In response to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), several states have implemented closure orders, shutting down most of their internal operations and requiring most of the public to stay home, or “shelter in place.” While Utah has not yet joined the list of states doing so, employers in Utah should keep in mind certain new restrictions and recommendations while navigating this national pandemic.
Articles About Utah Labor And Employment Law.
Utah’s medical cannabis program officially launched this month, and the Utah State Legislature timely enacted Senate Bill 121, which amends and clarifies various provisions of Utah’s medical cannabis laws, including a pronouncement that private employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical cannabis.
Following a local television station’s report of labor brokers paying cash to construction laborers to avoid paying taxes for these workers, a Utah state legislator said she plans to introduce legislation in 2020 to increase fines and make subcontractors liable for the acts of these labor brokers.
After enacting its non-compete law on April 7, 2016, Utah has twice amended the law to address additional restrictions on non-competes in the broadcasting industry. Governor Gary Herbert signed the second of those amended bills on March 22, 2019.
In the past week, two states have made modifications to their respective non-compete laws. On March 27, 2018, Utah imposed special restrictions on the use of non-compete agreements in the broadcasting industry. One day later, Idaho modified the standard of proof that must be followed when a company seeks an injunction against a former employee or independent contractor who is violating a non-compete covenant.
In its 2016 session, the Utah Legislature passed a handful of bills that Utah employers will need to take into account in their workplace policies and procedures. The three bills discussed below were passed by the legislature, signed by the Governor, and are scheduled to go into effect on May 10, 2016.
Utah has enacted two new laws of importance to employers concerned about trade secrets, customer relationships, and other protectable interests in its 2016 legislative session. The first statute, the Post-Employment Restrictions Act (Utah Code § 34-51-101, et seq.), sets a one-year time limit on non-competition agreements entered into on or after May 10, 2016. The second statute, the Computer Abuse and Data Recovery Act (Utah Code § 63D-3-103, et seq.), establishes a state cause of action with an arguably broader reach than the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030).
A growing number of states are tightening conditions on restrictive covenants. The start of 2016 saw Oregon and Alabama enact higher barriers to the enforcement of non-compete agreements in those states.1 As of March 22, 2016, Utah has now joined their ranks with its “Post-Employment Restrictions Act,” HB 251.
The Utah doctrine of wrongful discharge claims recognizes self-defense as a clear and substantial public policy under limited circumstances, the Utah Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-1 decision that expands the state’s exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine. Ray, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2015 UT 83 (Sept. 17, 2015).
In a 3-2 decision, the Utah Supreme Court has held that there is a presumption of harm for claims made under the Utah Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Utah Code § 13-24-1, et seq., and for claims for breach of a non-disclosure agreement when a former employee takes confidential information or trade secrets from her recent employer. InnoSys v. Mercer, 2015 UT 80 (Aug. 28, 2015).
Guidance for employers seeking to maintain the at-will status of their employees and prevent employee handbooks and policies from becoming implied-in-fact contracts has come from the Utah Supreme Court, confirming the importance of a clear and conspicuous disclaimer prominently placed in an employee manual. Tomlinson v. NCR Corporation, 2014 UT 55 (2014). The Court also stressed that (1) the absence of a disclaimer does not automatically transform an employee manual into a contract, and (2) to be valid, the disclaimer language need not use the magic words, “at-will.”
On March 12, 2015, Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah signed into law S.B. 296, making Utah the 22nd state to prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and the 19th state to prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender identity (plus the District of Columbia). Called the “Utah Compromise,” the bill was supported by a large margin of Utah legislators – the majority of whom are members of the Republican Party – and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) has signed into law a bi-partisan bill protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination. While other states and local governments are considering similar initiatives, the Utah law is the first enacted legislation that seeks to balance LGBT rights with religious expression concerns.
A U.S. District Court in Utah has held that “Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason.” Kitchen v. Herbert, No. 2:13-cv-217 (D. Utah Dec. 20, 2013). The Kitchen decision was issued the day after the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a similar decision. For more information, please see New Mexico Supreme Court Holds Same-Sex Couples Allowed to Marry.