Friday, September 21, 2018
Currently, two big strike events are in the news. One has already occurred and the other may be on the horizon.
First was a nationwide strike on Tuesday by some McDonald's employees. This strike was unusual for numerous reasons. One is that we don't usually see low-wage retail workers striking, although the Fast Food 15, OUR Walmart, and other similar efforts have begun to change that norm in recent years. As a result, what stands out most to me was the object of the strike. It wasn't the traditional bread & butter workplace issues like pay, benefits, and hours. Instead, the workers were striking to protest sexual harassment and to demand that McDonald's do more to address the issue. What this strike may be telling us is that there are new norms developing. Norms in which retail workers are more willing to strike and willing to do so for issues that aren't necessarily traditional, but are still vitally important, especially in the current #MeToo environment.
The second, potential, strike is far more traditional. It involves the steel industry, where steelworkers are threatening to strike United States Steel and ArcelorMittal if contract negotiations don't result in raises and other benefits that reflect those company's improving financial footing. An interesting twist is that part of the steelworkers' argument is that after taking many years of wage freezes, they want to share in the improving fortunes brought on in part by the new tax cuts and steel tariffs. An entirely predictable situation, but one that I expect will get settled because those companies won't want production halted.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Congratulations to Paul Secunda, Jeff Hirsch, and Joe Seiner on the publication of their book Mastering Employment Discrimination Law (2d ed Carolina Academic Press.). Here's the publisher's description:
The second edition of Mastering Employment Discrimination Law coincides with a defining moment in U.S. culture: the #metoo movement and the many sexual harassment scandals that have roiled American society. In addition to covering all procedural and substantive aspects of U.S. sexual harassment and sex discrimination law, the second edition also takes on a wide variety of employment discrimination law subjects. The book begins first with coverage and jurisdiction issues and then turns to complex federal and state procedural topics surrounding the filing of administrative charges of discrimination and civil lawsuits. Moreover, the book comprehensively addresses the substantive aspects of Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA (including recent amendments), the Equal Pay Act, and the Civil Rights Acts, as well as related issues such as remedies, attorney fees, and settlements. By adding Professor Joseph Seiner of the University of South Carolina School of Law—a former attorney with the EEOC—as a new co-author, the book has added substantial new focus on administrative topics and procedural issues in employment discrimination litigation.
CBS’ announcement of CEO Les Moonves’ departure offers a welcome example of a company willing to cut bait on a star employee based on reports of repeated sexual harassment. Even more noteworthy is the news that Moonveslikely will receive no severance pay.
CBS’ refusal to offer Moonves a cushioned exit could presage a new level of accountability post-#MeToo, one where harassers can expect neither a pass nor a golden parachute. But there are reasons to be less sanguine. Moonves’ employment contract, like that of many C-suite employees imposes steep penalties on the company in the event of a termination without cause. For CBS, the cost could reach a reported $120 million, even discounting $20 million that the company has pledged to the #MeToo movement.
It can boggle the mind to imagine that Moonves’ termination is anything but justified. The allegations against him include forced oral sex, bodily exposure, physical violence, intimidation and retaliation. If even a fraction of it is true, then there is clearly cause to terminate him under any ordinary meaning of the word.
But it is not the ordinary meaning of “cause” that applies. High-level contracts typically define cause in idiosyncratic ways — requiring that the employee willfully fail to perform, commit a felony, or engage in gross misconduct materially harming the company. Courts interpret such language to mean conduct far exceeding ordinary wrongdoing. In cases of doubt, the burden usually is on the employer to justify its decision based on proven facts.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
In case all of the prior signals weren't enough, the NLRB has now formally announced a "new" proposed joint-employer standard. Although it won't be released until tomorrow, the Board's announcement makes clear that it intends to return to the pre-Browning-Ferris standard. The Board describes this new/old standard (which the Browning-Ferris Board argued was itself a change from an earlier standard) as follows:
Under the proposed rule, an employer may be found to be a joint-employer of another employer’s employees only if it possesses and exercises substantial, direct and immediate control over the essential terms and conditions of employment and has done so in a manner that is not limited and routine. Indirect influence and contractual reservations of authority would no longer be sufficient to establish a joint-employer relationship.
This is a substantial change from the Browning-Ferris standard, which would allow a joint employment finding if employers share governance of essential terms and conditions of employment. Among the factors used for this determination are whether an employer has exercised direct control over terms and conditions of employment indirectly or whether it has reserved the authority to exercise control.
Obviously, the NLRB has to go through the notice and comment period, but the chance of the current Board majority (Member McFerran is dissenting) changing its mind about going back to something like the pre-Browning Ferris standard is about the same chance as my computer spontaneously levitating.
On one level this is just part of the normal ebb and flow that we see with new administrations. What I find more interesting is that the current Board seems to be using rulemaking as a means to make its changes harder to reverse. There's nothing inherently wrong with this--that's what most agencies do, after all--but it represents a significant shift from the Board's usual practice of using decision-making for substantive rules. I'm actually ambivalent about this as a general matter, but I'll be curious to see whether concerns about courts reversing Board rules more frequently than case decisions plays out.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
The NLRB announced today that it is inviting briefs in Loshaw Thermal Technology and Casale Industries. Both cases involve a lesser-know rule under the NLRA (at least if you're not involved with construction union very often). Section 8(f), among other things, allows an employer and construction union to establish a bargaining relationship without a showing that the union has majority support (this reflects the reality that construction jobs are by their nature usually temporary). This provision essentially establishes a presumption of majority support, albeit one that can be challenged by a valid decertification petition.
In its 2001 Staunton Fuel decision, the Board concluded that parties could transform their bargaining relationship from Section 8(f) to Section 9(a)--the more typical mean of recognition, which usually involves a showing of majority support and is harder to challenge--through a collective-bargaining agreement that clearly states that the union said that it could show that it had majority support. It is that rule that the Board is currently questioning in Loshaw Thermal.
In Casale, the Board is also questioning the time period during which a construction union's Staunton 9(a) recognition can be challenged. Casale stated that an employer only had six months after the collective-bargaining agreement to argue that the union actually lacks majority support.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Just out from Katie Eyer of Rutgers, and couldn't be more timely! Here's the abstract:
In the wake of marriage equality, LGBT claims to employment rights have taken center stage in the struggle for LGBT equality. Raising claims under federal sex discrimination law, advocates have argued that anti-LGBT discrimination is, necessarily, also sex discrimination under Title VII. Such claims have seen increasing success in the federal courts as biases against the LGBT community have receded, allowing courts to recognize the textual and doctrinal logic of such sex discrimination claims. As victories in the lower courts have accumulated, the LGBT employment discrimination issue has increasingly seemed poised to be the next major LGBT equality issue to reach the Supreme Court.
But a new argument has also arisen to dispute LGBT Title VII claims: “statutory originalism.” Arguing that the meaning of Title VII ought to be judged by reference to its “original public meaning”—and that the original public in 1964 would not have thought that anti-LGBT discrimination was proscribed—opponents of LGBT inclusion have contended that such sex discrimination claims cannot be allowed. In making these arguments, opponents have endeavored to sidestep well-established textualist case law that rejects virtually identical arguments when made under the rubric of Congressional expectations or intent.
This Article contends that the “original public meaning” approach raised by opponents of LGBT inclusion is neither so distinctive, nor so uncontroversial, as its proponents have suggested. “Original public meaning” itself is a modality of statutory interpretation that has essentially no pedigree in the federal statutory interpretation case law. And yet the arguments of its proponents do bear a striking resemblance to another well-established, but now discredited approach: looking to the expectations or intent of Congress to limit broad statutory text. Moreover, the specific approach to “original public meaning” taken by opponents of LGBT inclusion—looking to “original expected applications”—is one that should concern both civil rights advocates and originalists alike. Thus, courts ought to reject the novel “statutory originalism” arguments that have been raised in opposing LGBT employment equality claims.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Michael Yelnosky has just published on SSRN an new essay essay, "Labor Law Illiteracy.” The abstract:
Labor law, both as an academic discipline and a subject of public consciousness, is in decline. The Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Epic Systems v. Lewis and Janus v. AFSCME reflect a notable consequence of this decline – what I am calling labor law illiteracy. The majority in Epic Systems seems to misunderstand one of the basic principles of the National Labor Relations Act, and the majority in Janus based its decision, in part, on a simplistic and one-sided view of the justifications for public sector labor law and collective bargaining.
I'm sure many readers will be nodding their heads along with this one. So check it out.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
If you're on the law teaching job market this year, this post is for you. Among the areas that Minnesota Law School is searching for is labor & employment law. Here's the job announcement:
The University of Minnesota Law School plans to fill one tenure-track junior (entry-level and/or lateral) faculty position, to begin in the 2019-20 academic year. Rank upon hire will depend on qualifications. This is a full-time, nine-month appointment.
Qualifications-Applicants should hold a J.D. or degree of equivalent rank and should demonstrate outstanding potential in scholarship and teaching. We are especially interested in the following academic subject areas: constitutional law, employment/labor law, administrative law, civil procedure, environmental law, health law, international law, intellectual property law, property law, and tort law; however, the Law School will consider outstanding candidates with interest or expertise in other subject matter areas.
People of color, women, individuals with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, and other candidates who will contribute to the cultural and intellectual diversity of the faculty are strongly encouraged to apply. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer.
To apply, please go to http://humanresources.umn.edu/jobs and reference job ID 326112.
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Kate Griffith (Cornell, ILR) writes to share the August 2018 Special Issue of the ILR Review, which focuses on workplace conditions and immigration legalization initiatives cross nationally.
Below is an excerpt from the introduction entitled “Introduction to a Special Issue on the Impact of Immigrant Legalization Initiatives: International Perspectives on Immigration and the World of Work,” (authors are Maria Lorena Cook, Shannon Gleeson, Kati L. Griffith, and Lawrence M. Kahn)
“The articles in this special issue draw on studies of legalization initiatives in major immigrant destinations: Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Together they underscore the importance of cross-national perspectives for understanding the range of legalization programs and their impact on immigrant workers, the workplace, and the labor market”
For more from this special issue, which will be free to read for a limited amount of time, click here.
Several labor & employment stories that have been in the news recently:
- The NLRB has extended the time to file briefs in the employee email case, Ceasars Entertainment. The new deadline is October 5. No word yet on why on why the Board decided on the extension.
- The President states that he is going to freeze federal pay, despite an apparent agreement on raises this year. He's using a provision that allows the President to make such actions because of economic exigency.
- The Washington Post has an interesting story on Lewis Hine--the photographer who talked his way into numerous early-1900s workplaces to take pictures of child laborers. Hine's photographs are credited as a major impetus for the FLRA's anti-child labor laws. Check out the Library of Congress collection of his photographs.
- Check out this opinion piece on "two-tier" unions.
And remember, Happy Labor Day tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Stephanie Greene and Christine O'Brien (both Boston College-Management) have just posted on SSRN their article (forthcoming Stanford J. Civil Rights & Civil Liberties) Epic Backslide: The Supreme Court Endorses Mandatory Individual Arbitration Agreements, #Timesup on Workers' Rights. Here's the abstract:
The United States Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to workers’ rights in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 584 U.S. __(May 21, 2018) when it held that employers may require employees to waive their rights to class or collective action. Employees had hoped the Court would find that mandatory individual arbitration provisions are illegal because Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees the right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid or protection. The Court, however, held that the Federal Arbitration Act requires arbitration provisions to be enforced as written. While the three cases before the Court involved wage and hour claims, the Court’s Epic decision impacts many other types of employment disputes that are diverted from courts to individual arbitration – including sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. In the era of #MeToo, some employers may choose to exempt sexual harassment claims from these mandatory private arbitration agreements due to public pressure to do the right thing. Nonetheless, mandatory arbitration provisions cover at least 60 million U.S. workers, and those requiring individual arbitration keep labor and employment claims hidden, and foreclose assertion of rights and achievement of appropriate remedies. This paper discusses the Court’s decision in Epic Systems, what worker rights remain after the decision, and what steps employee advocates and Congress might take to remedy the negative impact of the Court’s decision on workers’ right to act collectively.
I can't bear to write on employment arbitration any more -- theSCOTUS cases are just so bad on both policy and statutory-interpretation grounds. I'm glad others like Stephanie & Christine are fighting the good fight.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Luke Boso recently posted his timely new article, forthcoming in the Florida L. Rev., on SSRN. The abstract explains:
In 2015, the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges settled a decades-long national debate over the legality of same-sex marriage. Since Obergefell, however, local and state legislatures in conservative and mostly rural states have proposed and passed hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills. Obergefell may have ended the legal debate over marriage, but it did not resolve the cultural divide. Many rural Americans feel that they are under attack. Judicial opinions and legislation protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination are serious threats to rural dwellers because they conflict with several core tenets of rural identity: community solidarity, individual self-reliance, and compliance with religiously informed gender and sexual norms. This conflict is amplified by the relative invisibility of gay and transgender people who live in rural areas, and the predominately urban media representations of gay and transgender people. In several respects, the conflict is merely perceived and not real. It is at these junctures of perceived conflict that we can draw important lessons for bridging the cultural divide, thereby protecting LGBTQ people across geographic spaces.
This Article examines the sources and modern manifestations of rural LGBTQ resentment to provide foundational insights for the ongoing fight to protect all vulnerable minorities. Pro-LGBTQ legislation and judicial opinions symbolize a changing America in which rural inhabitants see their identities disappearing, devalued, and disrespected. The left, popularly represented in rural America as urban elites, characterizes anti-LGBTQ views as bigoted, and many people in small towns feel victimized by this criticism. Drawing on a robust body of social science research, this Article suggests that these feelings of victimization lead to resentment when outside forces like federal judges and state and big-city legislators tell rural Americans how to act, think and feel. Rural Americans resent “undeserving” minorities who have earned rights and recognition in contrast to the identities of and at the perceived expense of white, straight, working-class prestige. They resent that liberal, largely urban outsiders are telling them that they must change who they are to accommodate people whom they perceive as unlike them. Opposing LGBTQ rights is thus one mechanism to protect and assert rural identity. It is important to unearth and pay attention to rural anti-LGBTQ resentment in the post-Obergefell era because it is part of a larger force animating conservative politics across the United States.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
The United States still remains the only industrialized country without paid parental leave for newborn or adopted children. The low unemployment rate, however, has encouraged some employers to revisit their parental leave policies. Other businesses have also been creative in trying to develop benefits that would keep workers from seeking other jobs. One Minnesota company has attracted a lot of attention for its policy related to "Fur-Ternity", which gives workers flexible leave to spend time with new pets. From an article in the Star Tribune:
"Nina Hale, a Minneapolis digital marketing company, offers employees one week of flexible hours to care for new pets. . . The policy at Nina Hale includes 'any animal that doesn’t primarily live in a cage,' . . . The new perk centers around the idea of work-life balance, understanding that life extends beyond the office."
This and other policies signal a shift in the labor market in recent years, where employers must be more pro-active in finding ways to retain workers, creating new op"paw"tunities for some employees.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Even though Obergefell was a significant victory for the LGBT community, in the aftermath, a same-sex couple who gets married over the weekend may be fired from their jobs on Monday for simply displaying or posting pictures of their wedding. Because no explicit federal antidiscrimination law encompassing LGBT persons exists in the United States, the employer’s action in firing an employee because they were gay or lesbian would be legal in the majority of states. Therefore, marriage equality ironically makes employment discrimination against LGBT workers easier, in that employers are now more aware of who in their workforce identifies as LGBT because of their marital status and request for spousal benefits.... Ultimately, this article attempts to propose a unified theory under which discrimination based on sexual orientation would be included under Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex.”
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
The NY Times has a story on Muriel Pénicaud, the French labor minister who has been leading the charge of reforming France's labor regulations. Macron, the French President, has been trying to get reforms through for a while but has been largely stymied by protests (you've got to hand it to the French, their capacity to protest may exceed even their cooking talent). As a result, Pénicaud has been embarking on a long series of negotiations with unions and businesses. Stay tuned for what the final results may be.
Also--shameless plug warning--if you want to compare France's legal and social welfare protections for dismissed workers, check out this article that I co-authored with Sam Estreicher, Comparative Wrongful Dismissal Law: Reassessing American Exceptionalism, 92 North Carolina Law Review 343 (2014). We compared not only the laws as written, but also how they operate (e.g., average win rates, average/maximum/minimum awards) for twelve countries, including the U.S.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
COSELL will be held in South Carolina, Sept. 27-29
Just a quick reminder that registration for COSELL XIII closes on August 20: Registration is currently still available here!!!
The Thirteenth Annual Colloquium On Scholarship in Employment and Labor Law (COSELL) 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 available here. Registration for the conference hotel is also now available online, and can be completed here.
We look forward to seeing everyone in South Carolina in a couple of months, and please let me know if you have any questions about the registration process.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
NYC's City Council just passed legislation to stop issuing new ride-hailing licenses for one year. The legislation also requires Uber and similar companies to ensure that drivers earn at least $17.22 per hour (calculated over a week)--like the FLSA tip rule, if drivers don't make that much, the companies must pay the drivers the difference. This can be significant especially in a city like NYC, where almost 85% of drivers make below $17.22/hour and two-thirds of drivers work full-time for ride-hailing companies.
I find the minimum pay provision to be interesting because it puts in motion something I've been thinking about for a while. One of the difficulties in the current "employee"/"not-employee" dichotomy is how much rides on that distinction (pun intended). It's always struck me that this definitional question misses the point. We're stuck with this outmoded definitional hang-up because of current law, but the real question we should be asking is what type of protections do we want for which type of workers. There will always be difficult line drawing, but I think there are areas of agreement. For instance, we've got a long-standing policy of ensuring a minimum pay for the vast majority of "employees." Are there many workers--even those currently classified as independent contractors--who shouldn't also receive at least $7.25/hour? I don't think so. Same for workplace safety and other protections. The devil's in the details, to be sure, but NYC's new legislation represents one step in the direction of ensuring worker rights, rather than just employee rights. And it's a move I'm glad to see.
Finally, a brief plug for a recent article I co-authored with Joe Seiner exploring non-traditional collective action in ride sharing and other modern industries. There's a lot of interesting things going on, but also a lot of legal questions prompted by new activity fitting into old laws.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
The AP has just called the Prop A vote in Missouri, with votes currently in favor 63%-37%. This ballot measure strikes down the legislature's attempt to make Missouri a right-to-work state. Especially so soon after Janus, this is a good night for organized labor.
Friday, August 3, 2018
Jon Harkavy (Patterson Harkavy) has just posted on SSRN the 2018 edition of his annual Supreme Court Commentary reviewing all employment and labor decisions of the recent term and summarizing the employment-related cert grants for the upcoming term.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
It's appearing that e-mail is becoming yet another issue on which the NLRB's views flip-flop depending on the party in charge of the White House. Today, the Board announced that it was seeking input on whether to reverse Purple Communications, itself a reversal of the earlier Register-Guard, decision. I've written about the issue of employees' use of employer e-mail quite a bit and won't rehash it all here. However, I will note that the Court's recent interest in the First Amendment (see: Janus among other cases) adds an additional spin. As I recently noted, Member Johnson's dissent in Purple Communications made a First Amendment claim; I thought it very weak, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it resurface in a new opinion by the Board. That, and the return of Register-Guard's "I slept through my 1L Property class in law school" treatment of personal property law. Apparently, it's time to update my amicus brief from the Purple Communications litigation.