This year, the US Supreme Court will get a chance to say whether federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination, and California courts will grapple with recent changes making it harder for Golden State businesses to label workers as independent contractors. McDermott’s Michael Sheehan looked at these and other cases to
Michael J. Sheehan concentrates his practice on employment litigation with a focus on prosecuting and defending unfair competition litigation involving large scale raiding, inevitable disclosure of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and non-compete agreements. A nationally recognized litigator, Michael has extensive courtroom experience, having tried dozens of cases to verdict across the United States. He has acted as lead counsel and successfully defended private and public companies against age, gender, race, retaliation, sexual harassment and trade secret/raiding cases. He has also litigated numerous large scale wage and hour class actions in state and federal court. Read Michael Sheehan's full bio.
While campaigning for President in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt promised a crowd in Pittsburgh that he’d balance the federal budget while cutting “government operations” by 25 per cent. When he returned to Pittsburgh during his 1936 campaign, Roosevelt asked his staff how to answer questions about that unfulﬁlled promise and was told “deny you were ever in Pittsburgh.”
So much has changed since then: what is said and done is now instantly visible. This lesson came earlier to politicians, it is now unavoidable for business entities. There is no option to deny that you were there.
Let’s look at some consequences of this global visibility:
- El Super, a small California-based grocery chain with approximately 600 unionized workers, failed to resolve a routine labor dispute at one store with the union representing those employees. As a result of this dispute involving just one store, El Super’s Mexican parent company, Chedraui Commercial Group, found itself subject to double barrel complaints ﬁled by US and Mexican labor unions under the North American Free Trade Agreement labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines.
- Vedanta found itself subject to a lawsuit by individuals living more than 5,000 miles away when an appellate court in the United Kingdom held that farmers from a Zambian village could bring a claim against Vedanta and its Zambian subsidiary (Lungowe and Ors. v Vedanta Resources PLC and Konkola Copper Mines PLC [November 2017] EWCA Civ 1528). The court’s decision expanded the potential “duty of care” that parent companies have under UK law to employees of their subsidiaries, to include even non-employees who might be affected by its subsidiaries’ operation.