In House

In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Until a few days ago, parent companies of franchises could disclaim responsibility for labor violations of their franchisees. But The New York Times reports the National Labor Relations Board has thrown a wrench into that comfort, finding McDonald's -- one of the largest franchise operators in the world -- jointly liable for its franchisees' violations.

The NLRB's General Counsel is allowing complaints to proceed against McDonald's as well as certain franchises that allegedly penalized workers for engaging in pro-labor activities. Some of these activities included strikes that included other fast-food franchises like Wendy's and Burger King.

While the statement consists only of a press release, it follows hot on the heels of the NLRB's decision to expand the definition of "joint employer," likely paving the way for more franchiser/franchisee cases like this one.

Facebook experimented on its users by peppering their home pages with depressing status messages. Users were mad. The FTC is investigating. This is old news.

Or at least it was. On Monday, OkCupid, a freemium online dating site, announced proudly on its blog that it runs experiments on users too. Some of these seem like no big deal (removing all pictures from the site for a few hours), while others seem like a very big deal (lying to users about compatibility ratings to test the effectiveness of their matching algorithm).

And yet, nobody is mad at OkCupid. Why? And where should the line be drawn for research on your company's customers?

Fresh on the heels of settling a labor class action (assuming the objectors don't nuke the deal) regarding a Silicon Valley anti-poaching pact, Apple finds itself again on the defensive, and again, it's a labor class action.

This time, a mega-class of current and former Apple workers in California allege that the company's break policies violated California law, both by giving lunch breaks after the five-hour mark and by denying workers a second rest break for longer shifts.

Late last week, a San Diego judge certified the class, which covers nearly 21,000 current and former hourly retail and corporate Apple employees over a four-year period from December 2007 to August 2012, reports the San Jose Mercury-News. California law provides that employees must be paid the equivalent of one hour's wage for each missed break -- a huge tab considering the size of the company.

In September 2013, an employee at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, made a claim alleging unfair labor practices. The employee asserted that the plant's management was preventing employees from talking about their labor union or soliciting for the union during work hours.

As you probably know, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) expressly allows employees to engage in union activities and prevents employers from interfering with that right. In response to the complaint against Mercedes-Benz, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board found three violations of the FLSA.

Here's what in-house counsel need to know from this decision:

Welcome to the world of in-house counsel, the attorney who lives inside a company as one of its employees, advising and representing it. Did you go to the right law school for this? If you went to Harvard Law School, then you're well on your way.

Harvard, though, isn't your only option. Other top law schools send their graduates in-house, as well. For example, have you considered The Lone Star State? University of Texas, Austin ranks #5 in terms of sending its graduates in-house. UT School of Law ranks #15 on U.S. News and World Report's list of the best law schools -- nothing to sniff at -- but is among the biggest providers of in-house counsel. What gives?

Last week we had one of the worst days of news in recent history. The ongoing Israeli conflict in Gaza, and the downed Malaysian Airlines flight 17 put front and center what we often try to forget: there are world conflicts that persist and life in other countries is not as safe as it can be here.

While we're insulated in our corporate cubes and offices, you may think that outside of news, these global crises don't have an impact on us. But you're wrong. Every world crisis can be a potential corporate crisis if you don't take the following steps.

Earlier this week, Corporate Counsel released the results of its 2014 GC Compensation Survey, which lists the top 100 (with caveats) best-paid general counsel. And while we all know that GCs make a lot of money, when you actually see the figures, I assure you, your jaw will drop.

So here goes, let's all turn green with envy picture what we would do with $5 million as we take a look at the survey results.

The sight of toddlers and children with tablets and smart phones is pretty common these days -- even I'm guilty -- sometimes technology is the only thing that will curb a meltdown (if only that were true of adults). And, any parent probably has their own story about how their child managed to purchase apps (or movies on demand, in my case). How the kids manage to figure this out is a mystery.

Well, parents will have one less thing to worry about because the FTC is taking up one of their causes: unauthorized in-app charges, reports Inside Counsel.

More than a year later, Apple has finally taken a judge's advice and settled its long-running e-books price-fixing antitrust case -- pending further appeals. On the eve of the damages trial, Apple settled with the government for $450 million, $400 million of which goes to consumers. However, the settlement is conditioned on Apple not losing its appeals, appeals which could reduce the settlement to $70 million or, if Apple gets truly lucky, nothing at all.

That last part seems unlikely, however. If you recall, the government had a ton of evidence, including emails from the late Steve Jobs. The evidence was so compelling that the trial judge warned Apple, on the eve of the merits trial, that it would be best to settle.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court granted cert in a pregnancy discrimination case to determine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") requires employers who make accommodations for people with short-term disabilities to make the same accommodations for pregnant workers.

A mere two weeks later, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines related to pregnancy discrimination, reports The Washington Post. Let's take a closer look at the coincidental timing, the new guidelines, and what this means for your company.