President Signs “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016”

In a major development in intellectual property law, on May 11th President Obama signed into law the “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016,” after it passed Congress in rare and overwhelmingly bipartisan votes.  The law created a new federal civil claim for misappropriation of trade secrets.  Employers who want to protect their trade secrets can be the prime beneficiaries of the new law, but they should be aware of its definitions of “trade secret” and “misappropriation.”  The law applies to…

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Federal Agencies Support Transgender Rights in Employment

Recent news coverage of political battles over bathrooms for transgender persons has concentrated on the issue in schools, but the issue can also arise in the employment context.  Federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) and OSHA now unequivocally support transgender persons having access to bathrooms matching their gender identity, concluding that discrimination on the basis of transgender status (and sexual preference for that matter) is discrimination “because of sex” under Title VII of the Civil…

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Court Allows Claim of Retaliation for Supporting Fellow Employee’s Complaint

In an important development in employment retaliation law, in April the federal appeals court whose area includes Texas allowed a retaliation claim by a female employee who, when asked to be a witness, supported a fellow female employee’s complaint that a male supervisor had insisted on looking at that employee’s derriere.  Such a complaint isn’t  ordinarily enough for a claim of sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the court allowed the witness’ retaliation claim anyway.…

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Justice Scalia’s Death Results in Tie Vote in Union Fee Case

On March 29th, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a closely-watched case on the constitutionality of fees public unions charge non-members.  In the Supreme Court, a tie has the effect of affirming a lower court decision, which in this case had gone in favor of the union.  Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13th, had been expected to cast the deciding vote against the union, but his death resulted in…

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