Friday, February 13, 2015

How Well Does the Implicit Association Test Predict Discrimination? The Latest Round

    While the idea of implicit bias pervades discussions about employment discrimination and employment discrimination law, researchers continue to fight about how well the Implicit Association Test (IAT)—perhaps the most prominent measure of such bias--predicts how people actually behave.  Here are scenes from the latest round:

    Anthony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Barry Nosek have posted “Statistically small effects of the Implicit Association Test can have societally large effects,” forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2015).  There, they dispute Oswald, Mitchell, Blanton, Jaccard, and Tetlock (2013), who found, in a meta-analysis of IAT studies, a lower average predictive validity correlation for IAT measures involving Black-White racial attitudes and stereotypes than reported in Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, and Banaji (2009).  Oswald et al. have posted a reply.

    Hart Blanton, James Jaccard, Erin Strauts, Gregory Mitchell, and Phillip Tetlock have also posted “Toward a Meaningful Metric of Implicit Prejudice,” forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology.  Here’s the abstract:

The modal distribution of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) is commonly interpreted as showing high levels of implicit prejudice among Americans. These interpretations have fueled calls for changes in organizational and legal practices, but such applications are problematic because the IAT is scored on an arbitrary psychological metric. The present research was designed to make the IAT metric less arbitrary by determining the scores on IAT measures that are associated with observable racial or ethnic bias. By reexamining data from published studies, we found evidence that the IAT metric is “right biased,” such that individuals who are behaviorally neutral tend to have positive IAT scores. Current scoring conventions fail to take into account these dynamics and can lead to faulty inferences about the prevalence of implicit prejudice.

    Finally, Allan King, Gregory Mitchell, Richard Black, Catherine Conway, and Julie Totten have posted “Discovery and the Evidentiary Foundations of Implicit Bias,” Employee Relations Law Journal 40 (Winter 2014): 4-33.  Here’s the abstract:

This article documents the extent to which expert opinions regarding implicit bias rely on research that evades careful scrutiny by either the academic journals or the courts that admit the expert’s testimony, discuss the arguments that shield the data underlying research from discovery, argue for discovery of secondary data notwithstanding the arguments against disclosure, and argue for excluding expert testimony that relies on data beyond the reach of the opposing party.

Note: Of this paper’s authors, most are lawyers who typically represent large employers: King and Black at Littler Mendelson; Conway at Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher; and Totten at Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe. Mitchell is a professor at the University of Virginia Law School and a co-author of some of the other papers cited above.

 

--Sachin Pandya

February 13, 2015 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nobody Discriminates Like Sara Lee?

Cake

There have been some egregious charges of discrimination brought against dessert giant Sara Lee. The allegations, reported in the Chicago Tribune, maintain that the company assigned African-American employees to work in dangerous conditions, singling these workers out for hazardous jobs at one of its facilities.  According to the article:

"Workers were exposed to asbestos, mold and other toxins. . . [The allegations maintain that] plant managers subjected black workers to racial slurs, intimidation and racial graffiti. Black employees were less likely than their white counterparts to be promoted."

If true, these are serious allegations, and an important reminder that racial discrimination continues to be a problem in our society.

-- Joe Seiner

February 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Uber Good News and Hiring in an Improved Economy

There are a number of signs that the economy has turned a corner and that employers are finally hiring and paying higher salaries. Studies are now showing reduced unemployment rates and higher worker pay. The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at one such company -- Uber (which is a ride-sharing business for those of you not familiar with the company).  From the article:

"Uber’s labor pool is growing fast and large. .  . the number of new drivers is doubling every six months, with the company adding 40,000 new drivers in the U.S. in December alone. At the same time, Uber says nearly half its drivers become inactive after a year—either because they quit or are terminated. If those trends continue, Uber could end this year with roughly half-a-million drivers in the U.S. alone."

This is an encouraging case study and worth a read.  Hopefully, these trends will continue both at this company and in the economy as a whole.

-- Joe Seiner

February 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Hearing on NLRB Joint Employer Rule

NLRBAs readers know, the NLRB's General Counsel is pursuing an action against McDonald's that, along with its opinion in the Roundy's case, would somewhat expand the concept of joint employment under the NLRA.  (Note that this article, which is otherwise good, mistakenly states that the NLRB has decided the issue.)  It's actually unclear to me how significant the GC's analysis would be in practice, but it's clearly a change in a direction that employers don't like.  As a result, the Senate recently held a hearing on the issue (there's a similar on the new representation rules that I'll post on once they happen later in the month).

Our emeritus blogger, Paul Secunda was one of the witnesses and seemed to do quite well).  There are obviously arguments about where the line between single and joint employment should be, but I think the GC is reasonably concerned about having their cake and eating it too (or Big Macs).  In other words, if corporations want more control over the employment practices of its franchises, it needs to take responsibility as well.  

-JH

February 7, 2015 in Labor and Employment News, Labor Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wage Raises Without Profit/Job Loss

The hot topic in labor and employment fields, economics, and the stock market this year has been the stagnation of wages and hopes of higher worker salaries. An interesting article over at PBS Newshour looks at different approaches that employers can use to raise worker salaries without impacting their bottom-line profits or cause any layoffs.  From the article:

"Better-compensated workers have been shown to be better workers. Therefore, when companies pay a higher wage, they will save money from reduced absenteeism, lower turnover and training and higher productivity. Those gains would defray roughly 20 percent of the total increase in the industry’s wage bill."

The article takes an interesting look at a study that was performed in this area, and provides a different perspective on this important issue.

- Joe Seiner

February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

$1.7 Million in OSHA Damages

Workplace safety violations rarely grab headlines under OSHA, as the financial penalties are typically not substantial. A recent matter involving Ashley furniture – – one of the nation's largest furniture companies – – is a notable and very recent exception. The company was recently fined $1.7 Million for allegations of workplace safety violations by the federal government.  The New York Times ran an interesting story about the matter. From the article:

"The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for dozens of violations, including disregard for safety standards that led to a number of gruesome injuries. In July, one worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine, the agency said."

OSHA  is a frequently overlooked employment law statute.  The article is an interesting one as it raises the profile of the statute  and discusses the nature of these types of violations and the potential penalties involved.  It is a great article to discuss if you are teaching employment law this semester. 

– Joe Seiner

February 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Big Glamour" in Big Trouble

There have recently been a couple of very high profile discrimination claims brought against two leaders in the fashion industry. The Huffington Post discusses a claim against Revlon which alleges unlawful retaliation and religious discrimination at the company. In another case against Saks Fifth Avenue,  a transgender woman employee maintains that she was required to use the male lavatory and was subjected to pervasive harassment by other employees.  From the article:

"The Charles Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, is in part a study on inequality. Whether illegal discriminatory practices took place at Revlon or Saks will likely be revealed through deposition testimony. Lawsuits are big business with huge risks (and rewards), and for one party, it will be the best of times, and for the other, the worst of times".

It is interesting to see discrimination claims unfold in this industry, and these will be fascinating cases to follow in the coming months.

- Joe Seiner

February 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Early Labor and Employment Supreme Court Decisions

Supreme CourtLast week, the Supreme Court decided two labor and employment cases.  In one, M&G Polymers, a unanimous Supreme Court held that courts should apply ordinary contract principles when deciding whether health-care benefits survive the expiration of a collective-bargaining agreement.  This holding reversed the Sixth Circuit's Yard-Man presumption that CBAs intend these benefits to vest for life.  The Court remanded for the CBA to be interpreted by "ordinary contract principles," but ominously noted that "when a contract is silent as to the duration of retiree benefits, a court may not infer that the parties intended those benefits to vest for life."  This stance seemed to be a primary motivation for a four-Justice concurrence (the more liberal Justices).  The concurrence stressed that courts should be open to interpreting a CBA to intend vesting of retirees' health benefits, albeit without the Yard-Man "thumb on the scale."  The impact of M&G Polymers will depend on how courts apply the decision, so we'll have to wait and see.

In the other decision, Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean, the Court held (7-2, with Justices Sotomayor and Kennedy dissenting) that a TSA regulation did not eliminate whistleblower protection.  At issue was a provision in the federal whistleblower statute that makes an exception for disclosures "specifically prohibited by law."  In MacLean, the Court held that Congress intended this provision to apply to statutes, but not agency regulations (e.g., elsewhere in the statute, Congress used the phrase "law, rule, or regulation").  The dissenters largely agreed with the majority, but thought the exception was satisfied by the Homeland Security Act's mandate that the TSA prescribe regulations to prevent disclosure of certain information.  This case is certainly a win for federal whistleblowers and will require Congress to be more proactive if it wants exceptions for certain whistleblower disclosures.

-JH

 

February 2, 2015 in Labor and Employment News, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Protected Conduct vs. Protected Conduct?

New ImageThe Seventh Circuit just decided a Title VII retaliation case that could be viewed as a clash of two statute's views of protected conduct. Greengrass v. International Monetary Systems involved a retaliation claim, with the retaliation being the defendant employer's listing the plaintiff's EEOC charge, complete with her name, as the adverse action.

The Seventh Circuit had no trouble finding plaintiff's protected conduct (filing a charge with the EEOC) or the employer's adverse action (listing her by name in its 10Q forms under "Legal Proceedings" while describing it as meritless).  On the latter issue, the court stressed that plaintiff claimed that a recruiter told her the filing made her unemployable and she also alleged that a Google search of her name drew multiple hits. 

Plus there was considerable evidence of pretext - including the employer's inconsistent treatment of reporting litigation against it.  In earlier filings, it did not include litigants' names; then it did; then it didn't. Accordingly, a reasonable jury could conclude that its naming plaintiff was in response to advice about compliance with SEC regulations.

But what about the possibility that the employer was required by the SEC to name the plaintiff? After all, if it were, compulsion of law would seem to render any harm to the plaintiff simply a consequence of compliance. That could be viewed as either a kind of privilege or negating any employer intent to discriminate. At any rate, I'm informed by someone who knows that the rule is that a company needs to name the principal parties to material legal proceedings. Presumably, the question then would be whether the company so determined in good faith.   (I'm told that the fact that a firm simultaneously labels a claim as  "meritless" doesn't necessarily negate materiality. Go figure).  

So what should an employer do?  Passing on materiality in individual cases seems fraught after the 7th Circuit's decision, which suggests that maybe employers would be wise to name all litigants all the time. Not a happy result for employees, and one that leads me to wonder if naming all litigants might run afoul of the disparate impact theory -- assuming it applies in retaliation cases, which may be up for grabs in light of recent developments.  

 CAS

H/t to Tim Glynn, Steve Willborn. 

February 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nicole Porter Scholarship Now Available on SSRN

Porter

I have just learned that friend-of-blog and employment law scholar/expert Nicole Porter (Toledo) has just uploaded a significant amount of her wonderful scholarship on SSRN.  I am sure that most of our readers are familiar with Nicole's substantial contributions to our area of the law, and her scholarship is always very well reasoned and heavily relied upon in the academic community. Now that her last several articles are available to download, it is a great opportunity to catch up on some of these important topics and developing areas of the law. In particular, Nicole addresses the following areas:

Special Treatment Stigma after the ADA Amendments Acthttp://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2552854 This paper discusses the stigma that arises when employees with disabilities receive special treatment in the workplace, in the form of reasonable accommodations. It then explores whether this stigma is likely to worsen or improve after the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, which has increased the number of individuals who are considered disabled and therefore entitled to reasonable accommodations.

Finding a Fix for the FMLA: A New Perspective, a New Solution, Hofstra Lab. & Emp. L. J. 327 (2014): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2546460  Although the FMLA has received plenty of criticism, this paper focuses on the perspective of employers, who complain about the complexity and potential abuse of the serious health condition and intermittent leave provisions. After considering this perspective, this paper proposes a two-part solution. First, it proposes severing the FMLA coverage for the birth of a baby and the long-term care of family members (“care of others”) from coverage for one’s own serious health condition (“self care”) and coverage for very short-term absences to care for others. The FMLA would continue to cover the birth of a baby and leave to care for family members, but only when the anticipated leave is longer than ten days in length. The second part of the proposal is the enactment of a separate statute to address short-term absences for both the care of others and self care. This proposal would curb the many abuses of the FMLA and greatly decrease the complexity of the statute, which would hopefully ameliorate employers’ hostility towards the FMLA.

Choices, Bias, and the Value of the Paycheck Fairness Act: A Response Essay, 29 ABA J. Lab. & Emp. L. 429 (2014): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2546467 This essay responds to authors who argue that the pay gap is primarily caused by women’s own choices in the workplace, and thus, these authors criticize the focus of the Obama administration on ending employer discrimination. First, this essay argues that employers are not primarily blamed for the pay gap; rather, the pay gap is often blamed on the choices women make. Second, this essay argues that most workplace choices made by women (and men) are constrained by social norms and workplace structures that are not compatible with balancing work and family. Finally, although not perfect, this essay argues that the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act can make a dent in the pay gap, especially with a few minor tweaks.

Caregiver Conundrum Redux: The Entrenchment of Structural Norms, 91 Denv. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2015): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2555872 This paper argues that the entrenchment of structural norms (hours, schedules, shifts, attendance, etc.) makes it impossible to make real progress in ending the caregiver conundrum, the difficulty caregivers face in balancing work and family. This paper uses analogous case law under Americans with Disabilities Act to demonstrate the entrenchment of these norms, and argues that because these norms are so entrenched, proposed solutions, both litigation- and legislation-focused, will ultimately fail.

I definitely recommend these papers to everyone and hope that you will get a chance to take a look at them in the coming days and weeks.

-- Joe Seiner

January 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thirteenth Annual Biagi Conference

    The Thirteenth International Conference in Commemoration of Professor Marco Biagi will take place on March 19 – 20, 2015.  This year’s conference theme is Employment Relations and Transformation of the Enterprise in the Global Economy.”  This annual conference is organized by the Marco Biagi Foundation at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.    The Conference will be preceded on March 18th by the Young Scholars’ Workshop in Labour Relations, also organized and hosted  by the Marco Biagi Foundation.  The Conference and Workshop programs are here.

 

--Sachin Pandya

 

Hat tip:  Susan Bisom-Rapp.  Susan is both a Conference and Workshop participant and serves on the Marco Biagi Foundation’s scientific committee and international council.  She tells us that this will be her ninth consecutive year attending the event.

January 28, 2015 in Conferences & Colloquia, International & Comparative L.E.L. | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

S'now Joke: You are Fired for "Bad Weather"

Many of you in the Northeast may be snowed in or facing hazardous travel conditions (we here  in South Carolina typically don't have to worry about that).  So if you are enjoying a Snow day off, you might contemplate whether or not there could be any potential employment issues if you are unable to get to work due to poor weather conditions.  Basically, the question arises as to whether an employer can fire you for not showing up to work where the roads are  hazardous, or even where the state has imposed travel bans.  It does present interesting employment law questions on a number of different fronts, and an article today over at CNN/Fortune looks squarely at this issue. From the article:

“As “Juno,” the so-called Blizzard of 2015, barreled toward the Northeast Monday afternoon, public officials urged workers to stay home. As urgent and dire as those warnings sounded, employers didn’t necessarily have to heed them.”

It's a fun issue to debate, but most employers are generally fairly lenient on these issues. The article takes an interesting look at this topic, and can be a fun topic for classroom debate.

- Joe Seiner

January 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Have Another Horton -- with a Splash of Chevron

New ImageLoyal readers are familiar with my (if not necessarily appreciative of) obsession with the Horton principle (which, by the way, is getting another rub at the courts in the Second Circuit). Those similarly afflicted (or maybe just interested in Chevron deference to the National Labor Relations Board decisions) will find interesting a recent student Note, Deference and the Federal Arbitration Act,  128 Harv. L. Rev. 907 (2015)

Written by Brett Kalikow, it argues that the Board's decision as to whether concerted action is a substantive right under the NLRA is entitled to deference. While recognizing that deference is not due where an agency interprets a statute outside its domain (like the FAA), the cases make clear that the FAA cannot require any waiver of substantive rights. And the Note contends that, therefore, Board interpretations that rights under the NLRA are substantive may nevertheless dictate the outcome:  

This Note argues that deference is also warranted for the Board’s finding that the NLRA provides employees with a substantive statutory right to pursue legal claims collectively, which would render the arbitration agreements waiving that right unenforceable under the FAA. Although most of the Board’s discussion of the FAA is not entitled to deference, the Board’s finding that concerted legal activity is a substantive right under the NLRA is different. That determination is based on the NLRB’s interpretation of the nature of the rights guaranteed by the NLRA, the statute it administers, and therefore Chevron deference applies.

Needless to say, I'm persuaded -- although I'm a pretty easy sell when it comes to Horton!

CAS

 

January 26, 2015 in Arbitration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Parental Leave Around the World

There is a wonderful chart and article over at the Huffington Post that takes a comparative look at parental leave.  Many of us examine this issue when we cover the FMLA, or teach an international employment law class.  The chart is really helpful in hitting home the idea of how far behind the US is in this area.  It provides a nice visual overview of the topic for your students.  From the article:

"The U.S. didn't crack the top 10 "worst" list for paternity leave, but it didn't make it on the "best" list either. Any way you slice it, it seems the vast majority of working parents in the U.S. have few options when it comes to taking care of newborns."

This is an interesting and important issue and I recommend this article for your review.

- Joe Seiner

January 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Michigan Union Membership Falls to Record Low

We are used to seeing declining unionization and membership rates across the country.  Another unfortunate trend (depending on your perspective) is a decline in unionization in those states that historically back organized labor.  The great state of Michigan is the best and most recent example of this trend.  The Detroit Free Press is reporting that unionization there is now at an all time low:

"The state's union membership fell in 2014 to 14.5%, or 585,000, of the 4 million workforce from 16.3% from the prior year, according [to] figures released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . . .  North Carolina has the lowest union membership rate at just 1.9%. Nationally, union membership declined 0.2% to 11.1%."

Many of you will recall that a "Right to Work Law" was recently put in place in the state, likely accounting for the decline.  It will be intresting to follow this issue and see if the percentages of unionized workers levels out at some point in the state.

-- Joe Seiner

January 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Penalizing Coaches – No, Not Bill Belichick

New ImageThere’s some reason to believe that employers are utilizing liquidated damages clauses in their employment contracts to a greater extent than previously.  This makes sense from their perspective because damages from an employee’s breach of a term contract are often hard to prove to a sufficient degree of certainty.  Even when some damages can be shown (for example, the increased cost of hiring a replacement), the employer may well feel that other harm remains uncompensated.  

Enter the liquidated damages clause. I’ll skip the academic debate as to whether parties should be free to enter into such agreements free of special scrutiny and move right to the law on the subject, which (somewhat contradictorily) generally permits the parties to stipulate to damages from a breach only if they are a reasonable attempt to specify harm that is by its nature difficult or impossible of ascertainment after breach.  Courts also differ on whether reasonableness is to be ascertained as of the time of the contract (foresight), at the time of breach (hindsight) or both.  See Restatement of Contracts § 356.

One of the latest judicial encounters with a liquidated damages clause was in Kent University v. Ford (a 2-1 decision of the Ohio Court of Appeals) and involved (naturally) a coach. Although Kent State is not a basketball powerhouse, it recovered $1.2 million against its former coach, who in 2011 moved on to Bradley (also not a powerhouse). And, if you’re wondering, the Bradley Braves current record is 6-14. So poor Ford may be looking for another job soon, with a big judgment hanging over his head.  Maybe he was smart enough to get Bradley to agree to indemnify him (Bradley was also sued by Kent State for tortious interference but it dismissed that claim once it obtained summary judgment against Ford).

The clause in question required Ford to pay Kent State his stated salary for each year he failed to keep his contractual commitment, which, in the event, was four years. As you might guess from the judgment, he was earning $300,000.

The Bradley offer paid him $700,000 a year, which suggests it was an efficient breach for Ford. Even if he had to pay the $1.2 to Kent State (rather than shift that cost to Bradley), he would net $1.6 million over the next four years rather than the 1.2 he would have earned had he stayed put.  By the way Kent State is now 13-5 under the coach who replaced Ford there.

Setting a liquidated damage provision at the level of the employee’s compensation seems, to put it mildly, arbitrary.  It is true that, as the court noted, there are a lot of damages that are simply unquantifiable (for example, whether a particular recruited athlete would not go elsewhere once the coach left, the financial significance of which depends both on how well that athlete would have played in a team sport and how such play might affect the gate).  In other words, the damages are pretty clearly unascertainable, satisfying that prong of the usual test.

But the “reasonable effort” to estimate those damages seems plainly lacking although the opinion is more than a little confused on this point. One might think that the fact that Kent State did no “financial analysis” of possible harm (although it identified a number of headings where damage might occur) might be dispositive, but nope.  The explanation might be a quirk in governing Ohio law, which does not explicitly focus on the reasonableness of the estimate. Instead, the court focused on whether the agreement was unconscionable, and found Ford a sophisticated party who had consulted with an agent and/or attorney. Nevertheless, the court also found the damages reasonable, even if only based on the additional cost of hiring a new coach – and to do so, it looked to Ford’s salary at Bradley. In other words, if Kent State had to hire a replacement for Ford because he left for a better paying job, a suitable replacement would cost more or less what Ford made elsewhere. Maybe true, but it’s still hard to see what that has to do with pegging damages at yearly salary.

There was a strong dissent, which may mean an appeal down the road to the state Supreme Court. That would provide an opportunity to clarify a muddy area. In the meantime the Kent State decision might give greater impetus to employer use of liquidated damages clause. Oh, and a final irony:  more or less at the same time it was trying to enforce the basketball coach’s clause, Kent State was trying to invalidate a football defensive coordinator before another Ohio court in Fleming v. Kent State. While it lost on one issue, it may still prevail on others. Speaking of having one’s cake….

 CAS 

P.S. My apologize for not hyperlinking the two cases to a free source, but there's some problem in Ohio.  The cites are: Kent State Univ. v. Ford, 2015-Ohio-41 (Ct. App.) and Fleming v. Kent State Univ., 17 N.E.3d 620 (Ohio Ct. App. 2014). 

January 23, 2015 in Employment Common Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tomlins on Vinel’s The Employee: A Political History

    Christopher Tomlins has posted a review of Jean-Christian Vinel, The Employee: A Political History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).  Vinel teaches American History at Université Paris-Diderot, and his book traces the history of the legal definition of “employee” in US law.  Here’s the abstract of the Tomlins essay:

This paper is a critical commentary on Jean-Christian Vinel’s 2013 book, The Employee: A Political History. In substance, Vinel’s book addresses the history and consequences of the failure of American unions to organize supervisory employees. However, as befits a book published in a series created “to reverse the fragmentation of modern U.S. history and to encourage synthetic perspectives on social movements and the state,” it ranges rather more broadly. Thus, the book is a legal and political history of a word (“employee”). It also attempts an intellectual history of American industrial relations theory, and of the course of labor relations law from the New Deal into the twenty-first century. It is also a brave effort to synthesize the distinct “critical” and “industrial realist” strains of labor relations history that spent the better part of the 1980s and 1990s, amid the unfolding, never-ending, crisis of American trade unionism, arguing over how to interpret the legacy of the New Deal’s collective bargaining policy. And it is an effort at a critique of both those positions (although Vinel’s sympathies are ultimately with the realists.) Finally, while indubitably an American history, The Employee is intermittently comparative. This commentary assesses sympathetically Vinel’s efforts, but parts company from his conclusions.

For a prior review of Vinel’s book, see here.

 

---Sachin Pandya

January 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Warning To Bosses Everywhere: A Third of Employees Would Quit Without a Raise in 2015

The economy is stronger and the labor market is tightening, putting workers in a much better negotiating position over wages.  This fact has not been lost on much of the workforce.  A new study discussed over at CNN.Money reveals that over a third of workers plan to quit their current employment and seek other work if they are not given a raise this year.  From the article:

"Those most likely to walk? Employees under age 35 and employees making less than $50,000. But that doesn't mean more seasoned or better paid workers are just going to suck it up. A full 36% of those between the ages of 35 and 44 say they'll look elsewhere for a job if they don't get a pay hike, as would 31% of those making more than $100,000."

It is clear that there are definitive expectations out there for higher wages in this coming year as we have finally turned a corner in the economy.  It will be interesting to see whether these expectations  are actually met  as employers are likely leery  of another downturn.

-- Joe Seiner

January 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 16, 2015

White House Paid Family Leave Initiative

White houseToday, the White House announced a set of new initiatives to expand paid family leave. Among the plans:

  • Healthy Families Act: proposed legislation that would require employers to allow employees to earn up to 7 days of paid sick leave per year.
  • A start-up fund to help states create their own paid leave plans for their employees.
  • Improved data collection through the Department of Labor.
  • Proposed legislation to create paid parental leave for federal employees.
  • Expanding coverage of FMLA.
  • Expanding tax credits and federal funding for child care costs.
  • Increased funding for family care for elderly and disabled family members.
  • Improving enforcement of equal pay laws

This is an aggressive set of proposals, some of which are obvious nonstarters in the current Congress.  It's nice to see the President bringing attention to the issue though; however, I'd like more emphasis in the press on the limits of the FMLA that currently exists.  For instance, few people seem to realize that it only applies to employers with 50 or more employees.

-JH

January 16, 2015 in Labor and Employment News, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Career Counseling Brought to you by . . . Your Employer?

There is an interesting article over at the Wall Street Journal which looks at how several large companies are starting to work with their employees to chart out a career path.  Apparently, these employers are attempting to combat worker turnover by  helping to create internal options for employee growth.  As the job market begins to tighten with the growing economy, this approach makes sense for employers to help attract and keep their top talent.  From the article:

"Big companies ... are hiring career counselors, training some managers to give job advice and launching in-house career centers similar to those found on college campuses. Other companies . . . are taking steps to better market internal job opportunities and make clear what it takes to land a new position. As the hiring market heats up, the idea is to help workers plot their next few jobs and learn how to ascend the corporate ladder—preferably without having to leave the company."

This is an interesting trend and certainly one that signals a return to a more worker-friendly environment.

-- Joe Seiner

January 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)