Thursday, April 27, 2017
The Senate has just confirmed Alex Acosta as the Secretary of Labor. The vote was 60-38. As I've said before, I was pleased with this pick given the current administration. Now the rubber meets the road.
Anne-Marie Lofaso (West Virginia) has just posted on SSRN her article, Workers Rights as Natural Human Rights, which is to be published in the University of Miami Law Review. The abstract:
We live in an increasingly polarized world: one summed up by President Clinton, “we’re all in this together;” the other summed up by then-presidential candidate Trump, “I alone can fix it.” These world views have implications for workers and how the future workplace is ordered. In this Article, I explore the idea that a natural human rights approach to workplace regulations will tend to favor the we’reall-in-this-together view, whereas the Lochnerian or neoliberal view tends to favor an individualistic world view.
The Article’s six-step analytical approach starts with a historical analysis of labor law jurisprudence, concluding that U.S. labor laws must be filtered through a law-and-economic lens of U.S.-styled capitalism to predict the outcomes of legal disputes and to expose human rights infirmities inherent to that approach. In step two, I explore T.H. Marshall’s account of citizenship, concluding that Marshall’s rights-based rubric is too limited to fully explain workers’ rights, which tend to cut across the full gamut of human rights. In step three, I expand upon Marshall’s work to build a framework for evaluating workplace laws based on the worker as a citizen of the labor force who has human rights. I do this using two methodologies: (1) comparative legal analysis between U.S. law and international human rights standards; and (2) jurisprudential analysis of fundamental values within a rights-based framework. In step four, I modify John Rawls’s famous thought experiment to include a veil of empathy. In that modified experiment, I conclude that participants in the original position behind a veil of empathy would generate values underlying human rights, namely autonomy (to become part author of one’s work life) and dignity (to be treated as a person always as an end and never merely as a means). In step five, I apply this human rights approach to show that workers’ and employers’ interests conflict at the interests-level and, more fundamentally, at the values-level. I conclude that these conflicts are primarily over the distribution of that which labor and capital create. This distributional question is fundamental a question of moral and political justice, which will and does have real political consequences. In step six, I set forth a path along which this research project should explore.
Check it out!
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Call for Papers from Hunter College's National Center for Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education
The National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College, has announced its call for papers for its 45th annual conference April 15-17, 2018. You can see the full announcement here, but the short version is:
The announcement includes a wide variety of possible paper topics (so many I can't include them here), as well as proposals for interactive workshops, such as:
Unionization and Collective Bargaining for Administrators
Organizing and Negotiating for Academic Labor
Financial Data Analysis in Higher Education
Bargaining Over Health Insurance in Higher Education
Preparing, Presenting, and Defending at Arbitration
Effective Lobbying for Higher Education
Monday, April 24, 2017
Deborah Widiss (Indiana) has a new paper on SSRN (forthcoming in the UC Davis Law review): The Interaction of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act after Young v. UPS. From the abstract:
Pregnant women sometimes ask employers for accommodations – such as being able to sit on a stool or avoid heavy lifting – to permit them to work safely and productively. In 2015, in Young v. United Parcel Service, the Supreme Court held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to scrutinize carefully denial of such requests. The facts in Young arose prior to the effective date of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA); accordingly, the Court did not address how the ADAAA, which expanded the range of health conditions that qualify as disabilities, affects claims for accommodations under the PDA. This Article fills that gap, updating analysis from an earlier article I wrote on this subject to incorporate the Court’s holding in Young and to discuss how lower courts are applying Young.
The PDA mandates that pregnant employees be treated “the same” as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young established that employees who receive accommodations pursuant to the ADA or workers’ compensation laws may be used as comparators in PDA analysis, rejecting lower court decisions to the contrary. The Court stated that evidence that an employer routinely accommodates other health conditions but refuses to provide support for pregnancy is strong circumstantial evidence of discriminatory bias.
The ADAAA magnifies the importance of this holding; it also largely resolves the Young Court’s concern that the PDA not be interpreted to confer a “‘most-favored-nation’ status” on pregnant employees. Under the ADAAA and its implementing regulations, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for impairments that substantially limit an individual’s ability to lift, bend, walk, or stand, even on a temporary basis. Thus workplace accommodations for health conditions that cause limitations like those caused by pregnancy should now be commonplace (and many conditions associated with pregnancy may qualify as disabilities themselves). Robust enforcement of the PDA’s “same treatment” mandate does not create a danger that pregnant employees will be treated better than other employees; rather, it helps ensure that pregnant employees are not consistently treated less well than other employees.
This is a great follow-up to Deborah's earlier work, and looks to be a good read.
Friend-of-blog Bradley Areheart (Tennessee) sends along this important announcement about the Prospective Law Teachers Workshop at SEALS:
"Each year, SEALS hosts a Prospective Law Teachers Workshop, which provides opportunities for aspiring law teachers to network and participate in mock interviews and mock job talks — prior to the actual teaching market. The Committee also schedules 1-on-1 sessions for candidates to receive faculty feedback on their CVs. This year’s Prospective Law Teacher’s Workshop will be held at The Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3. On Wednesday, there will be mock interviews between 8 and 10 AM with CV review sessions at 1:00. On Thursday, mock job talks will take place from 8 to 10 AM. And at 3:00 on Thursday, we will have a panel entitled “Navigating the Hiring Process” which will feature recent tenure track hires who will give advice about getting hired in this “new" market. There are also many excellent panels on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that are targeted to newer law professors, which prospective law professors will also find helpful. See http://sealslawschools.org/submissions/program/programwp.asp. If you are interested in participating in this year’s workshop, please send your CV to professor Brad Areheart (Tennessee)at firstname.lastname@example.org, who co-chairs the committee along with Leah Grinvald (Suffolk). Applications are due by May 15, 2017. Many of the past workshop participants have gone on to obtain tenure-track positions in legal academia and now teach at a wide variety of schools, including Tulane, South Carolina, UNC, Cal Western, Oklahoma, Boston U, Idaho, Colorado, Louisville, and others."
This is a wonderful event and I encourage anyone interested to contact Professor Areheart.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
As a follow-up to last week's post on Perry v. MSPB, Howard Wasserman (FIU) has analyzed the oral arguments in that case over at ScotusBlog and PrawfsBlawg. As a bonus (apart from the merits of the MSPB case) he also discusses Justice Gorsuch's participation in the argument. Howard suspects that Justice Gorsuch may be dissenting solo on this one.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Congratulations to Catherine Fisk on her contribution to the Sunday NYT column "The Workologist". She was cited liberally in a Q&A about employment references. For the entire article, see When a Potential Employer Seems Unnervingly Nosy.
Although the decision is marked unpublished, the majority opinion is a detailed signed one by Judge Wilkinson, with Judge Motz concurring. And, there is a partial dissent by Judge Diaz protesting dismissal of plaintiff's sexual harassment claim. The Court affirmed a summary judgment for the employer notwithstanding what appears to be a genuine, plausible and material factual dispute about some fairly gross sexual harassment of the plaintiff. I do not understand why the decision is not a published one. In light of Judge Diaz' partial dissent, I would not be surprised to see a petition for rehearing en banc.
Thanks for sending this, Jon.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
In 2012, in Kloeckner v. Solis, the court appeared to resolve the question of the appropriate forum for federal civil-service employees appealing decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board in “mixed cases” (cases alleging an adverse employment action that also violated a federal anti-discrimination statute), holding that those decisions must be challenged in federal district court. But in Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, to be argued April 17, the court returns to the issue to decide whether, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, the answer is different when the MSPB rejects the employee’s claim for lack of jurisdiction because the adverse employment action is not appealable, rather than on the merits or on some procedural ground.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
One of the advantages of being around a discipline for a long time is the irony of seeing once “extreme” arguments become accepted. In the first edition of our Employment Discrimination casebook in 1982, we made the (obvious) argument that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was sex discrimination because an employee, say, male, was being adversely treated for actions (sex with a male) that would draw no objection were the employee female.
Fast forward to 2017, and that’s now the law of the land, at least in the Seventh Circuit thanks to Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. And that simple switch-the-sexes comparison was one of the two prongs of the majority opinion (the other being transference to the gender context of Loving v. Virginia’s holding that discrimination on the basis of the race of one’s partner is race discrimination).
While the prevailing side in Hively garnered two other opinions adding additional routes to the same result (including a radical attack on the whole concept of original public meaning in statutory interpretation by Judge Posner), I was most taken with the simple logic of the majority’s “comparative” approach, i.e., if we switch the sexes and the result is not the same, it’s sex discrimination.
Why did it take more than 35 years for this logic to prevail? More to the point, why was that argument viewed as naïve, hopelessly technical for most of Title VII’s history? The obvious answer is that, to quote Holmes, the life of the law is not logic, it’s experience, and even those favoring LGBT rights may have found the straightforward logic too sterile and rarified in a system that favors more nuance in statutory interpretation.
But there’s another perspective from the law’s encounter with logic in this arena that may be of some interest. Judge Sykes, writing for three judges, dissented, largely drawing from “original public meaning” theory. In a passage that captures the essence of his objection, he wrote:
Is it even remotely plausible that in 1964, when Title VII was adopted, a reasonable person competent in the English language would have understood that a law banning employment discrimination "because of sex" also banned discrimination because of sexual orientation? The answer is no, of course not.
I do understand, and agree, that if that question were asked of proponents of Title VII in 1964, they would have said no. So in that sense, the original public meaning of “sex” doesn’t reach sexual orientation.
But how does that analysis fit with the logical argument made by the majority? Are we assuming that the “person competent in the English language” is “reasonable” but not logical? That he or she is incapable of working out the implications of statutory language beyond the most intuitive meaning of the words? Another way to ask the question is whether the reasonable person is presumed to competent in English but not competent in simple logic.
I don’t know if there are good answers to these questions, but I do think they raise even more problems for original public meaning advocates, problems thrust into national attention by Hively.
Friday, April 7, 2017
The book is the first Canadian text to explore in depth all three regimes of work law, including Common Law, Regulatory Law, and Collective Bargaining Law and it emphasizes the interaction between the three regimes. For those interested in understanding Canadian work law, this is the book. Also, you might be interested in knowing that the book was written to be accessible to non-lawyers, including the thousands of business, HRM, industrial relations, labour studies students learning work law in Canada. I wrote it because I frequently teach business students and there was no book in Canada that explained the law of work in a sophisticated, contextual manner but that doesn’t also assume the readers have already studied law for a year or two. Finally, the book also extends the subject matter beyond most labor law texts, by including chapters on subjects such as work and intellectual property law, work and privacy law, trade law, immigration law, and bankruptcy law.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Gary Spitko (Santa Clara) has just posted on SSRN his article (forthcoming 69 Florida Law Review ___ (2017)) A Structural-Purposive Interpretation of 'Employment' in the Platform Economy. Here's the abstract:
The considerable growth of the platform economy has focused attention on the issue of whether a provider who is engaged through a transaction platform should be classified as an employee of the platform operator within the purview of workplace protective legislation or, rather, as an independent contractor outside the scope of such legislation’s protections. This Article focuses specifically on whether the operator’s reservation of the right to impose quality control standards on the provider ought to give rise to employment obligations running in favor of the provider and against the operator. This narrow issue is of great importance to the future of the platform economy. Quality control standards promote trust between platform consumer and provider and, thus, enable leveraging of network effects, to the benefit of the platform operator, consumer and provider. Yet, if the law considers the operator’s right to impose quality control standards on the provider as a factor that will weigh in favor of finding that the provider is an employee of the operator, the operator is more likely to forego the right to impose such standards.
With respect to much workplace protective legislation, neither the statutory language nor the legislative history is even minimally helpful in defining “employment.” Thus, this Article engages in a structural-purposive inquiry into the definition of employment as applied to the platform economy. The analysis proceeds in three steps. First, the Article explores the structure of workplace protective legislation generally and identifies a “control bargain” implicit in that structure pursuant to which the state imposes a scheme of workplace protective regulation on the firm only if the firm retains a certain type and degree of control over its worker. Second, the Article examines the nature of the platform economy and the function of quality control standards within that economy. From this examination, the Article concludes that the nature of the platform economy suggests that the platform operator’s retention of the right to impose quality control standards on providers should be seen as outside the scope of the control bargain and, therefore, should not weigh in favor of finding an employment relationship. Finally, the Article considers case law addressing the meaning of employment in the similar context of the franchisor-franchisee relationship. This case law supports the Article’s principal conclusion by demonstrating that the control bargain allows for exceptions to the rule that the firm’s retention of control over a worker weighs in favor of finding that the firm employs the worker, that the firm’s reservation of the right to impose quality control standards can be such an exception, and that such an exception can be discerned from the nature of the relevant workplace structures.
Guy Davidov sends us this update on the LLRN3Toronto conference:
The LLRN is a network of labour law research centers from all over the world (currently 65 centers). It holds bi-annual conferences which are open to all labour/employment/workplace discrimination law scholars. After two very successful conferences in Barcelona and Amsterdam, LLRN3 will be held at the University of Toronto on June 25-27 this year. The deadline for submitting papers has past, and the best paper and panel proposals have been selected through a peer-review process. The provisional program which has recently been published is extremely rich and includes many senior, well-known scholars alongside young up-and-coming ones, from across the globe. The organizers are keen on having more North American colleagues involved. For more information and to register please see the conference website. If you’d like to chair one of the panels, please contact the organizers.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
As I told my employment discrimination students last Thursday when we talked about sexual orientation and gender identity issues under Title VII, things are moving very fast in the courts on these issues. The Seventh Circuit, en banc, ruled today in Hively v. Ivy Tech, that sexual orientation discrimination was sex discrimination under Title VII. There were two concurrences, one by Judge Flaum and the other by Judge Posner, and a dissent by Judge Sykes.
I'm still digesting the opinion, but the court relied primarily on the two grounds advanced by the plaintiff--but for her sex, her affectional preferences would not have resulted in an adverse employment action, and that adverse employment actions taken because of the protected class of those the employee associates with or is romantically involved with, here sex, violate Title VII. The latter kind of associational claim has long been recognized for race. The court additionally drew support from the observation of the Supreme Court in Oncale that statutes often go beyond the principal evil they were primarily intended to address and the scenario in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, where but for the plaintiff's sex, her behavior would have been applauded. There is more to the analysis, including discussion of Romer v. Evans and the same sex marriage cases.
This en banc decision follows a panel decision issued last summer in which the court had agreed with much of the same reasoning but rejected Hively's claim because the panel felt bound by prior precedent to do so. The Eleventh Circuit recently issued a similar decision in Evans v. Georgia Reg'l Hosp., although it did not analyze the issue in the same depth as the Seventh Circuit had. And a panel at the Second Circuit, in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc., just allowed a gay plaintiff's claim to proceed on a gender stereotyping theory even though it could not reconsider the court’s earlier decision holding that sexual orientation discrimination claims were not cognizable under Title VII. In that case, as Joe noted when the decision came out, Judge Katzmann wrote a concurrence urging the Circuit to find that sexual orientation discrimination violated Title VII.
This marks the first Circuit Court to agree with at least some of the EEOC's arguments on this issue. And given the speed with which these cases are being decided, it seems fairly certain to be headed to the Supreme Court.
As all of those researching and writing in the pay discrimination area already know, today is Equal Pay Day. Falling each April, this day symbolically commemorates the date on which women must work into 2017 to receive the same pay that men receive for all of 2016. There are a number of interesting articles, stories and analyses out there to mark this occasion. From U.S. News and World Report:
"Because black, Latina and Native-American women experience larger wage gaps compared to white, non-Hispanic men, they are left in an even deeper hole and need even more years to climb out – if they can climb out at all. For black women, the lifetime wage gap over a 40-year career totals $840,040; for Native-American women it is $934,240; and for Latina women, the losses rise to $1,043,800."
If you have the opportunity, it is an opportune time to catch up on some of the wonderful scholarship in this important area of the law. Feel free to suggest some such scholarship in the comments below!
-- Joe Seiner
Thursday, March 30, 2017
The White House just announced that Ivanka Trump will no longer be a White House volunteer or "informal advisor," but will instead be an "unpaid employee." The move to employee status is a positive development, as it ensures that the usual ethical rules that apply to White House workers will apply to her as well. It's also understandable that, given her personal wealth, she would eschew a salary.
This does raise a question for the labor & employment law geeks among us: what about the FLSA's minimum wage? Normally, the FLSA would apply to federal employees, who can't agree to a salary below the minimum. However, I believe that there is a process for seeking a waiver--in this case, likely from the Office of Personnel Management, which enforces the FLSA for federal employees--but there's no mention of whether a waiver is currently being sought (or whether I'm even right about this).
If any readers have more insight, please add a comment.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Camabridge University Press has just published, as part of the Cambridge Disability Law and Policy Series, Paul Harpur's (Queensland Law) Discrimination, Copyright and Equality: Opening the e-Book for the Print-Disabled. Here's the publisher's description:
- While equality laws operate to enable access to information, these laws have limited power over the overriding impact of market forces and copyright laws that focus on restricting access to information. Technology now creates opportunities for everyone in the world, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, to be able to access the written word – yet the print disabled are denied reading equality, and have their access to information limited by laws protecting the mainstream use and consumption of information. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Intellectual Property Organization's Marrakesh Treaty have swept in a new legal paradigm. This book contributes to disability rights scholarship, and builds on ideas of digital equality and rights to access in its analysis of domestic disability anti-discrimination, civil rights, human rights, constitutional rights, copyright and other equality measures that promote and hinder reading equality.
- A valuable resource for advocates, law makers, librarians and others who seek to reform laws, policies and practices that reduce reading equality.
- Provides a comparative analysis of how copyright and anti-discrimination laws interacts.
- Provides an in-depth analysis of advances in international and domestic laws.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a fascinating per curiam opinion this week that addresses gender stereotyping and directly implicates sexual orientation issues. The opinion, Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, is available here. Of particular note is the separate concurring opinion of Chief Judge Robert Katzmann (with District Court Judge Brodie) which provides in part:
"[I]n my view, if gay, lesbian, or bisexual plaintiffs can show that they were discriminated against for failing to comply with some gender stereotype, including the stereotype that men should be exclusively attracted to women and women should be exclusively attracted to men, they have made out a cognizable sex discrimination claim. In such a case, the gender stereotype theory of discrimination would encompass discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
If you are interested in this important and evolving issue I definitely recommend taking a look at this decision and the concurrence.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Bill Herbert (Hunter College) recently did an interview with Radio Higher Ed: "A Primer on Unionization and Collective Bargaining in U.S. higher Education Institutions." According to the summary:
This primer on collective bargaining in higher education traces historical developments of unionization in public and private institutions as well as among tenure track, non-tenure-track faulty and graduate students. In the last five years, unionization activity has increased over 25% in the private sector, mostly in adjunct faculty units. While institutions can participate in voluntary collective bargaining activities, agreements in a formal collective bargaining context include clear rules applicable to the entire bargaining unit and enforcement mechanisms. The emergence of micro bargaining units (department level activity), and specifics of the unionization process are discussed. Specific unions that work with higher education institutions are named. Mandatory subjects in the collective bargaining process include salary, hours, healthcare, pension, professional development grievance, antidiscrimination, academic freedom, tenure, use of facilities, appointment and reappointment details, leaves, holidays, evaluations, personnel files, disciplinary actions, research and fellowship monies. Institutions may resist unionization due to flexibility limitations, institutional concept of shared governance and fiscal implications that may result from compensation negotiations. It is likely that unionization will continue to increase for non-tenure track faculty in the private sector. Regularity of access to faculty by students may be aided by collective bargaining.
Check it out!
Monday, March 27, 2017
Participation in American labor unions have changed radically, albeit incrementally, over the last fifty years. Private-sector union density has declined five-fold, whereas public-sector density has increased almost as significantly. Today, unions rarely strike and in much of the country they are politically impotent. As traditional manufacturing declines and is replaced by on-demand work, unions risk becoming a historical footnote.
This article ties the decline in union density and power to macroeconomic trends that are highly troubling in an advanced democracy, such as rising income inequality and the failure of wage growth to keep pace with GDP growth. It next reviews the traditional prescriptions that labor scholars have advocated to reverse labor’s decline. Finally, it proposes three new radical fixes: authorizing criminal prosecution for willful violations of labor law, expanding labor protections to on-demand workers, and reversing the legal presumption that workers are not represented by a union unless they affirmatively opt in.
Rick has some interesting recommendations in the article, so definitely worth checking out.