Friday, May 18, 2018
Diane Ring (Boston College) has just posted on SSRN her article Silos and First Movers in the Sharing Economy Debates. Here's the abstract:
Over the past few years, a significant global debate has developed over the classification of workers in the sharing economy either as independent contractors or as employees.... Classification of a worker as an employee, rather than an independent contractor, can carry a range of implications for worker treatment and protections under labor law, anti-discrimination law, tort law, and tax law, depending on the legal jurisdiction....
Two interacting forces create the most serious risk for inadequate policy formulation: (1) silos among legal experts, and (2) first-mover effects. Both of these factors ... emerge in sharing economy debates in the United States. Tax experts and other legal specialists operate in distinct silos leading to a misunderstanding by non-tax analysts of the tax ramifications of worker classification, and to an underappreciation on the part of tax experts of the potential influence of “modest” tax rule changes on worker classification generally. The risks of such misunderstandings can be amplified by first-mover efforts, such as: (1) platforms’ contractual designation of workers as independent contractors to bolster a claim of nonemployer/employee status; (2) platforms’ support for proposed tax legislation that would “clarify” the status of sharing workers as independent contractors for tax purposes if they satisfy a multiple-prong (relatively easy) safe harbor test; and (3) sharing economy worker litigation to secure employee status.
This Article identifies the incompleteness in the worker classification debates and argues for the active formulation of policy through a process that looks beyond individual fields. A more complete conversation requires analytical engagement across multiple fields and recognition of the de facto power of reform in one arena to influence others. Moreover, it is by no means clear that just because tax might arrive at the legislative drawing table first (due to first mover effects), that it should drive or shape the broader worker classification debate.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) has sent word that the Marco Biagi Foundation (UNIMORE, Italy) has issued a call for applications for its PhD in Labour, Development and Innovation. This is a 3-year program in Modena Italy. Here is a brief description:
The Labour, Development and Innovation curriculum is intended to enable the participants to acquire an in-depth understanding of employment relations and socio-economic change in an interdisciplinary perspective, focusing on the main regulatory levels (law, management, economics and organisation) and related methods of analysis in order to develop research instruments addressing both legal and non-legal labour regulation, enterprise innovation (industrial, service, public) and economic and territorial development.
Industry 4.0 is intended to contribute to an understanding of the dynamics of digital transformation and elaboration of the legal, economic and financial, organisational and managerial instruments to govern the transformation of the enterprise and organisations in light of Industry 4.0. The teaching and research programme favours the datafication of employment and production processes associated with digitalisation resulting in a significant transformation of the logic and instruments of enterprise management.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Ban-the-box laws, which delay an employer’s inquiry into an applicant’s criminal record until later in the hiring process, are gaining remarkable traction at the local, state, and even federal levels. But the assumption that employers will be more likely to hire ex-offenders if forced to evaluate their qualifications before discovering their criminal record has gone largely untested. Empirical uncertainty has given rise to various criticisms of ban-the-box laws, chiefly that they merely postpone the inevitable decision not to hire the ex-offender — often at considerable cost to both the employer and applicant — and, worse yet, that they may actually harm racial minorities by causing employers to assume all minority applicants have a criminal record and eliminate them from consideration on that basis.
This Article reports the findings of a field experiment I conducted during the summer of 2017 that tested whether ban-the-box laws are working, and if so, for whom. The experiment entailed applying to over 2,000 food-service job openings in Chicago, which bans the box, and Dallas, which does not, using a fictitious ex-offender applicant profile. One-third of the applications in each city used a black-sounding name, one-third used a Latino-sounding name, and the other third used a white-sounding name. The experiment tracked each application for ninety days to determine whether it elicited an employer callback (i.e., a request for an interview or additional information). I then utilized multiple regression modeling to analyze callback differentials between cities and across races.
The results from this study support the claim that ban-the-box laws increase employment opportunities for ex-offenders, as an applicant was 27 percent more likely to receive a callback in Chicago than in Dallas. The results refute the contention that banning the box harms racial minorities. All three applicants had higher callback rates when the box was banned, with the black applicant experiencing the largest increase. Still, the black applicant had much lower callback rates than the white and Latino applicants in both Chicago and Dallas, indicating race remains a formidable barrier to employment, regardless of whether an employer is aware of a candidate’s criminal record.
In light of these key findings that banning the box increases an ex-offender’s odds of employment without harming racial minorities, this Article considers the potential costs and benefits of ban-the-box laws, both standing alone and as part of broader efforts to successfully reintegrate ex-offenders into society. Although banning the box may prove helpful in improving ex-offenders’ job prospects, it is hardly sufficient; more is required to ensure that upon release, an ex-offender’s prison sentence does not become a life sentence.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Call for Proposals for the Second Annual Equality Law Scholars’ Forum
Building on the success of the Inaugural Equality Law Scholars’ Forum held at UC Berkeley Law last fall, and in the spirit of academic engagement and mentoring in the area of Equality Law, we (Tristin Green, University of San Francisco; Angela Onwuachi-Willig, UC Berkeley; and Leticia Saucedo, UC Davis) announce the Second Annual Equality Law Scholars’ Forum to be held this fall. This Scholars’ Forum seeks to provide junior scholars with commentary and critique and to provide scholars at all career stages the opportunity to engage with new scholarly currents and ideas. We hope to bring together scholars with varied perspectives (e.g., critical race theory, class critical theory, feminist legal theory, law and economics, law and society) across fields (e.g., criminal system, education, employment, family, health, immigration, property, tax) and with work relevant to many diverse identities (e.g., age, class, disability, national origin, race, sex, sexuality) to build bridges and to generate new ideas in the area of Equality Law.
We will select five relatively junior scholars (untenured, newly tenured, or prospective professors) to present papers from proposals submitted in response to this Call for Proposals. In so doing, we will select papers that cover a broad range of topics within the area of Equality Law. Leading senior scholars will provide commentary on each of the featured papers in an intimate and collegial setting. The Equality Law Scholars’ Forum will pay transportation and accommodation expenses for participants and will host a dinner on Friday evening.
This year’s Forum will be held on November 9-10, 2018 at UC Davis Law School.
Junior scholars are invited to submit abstracts of proposed papers, 3-5 pages in length, by July 1, 2018.
Full drafts must be available for circulation to participants by October 19, 2018.
Proposals should be submitted to:
Tristin Green, USF School of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org. Electronic submissions via email are preferred.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Friend-of-Blog Leora Eisenstadt (Temple) passes along the interesting news that the Fordham Law Review has just published a fascinating issue dedicated to the Fiftieth Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia. The issue has a number of different essays (by notable scholars) on racial identity issues that are definitely worth taking a look at if you are working/researching in this area.
-- Joe Seiner
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Yesterday, the California Supreme Court issued what is likely to be a bombshell decision in Dynamex Operations v. Lee. Dynamex involved a wage claims brought by a driver under California law. The employer defended with the oft-used (and often successful) argument that the driver and his similar colleagues were independent contractors, not employees. You can check out the decision for the facts, but they will be very familiar to those who spend any time looking at this area. What is more important is how the court analyzed them.
In Dynamex, the court decided to change its standard for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor under the part of the state wage statute that defines "employ" as "to suffer or permit work" (there are two other definitions of "employ"). In particular, it adopted what is referred to as the "ABC test." Under this rule, a worker is presumed to be an employee unless the purported employer can establish three factors. Because of its importance, I'm going to quote the court's formulation, while editing the layout for easier reading:
This [ABC] standard, whose objective is to create a simpler, clearer test for determining whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor, presumes a worker hired by an entity is an employee and places the burden on the hirer to establish that the worker is an independent contractor. Under the ABC standard, the worker is an employee unless the hiring entity establishes each of three designated factors:
(a) that the worker is free from control and direction over performance of the work, both under the contract and in fact;
(b) that the work provided is outside the usual course of the business for which the work is performed; and
(c) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business (hence the ABC standard).
If the hirer fails to show that the worker satisfies each of the three criteria, the worker is principal federal wage and hour legislation.
Although it remains to be seen how soon and how big an effect this decision will have, I'm not going out on a limb by predicting that this represents a major change. The ABC test is clearly broader than the FLSA's "economic realities" test, so at a minimum more California workers will enjoy protection under the relevant statute. But California's size and the fact that this is likely to impact gig work could lead to a shift in how some companies classify and pay their gig workers in other states. Time will tell . . . .
Thursday, April 19, 2018
COSELL XIII Registration Now Open: available here!!!
Registration is now open for The Thirteenth Annual Colloquium On Scholarship in Employment and Labor Law (COSELL), which will be held at the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia, South Carolina. We are celebrating our move into a completely new legal facility, and we look forward to you joining us for the conference from the evening of Thursday, September 27th through the afternoon of Saturday, September 29th, 2018. Information on registration, the conference hotel, and participating in the conference is now available here.
We look forward to seeing everyone in South Carolina next fall, and please let me know if you have any questions about the registration process.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Friend-of-the-blog, Jason Bent (Stetson) shared news of a symposium at Stetson this Friday that sounds like it will be of interest to many of our readers:
On Friday, April 20, the Stetson Law Review is hosting a symposium exploring the Supreme Court’s emerging animus doctrine in constitutional law. The discussion is inspired by Brooklyn Law Professor William D. Araiza’s new book, Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law. The symposium will explore the role of animus in the Court’s recent equal protection jurisprudence, including United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, as well as its implications for religious freedoms and workplace law. The symposium can be viewed for free via simultaneous webcast. For the full agenda, the list of speakers, and more information about registering or viewing the webcast please visit:
The lineup looks great and includes a number of workplace law friends, like Jessica Clarke (Minnesota) and Katie Eyer (Rutgers). Tune in to the live webcast if you can't make it in person.
Lance Compa (Cornell ILR) sends us word of a report describing the "wrong turn" taken by an arbitration panel in the first-ever case decided under the labor chapter of a free trade agreement. The case involves worker's rights violations in Guatemala. Here's a press release describing the case and a report critical of the case co-authored by Lance:
A new report from the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) says that an arbitral panel’s ruling in the first case ever decided under the labor chapter of a free trade agreement “got it wrong” on workers’ rights violations in Guatemala. Written by three prominent international labor law experts, “Wrong Turn” edits down the 300-page decision into a reader-friendly 30 pages, and provides analysis and commentary at key points showing the arbitral panel’s flawed approach and conclusions.
Following a 2008 complaint by the AFL-CIO and a coalition of Guatemalan unions, the United States government initiated the arbitration case in 2011 under the labor rights chapter of the 2005 U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). That chapter defines as its central purpose to “protect, enhance, and enforce basic workers’ rights.” The United States charged Guatemala with failing to effectively enforce its national labor law to halt mass firings of workers who try to form unions and to remedy minimum wage, health and safety, and other violations of employment standards. Effective enforcement of national law is a central obligation of the CAFTA labor chapter.
In their report, Lance Compa of Cornell University, Jeff Vogt of the Solidarity Center, and Eric Gottwald of ILRF note that two of the three members of the arbitral panel were prominent trade lawyers who normally represent multinational companies in commercial disputes, but have no labor experience or expertise. As a result, “The decision is based on a narrow, trade-oriented analysis divorced from labor law reality - particularly in a developing country like Guatemala.”
Importantly, the arbitral panel did find that Guatemala repeatedly failed to effectively enforce its labor law. However, the panel found that such failures did not occur “in a manner affecting trade,” as required by the labor chapter, leading the arbitrators to rule in favor of Guatemala. In contrast, the report’s authors argue that, “A rights-focused analysis would say the CAFTA labor chapter is meant to protect workers’ fundamental rights, not competition in the free trade area.”
Gottwald, Vogt and Compa suggest that the arbitral panel erected an impossibly high barrier to workers prevailing in such cases. All violations and the failure to enforce labor laws occurred in trade-related sectors such as apparel manufacturing, agriculture, and shipping, but the panel found that this was insufficient to meet the “manner affecting trade” requirement. The arbitrators demanded evidence that companies took advantage of the government’s enforcement failures to gain a price advantage in the marketplace. But such information, argue the report authors, is impossible to obtain without subpoena power – a tool that is not available in the CAFTA dispute resolution system.
The authors also decry the failure of the U.S. government to present evidence on widespread violence against trade unionists in Guatemala, including death threats and assassinations – an important part of the unions’ original 2008 complaint. Reflecting this failure, they note that “In the full 299-page decision of the Panel, not once does the word ‘violence’ appear.”
The ILRF report concludes with recommendations to address the “wrong turn” in the CAFTA arbitration decision. They include requiring arbitrators to be experts in labor law and labor relations and to consider reports and decisions from international human rights bodies, not just the WTO, in their decision-making process; allowing trade unions and victimized workers to participate in arbitration proceedings, correcting the interpretation of the “manner affecting trade” clause, and making the labor chapter of all trade agreements a human rights chapter.
Here is the full report.
Monday, April 16, 2018
Friend-of-Blog Brad Areheart (Tennessee) sends along the following workshop information for 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 Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday, August 6, and Tuesday, August 7, 2018. There are also many excellent panels throughout the week 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 and a brief statement of interest to professor Brad Areheart (Tennessee) at email@example.com, who co-chairs the committee along with professor Leah Grinvald (Suffolk). Please also indicate when you are planning to go on the teaching market. Applications are due by May 15, 2018. Many of the past workshop participants have gone on to obtain tenure-track appointments and now teach at a wide variety of law schools, including Tulane, South Carolina, UNC, Cal Western, Boston College, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Boston U., Tulsa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Maryland, Idaho, Colorado, Miami, Richmond, Louisville, and others.
This is a great opportunity for new law teachers, and SEALS is always a great conference to attend.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Diane Ring (Boston College) sends along a call-for-papers on reshaping work in the platform economy (Amsterdam, October 25-26, 2018). The section related to law is attached below, and the full announcement is available at this Call for papers link.
"We welcome academics, business leaders, national and European law- and policymakers, representatives from the temporary staﬃng industry, platform companies, and platform workers to explore and discuss the evolving intersection between law and the platform economy on critical issues that are shaping the future of work. Accordingly, scholars and other professionals are invited to present papers across a range of legal research topics including, not limited to: • Labor law and policy: emerging trends, options and challenges • Dispute resolution: role of arbitration, courts, and regulation • Discrimination across the platform economy: platforms, workers and consumers • Liability and Risk: current practices, alternatives and implications for allocating liability and risk • Taxation: the impact of tax design choices on the direction of the platform economy and on the role of workers in platform business models • Consumer protection and/or Competition law: impact on establishing a level playing ﬁeld".
This looks like a great conference and opportunity to engage in this complex and emerging area of the law.
Readers of the blog have probably seen news articles about the Ninth Circuit's en banc decision yesterday in Rizo v. Yozino, a case interpreting the "any other factor other than sex" affirmative defense in the Equal Pay Act. If you haven't read the opnion(s) yet, I highly recommend it.
The facts were these. the Fresno County Office of Education based a new employee's entering salary solely on her prior salary plus 5%. After Aileen Rizo was hired, she discovered that male co-workers with the same job were paid more than she was and sued.
The only question on appeal was whether an employee's prior salary was "any other factor other than sex" such that an employer could base salary decisions on it without running afoul of the Equal Pay Act's prohibition on paying men and women different wages. The majority said no for two main reasons. First, if prior salary were a factor other than sex, then that exception would allow employers to rely on discriminatory wages set by prior employers, completely undercutting the Equal Pay Act's purpose. Second, the list of affirmative defenses prior to the any other factor affirmative defense all related to job-related factors that Congress recognized would justify different wages. Accordingly, and because motive is not relevant in equal pay act cases, "any other factor other than sex" must be limited to job-related factors. Prior salary may be based on job related factors, but employers must discover what those factors were and rely on them rather than simply using that salary as a proxy for those factors--that proxy is too inexact and may too easily embody discrimination.
There were three concurrence opinions. All of the judges agreed that relying solely on prior salary at another employer to set a starting salary ran afoul of the EPA because of the danger that the prior salary was based on sex. The concurring judges would have accepted prior salary as one factor in the mix, however, essentially believing that prior salary was likely based mostly on legitimate job-related factors.
This opinion marks a clear split among the circuits on this issue. The Seventh Circuit has held that prior salary is always factor other than sex, while the Ninth has now said it never is. The other circuits and the EEOC fall somewhere in the middle, more in line with the concurrences, that prior salary can be considered as just one factor as long as it is combined with other job-related factors.
I highly recommend reading all of the opinions. They do a great job summarizing the state of the law from the Supreme Court and the circuits. They also do a great job getting at the tensions in this area about causes of the gender wage gap, what kind of employer action constitutes discrimination, and what role the law should play. For example, one of the main points of disagreement seems to be whether the Equal Pay Act ought to be treated like disparate treatment pay under Title VII--what does it mean to say that a pay differential is because of sex? Additionally, is the persistent gender pay gap caused by that kind of motive, or is it based on other factors that are not attributable to an employer's bad motive. And should the government intervene in cases without bad motives?
The Equal Pay Act is not an area that I know as well as I would like, but I found this opinion and the concurrences to be a great discussion of equal pay issues writ large.
Monday, April 9, 2018
Supreme Court decisions often leave me scratching my head, but not usually because of Justice Kagan’s use of English. But there’s a first time for everything, and I read with some surprise a passage in a recent opinion authored by her:
But that view cannot be squared with the except clause’s wording for two independent reasons. To start with, the except clause points to “section 77p” as a whole—not to paragraph 77p(f)(2). Cyan wants to cherry pick from the material covered by the statutory cross-reference. But if Congress had intended to refer to the definition in §77p(f)(2) alone, it presumably would have done so—just by adding a letter, a number, and a few parentheticals.
Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver Cty. Emples. Ret. Fund. No, despite the caption, Cyan’s not an employment case; and, no, you don’t have to understand what statute she’s referring to in order to appreciate my confusion: shouldn’t Kagan have written “parentheses” instead of “parentheticals”?
One of my colleagues had the same initial reaction, but concluded that Kagan was probably right, “because she’s referring not simply to adding the punctuation, but to adding material inside parentheses— parentheticals. They are very short parentheticals, but I think still parentheticals.”
Another colleague begged to differ: “she separately refers to the letter and number inside the parentheses, so isn't she just referring to the punctuation? And she says ‘a few,’ when, in fact, she is only talking about two parentheticals (but four parentheses).”
And it’s not as if Kagan is a stranger to parentheticals: she’s been described as the “Master of the Parenthetical Aside” by Josh Blackman. Still, Homer nodded (so why not Justice Kagan?).
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court decided Encino Motorcars v. Navarro in a way that rejected past precedent requiring courts to read FLSA’s statutory exemptions narrowly. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court ruled that FLSA exempts a service adviser at a car dealership from its overtime protections under the exemption for “any salesman . . . primarily engaged in . . . servicing automobiles.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(10)(A).
In doing so, however, Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, rejected the general “principle that exemptions to the FLSA should be construed narrowly.” Encino, Slip Op. at 9. Here’s his reasoning:
We reject this principle as a useful guidepost for interpreting the FLSA. Because the FLSA gives no “textual indication” that its exemptions should be construed narrowly, “there is no reason to give [them] anything other than a fair (rather than a ‘narrow’) interpretation.” Scalia, Reading Law, at 363. The narrow construction principle relies on the flawed premise that the FLSA “‘pursues’” its remedial purpose “‘at all costs.’” American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 570 U. S. 228, 234 (2013) (quoting Rodriguez v. United States, 480 U. S. 522, 525-526 (1987) (per curiam)); see also Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., 582 U. S. ___, ___ (2017) (slip op., at 9) (“[I]t is quite mistaken to assume . . . that whatever might appear to further the statute’s primary objective must be the law” (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted)). But the FLSA has over two dozen exemptions in § 213(b) alone, including the one at issue here. Those exemptions are as much a part of the FLSA’s purpose as the overtime-pay requirement. See id., at ___ (slip op., at 9) (“Legislation is, after all, the art of compromise, the limitations expressed in statutory terms often the price of passage”). We thus have no license to give the exemption anything but a fair reading.
In so reasoning, Justice Thomas’s majority opinion didn’t “acknowledg[e] that it unsettles more than half a century of our precedent.” Dissent of Justice Ginsburg, Slip. Op. at 9-10 n.7. See A.H. Phillips, Inc. v. Walling, 324 U.S. 490, 493 (1945) (FLSA “was designed ‘to extend the frontiers of social progress’ by ‘insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.’ Message of the President to Congress, May 24, 1934. Any exemption from such humanitarian and remedial legislation must therefore be narrowly construed, giving due regard to the plain meaning of statutory language and the intent of Congress. To extend an exemption to other than those plainly and unmistakably within its terms and spirit is to abuse the interpretative process and to frustrate the announced will of the people.”); accord Citicorp Industrial Credit Co. v. Brock, 483 U.S. 27, 35 (1987); Mitchell v. Kentucky Finance Co., 359 U.S. 290, 295 (1959)(“It is well settled that exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act are to be narrowly construed.”)(citations omitted). In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg called this FLSA precedent a “well-grounded application of the general rule that an ‘exception to a general statement of policy is usually read . . . narrowly in order to preserve the primary operation of the provision.’” Dissent Slip. Op. at 9 n.7 (quoting Maracich v. Spears, 570 U.S. 48, 60 (2013)).
Management-side lawyers will likely now invoke Encino often in FLSA exemption litigation. But, it’s hard to know how much this will affect FLSA case outcomes, because it’s unclear how much the “narrowly-read FLSA exemptions” rule had affected FLSA case outcomes in any event, that is, how often that rule operated as makeweight versus a genuine tie-breaker.
More puzzling: The Court could have easily sidestepped the issue by saying that, given the strength of all the other reasons to read § 213(b)(10)(A) the way it did, there was, in this case, really no tie for the “narrowly-read FLSA exemptions” rule to break. Instead, the Court’s majority seems to have wanted to overrule this prior FLSA precedent but without expressly saying that it was directly overruling it as precedent. The mystery is which Justice(s) in the Encino majority (Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Gorsuch) wanted this in the opinion, and why.
This article is about a new approach to one of the law’s most basic questions: what is coercion? Under its traditional framing, coercion is about transactions. One person makes an offer to another person, who, under the circumstances, has no realistic option but to say “yes.” But that conception has not helped courts articulate a way to test when pressures cross the line from lawful persuasion to illegal compulsion. Without a metric, critics charge that coercion analyses are inevitably normative. This article challenges that inevitability. Using the workplace as a case study, it argues that it is possible to weigh the impact of speech or conduct on choice, but only if coercion’s content is clarified so that judges know what they are supposed to be evaluating. Drawing from rapid advances at the intersection of decision-making and emotion science, the article is the first to describe what it is, exactly, about an external force that might push employees, their superiors, and consumers toward irrational judgments. The new approach unites labor law with emerging law and emotion scholarship, applies across existing doctrine, and, by lending itself to quantifiable assessments, defies normative assumptions to finally standardize the law of coercion at work.
I had the pleasure of reading an early version of this article for a SEALS presentation and highly recommend it.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Thanks to Mitch Rubinstein for sending word of Davids v. State, ____A.D. 3d____(NY App. Div. 2d Dep't. March 28, 2018), where a New York appellate court refused to dismiss a constitutional challenge to teacher tenure statutes. Basically, the claim is that it is too difficult to fire teachers and the tenure statutes violate the Education Article in the NYS Constitution. For Mitch's take on the case, see this post at his blog Teacher and New York Public Employee Lawyer.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
On March 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that settlements totaling $13.9 million and covering over 2,400 workers with four Chinese contractors building the Imperial Pacific casino in Saipan. Many of these workers paid $6,000 or more to labor brokers in China, incurring significant debts with high interest rates, based on false promises of high-paying jobs in the United States. Instead, upon arriving in Saipan, the workers were stripped of their passports, forced to work long hours under dangerous conditions, and paid below minimum wage. OSHA also imposed significant fines against these contractors and the Department of Justice prosecuted several managers of these companies. News of the settlement was published by numerous media outlets, such as the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, and South China Morning Post, and included a quote from Aaron Halegua, a lawyer and NYU research fellow who assisted the workers in this process and has written about the situation in Saipan elsewhere. Aaron discussed the importance of the settlement and necessary measures to prevent similar abuses from happening again. Specifically, he recommended that the casino, at a minimum, require contractors to purchase surety bonds, train workers about their rights, and hire a third-party monitor to oversee safety and labor conditions. One of the challenges will be distributing the settlement monies as almost all of the workers are now back in China.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
On Wednesday, March 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits employment discrimination against transgender persons. The court also ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) may not be used as a shield to justify discrimination against LGBTQ employees. In its decision, the court rejected t e legal theory, rooted in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, that businesses may fire or mistreat protected employees under the guise of religious liberty.
In EEOC, et. al v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who worked as a funeral director, started her employment presenting as male, the sex she had been assigned at birth. However, in 2013, Stephens informed her supervisor, Thomas Rost, that she had been diagnosed with a gender identity disorder and intended to transition. In response to this disclosure, Rost promptly terminated her. Rost later testified that he terminated Stephens because “he was no longer going to represent himself as a man,” and because Rost believed that gender transition “violat[es] God’s commands” because “a person’s sex is an immutable God-given fit.”
The EEOC brought suit on Stephens’ behalf, alleging that the acts of the funeral home constituted unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. The district court concluded that Stephens had suffered sex discrimination, but not specifically because she was transgender. Rather, the district court held that Stephens had suffered sex discrimination because, consistent with Hopkins and its progeny, she was subjected to impermissible sex stereotypes. However, the district court then concluded that even though she had been subjected to sex discrimination, the funeral home had a right to terminate her under RFRA, even though the funeral home was not affiliated with any specific religious institution. The district court held that RFRA protected their personal religious beliefs, even when those beliefs resulted in otherwise unlawful sex discrimination.
In her opinion for the Court of Appeals, Judge Karen Nelson Moore rejected the analysis of the district court regarding both the reach of Title VII in providing protection for transgender persons and the availability of RFRA as a shield behind which an employer is free to engage in otherwise unlawful conduct. Judge Moore wrote that Title VII does specifically outlaw employment discrimination against transgender persons for two distinct reasons. First, Title VII prohibits discrimination against persons for failing to conform to expected gender stereotypes. As Judge Moore explained, in firing Stephens because she was transitioning, Rost penalized her for failing to conform to the sex assigned to her at birth. Judge Moore wrote, “an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of transgender status without imposing its stereotypical notions of how sexual organs and gender identity ought to align.” Second, and more important, Judge Moore concluded that discrimination against transgender persons is inherently sex based, in that “it is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.” Where an employer discriminates against an employee because of her “transgender or transitioning status,” that employer is necessarily taking sex into account—in violation of Title VII.
Regarding the district court’s conclusion that RFRA provided protection for the employer’s discriminatory conduct, Judge Moore rejected this analysis. For RFRA to serve as a shield for discriminatory conduct, RFRA requires a showing that there has been a “substantial burden” on “religious exercise,” that is not “in furtherance of a compelling government interest” and/or “the least restrictive means of furthering” that interest. In this case, the funeral home claimed that the presence of a transgender employee would (1) “often create distractions for the deceased’s loved ones” and (2) force Rost to leave the industry, because working with a transgender person was an infringement on his religious beliefs.
Judge Moore concluded that neither of these constituted substantial burdens on Rost or the funeral home. Regarding the first claimed burden, Judge Moore stated that employers cannot escape the requirements of Title VII simply by assuming the “presumed biases” of their customers. With regard to the second claimed burden, Judge Moore wrote that “tolerating Stephens’s understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it.” Judge Moore asserted that Stephens did not ask Rost, in any way, to endorse or to aid her transition. Rather, she only sought to remain on staff at the funeral home. According to Judge Moore, allowing her to remain employed does not “substantially burden his religious practice.”
In conclusion, Judge Moore asserted that even were Title VII to impose a “substantial burden” on Rost’s religious beliefs in this case, it would still survive scrutiny under RFRA, in that eliminating or preventing employment discrimination because of sex is clearly a “compelling interest,” and no less “restrictive means” of forbidding such discrimination exist other than the enforcement of the law. Otherwise, according to Judge Moore, all modern civil rights law would be called into question.
While it is not yet clear whether the funeral home plans to seek an en banc rehearing of this case or seek certiorari in the Supreme Court, in this decision, the Sixth Circuit joins with the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit in concluding that the prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” found in Title VII includes a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the Supreme Court recently rejected a petition for certiorari in a case from the Eleventh Circuit raising this question, the Supreme Court ultimately will have to address this issue.
... Associate Professor Myanna Dellinger ... is the Editor-in-Chief of the ContractsProfBlog and a rising star in legal academia. She is the creator of the Global Energy and Environmental Law podcast (also available on iTunes), a frequent speaker at academic symposia and author of a dozen law review articles and many other publications.
After graduating first in her class at the University of Oregon School of Law in 2008, she had two clerkships, including for the Hon. Procter Hug, Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Myanna started her academic career as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whitter Law School in 2010-11 and then accepted a tenure-track position at Western State College of Law in 2011-12. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014, effective for the 2014-15 academic year. In 2014, she was recruited by the University of South Dakota School of Law Dean Thomas Geu and offered a lateral position as an Associate Professor for the 2015-16 academic year, which she accepted. Since arriving at USD, Myanna has continued to thrive. She has published four highly-regarded law review articles since joining the faculty there, and has consistently received outstanding teaching evaluations. In 2016, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. She is highly involved in service to the school, the community and the broader profession and has brought significant positive attention to the school.
With credentials like this, one would think that the University of South Dakota would be thrilled to have her and would be doing everything to keep her, especially given the fact that the law school has only one tenured female faculty member and was cited by the ABA in its last site visit for its lack of gender diversity. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Although the law school has been strongly supportive of Myanna, the central University Administration seems to be doing everything they can to make her feel unwelcome.
Friday, March 9, 2018
Jessica Fink's organizing a symposium in April in "Gender Sidelining". The webpage explains:
Subtle, yet pernicious forms of unequal treatment exist wherein women may not experience adverse outcomes that are actionable under anti-discrimination or other laws, but nonetheless may find themselves hindered in their ability to advance and flourish. These myriad behaviors, policies, and practices lead to "Gender Sidelining"—a term recently coined by a group of law professors at California Western—whereby women experience obstacles that the law does not (and arguably should not) proscribe.
The Gender Sidelining Symposium on April 26-27, 2018 will highlight examples of and help us understand the process by which this phenomenon occurs. By bringing together academics and practitioners from a broad range of fields—employment and labor law, business law, criminal law, politics, and beyond—the symposium will take an innovative look at how existing social structures can lead to adverse treatment on the basis of gender when actions may not be motivated by gender-based animus or even by implicit bias.
Questions can be directed to Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org.