On March 7, 2014, a key section of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) went into effect, imposing new obligations on colleges and universities for the handling of sexual misconduct on campus. The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act) enhances the Clery Act in an effort to improve the way in which colleges and universities address and respond to incidents of sexual violence on campus.
Employment is heavily regulated in the U.S., where it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
According to a recent webinar sponsored by the law firm Hogan Lovells, anti-corruption experts expect to see an increased number of investigations this year under both the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK Bribery Act.
Law firms do not hold special immunity from the threat of cybercriminals. In fact, law firms should be extra vigilant, considering the breadth of sensitive client information they often possess regarding corporate acquisitions, product specifics, intellectual property, financial data, etc. Many law firms also rely on third parties to handle much of this information, thus raising their exposure to security threats.
On March 12, 2014, the European Parliament approved a data-protection reform bill that would, among other things, increase the maximum fine for violating the EU's data-protection laws to €100 million or 5 percent of the violator's global annual turnover. The new reform is part of an effort to replace the existing and outdated EU Data Protection Directive, adopted in 1995, with the more modern and currently pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
U.S. business leaders are concerned about the potential impact of a new set of sanctions authorized by President Barack Obama last week in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. The new sanctions broaden those already in place under a March 17 executive order and authorize the U.S. Treasure Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to target anyone with financial connections to the Russian economy. This makes it a violation of U.S. law to deal with companies and individuals specifically marked for sanctions, as well as any company in which they have a 50% or more ownership interest.
Montreal-based construction and engineering giant SNC-Lavalin is at the center of another Canadian kickback scheme, this time in connection with the $125-million restoration of the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
Schools may have taken the issue of bullying head-on, but employees are often hard-pressed to do anything about the bully in the next cubicle. The Workplace Bullying Institute's 2014 US Workplace Bullying Survey found that employers most often react to bullying by denying or discounting it, and few take positive steps to stop the behavior.
Employers should expect the long-term trend towards increased scrutiny of wage and hour issues to continue in 2014. Wage and hour claims currently outpace all other types of workplace litigation and have increased by over 500% since 1990. In FY 2013, the Wage & Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor recovered a record $280 million in back wages on behalf of more than 260,000 workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Companies often take extensive measures to avoid litigation, particularly with respect to employment issues. In particular, as the number of employment discrimination claims continues to rise, employers should be on their guard from the very beginning of the hiring process and remain vigilant in implementing measures to minimize potential claims.