MLB Litigation Brief: 4th Circuit Hostile Work Enviro, Class Action Trends Cause Concern, Low-Wage Non-Competes & More

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Fourth Circuit

    • En Banc Fourth Circuit Ruled Hostile Work Environment Discrimination & Retaliation Claims Can be Based on Isolated Incident: Recognizing that it was a first for the court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corporation, No. 13-1473 (4th Cir. May 7, 2015) that an isolated incident of racial discrimination can be severe enough to constitute a hostile work environment under Title VII, giving rise to the employee’s protection from retaliation for reporting the incident. The court clarified that its prior opinions were not meant to require more than one incident of harassment to maintain a hostile work environment claim, and explicitly overruled Jordan v. Alternative Resources Corp., 458 F.3d 332 (4th Cir. 2006) to the extent that it conflicts with Boyer-Liberto.

North Carolina

    • Date Motion to Amend Complaint is Filed is Key to Statute of Limitations Analysis: Judge Bledsoe of the North Carolina Business Court reiterated in Insight Health Corp. v. Marquis Diagnostic Imaging of NC, LLC, 2015 NCBC 50 (May 21, 2015) that the relevant date for determining whether a party was added to a lawsuit prior to the statute of limitations running is the date that a motion to amend is filed and not (a) the date that the court rules on the motion, (b) the date the actual amended complaint is filed, or (c) the date the summons is issued for the new party. Relying upon cases dating back to 1986, Judge Bledsoe rejected the defendant’s arguments to the contrary without a hearing on the matter.
    • New Commission Charged with Comprehensive Evaluation of State Justice System: Chief Justice Martin recently announced the creation of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, which will perform an in-depth evaluation of the state’s judicial system in order to provide guidance to the legislature on the system’s budgetary requirements by 2017. The Commission is co-chaired by five representatives from the legal and business communities and will incorporate the input of additional stakeholders in analyzing the following areas: criminal investigation and adjudication, civil justice, technology and its application to our courts, the future of legal services, and public trust and confidence. Additional information is available here.

On Capitol Hill

    • Non-Compete Agreements for Low-Wage Workers Target of Proposed Legislation: Several months ago, news circulated regarding the use of non-compete agreements in employment contracts of low-wage sandwich shop workers. These types of agreements have been criticized as preventing lower-wage employees from being able to advance in their industries due to the restrictions imposed against working for competing companies. Last week, several U.S. Senators introduced the Mobility and Opportunity for Vulnerable Employees Act, which seeks to prohibit employers from using non-compete agreements against employees earning less than $15 per hour, or the local minimum wage if it is higher. A fine of $5,000 per employee may be imposed if the Act is violated. With respect to higher-wage employees, the Act would require companies to disclose the non-compete requirement prior to hiring.

On Notice

    • Survey Says Increasing Number of Class Actions Most Important Litigation Trend: Norton Rose Fulbright recently released its global 2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey, which compiles litigation trends and data gathered from 803 corporate counsel in 26 countries. Contract disputes (38%) and employment matters (37%) lead in the categories of litigation currently pending, with a large portion of respondents (39%) identifying regulatory/investigation matters as the primary type of dispute that causes their company concern. The increasing number of class actions was identified as “the most important issue or trend in litigation” that companies are facing.

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