With cutting-edge clients like Lyft Inc., Google Inc. and Netflix Inc., much of Meny’s work focuses on how traditional employment agreements and job classifications apply to 21st century businesses.
“How the old rules apply to current situations isn’t always clear – and the rules are constantly evolving,” she said.
One area that has taken much of her time lately has involved how non-compete agreements and trade secrecy concerns affect workers moving from one company to another.
In the past several years, she successfully defended Google against Microsoft Corp.’s charges that it had gained trade secrets from a former Microsoft executive it had hired. And she won dismissal of claims by a former Netflix executive who argued the company had improperly interfered with his future employment by suggesting he had taken secrets with him.
In general, she said, “most businesses like to think they’ve got good rules in place for dealing with employee mobility and trade secret issues among their own employees. And many businesses seem to think they can do whatever they want when hire a new worker. For both sides, a lot of education is often needed.”
Another area where the rules have been shifting is the so-called “sharing economy,” where workers who have been classified as independent contractors are suing to gain the rights, benefits and protections of employees.
Last year, Meny helped quash a class action against Instacart Inc., a website that arranges for personal shoppers to buy and deliver groceries for its customers. The suit was dismissed without addressing whether the shoppers should be classified as employees. Instead, U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco said the workers’ complaints belonged in arbitration since they had all signed arbitration agreements before joining the company.
In another San Francisco courtroom, however, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said he was inclined to let similar claims against the ride-sharing company Lyft proceed to trial despite arbitration agreements.
As lead counsel for Lyft, Meny worked out a $12.25 million settlement, which included job security protections but kept the workers classified as contractors. Chhabria rejected the settlement as too low, since the potential damages could have totaled around $65 million.
Meny said that it took “a long series of briefings and hearings” to revise the settlement to $27 million, which Chhabria tentatively approved in May. But in June, a splinter group of Lyft drivers pushed for an even larger settlement, despite objections from both Lyft and the plaintiffs who signed onto the deal.
Meny remains upbeat about the settlement, saying that the splinter group is “factually incorrect” in its claims. She adds that the best way to protect a company from a worker classification suit is “to look at all of its policies and procedures holistically to make sure they match where the law is going.”