In Seyfarth’s fifth installment of its 2016 Trade Secrets Webinar series, Seyfarth attorneys, Gary Glaser, Jim McNairy and Marc Jacobs, conveyed strategies and best practices to help you, as in-house counsel and HR professionals, to ensure that your company and internal clients are protected.
As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, we compiled a list of brief summaries of the more significant cases that were discussed during the webinar:
- The National Labor Relations Act applies to all private sector workplaces — not just unionized facilities. Among other things, the Act protects an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activities, which in general are group action (usually by two or more employees) acting together in a lawful manner, for a common, legal, work-related purpose (e.g., wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment). Limits on these rights and retaliation against an employee for engaging in protected concerted activity violates the Act. The National Labor Relations Board is aggressively protecting employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity. As part of this effort, the NLRB will find unlawful workplace rules, policies, practices and agreements that explicitly restrict Section 7 activities (such as a rule requiring employees to keep their wage rate confidential) or that employees would reasonably believe restricts their Section 7 rights (e.g., a confidentiality agreement or policy that generally includes in the definition of confidential information “personnel information”).
- In the 2015 Browning-Ferris Industries decision, the NLRB substantially broadened the definition of “joint employer”. Under this new expanded definition, an entity can be found to be a joint employer if it has the authority, even if unexercised, to control essential terms and condition of employment. As a result, if one entity has agreements with other entities to provide labor or services, that entity may be a joint employer of the other entities’ employees based on the level of control it has over the terms and conditions of employment of the other entities/ employees. One indicia of that control would be requirements for hiring or employment, such as requirements to sign agreements or adopt policies for the protection of confidential information and similar restrictions.
- As a result, and also because of the signing of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act on the day after our program [insert link to post about it], now is a critical time for all employers to review their policies, practices, procedures and agreements (1) regarding the protection of confidential information; and (2) with third-party service and labor providers. In reviewing confidential information policies and agreements, the focus should be on narrow tailoring using specifics and examples to protect information that lawfully may be protected in a lawful manner. For agreements with parties, the review should include an analysis of the factors that may show joint employer status so that you can balance the risk of a joint employer finding with the needs to protect your organization.