Law and the Workplace
Joseph O’Keefe

Joseph O’Keefe

Partner

Joseph C. O'Keefe is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department.

For nearly 25 years, Joe has litigated employment disputes of all types, on behalf of employers, before federal and state courts, arbitral tribunals (e.g. FINRA and AAA), and state and federal administrative agencies. Joe has litigated employment-related lawsuits alleging discrimination and sexual harassment, whistleblowing, non-competition/trade secret matters, compensation disputes, breach of contract, defamation, fraud and other business related torts. Joe’s practice includes representing clients nationwide in complex class and collective litigation, including state and federal wage and hour and discrimination claims. He has tried numerous cases before arbitrators, judges and juries. Joe's experience includes appellate work in both federal and state courts.

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Vermont Becomes the Fifth State with a Paid Sick Leave Law

A new Vermont law will require most employers to provide paid sick time to employees. Vermont is the fifth state to adopt a paid sick leave law, following Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon.  The law will be effective on January 1, 2017. Some Key Provisions of the New Law: While the law takes effect on … Continue Reading

2015 Year in Review—the Top 10 Trends in New Jersey Employment Law

In 2015, there were important developments in New Jersey employment law. This newsletter examines some of those developments in ten key areas— background checks, whistleblowing, paid sick leave, wage and hour, Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) litigation, arbitration, workplace injury, “Faithless Servant” Doctrine, Family Medical Leave Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of … Continue Reading

New Brunswick Passes Local Sick Leave Ordinance, While New Jersey Legislature Considers Statewide Paid Leave Bills

As 2015 comes to a close, paid sick leave remains a hot issue in New Jersey. The City of New Brunswick recently became the eleventh municipality in New Jersey to mandate paid sick leave, but will be the first city in the state to specify that leave may be used for purposes related to domestic … Continue Reading

Elizabeth Poised to Become the Tenth Municipality in New Jersey to Mandate Paid Sick Leave

Voters in Elizabeth, New Jersey overwhelmingly approved a public question on the ballot requiring private-sector employers in the city to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  Elizabeth follows the lead of multiple jurisdictions (state and local) that have adopted similar measures across the country, including the following municipalities in New Jersey:  Jersey City, Newark, … Continue Reading

New Montana Law Protects Employee Social Media Accounts

Yesterday, Montana became the twentieth state to enact a law protecting employees from employer interference with personal social media accounts.  The law, which takes effect immediately, prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that a current or prospective employee: disclose a username or password to his or her personal social media account; access a personal social … Continue Reading

NJ Businesses and Lawmakers Continue Debate over Municipal Sick Leave Laws

Controversy continues to stir over the growing number of municipal sick leave laws in the State of New Jersey.  To date, nine such localities—Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Montclair, Newark, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton— have required employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  No other state in the nation has anywhere near … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Says Trucker Entitled to Overtime

Professional motor carriers generally are exempt from overtime payment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The Third Circuit recently held, however, in McMaster v. Eastern Armored Services, Inc., No. 14-1010 (3d Cir. Mar. 11, 2015), that this exemption did not apply to the plaintiff, a motor carrier employee of the defendant who drove vehicles … Continue Reading

Sick Leave Trend Continues in New Jersey, Constitutional Challenge Begins

This week Bloomfield became the ninth locality in the State of New Jersey to require employers to provide sick leave to their employees, joining Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton, and Montclair. Bloomfield’s new law is quite similar to the other sick leave laws in New Jersey.  Employers in the city with … Continue Reading

NJ “Ban the Box” Law Takes Effect, “Draft Rule” Proposed

New Jersey’s so-called “ban the box” law took effect on March 1, preventing most employers in the State from asking about a prospective employee’s criminal history on the initial job application and until after the first interview of the candidate has taken place.  For more on the new law, please review our prior client alert. … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Nixes EEOC Retaliation Suit

Last week, in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) v. Allstate Insurance Co., No. 2-01-cv-07402 (3d Cir. Feb. 13, 2015), the Third Circuit affirmed that the defendant did not violate federal anti-retaliation laws by offering thousands of terminated at-will employees the opportunity to continue working as independent contractors in exchange for signing a release. By way … Continue Reading

N.J. High Court Adopts Faragher-Ellerth Defense for LAD Sexual Harassment Claims

Last week, in Aguas v. New Jersey, No. A-35-13 (Feb. 11, 2015), New Jersey’s high court for the first time embraced the federal Faragher-Ellerth defense for claims alleging vicarious liability for supervisory sexual harassment under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). Under the Faragher-Ellerth analysis—which the U.S. Supreme Court crafted almost two decades ago—an employer may … Continue Reading

NJ Supreme Court Hears Argument on Whether Disgorgement of Employee’s Salary Requires Economic Damages

In Kaye v. Rosefielde, a case alleging fraud and malpractice against a former general counsel, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on whether the Appellate Division erred in affirming that economic damages are a necessary prerequisite for disgorgement of the general counsel’s salary.  The appellants have argued to the contrary that disgorgement … Continue Reading

NJ Supreme Court Considers Remittitur of Emotional Distress Award in Race Discrimination Case

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to address whether a trial court erred in denying remittitur on a whopping $1.4 million award for emotional distress damages in a racial discrimination suit brought under the Law Against Discrimination.  The defendants had argued before the trial court and the appellate division that the award “shocks the … Continue Reading

New Michigan Law Expands the Types of Criminal Records Applicants & Employees Can Refuse to Disclose to Employers

Existing Michigan law has served to prevent private employers from considering criminal records “set aside” by law (more commonly known as expungement) in hiring and personnel decisions. An amendment to that law, which took effect on January 12, expands the circumstances under which ex-offenders may seek to set aside their criminal records and, thus, may further … Continue Reading

SEC Approves FINRA Rule Strengthening Background Checks

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rule requiring member firms to strengthen their background investigation of applicants seeking registration.  We have detailed the requirements of the FINRA rule in our previous blog post.  The SEC has “accelerated approval” of the rule, though the agency still will accept … Continue Reading

The Top 10 Trends in New Jersey Employment Law in 2014

2014 was another busy year for developments in New Jersey employment law, including in ten key areas—whistleblowing, pre-employment inquiries/background checks, amendments to the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), LAD litigation, wage and hour, the Family Medical Leave Act, sick leave, states of emergency, arbitration, and “unemployment discrimination.”  Read our Top 10 newsletter to learn more about … Continue Reading

New Jersey’s Minimum Wage Rises to $8.38 in the New Year

Due to to an increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise to $8.38 per hour starting January 1, 2015.  This is the second consecutive year that the state’s minimum wage will increase.  Per our prior client alert, last year New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment that increased the … Continue Reading

Lawsuits Grow Under “Old” Pennsylvania Background Check Law

A growing number of states and localities have enacted laws that restrict employers from considering certain types of criminal records in hiring and other personnel decisions.  Though many of these laws are more recent, Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”) has been on the books for more than three decades.  The law, which prevents … Continue Reading

NJ Supreme Court to Rule on SOL Waiver

Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to address whether to uphold a provision in a job application that limited the time in which an employee could sue the company to no more than 6 months after an alleged adverse employment action, notwithstanding a longer statute of limitations (in this case, the 2-year SOL … Continue Reading

NJ Supreme Court to Decide Whether LAD Protects Divorcing Employee

Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to address whether the protection against marital status discrimination under the state’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) serves to prevent an employer from discharging an employee “because of the anticipated effect of [the] employee’s imminent divorce on the workplace.”  As detailed in our monthly newsletter, the Appellate Division … Continue Reading

FINRA Proposes Rule Strengthening Background Checks

Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a proposed rule requiring member firms to strengthen their background investigations of applicants seeking registration. The proposed rule adopts, in large part, an old rule issued by one of FINRA’s predecessors—the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD)—relating to background investigations.  FINRA’s proposed rule change intends to … Continue Reading

FCRA Preempts Tortious Interference Claim, Says NJ Court

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)—a federal law that regulates the collection and use of “consumer information”—covers employers who solicit third-party vendors known as consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to run background checks on applicants and employees.  The statute specifically contains a provision that bars state law claims against employers who “furnish information” to CRAs.  In … Continue Reading

Four More New Jersey Cities Enact Sick Leave Laws

Four New Jersey municipalities—Passaic, Paterson, Irvington, and East Orange—recently enacted  ordinances requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The Ordinances will take effect in January 2015, or, for employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, upon expiration of the CBA.  Similar laws already have taken effect in Newark and Jersey … Continue Reading

Revocation of Ex-Convict’s Job Offer Did Not Violate State Law, Says PA Court

Pennsylvania, like many states, has restricted employer use of criminal history in hiring and other employment decisions. Under the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA), Pennsylvania employers may “consider” convictions only if they directly relate to the position for which the applicant seeks employment. In a recent case—McCorkle v. Schenker Logistics, Inc., No. 1:13–CV–3077, 2014 … Continue Reading
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