May 23, 2017

Last week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Healthy Starts Act, which provides stronger legal protections for pregnant workers. Previously, Washington employers only had to accommodate pregnant workers if a pregnancy-related condition resulted in the worker having a temporary disability so that the laws prohibiting disability discrimination applied. The problem with this approach is that many pregnant workers need reasonable accommodations even if they don’t have a disability. The new law makes it illegal for employers to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for a pregnant employee unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship. An “undue hardship” exists if the accommodation would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense.

The new law sets forth various reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, such as providing more frequent or longer restroom breaks; modifying a no food or drink policy; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently for jobs that require standing; providing a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; providing assistance with manual labor and limits on lifting; and scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits. The new law applies to Washington employers with 15 or more employees. More information is available at the link below.


May 15, 2017

The New York Times ran an interesting article on noncompete agreements the other day:

The article describes how these types of agreements are becoming increasingly prevalent, even for job positions and industries where they make little sense.  This is a trend we’ve definitely noticed in our practice as well.  A lot of employees in Washington mistakenly assume that the agreements are not legally enforceable or that the company won’t actually try to enforce them. Washington law provides that noncompete agreements are generally enforceable as long as they are reasonable. Washington courts use a three-part test to assess reasonableness:  (1) whether the noncompete provision is necessary to protect the employer’s business or goodwill; (2) whether it imposes on the employee a greater restraint than is reasonably necessary; and (3) whether enforcing the agreement would injure the public by denying the public access to the employee’s skills or services.  Because these questions are unique to each case, it can sometimes be difficult to determine ahead of time whether a particular non-compete agreement will ultimately be upheld by the courts.  At a minimum, employees should be very aware of what they are signing when presented with a noncompete agreement. Otherwise, you might be faced with a very unpleasant surprise when separating from your employer.