For years we have been seeing more and more companies trying to force their employees into arbitration agreements – meaning they can’t file class action lawsuits against the company, and even if they’re successful in arbitration, the private nature of arbitration means they can’t let other employees (or potential employees) know about their claims or the outcome. Now Baylor University Medical Center is allegedly trying to stop employees from participating in lawsuits against the company, even after their employment has been terminated.
According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Baylor was allegedly trying to restrict an employee’s rights beyond her work for the company by including clauses in her contract that offered her $10,000 in exchange for refusing to participate in other claims brought against the company, unless required to do so by law. They also required her to keep confidential any information about Baylor that she may have acquired while working there, and to refrain from making any disparaging remarks about the company.
The law recognizes a need to balance the needs of a business to protect itself and its interests against the need to protect workers’ rights. That’s why confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses can be enforceable in employment contracts, but only if the company can prove that such clauses are necessary for protecting their legitimate business interests. According to an administrative law judge (ALJ), Baylor failed to put forth any legitimate business interests that would be endangered without the presence of their confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in their employment contract.
As a healthcare provider, Baylor has to be especially careful about protecting its patients’ private health information, which is the reason the company gave for including the confidentiality clause in its employee severance contract. However, the ALJ pointed out that the language of the confidentiality clause was so broad as to prohibit former employees from discussing the wages and benefits they had received while working at Baylor, which is a right protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). According to the judge, Baylor’s alleged attempt to protect its patients’ privacy crossed the line into limiting the federal rights of its employees.
As for the clause banning former employees from participating in any other claims against Baylor, the judge ruled that such a prohibition could interfere with employees’ ability and willingness to provide information to the NLRB in any future investigations into Baylor. The judge also stated that Baylor had failed to provide a legitimate business reason as to why workers should be prohibited from discussing aspects of the company, or other claims against Baylor, with NLRB investigators.
As it turns out, the employee in question never signed Baylor’s severance agreement, but the judge determined the contract did not need to be signed in order to violate the law. If the employee had signed the contract, it would have been unenforceable in a court of law. As it is, the mere act of offering the contract to an employee was enough to constitute a violation of the law, according to the ALJ presiding over the case.The Chicago overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against large retail chains such as Petsmart, OfficeMax, Staples, Smart & Final, Apple, Walgreen’s, CVS, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, Limited, Forever 21, Macy’s, Target, JC Penney’s, Lowes, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, TJ Max, Victoria’s Secret, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Best Buy, Home Depot, Apple, Best Buy, Sears, K Mart, J.C Penney, Walmart, Costco, PetSmart, REI, Office Depot and other retail chains for misclassifying employees as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, failing to pay for time spent on security checks, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at one of our offices near Deerfield, and Aurora at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.