On October 26, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted a long-awaited rule that will require listed companies to adopt and publicly file so-called “clawback” policies.  As we discuss in more detail in this alert, the rule requires listed companies to adopt clawback policies to recover, reasonably promptly, incentive-based compensation that proves to be excessive following an accounting restatement.  The executives covered by the rule are persons who served as an executive officer at any time during the performance period for such incentive-based compensation.  The amount that must be recovered generally includes excess compensation earned during the three fiscal years preceding the date on which the company is required to prepare an accounting restatement.

Among other executive compensation implications, the SEC contemplates that existing contractual arrangements with executives may need to be amended as a result of the new rule.  The rule mandates recovery of erroneously paid compensation, subject to narrow exceptions that generally include a finding that it is impracticable to do so because the cost of recovery exceeds the amount to be recovered.  The SEC’s adopting release states that inconsistency between the rule and existing compensation contracts is not a basis for such an impracticability finding.  As such, listed companies may wish to consider whether existing compensation arrangements should be amended to facilitate compliance with the mandate to recover.  In addition, listed companies may wish to review contractual clawback provisions in existing agreements for conformity with their clawback policies (as may need to be amended to conform with the new rule).  Going forward, where clawbacks are required, there may be complex questions concerning whether there may be additional compensation arrangements not cited in the release that may be subject to clawback, the amount of excess compensation that needs to be recovered, and the methods to satisfy the SEC’s requirement to undertake reasonable efforts to recover such compensation.

On August 25, 2022, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a final rule requiring new disclosures for public companies regarding the relationship between executive compensation and company performance. Among other things, companies are now required to develop a new table that discloses multi-year compensation data side-by-side with prescribed financial performance metrics and a company-specified metric that the company views as the “most important” financial measure used to link executive compensation to corporate performance. Our Securities & Capital Markets colleagues published this alert discussing the new rule and how companies might approach compliance in their next proxy statement. The alert will be of interest to corporate secretaries, executive compensation professionals, securities and disclosure counsel, controllers, and other related stakeholders.

The City and County of San Francisco (the “City”) has significantly amended its Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (“FFWO”), which gives employees the right to make a written request for a flexible or predictable working arrangement to allow them to balance family caregiving responsibilities. The amended FFWO, which took effect on July 12, 2022, loosens employee eligibility requirements and expands employer obligations, including by providing that employers must provide a flexible or predictable work arrangement upon request unless the arrangement would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The FFWO continues to cover employers that have 20 or more employees and maintain a physical business location in San Francisco.

Continue Reading San Francisco Expands Flexible and Predictable Workplace Requirements

Starting November 1, 2022, New York City employers will be required to post salary ranges on advertisements for internal and external job listings. This new law, which amends Section 8-107 of the New York City Administrative Code, provides that it is an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for employers and employment agencies to list a job, promotion, or transfer opportunity in an advertisement without including the maximum and minimum salary range for the position.

After the City Council passed amendments on April 28, which were signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams on May 12, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) published updated guidance for employers on the amended law.

Continue Reading New York City’s Amended Salary Transparency Law to Take Effect on November 1

A new law signed by President Biden brings significant changes to employers’ ability to require arbitration of certain disputes with employees and could lead to an increase in sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against employers in court.  On March 3, 2022, President Biden signed into law the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021” (the “Act”).  The Act amends the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to provide that predispute arbitration agreements and predispute joint-action waivers relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment disputes are unenforceable at the election of the person or class representative alleging the conduct.  The Act took effect immediately upon signing.

Continue Reading New Law Ends Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Claims

In a development that will sound familiar to employers, California has reinstated the requirement, which had expired last fall, to make available to employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (“Supplemental Sick Leave”).  The new measure, Senate Bill (“SB”) 114, was signed by Governor Newsom on February 9, 2022, and the requirement to provide the new sick leave went into effect on February 19. Employees may use the new sick leave retroactive to January 1, 2022.

Continue Reading California Reinstates and Updates COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for 2022

Pursuant to a new Order issued by New York City’s Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene, beginning December 27 workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of their work must provide proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination before entering the workplace.  Workers then have 45 days to show proof of their second dose if they received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.  The Order requires employers to exclude from the workplace any worker who has not provided proof of vaccination or been granted a religious or medical accommodation to the vaccine mandate, as well as workers who do not provide proof of a second Pfizer or Moderna dose within 45 days of submitting proof of the first dose.

Continue Reading New York City Announces Workplace COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

Governor Newsom recently signed into law SB 331 to impose a number of new restrictions on employment settlement, separation, and nondisclosure agreements. Here’s an overview of the new requirements, which apply to agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2022:

First, for settlement agreements involving claims of harassment or discrimination based on any protected class or retaliation, the new law bars confidentiality provisions that prevent an employee from disclosing information regarding the claim. This is an expansion of current law that prohibits such confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements pertaining to claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sex discrimination. Consistent with existing law, employers can still prevent the disclosure of amounts paid in settlement. Also, at the employee’s request, an agreement may include a provision that shields their identity and facts that could lead to the discovery of their identity, except if a government agency or public official is a party to the settlement agreement.

Second, SB 331 prohibits confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions in employment separation and nondisclosure agreements that have the purpose or effect of restricting disclosure of information about harassment, discrimination, or other workplace conduct the employee believes is unlawful. Furthermore, employers must include the following language in a non-disparagement or other contractual provision that restricts an employee’s ability to disclose information related to conditions in the workplace: “Nothing in this agreement prevents you from discussing or disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.” These requirements do not apply to a negotiated settlement agreement to resolve an underlying claim filed by an employee in a court, administrative agency, alternative dispute resolution forum, or the employer’s internal complaint process.

Third, the new law requires that for all employment separation agreements (except negotiated settlement agreements as noted above), the employer must (1) notify the employee that the employee has a right to consult an attorney regarding the agreement, and (2) provide the employee with a reasonable time period of not less than five business days in which to do so. An employee may sign the agreement prior to the end of the five-day period if the decision to do so is knowing and voluntary and not induced by the employer through fraud, misrepresentation, a threat to withdraw or alter the offer, or by providing different terms if an employee signs prior to the expiration of such time period.

In light of these new provisions, employers should promptly review template agreements to ensure compliance as of January 1, 2022. Agreements that do not comply may be unenforceable.

The recently enacted coronavirus economic relief package, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (“ARPA”), contains the most significant changes in fifteen years to the funding rules of single employer pension plans.  These changes have largely has fallen under the radar of the national press – an outcome disappointing perhaps only to ERISA nerds.  The little press addressing the pension provisions of ARPA mostly has been focused on the financial relief the legislation provides to troubled multiemployer pension plans — which, as we discuss elsewhere, have major implications for employers that participate, or are considering whether to participate, in a multiemployer plan.

Nevertheless, the significant changes to the single-employer plan funding rules warrant the attention of any employer that sponsors a single-employer defined benefit plan.  While the new law may significantly reduce the amount of contributions to pension plans that are required by law, reducing contributions may have other consequences that employers may wish to weigh.

Continue Reading To Fund or Not To Fund: Considerations for Employers Impacted by Recent Changes to Pension Plan Funding Rules