Photo of Benjamin E. Widener

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.

employee covid vaccine requirement OSHA ETSThe vax-or-test legal rollercoaster ride continues, leaving human resource managers’ heads spinning, lawyers prognosticating, and employers simply wondering what comes next.

On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court, in a 6-3 majority decision, dealt a substantial blow to the future implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for large employers, putting the ETS on hold indefinitely pending further review by the United States Court of Appeal for the 6th Circuit (which had reinstated the vaccinate-or-test mandate). Among other things, the ETS mandated that all businesses with 100+ employees require their employees to either vaccinate (and provide proof thereof) or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing to attend work.


Continue Reading The ETS, the Supreme Court Ruling, and the Vax-or-Test Rollercoaster: What Should Your Business Do Now?

employee covid vaccine requirement OSHA ETSOn November 5, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), requiring private employers having at least 100 employees companywide (at any given time) to adopt written policies and procedures either mandating vaccination against COVID-19 or requiring employees to choose between vaccination or undergo weekly testing while wearing a face-covering at work.

Continue Reading Employers, the Coronavirus, and the Reinstatement of the OSHA ETS: What Now?

On Tuesday, October 5, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that addressed a blind spot in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination that actually enabled private employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of their age. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), codified at N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq., which in relevant part provides that “all persons shall have the opportunity to obtain employment without discrimination,” protects private employees in New Jersey against disparate treatment, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other unequal employment practices on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including their age.

Continue Reading 70 is the New 40 – New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Expands Protections to Employees Over the Age of 70

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation following the New York State Attorney General’s investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct from several female staffers. The 168-page investigation report found “the governor engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York State law.”

Continue Reading Cuomo Resignation a Reminder of the Importance of Anti-Harassment Policies, Grievance Procedures and Workplace Investigations

Many employees who are let go or terminated from employment don’t know what happens at work once they’re gone. Sometimes employees know or subsequently learn, whether through word of mouth, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, or the employer’s website, that they have been replaced. Sometimes their replacement is someone significantly younger, yet it is unclear exactly how old the replacement is. In a recent ruling, the Third Circuit has held the lack of knowledge doesn’t matter, at least not at the pleading stage of the litigation.

Continue Reading A “Significant Age Difference” Will Suffice to Advance an Age Discrimination Claim

Once again, but not surprisingly, an arbitration agreement conveyed by an employer and confirmed by an employee via email has been upheld by the New Jersey courts.

In a recent decision, Jasicki v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the motion court’s dismissal of an employee’s claims of sexual harassment, compelling arbitration.  Holding the employee agreed to the company’s mandatory arbitration program communicated via a company-wide email by (1) opening the email, (2) failing to opt-out of the arbitration program, and (3) continuing her employment, the Appellate Division validated email arbitration agreements in the employment context under these circumstances, despite the employee’s assertion she never actually read the email.  In doing so, the Appellate Division reinforced our courts’ approval of these less traditional and more controversial vehicles for securing employee assent to arbitration agreements.  In short, quoting its decision in Jaworski v. Ernst & Young, the Appellate Division wrote: “An email, properly couched, can be an appropriate medium for forming an arbitration agreement.”


Continue Reading Appellate Division Decision Confirms Continued Employment May Constitute Assent to an Employer’s Emailed Arbitration Agreement

The federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206, was enacted in 1963 to protect against wage discrimination based on a person’s sex. The purpose of the Act is simple: men and women in the same workplace should be given equal pay for equal work. All forms of employment compensation are covered by the Act, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, incentive compensation, vacation, etc. Under the Act, if there is any inequality in wages between men and women who perform substantially equal jobs, the employer must make it right by raising wages to equalize and normalize pay. In addition, an employer who violates the Act is liable to its aggrieved employee in the amount of her (or his) unpaid compensation and an additional, equal amount as a liquidated damage, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.

Continue Reading Landmark Pinterest Settlement Reflects Continued Gender Gap in the Workplace

As COVID-19 cases continue to mount and the virus continues to push public health systems to their breaking points, perhaps no community has been hit harder than our elders residing in long-term care facilities. As of January 13, 2021, Neshaminy Manor—the largest nursing home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania—has seen 218 residents test positive, 85 of whom have died from the virus. Through contact tracing, administrators believe the virus was brought into the home by infected employees despite the nursing home’s best efforts to minimize risk.

Continue Reading Nursing Home to Employees: COVID-19 Vaccination or Job Termination

On November 25, 2020, I asked the ominous question: “Can I require my employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19?” In that article, I first addressed the pivotal, threshold issue of whether a vaccination constituted a “medical examination” or health screening under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as whether a private employer can implement a mandatory vaccination policy turns largely on this issue. However, I also expressed “it is difficult to predict precisely how current jurisprudence on mandatory vaccine rules and policies will translate to the COVID-19 workplace” given the scale and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue Reading EEOC Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccinations: What Now for Employers?

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages and excitement grows from promising vaccine announcements, employers are asking a critical question: Can I require my employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Although each employer’s circumstances are unique, the short answer is the classic law school answer: “It depends.” The longer answer is “perhaps, but with exceptions, and even then you may want to reconsider.”


Continue Reading Can Employers Require Employees to Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19?