Law and the Workplace
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Joseph O’Keefe

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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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

New Jersey Bans the Box for Private Employers

Governor Christie has signed The Opportunity to Compete Act, which takes effect March 1, 2015 and prevents many private employers in the State of New Jersey from asking prospective employees about their criminal history on the initial job application. In “banning the box” for private employment, New Jersey joins only a handful of states (Hawaii, Illinois, … Continue Reading

New Jersey Court Okays Provision in Job Application Reducing Statute of Limitations

In Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Co., Inc., No. A-4329-12T3, 2014 WL 2765273 (App. Div. June 19, 2014), New Jersey’s Appellate Division upheld a provision in a job application that limited the time in which an employee could sue the company to no more than six months after an alleged adverse employment action. This is the … Continue Reading

Tennessee Enacts Trio of Employment Laws

Tennessee’s governor recently signed three new employment laws. The first, a social media law, takes effect on January 1, 2015,and provides applicants and employees with social media protections similar to those in fifteen other states.The second, a negligent hiring and retention law, designed to provide a measure of protection to employers that hire and retain … Continue Reading

Newark Sick Leave Law Update

The Newark Department of Child and Family Well-Being (Department) recently issued a press release on the City’s new paid sick leave ordinance (Ordinance) together with FAQ forms for employees and employers. In the release, the Department appears to move the effective date of the Ordinance from May 29, 2014 to June 21, 2014. One of the requirements … Continue Reading

New Jersey Senate Approves Additional Protections for the Unemployed

On May 12, 2014, the New Jersey Senate approved a bill—S1440—that would strengthen existing protections for the State’s unemployed.  In 2011, New Jersey became the first jurisdiction in the country to limit discrimination against the unemployed by prohibiting job postings that state: (1) current employment is a necessary qualification for the position; (2) an applicant … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Embraces “Lower Bar” for Successor Liability under the FLSA

In Thompson v. Real Estate Mortgage Network, the Third Circuit adopted a standard of successor liability that will lower the bar for whether an employer can be held accountable under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the wage and hour violations of its predecessor. Read this alert to learn more about the decision.   Read … Continue Reading

New Jersey Employers Must Display Two Updated Posters

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“Department”) recently updated two of the posters that employers must conspicuously display in the workplace. The first updated poster—the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law Abstract—reflects the increase in the state minimum wage to $8.25 per hour. The second updated poster concerning Unemployment and Disability … Continue Reading

Will New Jersey Raise the Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers?

On March 24, 2014, the New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee advanced a bill (A857) that, should it become law, would raise dramatically the state’s minimum wage for tipped workers.  Currently, New Jersey employees who receive tips or gratuities must be compensated at no less than the minimum federal tip credited hourly wage of $2.13.  Under … Continue Reading

Newark Follows Jersey City with Sick Leave Law

On January 29, 2014, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey signed into law an Ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees, effective May 29, 2014, or, for employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), upon expiration of the current union contract. Similar laws have been enacted in the … Continue Reading

Social Media Watch: Illinois Federal Court Lowers Bar for SCA Claims

Social media privacy cases continue to grow under the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) (see our prior alert on the Ehling decision).  The SCA provides a private right of action for unauthorized, intentional access of another’s communications held in electronic storage, allowing the plaintiff to recover actual damages, plus any profits made by the violator, in … Continue Reading

A Woolley Situation: District of New Jersey Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Clause in Employee Handbook

New Jersey employers should consider the risks of including an arbitration agreement in a standard employment handbook in light of a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Raymours Furniture Co., Inc. v. Rossi, No. 13-4440, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1006 (D.N.J. Jan. 2, 2014). The court refused … Continue Reading

New Jersey Senate Considering Protections for Employees During States of Emergency

On the heels of one of the most difficult winters in recent memory, a recently-introduced bill (S1717) in the New Jersey Senate would protect employees from adverse actions due to absence from the workplace during a “state of emergency.” According to the bill, a “state of emergency” is a natural or man-made disaster or emergency … Continue Reading

New Jersey “Sandy” Law Preserves Employee Eligibility for Leave and Benefits

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie signed a law making it easier for employees who are furloughed or laid off because of a “state of emergency” to meet eligibility requirements under New Jersey’s Family Leave Act or the Security and Financial Empowerment Act. Read this alert to learn more about the new law, … Continue Reading

New Jersey Expressly Protects Pregnancy, Requires Reasonable Accommodation

On January 21, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed S2995 to amend New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by expanding protections against discrimination for employees affected by pregnancy, effective immediately. The amendment makes pregnancy a protected characteristic under the LAD, expressly requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to an employee based upon pregnancy-related conditions when … Continue Reading

Jersey City Sick Leave Law and Notice/Poster Requirements Effective January 24, 2014

  On September 26, 2013, the Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, signed into law an Ordinance requiring employers to provide sick leave to their employees, effective January 24, 2014. Read this alert for details of the law’s posting and written notice requirements.   Read the full text of this alert.… Continue Reading
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