In House

In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog


When the story of the guy who was fired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after complaining about his Comcast service first broke, his finger-pointing at the cable company sounded to me like insane rambling paranoia. It might be, but not only has Conal O'Rourke provided a lot of documentation to the media to back his claims, but he's now filed suit against Comcast.

True or false, we may know soon: The conversations seem to have been recorded, reports Ars Technica, and while Comcast is keeping them under wraps because of the ongoing litigation, this should be a fun case to watch.

What's the weirdest employee perk you can think of? Tech companies are known for them: keg parties, entire cafeterias, day trips to wineries, on-site laundry, and more. But freezing a female employee's eggs for purposes of future fertility is a new one. According to NBC News, Apple and Facebook are the first two major employers to offer this perk for non-medical reasons.

But the perk isn't without controversy. While some might see companies doing what they can to empower women to choose to have a high-powered career now, and a family later than what otherwise might be possible naturally, others see an ulterior motive: squeezing more work out of women now, while providing a fertility treatment that may or may not work down the line.

You remember the circular patch with the star, the canvas, the white rubber, the white stitching? They're Chuck Taylors, right? Except when they're not -- and that's the problem. Nike, which owns Converse, is suing companies like Walmart, Kmart, and Sketchers, alleging infringement on the trademarks it claims in Converse's iconic Chuck Taylor All Star shoes.

How bad could it be? The Huffington Post provided screen shots of Walmart and H&M websites selling "sneakers" or "canvas lace" shoes that look eerily (maybe illegally) similar to Chucks. In all, 31 companies are being accused of trademark infringement in the United States and globally in a separate complaint with the International Trade Commission.

You may want to eat at Jimmy John's, but would you want to work there? The Huffington Post recently reported on a Jimmy John's franchisee's "oppressive" noncompetition agreement, which was disclosed as part of a lawsuit by employees. (For the uninitiated, Jimmy John's is a national chain of bro-tastic sub sandwich shops, usually found in college towns.)

The Content of the Noncompete Clause

The Jimmy John's franchisee's noncompetition agreement purports to bind the employee for two years after his termination "for any reason," and forbids the employee from having any interest or providing any services for any business that derives more than 10 percent of its revenues from sub sandwiches within 3 miles of any Jimmy John's sandwich shop. It also prevents an employee from being affiliated with any other Jimmy John's for a year after termination "for any reason."

According to Kathleen Chavez, who's representing the plaintiffs in the class action suit, "the effective blackout area for a former Jimmy John's worker would cover 6,000 square miles in 44 states and the District of Columbia."

FedEx is quickly becoming the go-to company when a labor law complaint absolutely, positively has to be written about overnight. Great for those of us who have to write about it, not so good for FedEx.

This time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is going after FedEx for "discriminating against a large class of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and job applicants for years," according to an EEOC press release.

Here's an interesting statistic: According to a 2013 study by the Open Technology Institute, 75 percent of VCs and 20 percent of venture-backed startups had been affected by patent trolls. In the biotech/pharmacy/medical device industries, only 13 percent were affected.

But according to a recent article by Inside Counsel, that may be changing: Patent trolling against the medical device industry is on the rise, spurred in part by the higher royalties, damages awards, and nuisance settlements.

Before they leave for the day, Amazon's warehouse employees are required to go through a security screening -- basically to make sure they haven't stolen anything. In addition to presuming that their employees may be thieves, Amazon doesn't pay employees for the time they spend waiting to be searched.

The actual search is fairly brief, but employees spend up to 25 minutes waiting in line, and it's this waiting period that's at issue in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. On October 8, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

Here's a lesson for companies: Trying to deceive customers into paying for bogus things they never ordered will cost you. First, the FTC said it would go after T-Mobile. Now, it's settled with AT&T for $105 million.

Cram It, AT&T

"Mobile cramming" is the practice of charging the customer for a service the customer didn't ask for, according to the FTC. Apparently, AT&T was incentivized to help the practice along, thanks to the 35 percent cut of the cramming charges it received from third parties that sent customers unwanted texts, ringtones, or other minutiae (referred to as "premium short message services" or PSMS).

Once in a while, you have to applaud the villain's genius. This alleged scheme by Marriott's Nashville Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center? Kind of genius.

According to the FCC, Marriott jammed convention-goers' personal Wi-Fi hotspot signals, while charging exorbitant fees for access to Marriott's own network. Marriott, which reportedly agreed to a $600,000 fine and a three-year consent decree, assured the public that they were merely protecting them.

Back in 2012, we wrote about a Seventh Circuit case in which FedEx drivers claimed they were entitled to the same benefits as non-drivers, but FedEx claimed they were independent contractors. The case encompassed different lawsuits in different states. The Seventh Circuit decided to certify a question to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the Ninth Circuit had independently determined that FedEx drivers were employees under either an Oregon test or a California test. Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court finally answered the Seventh Circuit's certified question -- FedEx drivers are employees.