the types of positions within the industry, noting that African Americans and Hispanics were disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions in technology jobs.

According to the Report, the lack of diversity in the labor force within the high-tech sector can be attributed to the demographics of graduates with STEM degrees. Nearly 70 percent of graduates in engineering, mathematics, and computer science are men. While the Obama administration has included STEM education as a priority, the current graduates in STEM fields are significantly less diverse than in the general labor market.

Further, more than half of the women working at STEM companies in the high-tech sector eventually leave or do not advance within the STEM industry. The Report attributed women’s exit from the high-tech sector to an “inhospitable” work culture, isolation, work styles incompatible with the “firefighting” style generally rewarded, long hours and travel, and a glass-ceiling effect.

While the high-tech sector originated in Silicon Valley, the scope of this industry has grown across the United States. To see whether the diversity statistics differed at the epicenter of high tech, the Report further analyzed the labor force within Silicon Valley. The labor force generally in Silicon Valley is split evenly between men and women; however, within the tech industry, it becomes a 70-30 split in favor of men. While Asian Americans fared better within Silicon Valley than across the national survey for professional jobs, white men “dominated” leadership positions across the nation and even more significantly in Silicon Valley.

While the Report is valuable in highlighting changes that are necessary to create a more diverse workforce within the technology industry, the EEOC’s public meeting made clear that the Commission expects technology companies to address what it perceives to be the implicit and unconscious biases leading to the current demographics. In many technology start-ups, hiring practices and human resources policies are generally among the last concerns in growing companies; thus, companies recruit via word of mouth or weed out certain categories of candidates, such as older workers, leading to a more homogenous workforce. The findings stated in the Report and at the public meeting should encourage emerging companies to consider employee issues at the forefront, rather than as a secondary concern.

In Silicon Valley, where the lack of diversity is amplified within the high-tech sector, changes in California law may encourage employers to recruit from a more diverse pool of candidates. At the end of June, the California Legislature passed an amendment to the Equal Pay Act that, if signed by the governor, would provide a cause of action for a differential in pay on the basis of race or ethnicity unless the employer can show that the difference is based on a bona fide factor other than race or ethnicity. (The California Equal Pay Act was also recently amended to protect women more strongly against pay differentials.)

In addition to the Report, recently proposed EEOC guidance on national origin discrimination and the EEOC’s updated proposed rule to include salary bands on the annual EEO-1 report demonstrate the Commission’s commitment to encouraging a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The EEOC’s in-depth look at the high-tech sector should induce technology employers to review hiring practices and audit the diversity within their workforce, as the EEOC’s enforcement of systemic discrimination has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Take 5 newsletter “Five Trending Challenges Facing Employers in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Industry.”

Our colleague Linda B. Celauro, Senior Counsel at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Financial Services Employment Law blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the technology industry: “Seventh Circuit Panel Finds That Title VII Does Not Cover Sexual Orientation Bias.

Following is an excerpt:

Bound by precedent, on July 28, 2016, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that sexual orientation discrimination is not sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The panel thereby affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana dismissing the claim of Kimberly Hively, a part-time adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College, that she was denied the opportunity for full-time employment on the basis of her sexual orientation.

The importance of the Seventh Circuit panel’s opinion is not in its precise holding but both (i) the in-depth discussion of Seventh Circuit precedence binding it, the decisions of all of the U.S. Courts of Appeals (except the Eleventh Circuit) that have held similarly, and Congress’s repeated rejection of legislation that would have extended Title VII’s protections to sexual orientation, and (ii) the multifaceted bases for its entreaties to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congress to extend Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination to sexual orientation discrimination.

The Seventh Circuit panel highlighted the following reasons as to why the Supreme Court or Congress must consider extending Title VII’s protections to sexual orientation …

Read the full post here.

Our colleagues Steven R. Blackburn and Elizabeth J. Boca, attorneys at Epstein Becker Green, have a post on the Retail Labor and Employment Law blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the technology industry: “San Francisco Paid Parental Leave.”

Following is an excerpt:

Under the proposed San Francisco ordinance, for up to six weeks employers must bridge the gap between the amount the employee receives in PFL and one-hundred percent of the employee’s gross weekly wages (referred to as “Supplemental Compensation”) for parental bonding purposes.  In other words, the employer must pay the remaining forty-five percent of the employee’s gross wages. However, if the employee is already receiving the maximum weekly benefit under the PFL law, the employee’s gross weekly wage is calculated by dividing the maximum weekly benefit amount by the percentage rate of wage replacement provided under the PFL.

Read the full post here.

Our colleague Frank C. Morris, Jr., attorney at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Financial Services Employment Law blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the technology industry: “New Online Recruiting Accessibility Tool Could Help Forestall ADA Claims by Applicants With Disabilities.”

Following is an excerpt:

In recent years, employers have increasingly turned to web based recruiting technologies and online applications. For some potential job applicants, including individuals with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have low vision, online technologies for seeking positions can prove problematic. For example, some recruiting technologies and web-based job applications may not work for individuals with disabilities who use screen readers to access information on the web. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recently announced the launch of “TalentWorks.”

Read the full post here.

Nancy L. Gunzenhauser
Nancy L. Gunzenhauser

On March 3, 2016, the EEOC issued a one-page fact sheet aimed at assisting start-ups and small businesses understand their responsibilities under the various federal employment laws. The fact sheet, which is available in over 30 languages, reminds employers that:

  • employment decisions cannot be made on the basis of protected categories
  • employers should establish policies that do not disparately impact employees on the basis of protected categories
  • men and women must be provided equal pay
  • employers should prevent harassment, but if a complaint is raised, employers should promptly address claims of harassment or discrimination
  • employers should provide reasonable accommodations for medical and religious purposes
  • employers must display required posters
  • employment records must be kept, including applications and personnel files

The EEOC’s fact sheet provides some helpful points for small businesses, who may not always be considering employment issues. Small employers must have at least 15 employees for the federal anti-discrimination laws to apply. Even without 15 employees, several laws (including New York City’s Human Rights Law) can still apply to these start-ups. Make sure to reference EBG’s TMT Start-Up Employment Law Reference as your business grows! As your new and emerging business continues to grow, make sure to consider how various employment laws may be implicated.

Our colleague Laura A. Stutz has a Retail Employment Law Blog post that will be of interest to many of our technology industry readers: “EEOC Implements Nationwide Program to Disclose Employer Position Statements and Supporting Documents.”

Following is an excerpt:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently implemented nationwide procedures for the release of employer position statements to Charging Parties upon request. The new procedures raise concerns about disclosure by the EEOC of non-public personnel and commercial or financial information the employer may disclose to support its position with regard to the Charge.

Before releasing the supporting documents to the Charging Party, the EEOC will review the employer’s submissions and withhold only information the Commission decides should be considered confidential. The type of information considered confidential by the EEOC includes:

  • Sensitive medical information (except for the Charging Party’s medical information)
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Confidential commercial or confidential financial information
  • Trade secrets
  • Non-relevant personally identifiable information of witnesses, comparators or third parties, e.g., dates of birth in non-age cases, residential addresses, personal telephone numbers, personal email addresses, etc.
  • References to Charges filed with the EEOC by other Charging Parties

Read the full post here.

Following on the tails of recent updates in New York and California’s equal pay laws, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California all have bills pending in their state legislatures that would seek to eliminate pay differentials on the basis of sex and other protected categories.

The NJ Amendment

NJ employers may be curious why this amendment is necessary, as the state’s Equal Pay Law already prohibits discrimination in the rate or method of payment of wages to an employee because of his or her sex. The NJ Amendment, which has passed in the Senate and must now move through the House before being delivered to the Governor, would amend the Law Against Discrimination to prohibit differentials among employees of different sexes who perform “substantially similar” work. The NJ Amendment would, like the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, allow a plaintiff to bring a claim based on “continuing violations” of the law, thereby expanding the statute of limitations on pay differentials.

The law mimics the New York and California laws, in that employees may bring claims based on a disparate impact – i.e., a neutral factor produces a wage differential based upon sex, and the employer did not adopt an alternative business practice that would serve the same purposes without the wage differential.

The NJ Amendment provides that comparisons of wages are based on rates “in all of an employer’s operations or facilities.” This broad definition is troublesome for employers, as it does not clearly state the reach of the law. In contrast, the New York law limits geographic comparisons based upon regions no larger than a county. The California law does not have any type of geographic limitation on wage comparisons.

The MA Amendment

The MA Amendment goes significantly further than the NJ Amendment, and follows more closely with the recent changes in the New York laws, as part of the NY Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda. In addition to prohibiting pay differentials on the basis of gender without a justifiable factor other than sex, the MA Amendment (1) provides that an employees’ seniority for pay purposes may not be reduced due to time spent on protected family, medical, and parental leave (including pregnancy-related leave), (2) establishes pay transparency provisions, and (3) creates an affirmative defense for employers who perform self-evaluations of pay practices.

The MA Amendment, which also has passed in the Senate and must now move through the House before being delivered to the Governor, amends the current Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to define “comparable work” to mean “work that is substantially similar in content and requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions; provided, however, that a job title or job description alone shall not determine comparability.”

Unlike all other recent equal pay laws, the MA Amendment permits employers to base pay differentials based upon geographic location if one location has a lower cost of living based upon the Consumer Price Index.

Interestingly, the MA Amendment would also prohibit employers from obtaining an applicant’s salary history on an application or during interviews. Earlier this year, the California legislature passed a bill that would prohibit employers from seeking past pay information from applicants; however, that bill was vetoed by Governor Brown.

The CA Amendment

The CA legislature has recently introduced a new amendment to the fair pay law, which was just amended earlier this year. The Wage Equality Act of 2016 would expand the law’s protections to race- and ethnicity-based pay differentials.

While states are leading the charge with updates to equal pay laws, the EEOC is also stepping up equal pay enforcement with their proposal to modify the EEO-1 forms to include pay information. This push to gather more information regarding pay among various categories may lead to an increase in pay-related claims over the next few years. To help avoid such claims, employers should consider auditing job titles and compensation methods to ensure compliance with each jurisdiction’s equal pay laws.