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Teresa Lewi

Teresa Lewi represents and counsels companies on a wide range of federal, state, and local employment laws. She focuses her practice on trade secrets, non-competition, executive compensation, separation, employee mobility, discrimination, workplace privacy, and wage-and-hour issues.

Teresa represents clients in the life sciences, technology, financial services, sports, and entertainment industries. She has successfully tried cases in federal and state courts, and has resolved numerous disputes through alternative dispute resolution methods. In particular, Teresa has helped companies achieve highly favorable outcomes in high-stakes disputes over the protection of trade secrets and enforcement of agreements with employees. In addition, she defends companies against public accommodation and website accessibility claims under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Teresa also conducts specialized internal investigations and assessments designed to help companies protect their confidential information and trade secrets from employee misappropriation and cybersecurity incidents.

Since 2020, with the adoption of Washington state’s non-compete statute (Chapter 49.62 of the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW 49.62”)), Washington has imposed significant restrictions on employer use of non-compete agreements with employees and independent contractors, permitting such agreements only subject to certain statutory and common-law requirements, including without limitation, a minimum annual earnings threshold (the 2024 limits are $120,559.99 for employees and $301,399.98 for independent contractors), and a Washington forum for any disputes.

Now, Senate Bill 5935 (“SB 5935”) – which takes effect on June 6, 2024 – amends the non-compete statute to further restrict the use of non-compete provisions and expand the types of agreements that may be considered non-competes. As a result, employers will need to take quick action to review their employment agreements and hiring processes to ensure compliance with the new law.

However, as discussed in our Covington Alert, on April 23, 2024 the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule purporting to ban the use of non-competes with most U.S. workers.  The FTC Rule – should it become effective – would supersede inconsistent state laws.  The earliest the FTC Rule would take effect is late August 2024, and pending legal challenges may result in court orders that could delay or stay enforcement of the FTC Rule. Accordingly, employers with workers in Washington State should take steps to comply with SB 5935 before it takes effect on June 6, 2024.  Employers should also consider consulting with employment and executive compensation counsel for assistance with navigating the evolving non-compete landscape.

Here is an overview of the key changes under SB 5935:Continue Reading Changes to WA’s Non-Compete Law Require Employers to Take Action

On April 25, 2023, four federal agencies — the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) — released a joint statement on the agencies’ efforts to address discrimination and bias in automated systems. 

The statement applies to “automated systems,” which are broadly defined “to mean software and algorithmic processes” beyond AI.  Although the statement notes the significant benefits that can flow from the use of automated systems, it also cautions against unlawful discrimination that may result from that use. 

The statement starts by summarizing the existing legal authorities that apply to automated systems and each agency’s guidance and statements related to AI.  Helpfully, the statement serves to aggregate links to key AI-related guidance documents from each agency, providing a one-stop-shop for important AI-related publications for all four entities.  For example, the statement summarizes the EEOC’s remit in enforcing federal laws that make it unlawful to discriminate against an applicant or employee and the EEOC’s enforcement activities related to AI, and includes a link to a technical assistance document.  Similarly, the report outlines the FTC’s reports and guidance on AI, and includes multiple links to FTC AI-related documents.

After providing an overview of each agency’s position and links to key documents, the statement then summarizes the following sources of potential discrimination and bias, which could indicate the regulatory and enforcement priorities of these agencies.

  • Data and Datasets:  The statement notes that outcomes generated by automated systems can be skewed by unrepresentative or imbalanced data sets.  The statement says that flawed data sets, along with correlation between data and protected classes, can lead to discriminatory outcomes.
  • Model Opacity and Access:  The statement observes that some automated systems are “black boxes,” meaning that the internal workings of automated systems are not always transparent to people, and thus difficult to oversee.
  • Design and Use:  The statement also notes that flawed assumptions about users may play a role in unfair or biased outcomes.

We will continue to monitor these and related developments across our blogs.Continue Reading DOJ, FTC, CFPB, and EEOC Statement on Discrimination and AI

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a groundbreaking proposed rule that would, if finalized:

  • prohibit most employers from entering into non-compete clauses with workers, including employees and individual independent contractors;
  • prohibit such employers from maintaining non-compete clauses with workers or representing to a worker that the worker is subject to a non-compete clause; and
  • require employers to rescind any existing non-compete clause with workers by the compliance date of the rule and notify the affected workers that their non-compete clause is no longer in effect.

The FTC’s notice of proposed rulemaking explains that the FTC considered possible limitations on the rule—such as excluding senior executives or highly paid employees from the ban—but it ultimately proposed a categorical ban on non-competes.  The only exception is for non-competes related to the sale of a business.  However, even this exception is unusually narrow: it would only apply to selling business owners who own at least 25% percent of the business being sold.  (The proposal also would not apply to most non-profits, certain financial institutions, common carriers, and others who are also outside the scope of FTC regulation.)

As discussed in Covington’s January 5 client alert, the FTC explained that it issued the proposed rule due to its belief that non-competes reduce wages, stifle innovation and business, and are exploitative and unnecessary. Continue Reading FTC Proposes Rule to Ban Most Non-Competes

As we discussed in a previous post, effective January 1, 2023, California employers must include pay scales in job postings, and a similar bill in New York was awaiting signature by Governor Kathy Hochul. The California Labor Commissioner has now issued guidance to assist employers in complying with the new law, and the New York State bill was signed into law on December 21, 2022 and is set to take effect on September 17, 2023.

California

The California Labor Commissioner recently published FAQs (adding to existing FAQs under the state’s equal pay law) with insights for employers on some gray areas in the new law:

Threshold for coverage.The FAQs clarify that an employer is covered by the pay transparency requirements if it reaches the threshold of 15 employees at any point in a pay period they compensate their workers at the minimum higher wage rate for the duration of the entire pay period and going forward as long as they have a minimum of 15 employees. Also, all employees, regardless of the number of hours worked or geographical location, will be included in the count, so long as there is at least one employee located in California.

Job postings for remote positions.The Labor Commissioner interprets the new law to mean that the pay scale must be included on a posting if the position may ever be filled in California, whether in-person or remote.

Information to include in job postings.The FAQs confirm that “pay scale” means the salary or hourly wage range that the employer reasonably expects to pay for a position, and can include just a set hourly or piece rate, rather than a range, if that is what the employer intends to pay. If the position’s hourly or salary wage rate will be based on a piece rate or commissions, the piece rate or commission range must be included in the job posting; however, the posting does not need to include bonuses, tips, or other compensation or tangible benefits provided in addition to a salary or hourly wage. Finally, the Labor Commissioner states that the pay scale must be expressly stated in the posting, and it will not be sufficient to comply with the new law to take shortcuts such as linking the salary range in an electronic posting or including a QR code in a paper posting that will then take the applicant to the salary information.Continue Reading Update on California and New York Pay Transparency Laws

On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued revised regulations to clarify certain rights and employer responsibilities under the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The revisions were made in response to a recent decision of the U.S. District Court

In an important civil rights development, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 6-3 opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that gay and transgender employees are protected under the prohibition against workplace sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”).  Justice Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion,