Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Kathy Stone has been awarded the 2017 LLRN Bob Hepple Award for Lifetime Achievement in Labour Law, along with Prof. Kazoo Sugeno from Japan. The presentation will take place at this summer LLRN meeting in Toronto. According to LLRN:
The goal of the Award is to acknowledge exceptional and longstanding contributions to labour law scholarship. Such recognition from the global community of labour law scholars, which the LLRN represents, is intended to be meaningful both for the Award recipients and for the community bestowing this honour. The members of the Award Nominations Committee this year were Takashi Araki, Hugh Collins, John Howe, Kerry Rittich, and Mia Ronnmar (those interested in the guidelines detailing the process can find them at the LLRN website).
The Awards will be presented at a ceremony during the upcoming LLRN3 conference in Toronto. In the meantime, warmest congratulations to Kathy and Kazuo for this well-deserved honour!
You can also see UCLA's announcement here.
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to obtain legitimate employment, a problem that recent legislation, including Ban the Box, has attempted to address. The success of any remedial strategy depends on why hiring firms impose a hiring penalty and whether their concerns are founded on an accurate view of how ex-offenders behave on the job if hired. Little empirical evidence now exists to answer these questions. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining firm-level hiring practices and worker-level performance outcomes. Our data indicate that the typical employee with a criminal record has a psychological profile different from other employees, with fewer characteristics that are associated with good job performance outcomes. Despite these differences, individuals with criminal records have an involuntary separation rate that is no higher than that of other employees and a voluntary separation rate that is much lower. Employees with a criminal record do have a slightly higher overall rate of discharge for misconduct than do employees without a record, although we find increased misconduct only for sales positions. We also find that firms that do not use information about criminal backgrounds seem to compensate by placing more weight on qualifications that are correlated with a criminal record, such as low educational attainment.
Friday, May 12, 2017
A recently evolving topic in the labor and employment field is the extent to which employers can fire workers for posts on Facebook. There really isn't that much litigation out there at this point on this important topic. However, a jury yesterday awarded a city of Charlotte, North Carolina employee $1.5 million in a case which touched on this issue.
In the matter, the city had purportedly fired the worker for Facebook comments it found inflammatory and disruptive. A jury, however, concluded that the termination was actually in retaliation for her safety complaints related to new office construction. It's a really interesting case, and you can read more about it in an article here in the Charlotte Observer.
-- Joe Seiner
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Reports are out today of two probable nominees to the NLRB. According to Politico's Morning Report report, the president intends to nominate William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, and both are currently undergoing FBI background checks. Emanuel is an attorney at Littler Mendelson's L.A. office, while Kaplan has been working in the federal government, currently at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and earlier as Republican counsel for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. An interesting note is that Bill Seaton had been rumored to be on the shortlist and it's possible that having worked as a "union buster" may have worked against him (or not, no one's saying at this point).
Readers may be interested in a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform: Preventing Death and Injury on the Job: The Criminal Justice Alternative in State Law. An excerpt from the summary:
Workers and advocacy groups are turning to the states as possible avenues for successful reform, urging local prosecutors to pursue crimes involving worker fatalities and serious injuries under their states’ general criminal laws, as the Massachusetts prosecutor did in the case against Edmund Godin for involuntary manslaughter more than 30 years ago. To date, only a few prosecutors in a handful of states (e.g., California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York) have actively pursued such cases, but those prosecutors have been remarkably successful. Such advocacy efforts suggest that criminal prosecutions are increasingly important for punishing and deterring employer neglect and malfeasance.
In 2014, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars and policy analysts published Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform, which discussed this reform effort, along with a series of workers’ rights campaigns beginning to take hold at the state and local level. Following up on the 2014 manual, this new manual offers more detailed assistance to advocates who want to enhance criminal prosecutions for crimes against workers.
The Annual meeting of the ABA International LEL Committee just wrapped up in Dublin. I was pleased to be joined here by Laura Cooper (Minnesota), Marley Weiss (Maryland), and Ben Sachs (Harvard). Anyone interested in becoming involved in this Committee can contact me or any of these folks. Topics covered the gamut of LEL law and practice, and included:
- Ireland: The Changing Labor and Employment Landscape on the Emerald Isle
- Brexit, Trump and Beyond: How the New Political Landscapes in the U.S. and U.K. Will Impact Workplace Law around the World
- With Trump Towering in the U.S., How Will Labor & Employment Laws and Standards Change at Home?
- With the U.K. Exiting the EU and Similar Movements Gaining Ground Elsewhere, How Will Labor and Employment Laws & Standards Change Abroad?
- Globalization’s Impact on Labor and Employment Law: How the Issue Is Shaping the Workplace
- Enforcing Responsible Business Conduct in a Changing Political Environment
- Where the Work Gets Done: The Changing Climate for Corporate Decision-making
- Anti-Immigration Efforts in the U.S., U.K. and E.U. and Their Impact on Labor & Employment Law and Practice
- Hot Cross-Border Issues
- Please Mind the Gap: A Cross-Border Comparison of New Laws and Initiatives to Equal Pay
- Company Relocations and Restructurings: More Brexit Implications for Multinationals and their Workforces
- The Legal and Other Challenges to the “Gig Economy” around the Globe: What's the Score?
- Industry Day: Exploring Key Global Labor and Employment Issues in Three Industry Groups
- Pharma and Health Care
- Energy and Infrastructure
Matthew Knepper (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) has just posted on SSRN his article (forthcoming J. Labor Econ.) When the Shadow Is the Substance: Judge Gender and the Outcomes of Workplace Sex Discrimination Cases. Here's the abstract of this important article, which quite literally takes research on implicit bias to a completely different level:
The number of workplace sex discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approaches 25,000 annually. Do the subsequent judicial proceedings suffer from a discriminatory gender bias? Exploiting random assignment of federal district court judges to civil cases, I find that female plaintiffs filing workplace sex discrimination claims are substantially more likely to settle and win compensation whenever a female judge is assigned to the case. Additionally, female judges are 15 percentage points less likely than male judges to grant motions filed by defendants, which suggests that final negotiations are shaped by the emergence of the bias.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Friends-of-blog Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) and Malcolm Sargeant (Middlesex U. Business School, London) have posted on SSRN chapter 1 of their excellent new book, Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce (Cambridge University Press, 2016). The book was published last October. Here is the abstract:
"Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce fills a gap in the literature on discrimination and disadvantage suffered by women at work by focusing on the inadequacies of the current law and the need for a new holistic approach. Each stage of the working life cycle for women is examined with a critical consideration of how the law attempts to address the problems that inhibit women's labor force participation. By using their model of lifetime disadvantage, the authors show how the law adopts an incremental and disjointed approach to resolving the challenges, and argue that a more holistic orientation towards eliminating women's discrimination and disadvantage is required before true gender equality can be achieved. Using the concept of resilience from vulnerability theory, the authors advocate a reconfigured workplace that acknowledges yet transcends gender."
The book is available on the CUP website. This is a wonderful work that provides an important contribution to this evolving area of the law. Congratulations to Professors Bisom-Rapp and Sargeant on this impressive achievement!
Congratulations to Sandra Sperino (Cincinnati) and Suja Thomas (Illinois) on the publication of their new book Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law (Oxford Univ. Press May 2017). Here's a description of this critical and timely book:
It is no secret that since the 1980s, American workers have lost power vis-à-vis employers. Along with the well-chronicled steep decline in private sector unionization, American workers alleging employment discrimination have fared increasingly poorly in the courts. In recent years, judges have dismissed scores of cases in which workers presented evidence that supervisors referred to them using racial or gender slurs. In one federal district court, judges dismissed more than 80 percent of the race discrimination cases filed over a year. And when juries return verdicts in favor of employees, judges often second guess those verdicts, finding ways to nullify the jury's verdict and rule in favor of the employer.
Most Americans assume that that an employee alleging workplace discrimination faces the same legal system as other litigants. After all, we do not usually think that legal rules vary depending upon the type of claim brought. As the employment law scholars Sandra A. Sperino and Suja A. Thomas show in Unequal, though, our assumptions are wrong. Over the course of the last half century, employment discrimination claims have come to operate in a fundamentally different legal system than other claims. It is in many respects a parallel universe, one in which the legal system systematically favors employers over employees. A host of procedural, evidentiary, and substantive mechanisms serve as barriers for employees, making it extremely difficult for them to access the courts. Moreover, these mechanisms make it fairly easy for judges to dismiss a case prior to trial. Americans are unaware of how the system operates partly because they think that race and gender discrimination are in the process of fading away. But such discrimination remains fairly common in the workplace, and workers now have little recourse to fight it legally. By tracing the modern history of employment discrimination, Sperino and Thomas provide an authoritative account of how our legal system evolved into an institution that is inherently biased against workers making rights claims.
Friday, May 5, 2017
William Baumol (econ.; NYU, Berkeley, Princeton) died yesterday. He informed the way many of us think about higher-ed financing and professional labor. I am re-posting here an excerpt from Dean Dad's tribute this morning:
Longtime readers know that I consider [Baumol's] signature contribution to economic thought -- Baumol’s Cost Disease -- one of the foundational truths of higher education. (The same could be said for health care and live entertainment.) He waited until late in life to commit the idea to book form; his book The Cost Disease should be required reading for anybody who presumes to comment or work on the economics of higher education....
His idea is generally downplayed or ignored in discussions of higher ed financing. That’s everyone’s loss. He never really solved the issue, but he gave us a map to understand it. That’s a genuine contribution. Well done, sir.
Baumol’s insight helps us understand, too, the broad-based assault on the professions. Why are “disruptors” so intent on undermining the educated professional middle class? Because until now, people in those jobs were able to demand significant salaries due to scarcity. If you’re the first to break that scarcity, whether through automation, disaggregation, or some other variation, you can hoover up those gains for yourself. Which is exactly what’s happening.
When you break the link between labor and production, it becomes much easier to hoard value in a few hands. We’re only beginning to grasp the implications of that.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
The Senate has just confirmed Alex Acosta as the Secretary of Labor. The vote was 60-38. As I've said before, I was pleased with this pick given the current administration. Now the rubber meets the road.
Anne-Marie Lofaso (West Virginia) has just posted on SSRN her article, Workers Rights as Natural Human Rights, which is to be published in the University of Miami Law Review. The abstract:
We live in an increasingly polarized world: one summed up by President Clinton, “we’re all in this together;” the other summed up by then-presidential candidate Trump, “I alone can fix it.” These world views have implications for workers and how the future workplace is ordered. In this Article, I explore the idea that a natural human rights approach to workplace regulations will tend to favor the we’reall-in-this-together view, whereas the Lochnerian or neoliberal view tends to favor an individualistic world view.
The Article’s six-step analytical approach starts with a historical analysis of labor law jurisprudence, concluding that U.S. labor laws must be filtered through a law-and-economic lens of U.S.-styled capitalism to predict the outcomes of legal disputes and to expose human rights infirmities inherent to that approach. In step two, I explore T.H. Marshall’s account of citizenship, concluding that Marshall’s rights-based rubric is too limited to fully explain workers’ rights, which tend to cut across the full gamut of human rights. In step three, I expand upon Marshall’s work to build a framework for evaluating workplace laws based on the worker as a citizen of the labor force who has human rights. I do this using two methodologies: (1) comparative legal analysis between U.S. law and international human rights standards; and (2) jurisprudential analysis of fundamental values within a rights-based framework. In step four, I modify John Rawls’s famous thought experiment to include a veil of empathy. In that modified experiment, I conclude that participants in the original position behind a veil of empathy would generate values underlying human rights, namely autonomy (to become part author of one’s work life) and dignity (to be treated as a person always as an end and never merely as a means). In step five, I apply this human rights approach to show that workers’ and employers’ interests conflict at the interests-level and, more fundamentally, at the values-level. I conclude that these conflicts are primarily over the distribution of that which labor and capital create. This distributional question is fundamental a question of moral and political justice, which will and does have real political consequences. In step six, I set forth a path along which this research project should explore.
Check it out!
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Call for Papers from Hunter College's National Center for Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education
The National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College, has announced its call for papers for its 45th annual conference April 15-17, 2018. You can see the full announcement here, but the short version is:
The announcement includes a wide variety of possible paper topics (so many I can't include them here), as well as proposals for interactive workshops, such as:
Unionization and Collective Bargaining for Administrators
Organizing and Negotiating for Academic Labor
Financial Data Analysis in Higher Education
Bargaining Over Health Insurance in Higher Education
Preparing, Presenting, and Defending at Arbitration
Effective Lobbying for Higher Education
Monday, April 24, 2017
Deborah Widiss (Indiana) has a new paper on SSRN (forthcoming in the UC Davis Law review): The Interaction of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act after Young v. UPS. From the abstract:
Pregnant women sometimes ask employers for accommodations – such as being able to sit on a stool or avoid heavy lifting – to permit them to work safely and productively. In 2015, in Young v. United Parcel Service, the Supreme Court held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to scrutinize carefully denial of such requests. The facts in Young arose prior to the effective date of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA); accordingly, the Court did not address how the ADAAA, which expanded the range of health conditions that qualify as disabilities, affects claims for accommodations under the PDA. This Article fills that gap, updating analysis from an earlier article I wrote on this subject to incorporate the Court’s holding in Young and to discuss how lower courts are applying Young.
The PDA mandates that pregnant employees be treated “the same” as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young established that employees who receive accommodations pursuant to the ADA or workers’ compensation laws may be used as comparators in PDA analysis, rejecting lower court decisions to the contrary. The Court stated that evidence that an employer routinely accommodates other health conditions but refuses to provide support for pregnancy is strong circumstantial evidence of discriminatory bias.
The ADAAA magnifies the importance of this holding; it also largely resolves the Young Court’s concern that the PDA not be interpreted to confer a “‘most-favored-nation’ status” on pregnant employees. Under the ADAAA and its implementing regulations, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for impairments that substantially limit an individual’s ability to lift, bend, walk, or stand, even on a temporary basis. Thus workplace accommodations for health conditions that cause limitations like those caused by pregnancy should now be commonplace (and many conditions associated with pregnancy may qualify as disabilities themselves). Robust enforcement of the PDA’s “same treatment” mandate does not create a danger that pregnant employees will be treated better than other employees; rather, it helps ensure that pregnant employees are not consistently treated less well than other employees.
This is a great follow-up to Deborah's earlier work, and looks to be a good read.
Friend-of-blog Bradley Areheart (Tennessee) sends along this important announcement about the Prospective Law Teachers Workshop at SEALS:
"Each year, SEALS hosts a Prospective Law Teachers Workshop, which provides opportunities for aspiring law teachers to network and participate in mock interviews and mock job talks — prior to the actual teaching market. The Committee also schedules 1-on-1 sessions for candidates to receive faculty feedback on their CVs. This year’s Prospective Law Teacher’s Workshop will be held at The Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3. On Wednesday, there will be mock interviews between 8 and 10 AM with CV review sessions at 1:00. On Thursday, mock job talks will take place from 8 to 10 AM. And at 3:00 on Thursday, we will have a panel entitled “Navigating the Hiring Process” which will feature recent tenure track hires who will give advice about getting hired in this “new" market. There are also many excellent panels on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that are targeted to newer law professors, which prospective law professors will also find helpful. See http://sealslawschools.org/submissions/program/programwp.asp. If you are interested in participating in this year’s workshop, please send your CV to professor Brad Areheart (Tennessee)at email@example.com, who co-chairs the committee along with Leah Grinvald (Suffolk). Applications are due by May 15, 2017. Many of the past workshop participants have gone on to obtain tenure-track positions in legal academia and now teach at a wide variety of schools, including Tulane, South Carolina, UNC, Cal Western, Oklahoma, Boston U, Idaho, Colorado, Louisville, and others."
This is a wonderful event and I encourage anyone interested to contact Professor Areheart.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
As a follow-up to last week's post on Perry v. MSPB, Howard Wasserman (FIU) has analyzed the oral arguments in that case over at ScotusBlog and PrawfsBlawg. As a bonus (apart from the merits of the MSPB case) he also discusses Justice Gorsuch's participation in the argument. Howard suspects that Justice Gorsuch may be dissenting solo on this one.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Congratulations to Catherine Fisk on her contribution to the Sunday NYT column "The Workologist". She was cited liberally in a Q&A about employment references. For the entire article, see When a Potential Employer Seems Unnervingly Nosy.
Although the decision is marked unpublished, the majority opinion is a detailed signed one by Judge Wilkinson, with Judge Motz concurring. And, there is a partial dissent by Judge Diaz protesting dismissal of plaintiff's sexual harassment claim. The Court affirmed a summary judgment for the employer notwithstanding what appears to be a genuine, plausible and material factual dispute about some fairly gross sexual harassment of the plaintiff. I do not understand why the decision is not a published one. In light of Judge Diaz' partial dissent, I would not be surprised to see a petition for rehearing en banc.
Thanks for sending this, Jon.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
In 2012, in Kloeckner v. Solis, the court appeared to resolve the question of the appropriate forum for federal civil-service employees appealing decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board in “mixed cases” (cases alleging an adverse employment action that also violated a federal anti-discrimination statute), holding that those decisions must be challenged in federal district court. But in Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, to be argued April 17, the court returns to the issue to decide whether, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, the answer is different when the MSPB rejects the employee’s claim for lack of jurisdiction because the adverse employment action is not appealable, rather than on the merits or on some procedural ground.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
One of the advantages of being around a discipline for a long time is the irony of seeing once “extreme” arguments become accepted. In the first edition of our Employment Discrimination casebook in 1982, we made the (obvious) argument that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was sex discrimination because an employee, say, male, was being adversely treated for actions (sex with a male) that would draw no objection were the employee female.
Fast forward to 2017, and that’s now the law of the land, at least in the Seventh Circuit thanks to Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. And that simple switch-the-sexes comparison was one of the two prongs of the majority opinion (the other being transference to the gender context of Loving v. Virginia’s holding that discrimination on the basis of the race of one’s partner is race discrimination).
While the prevailing side in Hively garnered two other opinions adding additional routes to the same result (including a radical attack on the whole concept of original public meaning in statutory interpretation by Judge Posner), I was most taken with the simple logic of the majority’s “comparative” approach, i.e., if we switch the sexes and the result is not the same, it’s sex discrimination.
Why did it take more than 35 years for this logic to prevail? More to the point, why was that argument viewed as naïve, hopelessly technical for most of Title VII’s history? The obvious answer is that, to quote Holmes, the life of the law is not logic, it’s experience, and even those favoring LGBT rights may have found the straightforward logic too sterile and rarified in a system that favors more nuance in statutory interpretation.
But there’s another perspective from the law’s encounter with logic in this arena that may be of some interest. Judge Sykes, writing for three judges, dissented, largely drawing from “original public meaning” theory. In a passage that captures the essence of his objection, he wrote:
Is it even remotely plausible that in 1964, when Title VII was adopted, a reasonable person competent in the English language would have understood that a law banning employment discrimination "because of sex" also banned discrimination because of sexual orientation? The answer is no, of course not.
I do understand, and agree, that if that question were asked of proponents of Title VII in 1964, they would have said no. So in that sense, the original public meaning of “sex” doesn’t reach sexual orientation.
But how does that analysis fit with the logical argument made by the majority? Are we assuming that the “person competent in the English language” is “reasonable” but not logical? That he or she is incapable of working out the implications of statutory language beyond the most intuitive meaning of the words? Another way to ask the question is whether the reasonable person is presumed to competent in English but not competent in simple logic.
I don’t know if there are good answers to these questions, but I do think they raise even more problems for original public meaning advocates, problems thrust into national attention by Hively.