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CA Seeks End To Arbitration

California has added a new law that largely bans arbitration agreements that employers impose on their employees as a condition of employment.

It joins other states that have enacted laws aimed at prohibiting mandatory arbitration agreements used to prevent sexual harassment and other claims from becoming mired in litigation.

Under the new law, employees may bring suit against employers at any time for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Labor Code. Effective Jan. 1, 2020, there can be no retaliation against someone for refusing to consent to the waiver of these rights.

Specifically, the law says it is unlawful to threaten, retaliate or discriminate against, or terminate any job applicant or employee because they refuse to consent to a waiver of FEHA or Labor Code rights.

Contract language already in existence before the law goes into effect will still apply. Also allowed are arbitration clauses can be agreed if they involve voluntary consent without coercion.

The law states that nothing in it is intended to violate the Federal Arbitration Act’s preemption of state laws. However, some attorneys believe it may not survive court challenges on that basis.

Attorneys Babak Yousefzadeh and Paul Cowie of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton law firm say employers without pre-dispute arbitration agreements, or who may wish to revise ones they have, should make changes by Jan. 1, and state that any agreement is governed solely by the FAA.

They add that employers should consider excluding from arbitration any administrative charges employees file with state and federal agencies, or revise the language of the agreement to properly permit the inclusion of such administrative charges.

<h2>EEO-1 Deadline Changes Again</h2>

A federal judge has set a new filing deadline for employers to submit their EEO-1, Component 2 Forms of Jan. 31, 2020.

EEOC earlier sought a judge’s permission to extend the original Sept. 30 deadline to Nov. 11 because not enough employers had filed forms. (AA, 10-15-19, P. 3).

This was the same federal district court judge who earlier found the commission violated the law when it attempted to withdraw the Component 2 reporting requirement imposed by the Obama-era EEOC.

She set a target response rate of 72.7% of eligible employers, but as of Sept. 27 only 39.7% had submitted their reports, EEOC said.

On Oct. 8, it reported that 75.9% of eligible filers had submitted their Component 2 data (on Nov. 1 it was 82.4%) In spite of the judge’s target being met, the National Women’s Law Center – which had sued to overturn the report’s elimination – objected, arguing the EEOC should continue to collect the data until a 98.25% response rate is achieved.

That sounded better to the judge than her own earlier target percentage, and she chose to extend the deadline to Jan. 31, 2020.

The judge also ordered the commission to provide status reports to the NWLC and the court every 21 days, resuming on Nov. 1, 2019, and continuing through Jan. 31, 2020.

Taxpayers will be picking up the tab. It is believed that the commission spent $1.5 million to keep the form Web portal open to Nov. 11 and is expected to cost $150,000 per week from then on. Because of the judge’s hastily-set original deadline of Sept. 30, EEOC had to hire an outside contractor to collect and analyze the data because it lacked the resources to do so itself on such short notice.

<h2>October Chem Indicator Drops</h2>

The Chemical Activity Barometer, a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, declined by 0.4% in October on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis, following stable activity during the third quarter.

On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was down 0.5%. In October its unadjusted measure was down 0.7% after a 0.6% increase registered in September (AA, 10-15-19, P. 3).

The council also said the diffusion index fell to 47% in October – the first time since May 2016 that it was below 50%. This index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored.

“The CAB signals a pronounced slowdown in United States commerce through the second quarter of 2020,” observed Kevin Swift, chief economist of the ACC.

The CAB consists of four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: production; equity prices; product prices; and inventories combined with other indicators.

Production-related indicators in October were mixed. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were slightly positive, which ACC said suggests slow gains in housing activity.

Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed, suggesting headwinds for the consumer, according to the council.

Performance chemistry eased, reflecting the global manufacturing slowdown. U.S. exports were mixed, equity prices slumped and product and input prices fell. Inventory and other indicators were positive.

In a separate report, ACC said that for the specialty chemicals market — which reflects trends in manufacturing — volumes ended the third quarter on soft note, falling 0.1% in September after rising 0.2% in August.

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