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Benjamin E. Widener is a Shareholder in the Employment and Litigation practice groups at Stark & Stark, and Chairman of the firm’s Employment Law Group, responsible for managing labor and employment work handled by the firm. Ben represents his clients in all aspects of labor and employment law, concentrating his practice in employment litigation and employment counseling. Ben’s practice also includes litigating contract, securities, and business disputes.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” There it is. Simple. Direct. Clear. Groundbreaking.

In its landmark decision issued June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects, gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination in employment.


Continue Reading A “Simple, But Momentous” Decision: LGBTQIA Rights Are Protected By Title VII

The federal government has provided new hope for employees affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic by way of an economic stimulus package that includes, among other things, enhanced unemployment benefits.

On Friday, March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES” Act), which expands the situations in which an employee is eligible to receive unemployment compensation. In addition, the CARES Act provides an enhanced unemployment benefit to employees impacted by COVID-19, enabling employees to receive up to an additional $600.00 per week in unemployment insurance benefits through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.


Continue Reading The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”): What It Could Mean For You

How things have changed since I published my Employer’s Guide to COVID-19 less than a week ago. While the guidance, recommendations, and issue-spotting set forth in that article have not changed, the legal landscape concerning the novel coronavirus has. State governors have issued emergency orders. New laws have taken, or will take, effect. Non-essential business have been instructed to close their doors and convert to remote work arrangements, if possible. People have been advised to stay home. Here’s an update on what’s changed and how it impacts you, your business, and your employees.

Continue Reading Updated Resource & Guide to COVID-19: Emergency Orders, State Lockdowns, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The coronavirus pandemic has arrived in the United States, and it undoubtedly has impacted your business or workforce in some way. On Friday, March 13th, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to free up $50 billion in federal resources to combat COVID-19 and has since issued coronavirus guidelines for America.

At the local level, some states, counties, and municipalities have gone into lockdown by requiring all non-essential public places to close indefinitely until this crisis has passed. On Sunday, March 15th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf mandated the closing of all non-essential businesses in five eastern counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Allegheny). On Monday, March 16th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered the closing of all schools and non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses effective at 8:00 p.m., and instituted a curfew for non-essential and non-emergency travel between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. These mandates will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.


Continue Reading An Employer’s Guide to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

COVID-19 concerns have swept across the country in the last weeks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other governing bodies have called upon all Americans to do what they can to slow the transmission of the disease by practicing social distancing. For employers, that means seriously considering allowing their employees to work remotely.

Continue Reading Remote Working: What Employers Need To Know

Companies are finding themselves in an unprecedented situation, needing to make determinations that keep their employees safe while complying with state and federal laws during the current global health challenge.

Navigating responsibilities, employee rights, and requirements for compliance require complex calculations for employers with the recent spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). While the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other federal and state guidelines can provide instructions for those that have contracted the illness, measures dictated by social distancing are less clear cut.

So what are the factors that should be taken into consideration? Travel restrictions, implementation of remote work policies, and limiting exposure in offices that are open are all part of the current decisions facing businesses.

What are the most important points to consider at this time?


Continue Reading Employers Navigate New Territory With COVID-19 Risks and Accommodations

A New Jersey state jury hit Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp with nearly $1.5 million in net damages over a former company executive’s claims that she was fired in retaliation for whistleblowing. The jury in turn rejected the pharma company’s stance that the employee had been properly terminated for violating company policies.

In a 7-1 votes, the jury awarded $1,816,040 to Min Amy Guo in her whistleblower suit, in which she alleged that she was fired from Novartis for raising concerns in 2012 that a potential cancer drug study for Afinitor by the pharmaceutical distribution company McKesson Corp was possibly a kickback to McKesson to help sell the medicine.


Continue Reading Novartis Hit with $1.5M Whistleblower Suit, Avoids Punitive Damages

Confidential settlement agreements reached between employers and employees resolving claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment may not be so secret anymore.

On March 18, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 121, which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12 (“NJLAD”), by declaring unlawful and unenforceable any provision in any employment contract or settlement agreement concealing, or attempting to conceal, details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. Furthermore, and perhaps even more concerning to employers, the amendment prohibits the contractual waiver of any substantive or procedural rights or remedies relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment.


Continue Reading New Law Bans Non-Disclosure of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Settlements

Without doubt, the clear public policy of the State of New Jersey is – and always has been – to eradicate invidious discrimination from the workplace, and a central purpose of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-12, is the prohibition of discrimination in all aspects of the employment relationship. Recently, this purpose has been extended by way of a new state mandate to ensure equal pay to all employees for equal, or “substantially similar,” work.

Effective July 1, 2018, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (the “Act”) became the most sweeping equal pay legislation in the nation. Prior to its enactment, equal pay was governed generally by Title VII and the NJLAD, as well as the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, which is aimed at abolishing pay disparity only on the basis of gender. The New Jersey Equal Pay Act amended the NJLAD by furthering and broadening the prohibition against pay discrimination because, or on the basis, of an employee’s inclusion in any protected class. That means equal pay for everyone regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, etc.


Continue Reading Equal Pay for Equal Work – New Jersey’s New Equal Pay Act

The proliferation of paid sick leave laws has arrived in New Jersey. On May 2, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, which takes effect October 29, 2018. The Act, which applies to nearly all employers and employees in the Garden State, guarantees that almost every person employed in New Jersey will accrue paid sick leave. Given its breadth of coverage, record keeping and notice requirements, and the potential penalties for breach and noncompliance, Employers must prepare for this new legislation. Here are some of the basics.

Who is Covered?

The Act applies to any person or entity having employees in the State of New Jersey, regardless of the employer’s size. The terms “employer” and “employee” are defined broadly to include all employers and employees, with limited exceptions. This includes temporary help service firms and small businesses.

How is Leave Accrued?


Continue Reading Paid Sick Leave in New Jersey: What’s the Prognosis?