It’s been another exciting week here at Law.com. Corporate Counsel’s reporting team has been busy preparing our June magazine, which will include highly anticipated features on the Best Legal Departments for 2018. My lips are sealed for now, but I can’t wait to share the finalists with you, because we’ve got an amazing group we’ll be honoring. Stay tuned.
For now, let’s take a look at the April issue of Corporate Counsel, which is out this week. If you haven’t seen it, we’ve got an excellent cover story about the women leading Walmart’s legal department. Yes to more females making those legal decisions. It’s welcome news considering some of the more mixed news on women in the legal department coming out of a new report from Special Counsel’s Parker + Lynch. Read on to find out more…
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What’s Happening –
Female Lawyers at the ‘Fortune 1.’ My colleague Sue Reisinger had the interesting job of interviewing some of the women in charge of the legal department at Walmart. Among them, of course, is Karen Roberts, general counsel of the retailer, who refers to the company as the “Fortune 1.” (I found that very clever.)
We know a lot of legal departments talk a big game about diverse hiring. But Sue’s story shows how Walmart’s legal department has really delivered on the company’s goals of growing the number of females and minorities in their ranks.
Here’s what we learned from Sue’s story:
➤ Starting point. Around 1998, when Roberts joined Walmart, the legal department had 28 lawyers and only a few were women, including only one female division GC.
➤ Flash forward. Today the company has 157 in-house lawyers of whom 46 percent are women and 28 percent are minorities. And five of 13 division general counsel are women, including two women of color.
➤ Taking action. Walmart joined the 2005 Call to Action on diversity issued by Fortune 100 GCs. The company has also worked closely with advocacy groups such as the National Association of Women Lawyers. Walmart has contributed more than $7 million to women and minority advocacy groups since 2016.
➤ Roberts’ tips for young lawyers: “Work hard and invest yourself, and the company will invest in you; have a bias for action and keep pace with change; and when the door opens, say yes.”
Gender Pay Gaps. It’s great to see Walmart making headway in gender equity, but it’s clear there’s still more work to be done. This week I wrote about a report from Special Counsel’s Parker + Lynch on legal department hiring and pay. I noticed an interesting set of data points: Male CLOs in the survey made significantly more in average total compensation than their female CLO counterparts — not a shock. But surprisingly, women GCs actually made more ($415,050) than male GCs ($383,575).
So what’s up with this discrepancy between the gap in CLO pay and the gap in GC pay? I asked Sarah Breen, national director of in-house search with Special Counsel’s Parker + Lynch.
➤It doesn’t appear we’re looking at a sea change in legal department pay equity trends. Breen said she found the fact that women GCs edged out their male counterparts interesting, but emphasized that readers should keep in mind that other factors could be at work, such as bonuses and law department size, “as a GC at a small business may make less than a GC at a large corporation.”
➤ “However, of note, when looking at the survey data, more men identified as General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers, which may point to a different issue, that more men are in those leadership positions than women,” Breen wrote.
Question of the Week –
Do you have a pressing question you’d like answered? If so, send it my way.
This week’s question: I’m expanding my U.S. company, and planning to open up offices in the U.K. and in the EU. How should I approach the wage and hour laws in those jurisdictions, and do I have to pay my new UK and EU employees more overtime?
This is a crucial issue for US employers beginning to expand globally. As a threshold matter, we typically begin this conversation with our clients by recommending that they set aside their US-centric views on overtime entitlements and compensation (including exemptions thereto) because the rest of the world operates quite differently. Thus, the US overtime system, which, outside of the organized labor context, is largely controlled by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and related Department of Labor guidance, will not be of much assistance in the UK or in other EU Member States.
Moreover, employers should take a jurisdictionally specific approach to this analysis. Most often, it will not be sufficient to rely on regional generalizations to form an understanding of your wage and hour obligations because not all regional neighbors, including EU Member States, operate in the same way with respect to these matters. For example, in the EU, the maximum working hours in one country may differ from its neighbors, or one country may permit overtime exemptions for certain positions that its neighbor does not so permit. Thus, it is crucial to know the laws and regulations of each country in which your company has employees.
Using a jurisdictionally specific analysis, employers may quickly find that it is not just a matter of whether they have to pay more overtime compensation, but whether they can even require employees to work overtime in the first place! In the UK, for example, employees generally only have to work overtime (i.e., hours above and beyond an employee’s stated working hours) if their employment contract provides for such a potential obligation.
Further, entitlement to enhanced compensation for overtime hours, as well as how such an entitlement is to be calculated, also may vary across EU Member States. In the UK, employers technically do not have to pay many salaried workers enhanced compensation (e.g., time-and-a-half, double-time, etc.) for overtime. However, these employees’ average pay for the total hours worked must not fall below certain statutory thresholds. And in Spain, employers may, in certain circumstances, compensate employees for overtime hours with additional equivalent paid rest time.
Finally, it is important to consider that, as is the case in the US, there are potentially serious ramifications for mishandling overtime entitlements, calculations, and payments throughout the EU, including (for now, at least) the UK. This exposure risk combined with the inability to paint the European overtime picture with a broad brush, militates in favor of using competent employment counsel to guide you through the wage and hour laws of each country in which you have employees. After all, an ounce (or gram) of prevention is worth a pound (or kilogram) of cure!
–Michael Avila an associate at Fisher & Phillips in Philadelphia who works on wage and hour law and international employment matters
Quick Study –
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect on May 25. And it looks like general counsel have their hands full beefing up on the new requirements…
“We believe the GDPR is an important step forward in the global effort to protect individual privacy, which is both a prerequisite for trust in technology and, more fundamentally, an essential human right.”
– Microsoft lawyers Julie Brill and Rich Sauer in their new book, “Digital Transformation in the Cloud”
Don’t Miss –
Wednesday, April 11. Global Leaders in Law will hold a session on “Changing Corporate Culture” in Shanghai. GLL is an invitation-only membership group, offering GCs a global platform for in-person collaboration to exchange ideas and receive advice and guidance from peers. For more information, contact Meena Heath at email@example.com.
Thursday, April 19. Corporate Counsel Forum Middle East is back. This year the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai will host a full day of peer to peer networking, discussions and interactive workshops on topics including competition law, leadership, cybersecurity, AI and fintech.
Sunday–Tuesday, April 29-May 1. The In-House Counsel World Summit inToronto is themed: Beyond Borders: Business and Law in the Global Village. The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association’s national conferenceis meant to embody the present and future of in-house counsel — both in Canada and abroad.
Thursday, May 17. Siblings Cornell Boggs, former GC at Toys R Us, and Paula Boggs, former Starbucks GC, will be discussing how they both ended up with a love for the in-house life during the 3rd Annual National Bar Association General Counsel Invitational event in New York.
On the Move –
Crypto Boost. Cryptocurrency platform Ripple has doubled down on in-house attorneys. I caught up last Friday with Ripple GC Brynly Llyr who took me through the strategy behind growing her legal team amid the crypto craze. She’s now about a year and a half into her tenure there (it’s notable she counts her time in months and years now, instead of weeks). Check out the podcast interview my colleague Ben Hancock did with Llyr during Week 47 of her tenure a few months back.
Here are the newest hires at Ripple.
➤ John Muller, the former GC at PayPal, will become one of Ripple’s two deputy GCs. He started his new role in March. Fun fact: Brynly was one of Muller’s employees earlier in her career when she worked at PayPal.
➤ Sameer Dhond is the second deputy GC. He most recently served as general counsel for Lumos, the company behind the Lumosity online brain training games.
➤ Deborah McCrimmon will be senior counsel for Ripple. She’s a longtime litigator from DLA Piper.