Debra focuses her counseling and litigation practice on compliance with federal and state employment laws and regulations, noncompetition disputes, business torts, corporate reorganizations, affirmative action issues, and defense of discrimination claims.
Debra provides legal and business solutions to a myriad of human resource issues. She also regularly drafts complex corporate policies and contracts for her clients and advises them on best practices. Debra advises federal contractors how to comply with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) laws and regulations and defends federal contractors in OFCCP audits.
Debra works closely with corporate counsel on the employment aspects of due diligence for complex transactions. She also negotiates and drafts employment and separation agreements for executives and companies in connection with such transactions. Additionally, Debra has counseled and advised employers on the creation and execution of executive agreements. This has included negotiating and drafting executive employment agreements and separations agreements, as well as reviewing and drafting detailed commission and other incentive compensation plans for executives.
Debra has successfully represented and defended many clients in noncompete, business tort, and discrimination lawsuits. She regularly defends clients before federal and state fair employment practice agencies. Debra also counsels clients on how to address requests for workplace accommodations and, for places of public accommodation, requests for modifications to services and programs. She defends clients on a variety of disability accommodation issues before civil rights agencies and in courts.
Debra has published numerous articles on a variety of employment topics and has been interviewed and quoted by many media outlets. She lectures human resource professionals and management personnel on workplace issues such as anti-harassment programs, employee evaluation and discipline issues, and leaves of absence. Debra also is a Chapter Editor for the ABA's Family and Medical Leave Act treatise, Second Edition.
Debra is vice chair of the board of directors for the Philadelphia Youth Network, a youth workforce development organization, and past secretary of the board of the directors for the Valley Forge Chapter of the National Charity League, Inc., a philanthropic organization committed to fostering mother-daughter relationships through community service, leadership development, and cultural experiences. Debra earned her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1992.
November 20, 2020
Debra Friedman was quoted in Law360 discussing parental leave policies that satisfy the law and do right by workers.
October 05, 2020
Debra Friedman spoke with NBC News about women being forced to make the choice between caring for their children or prioritizing their own career during the COVID-19 pandemic.
July 29, 2020
Debra Steiner Friedman discussed with HR Dive about the CDC's guidance for those not requiring hospitalization may be useful to employers in determining whether employees who have COVID-19 may return to work.
May 15, 2020
Debra Friedman was quoted in HR Dive about what should be considered if an employer offers onsite COVID-19 testing.
May 12, 2020
Debra Friedman appeared on WURD to talk about practical and legal issues surrounding health checks in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 27, 2020
Debra Friedman was quoted in Philadelphia Magazine discussing what the coronavirus stimulus package entails.
February 28, 2020
Debra Friedman was quoted in the Philadelphia Business Journal discussing how businesses should handle a potential coronavirus outbreak.
January 14, 2020
Debra Friedman appeared on Wharton Business Daily Radio discussing joint employment.
November 14, 2019
Debra Friedman discussed with HR Morning about new employment trends in 2019 and 2020 and areas she recommends employers to pay attention to.
November 01, 2019
Debra Friedman was quoted in Law360 discussing pre-employment testing policies.
August 14, 2019
Debra Friedman was quoted in the North Bar Business Journal about how the legalization of cannabis impacts businesses managing pre-employment drug-testing.
February 21, 2019
Debra Friedman spoke with Corporate Counsel about a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act and overtime pay.
December 31, 2018
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, was a guest on the Dom Giordano Program to discuss the extensive impact on some employers of Philadelphia’s new Fair Workweek Bill.
February 13, 2018
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, spoke with Business Insurance about Family and Medical Leave Act and how employers should handle it.
January 22, 2018
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department spoke with Small Business Trends about the six dangers of water cooler talk at your small business and how to prevent them.
January 19, 2018
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, spoke with Glamour about women being fearful of negotiating pay.
August 14, 2017
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses service animals on SHRM.
July 10, 2017
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses flexible vacation policies on the Price of Business.
May 08, 2017
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses vacation accruals on SHRM.org.
November 14, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses women missing promotions for maternity leave on Employee Benefit News.
November 10, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses what will happen to the ACA challenges still in court on Law360.
February 25, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses ways to reduce risk of workplace violence on SHRM.org.
October 08, 2015
Debra Friedman discusses how companies can cultivate the value of employing an older workforce and legal issues to consider.
April 24, 2015
Debra Friedman, a member of the Labor & Employment Department, comments on the EEOC’s proposed rule on wellness programs differing from HIPAA’s wellness program incentives in that it extends the 30 percent limit on incentives under health-contingent wellness programs to participatory wellness programs that require disability-related inquiries or medical examinations.
April 19, 2015
Debra Friedman discusses the EEOC’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which describes how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employer wellness programs that are part of group health plans.
February 05, 2015
In an article titled “Increase Responses to Disability Self-Identification Form,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the new affirmative action regulations under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that took effect in 2014. They require that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as individuals with disabilities at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process, using language prescribed by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The regulations also require that contractors invite their employees to self-identify as individuals with disabilities every five years. The disability self-identification form gives employees an opportunity to start conversations about needed reasonable accommodations without fear of retaliation, observed Debra.
January 20, 2015
In an article titled ‘’Worker Misclassification Tops HR Agenda in 2015,’’ Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the increase in employee retaliation claims and the implications for employers.
November 14, 2014
In an article titled “EEOC Targets Wellness Programs,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent actions against employers for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) with their company wellness programs. “The EEOC describes it as ‘you can’t penalize employees,’ but they have not defined what constitutes a penalty,” observed Debra. “Employers need to understand this is an evolving area, and there’s a lack of guidance from the EEOC, so we need to wait and see whether EEOC and courts will find wellness programs that are compliant with the ACA regulations to be compliant with ADA and GINA,” she added.
October 15, 2014
In an article titled “Classified Information,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the government’s crackdown on misclassification of employees as independent contractors. According to Friedman, misclassification of employees has serious implications for companies, as they are at risk for investigations and lawsuits from both federal and state governments, as well as private lawsuits from individuals or classes of individuals.
October 08, 2014
In an article titled “The Trouble with Medical-History Requests,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cummins Power Generation Inc., in which the EEOC alleges Cummins improperly required an employee to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination and to sign a release for all of his medical records. The case is one of very few GINA lawsuits to date. ''HR should make sure there is a permissible purpose for conducting a fitness-for-duty exam or asking for medical information. Then it's very important that it is narrowly tailored to that permissible purpose,'' said Debra.
August 25, 2014
In an article titled, ''Secrecy About Salaries May Be On The Wane,’’ Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the movement toward pay transparency and the potential impact on the workplace. ‘’In today’s world, generally speaking, younger workers share more of their lives publicly,’’ said Debra. ‘’Older workers would consider it private and impolite to ask co-workers what they are being paid.’’ The issue has been gaining momentum, in part due to a push by President Obama, who recently signed several executive orders regarding pay equity and transparency.
January 10, 2012
In an article titled ''OFCCP Sets Sights on Disabled Workers,'' Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment Department, comments on the Department of Labor's proposed new rules, which would obligate federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities.
March 13, 2020
David Barron and Debra Friedman answer employers' frequently asked questions when it comes to the coronavirus.
October 07, 2019
It is time to make sure you are ready for 2020 (and beyond). Here are five (5) hot HR compliance issues you should be tracking and implementing:
New Salary Thresholds for Exempt Employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Effective January 1, 2020, the standard minimum salary levels for...
September 16, 2019
Debra Friedman discussed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's recent decision in Faludi v. U.S. Shale Solutions LLC.
March 26, 2019
Debra Friedman and Christopher Hennessy discussed how the employee versus independent contractor distinction is significant and has far-reaching implications for businesses.
March 11, 2019
Debra Friedman discussed the impact of FLSA's wage rules with the recent case of U.S. Department of Labor v. Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services LLC.
February 01, 2019
On January 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued an important decision in SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338, 367 NLRB No. 75, Case 16-RC-010963 (Jan. 25, 2019), holding 3-1 that franchisee drivers who operated shared ride vans were independent...
January 23, 2019
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, wrote an article for Recruiter about how employers can take action to prevent and minimize the impact of disgruntled workers, and it all begins with the recruiting process.
January 02, 2019
In December 2018, Philadelphia enacted The Fair Workweek Employment Standards Ordinance, which has widespread ramifications for non-exempt workers in the retail, hospitality and food services industries. The ordinance, which takes effect January 1, 2020, targets employers with at least 250 employees...
January 01, 2019
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, wrote an article for Business Woman about how to create an internship program.
September 24, 2018
Workplace violence is one of the most troubling issues keeping HR professionals and in-house counsel up at night – and with good reason. Just last week alone, there were three workplace shootings in a span of 24 hours. In 2018, workplace shootings have occurred coast to coast, in rural, suburban...
September 18, 2018
Many employers go above and beyond any legal requirements in providing paid or unpaid leave benefits to employees to bond with their child. So what could be bad about that? Well, check your employee handbook. Do you have a maternity leave policy? Do you have a paid leave policy that provides...
December 12, 2017
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, wrote about the developments of employment law in 2017.
September 14, 2017
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment practice, discusses the potential perils of employment parental leave policies in Law360.
December 30, 2016
Debra Friedman, David Walton, Charles Wilson and James Glenn, all of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discuss labor & employment law in the upcoming year.
December 23, 2016
Debra S. Friedman discusses the executive orders signed by President Obama impacting federal contractors throughout his administration and whether the Trump administration will quickly put the brakes on, or even rescind, these executive orders and their implementing regulations.
April 01, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses the effect of joint employment on healthcare in AHLA's Labor & Employment newsletter.
March 30, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses the recent Supreme Court case centering on the Affordable Care Act.
March 10, 2016
Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment department, discusses the employer conundrum of disclosing workplace violence on Law360.
March 09, 2016
Debra Friedman discusses a proposed rule issued by the EEOC that would require employers with 100 or more workers to show the government how much they pay their employees.
July 15, 2015
Debra Friedman discusses the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s (EEOC) recently issued notice of proposed rulemaking with respect to employer-sponsored wellness programs, focusing on the interplay between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
January 23, 2015
In an article titled, ''Is OSHA About To Ramp Up Its Whistleblower Program?'' Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment Department, discusses the significant challenges employers face when a whistleblower complaint is filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and recommends that employers prepare themselves by implementing a whistleblower complaint procedure program.
December 31, 2014
The 2014/2015 Labor and Employment Observer looks back at significant developments in labor and employment law over the past year and forward to what employers can expect in 2015.
November 18, 2014
In an article titled “Pay Transparency: The New Way of Doing Business,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses the federal government’s recent Executive Orders mandating pay transparency for the federal contracting community. This new way of doing business has potentially profound implications for all employers. Companies must be prepared for employees, the federal government and third parties to closely scrutinize their compensation systems and decision-making practices.
September 16, 2014
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has announced a proposed rule on pay transparency, to be published in the September 17, 2014 Federal Register. The proposed rule would implement Executive Order 13665, which prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against applicants and employees for inquiring about, disclosing or discussing pay information. The proposed rule applies to covered federal contracts and subcontracts exceeding $10,000 in value that are entered into or modified on or after the effective date of the final rule. While the proposed rule could change before it is finalized, it is time for federal contractors to consider their policies and practices on pay information.
August 04, 2014
President Obama does it again, issuing yet another Executive Order aimed at those seeking to do business with the federal government. On July 31, 2014, Obama issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which the White House expects to be implemented in stages on new federal contracts valued at more than $500,000, beginning in 2016. This new Executive Order targets three areas: (1) disclosure to the federal government of a prospective contractor’s labor law violations over the three years preceding the contract; (2) disclosure of information necessary for the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors to verify the accuracy of their paychecks; and (3) for those federal contracts or subcontracts with an estimated value exceeding $1 million, a prohibition against the imposition of pre-dispute arbitration agreements covering claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), or for torts related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment.
April 09, 2014
On April 8, 2014, President Obama took two significant actions in the employee pay arena. He signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against their applicants and employees for inquiring about, disclosing or discussing pay information. He also issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to issue new regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data to the federal government, broken down by gender and race.
March 01, 2014
In an article titled “Understanding State Anti-Discrimination Statutes,” Debra Friedman, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Labor & Employment Department, discusses state anti-discrimination statues and how important it is for employers that operate in multiple states to be able to navigate which state’s anti-discrimination statutes apply.
January 01, 2014
We are pleased to provide you with our 2013/2014 Observer, which looks back at the developments in labor and employment law over the past year and forward to what employers can expect in 2014.
December 13, 2013
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has stepped up its efforts in recent years to assert jurisdiction over more health care providers. As a result, a growing number of health care providers are struggling to comply with OFCCP's many regulatory requirements, while others are warily watching developments in this area. Now, federal contractors are faced with new regulations principally aimed at increasing employment opportunities for veterans and individuals with disabilities. These regulations, which cover an estimated 200,000 federal contractor establishments, become effective March 24, 2014, and require contractors to make additional, significant recruitment and outreach efforts to these groups.
December 12, 2013
So far 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting and regulating the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Colorado and Washington have gone further and legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Moreover, Americans’ tolerance for the legalization of marijuana is increasing. An October 2013 Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. What does this trend mean for retailers, especially those operating in multiple states? The answer is complex, as the law is evolving.
November 27, 2013
Many associate bullying with kids and schools. State laws, educational awareness campaigns and all-too-frequent tragedies focus our attention on the problem of school bullying. Much less attention is paid to workplace bullying. In fact, in telling my school-age child that there are bullies at some workplaces, her response was: “There are no bullies at work. It is just people complaining.” This misconception is common, and unfortunately extends to many employers. As a result, many employers don’t see the need to take a proactive stance against workplace bullying. Even employers who acknowledge the prevalence of bullying in the workplace often see no need to act because currently there are no federal or state laws that expressly make workplace bullying illegal. This inaction, however, can translate into missed opportunities and increased costs.
July 02, 2013
Remember that group of employees laid off a few months ago? One has applied for a new job opening and was not rehired. Now that employee is claiming that the company has engaged in unlawful, discriminatory action in failing to rehire her. This scenario is all too real. Indeed, Gonzalez v. Molded Acoustical Products of Easton, 118 FEP Cases 877 (E.D. Pa. 2013), a recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, should remind employers of the risk exposure associated with hiring for positions that were previously impacted by reductions-in-force.
April 08, 2013
Over the years, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which enforces affirmative action and equal opportunity regulations for federal contractors and subcontractors, has tried to assert jurisdiction over hospitals that provide medical care to federal employees in various controversial ways. For example, OFCCP has claimed hospitals are federal subcontractors when they provide medical services to Blue Cross/Blue Shield and/or HMO policyholders pursuant to the insurance providers’ agreements with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia just gave the green light to OFCCP to assert its jurisdiction over hospitals, at least where HMOs covering federal employees are involved.
April 01, 2013
Disability discrimination remains a hot button issue in the workplace. Employees and applicants file more disability discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each year, totaling some 25,000 charges in fiscal year 2011 alone.
March 14, 2013
On March 8, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new Employment Eligibility Verification Form, Form I-9, and a revised Handbook for Employers, M-274. The main changes to the new Form are that it contains further instructions on how to complete the Form I-9 and also expands the Form itself to two pages. Employers should review the revised Handbook and may begin using the new Form I-9 immediately both for new hires and for work authorization reverification. USCIS is allowing employers two months to transition to the new Form I-9, but beginning on May 7, 2013, employers must use the new Form I-9. Employers do not need to complete a new Form I-9 for current employees with a proper I-9 on file.
March 04, 2013
Effective February 28, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) rescinded its much criticized 2006 Compensation Standards and Voluntary Guidelines (Compensation Standards) utilized in pay discrimination compliance evaluations of federal contractors. The Compensation Standards essentially had applied one analytic approach to pay discrimination, regardless of industry, job type or other data specific to the federal contractor’s pay practices. Not surprisingly, the OFCCP claims that the narrowly defined "cookie cutter" compliance evaluation procedures imposed by the Compensation Standards impeded the OFCCP’s investigation efforts.
February 06, 2013
Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hosp. Med. Ctr., No. 1:11-cv-00917 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 27, 2012), highlights a rarely litigated issue in Title VII cases: what constitutes a religious practice or belief. In Chenzira, a customer service representative who worked at an Ohio hospital for more than 10 years was discharged from employment for refusing a flu shot.
January 01, 2012
Debra's chapter in Inside the Minds contains a detailed discussion about Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a law that addresses how advances in genomic medicine may affect employment relationships. In the chapter, Debra focuses on why GINA was passed, and what employers can and cannot do under GINA. Debra also offers practical tips on what employers must do to comply with GINA's requirements and she suggests best practices.
July 11, 2011
Don't Ask And Don't Tell: How to Avoid GINA Liability - The Corporate Counselor -
February 18, 2011
Our Winter 2011 Labor and Employment Observer covers topics of interest to in-house counsel, human resources professionals, and corporate management.
November 22, 2010
Some veterans seeking civilian employment will enter the workplace with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), conditions that are often misunderstood. To avoid missteps, employers should learn as much as they can and be aware of their legal obligations.
July 01, 2010
Our Summer 2010 Labor and Employment Law Observer covers topics of interest to in-house counsel, human resources professionals and corporate management.
January 01, 2009
Our Winter 2009 Labor and Employment Law Observer covers a multitude of topics of interest to -in-house counsel, human resource professionals and corporate management. Many of these articles are particularly timely given the changing political climate and current difficult economic environment.
November 18, 2008
Family and Medical Leave Act - Labor and Employment Alert! - Yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued final regulations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). These regulations mark the first sweeping changes made to the FMLA since its enactment in 1993. The regulations, which may be accessed at http://www.dol.gov/
esa/whd/fmla/finalrule.pdf, go into effect on January 16, 2009. Employers need to understand the changes and be ready to implement them.
November 17, 2008
E-Verify for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Required Starting January 15, 2009 - Labor and Employment Alert! - Beginning January 15, 2009, many federal contractors and subcontractors doing work in the United States will have to start using E-Verify. The E-Verify system, previously called “Basic Pilot,” is an automated system administered by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to confirm the employment authorization of employees working in the United States.
February 29, 2008
Our Winter 2008 Labor and Employment Law Observer covers a multitude of topics of interest to in-house counsel, human resource professionals and corporate management. Recently, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, which expands the FMLA to provide enhanced leave for families of military personnel. Additionally, in mid-February 2008, the Department of Labor propounded new proposed regulations regarding the FMLA. Moreover, in late February, the Supreme Court weighed in on the use of ''me too'' evidence during trials.
February 27, 2008
Supreme Court Defines ADEA Charge Permissively - Society for Human Resource Management -
January 28, 2008
FMLA is Expanded For the First Time in 15 Years - Labor and Employment Alert! - Congress has expanded the scope of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) to include enhanced leave provisions for families of U.S. military
personnel. This is the first expansion of the law since it was enacted 15 years ago.
November 01, 2007
Caregivers At Work: New EEOC Guidelines Should Prompt Company Action - Corporate Counsel -
April 01, 2007
Staying Above Water - Corporate Counsel - While employers face a wave of confusion over existing FMLA mandates, the government could turn the tide yet again. In addition to likely updated regulations, legislation proposed by senator Christopher Dodd aims to provide six weeks of paid leave when an employee takes leave for his own serious health condition, or to take care of a parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition. the senator also intends to broaden the reach of the FMLA.
April 01, 2007
Garden Leave: Helping Employers Control The Prickly Landscape Of Employee Departures - The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel -
February 01, 2007
Title VII Disparate Pay Claims: A Possible Flood? - The Corporate Counselor - The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case of great importance to employers, Ledbetter v.Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. It
will decide when the statute of limitations
begins to run under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended) (“Title VII”) for certain types of disparate pay claims.