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On November 10, 2016, Salvatore G. Gangemi will be speaking at a seminar, Employment Law: Rights, Benefits, and Emerging Issues, in White Plains, New York at the Crowne Plaza. He will be speaking about The Perilous Intersection of FMLA and ADA as well as on Harassment, Retaliation, and Discrimination, Rights and Reprimands.  The seminar is being conducted by Sterling Education Services.  Information about the seminar is available at Employment Law: Rights, Benefits, and Emerging Issues.

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office announced that it had secured an agreement from Examination Management Services, Inc. (“EMSI”) to stop using non-compete agreements for most of its New York employees.  EMSI is a Texas-based medical information services provider that required all of its New York employees to sign off on non-compete agreements, without regard to whether they had access to trade secret or other confidential information.  The non-compete agreement that EMSI required its New York employees to sign prevented them from working for a competitor for 9 months after leaving EMSI, within 50 miles of any location in which the employee worked for EMSI.  According to the Attorney General’s office, most of EMSI’s New York employees worked in non-senior level positions and mainly traveled throughout New York to conduct routine physical examinations.

Following a complaint by a former EMSI employee, whose job offer from a competitor was rescinded because of her non-compete agreement, the Attorney General’s office convinced EMSI to release the former employee from her non-compete agreement, not require non-senior level employees to sign them, and to notify current employees and former employees who left within the last 9 months that the non-compete agreement would no longer be in effect.

According to Attorney General Schneiderman, “[r]estricting rank-and-file workers from being able to find other jobs is unjust and inappropriate. . . .  Workers should be able to change jobs without fear of being sued by their prior employer.”

Over the last few years, we have written about misclassification issues arising out of the use of unpaid interns to perform work.  A recent case from a New York State court has just made it more difficult for such interns to assert class action claims for unpaid wages.  In Rodriquez v. 5W Public Relations, (N.Y.S. Supreme Ct., N.Y. Cty, Index No. 156571/14, July 26, 2016), a putative class of individuals sought to recover unpaid wages from 5W Public Relations, LLC and its CEO for work they performed as unpaid interns.  In seeking class certification, the plaintiffs were required to show, among other things, that common questions of law or fact predominated over any questions affecting only individual plaintiffs.  Such a showing would be necessary to permit the plaintiffs to sue as a class, instead of individually.

The plaintiffs argued that common questions of law and fact predominated because all of the putative class members were required to agree to a universal employment agreement; performed similar work; were all subject to the identical employee handbook policies; and were all uniformly misclassified as interns not entitled to minimum wage.  The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification despite that the interns appeared to all be subject to the same policies and work, because, according to the court, “the question of whether defendants’ internship program created employment relationships [could] only be answered with individualized proof as opposed to generalized proof.”  In other words, although the interns were all part of the same internship program and subject to the same policies, their individual circumstances would need to be considered on the ultimate issue of whether or not they were really employees.  The court did not state the precise test it would ultimately  apply in determining whether the interns were really employees, but stated that any such test would balance a number of factors that took into account both the benefit of the work to the employer and the individual intern’s experiences.

The court provided the following non-exclusive list of factors that would be relevant in determining whether an intern was really an employee entitled to wages: