On August 29, 2018, despite industry criticism, the California state legislature passed AB 2998 (the “Bill”), which will require that levels of chemical flame retardants in covered products be below 1,000 parts per million. The Bill, which the governor is expected to sign into law, states that starting January 1, 2020, distributing children’s products, mattresses and upholstered furniture containing most chemical flame retardants will be illegal in the state of California. Samples of covered products sold to consumers will be provided to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control for testing, and if a product is found to be noncompliant, a fine may be assessed against the manufacturer, distributor and/or retailer.  Continue Reading California Bans Use of Most Chemical Flame Retardants in Children’s Products and Furniture as the CPSC Prepares to Take Action on the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture

The increase in the use of noncompetition agreements in industries such as retail and food service has caught the eye of several state legislatures, and they are beginning to take measures to curb the trend.

A Massachusetts law recently signed will limit employers’ ability to restrict hourly workers from engaging in competitive work after the end of their employment. The bill, signed by the governor on August 10, 2018, and effective October 1, 2018, prohibits employers from enforcing employment noncompetition agreements against employees who are classified as nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In effect, the law will eliminate an employer’s ability to limit where hourly retail employees can work after the end of their employment, even if they want to go to work for a direct competitor. Continue Reading Trend Setter? Massachusetts Bans Noncompetes for Nonexempt Workers

On February 15, 2018, by a vote of 225 to 192, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620). Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was enacted to ensure access for persons with disabilities to public accommodations. Too often, however, serial litigants have abused Title III to shake down businesses for quick settlements over minor, technical violations without actually seeking to improve access. By amending the ADA to include a notice and cure provision, proponents of HR 620 say this bill will curb predatory public accommodations lawsuits brought by serial plaintiffs and their lawyers against businesses.  Continue Reading Houses Passes Bill Aimed at Curbing Abuse of ADA Public Accommodations Lawsuits

If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes—both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated—in the business immigration landscape. Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented—including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravished by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses and homeless shelters—relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American/Hire American” executive order. There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018. Here’s what to expect. Continue Reading Buckle Your Seatbelts: 2018 Will Be a Watershed Year in Business Immigration

In a move affecting manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the furniture and other wood-based industries, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently issued a series of amendments to its Final Rule implementing the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the “Formaldehyde Final Rule”), which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The Formaldehyde Final Rule, 40 CFR Part 770, sets formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products and includes requirements for the testing, third-party certification, import certification and labeling of covered products by manufacturers of those products. The Final Rule also imposes requirements on downstream fabricators, distributors and retailers to keep records for at least three years demonstrating that covered products they use, distribute and/or sell are TSCA Title VI-compliant. Continue Reading Recent Amendments to EPA’s Formaldehyde Emissions Final Rule Affect Furniture Industry

On April 18, 2017, the state of Washington passed House Bill 1493 (“HB 1493”), which sets forth requirements for businesses who collect and use biometric identifiers for commercial purposes. Under HB 1493, a biometric identifier includes a fingerprint, voiceprint, retina, iris or other unique biological pattern or characteristic used to identify a specific individual. Commercial use includes “a purpose in furtherance of the sale or disclosure to a third party for the purpose of marketing of goods or services when such goods or services are unrelated to the initial transaction in which a person first gains possession of an individual’s biometric identifier.” This bill comes after several other states have passed similar legislation regulating the commercial use of biometric identifiers, including the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (740 ILCS 14) (“BIPA”) and the Texas Statute on the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. §503.001).  Continue Reading Washington State Passes New Legislation on Collection and Use of Biometric Identifiers

On March 14, 2017, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 (the “Fairness Act”) will come into effect, 90 days after it was signed into law by President Obama. The Fairness Act voids any provision in a form contract between a consumer and a business that (1) restricts the consumer’s ability to leave reviews, (2) imposes penalties for leaving negative reviews or (3) transfers intellectual property rights in reviews or feedback content from the consumer to the business. The Fairness Act was passed in response to an increase in the use of so-called “non-disparagement clauses” that prohibited consumers from sharing their honest opinions about a seller’s goods, services or conduct. Continue Reading How Companies Can Comply with the Newly Effective Consumer Review Fairness Act

Recently, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Andrew Puzder as his pick for Secretary of Labor. Puzder—the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—has been an outspoken critic of government regulations, including efforts to increase the minimum wage and recent changes to the white-collar overtime exemption. If the Senate confirms Puzder, he will oversee the agencies responsible for these policies and his confirmation could signal a slowdown of anti-business federal regulations from the Department of Labor under President Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez. Continue Reading Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary Could Mean Good News for Retailers

After a long and unconventional campaign, we finally know the election results: early next year, businessman Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, supported by a Republican Congress. What the election results mean for the nation’s retailers, however, remains an open question. Trump, as a candidate, staked out bold policy positions on issues with potentially significant effects on retailers. Both positive and negative developments on a wide range of issues are possible over the next four years. Once sworn in, Trump will have considerable latitude to implement his policies through executive branch agencies and their enforcement priorities. In other instances, however, he will require support from the 115th Congress, and in some instances his actions could be constrained by the effect of appointments and policy choices made by the Obama administration and the 114th Congress. Continue Reading Top Issues Facing Retailers in the Trump Administration

On September 12, 2016, the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act (the “Fairness Act”), aimed at preventing companies from penalizing consumers who post negative reviews online. The law is a response to non-disparagement clauses such as the one challenged by the FTC in litigation filed last year against Roca Labs, Inc. Continue Reading House Passes Consumer Review Fairness Act