Monday, October 17, 2016

Lobel on the Gig Economy & LEL

LobelOrly Lobel (San Diego) has posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming U. San Francisco L. Rev.) The Gig Economy & The Future of Employment and Labor Law. The article is part of a duo – she has a longer article forthcoming in Minn. L. Rev. called The Law of the Platform which looks at a wide variety of sharing companies and their regulatory challenges. Here's the abstract of the Gig Economy article:

In April 2016, Professor Orly Lobel delivered the 12th Annual Pemberton Lecture at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lobel asks, what is the future of employment and labor law protections when reality is rapidly transforming the ways we work? What is the status of gig work and what are the rights as well as duties of gig workers? She proposes four paths for systematic reform, where each path is complementary rather than mutually exclusive to the others. The first path is to clarify and simplify the notoriously malleable classification doctrine; the second is to expand certain employment protections to all workers, regardless of classification, or in other words to altogether reject classification; the third is to create special rules for intermediate categories; and the fourth is to disassociate certain social protections from the work.


October 17, 2016 in Employment Common Law, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Halegua: Who Will Represent China's Workers?

HaleguaAaron Halegua (Research Fellow, NYU Law) just returned from spending a month in Malaysia with the ILO, working with the government to revise its labor laws to comply with TPP. Meanwhile, his report for the Ford Foundation has been released: Who Will Represent China's Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid, and the Enforcement of Labor Rights. It examines the legal needs of China's workers, the landscape of legal service providers, and the remaining "representation gap" between legal needs and services--and offers some strategies to narrow it. It also has a lot of information and statistics on labor litigation there. Here's a summary:

In the past decade, China has made considerable progress in legislating new legal protections for workers, expanding their access to arbitration and courts, and paying for more lawyers to represent them. Nonetheless, in China, as elsewhere, labor violations persist and a substantial “representation gap” remains between legal needs and services.

This new Report ... provides an original and in-depth analysis of that gap—and strategies to narrow it. Based on over 100 interviews, observations of legal proceedings, and extensive documentary research, [the Report] examines the legal violations suffered by workers, the range of legal service providers, and how workers fare in litigation. Despite government efforts, problems with unpaid wages, social insurance contributions, workplace injuries, and discrimination endure, which increasingly lead to labor protests and strikes. Workers are also litigating more cases in arbitration and court, but statistics show that they are often unsuccessful.

Continue reading

October 6, 2016 in International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Shnitser: ERISA's Foundation is Built on Sand

ShnitserERISA scholarship has the unfair reputation of being as exciting as drying paint, but this important piece of scholarship is quite the opposite. Natalya Shnitser (Boston College) argues that the model of donative trusts that underpins private employer pension plans is entirely inappropriate. Pension plans are not "gifts" -- they are earned wages, and should be given higher priority than a discretionary gift.

Natalya's article is Trusts No More: Rethinking the Regulation of Retirement Savings in the United States (forthcoming 2016 BYU L. Rev.). Here's the abstract:

The regulation of private and public pension plans in the United States begins with the premise that employer-sponsored plans resemble traditional donative, or gift, trusts. Accordingly, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) famously “imports” major principles of donative trust law for the regulation of private employer-sponsored pension plans. Statutes regulating state and local government pension plans likewise routinely invoke the structure and standards applicable to donative trusts. Judges, in turn, adjudicate by analogy to the common law trust.

This Article identifies the flaws in the analogy and analyzes the shortcomings of a regulatory framework that, despite dramatic changes in the nature of modern pension benefits, still regards employees as gift recipients, grants both settlor and trustee rights to employers, and increasingly relies on trust-based fiduciary obligations to prevent employers from prioritizing the interests of their non-employee stakeholders over the interests of pension plan participants.

Today, the mismatch between the trust-based legal framework and the parties’ rights and interests has contributed to the high cost of pension fund investing, the significant gaps in pension coverage, and the underfunding of public pension plans. As such challenges force U.S. policymakers to reconsider how and how much Americans save for their retirement, this Article shows that long-term retirement security for U.S workers requires a fundamental reevaluation of the employer, employee, and government roles in the provision and management of retirement assets.


October 4, 2016 in Pension and Benefits, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Big Data and the ADA

Hoffman_sharonaSharona Hoffman (Case Western) has just posted on SSRN her essay (forthcoming Hastings L.J.) Big Data and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here's the abstract:

While big data offers society many potential benefits, it also comes with serious risks. This Essay focuses on the concern that big data will lead to increased employment discrimination. It develops the novel argument that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should be amended in response to the big data phenomenon in order to protect individuals who are perceived as likely to develop physical or mental impairments in the future. Employers can obtain medical data about employees not only through the traditional means of medical examinations and inquiries, but also through the non-traditional mechanisms of social media, wellness programs, and data brokers. Information about workers’ habits, behaviors, or attributes that is derived from big data can be used to create profiles of undesirable employees. It can also be used to exclude healthy and qualified individuals whom employers regard as vulnerable to future medical problems. The ADA, which now protects only individuals with current or past disabilities and those who are perceived as having existing impairments, can no longer ignore the discrimination threats posed by predictive health data. The Essay analyzes these risks and propose a detailed statutory response to them.


September 28, 2016 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bisom-Rapp on lifetime disadvantage for working women

Bisom_rapp_book_cover-1_240Congratulations to our friend Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) whose book (with Malcolm Sargeant, Middlesex Univ., London), Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Work Force is available to pre-order from Cambridge University Press. It will be out September 30. From the press release:

In many countries, including the United States, women are significantly more likely to fall into poverty in retirement than are men. Understanding why this is so and what can be done about it is the aim of this new book.

"Susan Bisom-Rapp's scholarship tackles some of the most pressing real world challenges facing the modern workplace," said Thomas Jefferson School of Law Dean and President Thomas F. Guernsey. "I am delighted about the publication of her latest book."

Beginning in girlhood and ending in advanced age, "Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce" examines each stage of the lifecycle and considers how law attempts to address the problems that inhibit women's labor force participation. Using their model of lifetime disadvantage, Professor Bisom-Rapp and her British co-author Malcolm Sargeant show how the law adopts a piecemeal and disjointed approach to resolving challenges with adverse effects that cumulate over time.

"The problem unfolds over the working lives of women," said Bisom-Rapp. "Women's experiences with education, stereotyping, characteristics other than gender like race and age, caregiving, glass ceilings, occupational segregation, pay inequality, part-time work, and career breaks over a lifetime make it difficult to amass the resources necessary for a dignified retirement."

In order to achieve true gender equality, Bisom-Rapp and her co-author recommend a more holistic approach. Employing the concept of resiliency from vulnerability theory, the authors advocate changes to workplace law and policy, which acknowledge yet transcend gender, improving conditions for women as well as men.

"One must know the end goal – decent work and dignified retirement – and monitor progress towards it in order effectively address the problem," noted Bisom-Rapp.

The book is the culmination of nearly a decade of collaboration between Professor Bisom-Rapp and Professor Sargeant, who teaches at Middlesex University Business School in London. Beginning with a project that examined the plight of older workers during the global economic crisis, they have been struck by differences in workplace law and protections in their respective countries; the United Kingdom is far more protective.

Equally noticeable, however, are similarities in outcomes, including women's economic disadvantages in retirement. By examining why more protective law in one country coexists with comparable outcomes to the other country, the book reveals lessons for understanding a problem that is global in nature. At a time in which an aging population makes a retirement crisis a distinct possibility, and employment has become increasingly insecure, they recommend a regulatory approach that would enhance work life and retirement for all.

Susan and Malcolm have published a few articles related to these topics in the last few years in the Employee Rights Employment Policy Journal, the Elder Law Journal, and the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal. I can't wait to read more of their work.


September 21, 2016 in Books, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Greene cited by Eleventh Circuit

Doris-Wendy-Green-new Congratulations to friend of the blog, Wendy Greene (Samford) whose article, Title VII: What’s Hair (and Other Race-Based Characteristics) Got to Do With It? was cited today by the Eleventh Circuit in EEOC v.Catastrophe Management Solutions.  Wendy's article was cited for its discussion of the socially constructed nature of race.

Wendy describes the case: 

In this case, CMS, an insurance processing company in Mobile, Alabama, rescinded an African American woman’s job offer to handle phone calls related to customer service support because she refused to cut off her locked hairstyle. Essentially, the employer made "no locks" a condition of employment for the applicant, though she was deemed qualified, interviewed and was offered the job with the hairstyle. And, apparently CMS’ human resources manager considered her hair well-groomed at the time of hire, yet remarked that the applicant’s locks might eventually become “messy.”  The HR manager told the applicant she would be unable to hire her if she did not cut off her hair; the applicant refused do so, returned her initial paperwork as requested, and left the premises. The Birmingham office of the EEOC filed a Title VII intentional race discrimination case against CMS. In doing so, the EEOC attempted to overturn over 30 years of legal precedent affirming the legality of natural hairstyle bans (except those involving afros). Largely drawing upon legal scholarship of U.S. employment discrimination and race and law scholars, one of the EEOC's primary arguments centered around the immutability doctrine; the EEOC advanced that a biological notion of race, which treats race as an “immutable” characteristic, should no longer be employed when interpreting Title VII’s prohibitions against race discrimination. Rather, the notion of race should be expanded to include both immutable and mutable characteristics. Thus, a grooming policy prohibiting natural hairstyles, like locks, braids, twists, etc., which are associated with African descendants—in law and society—constitutes unlawful race discrimination. 

Ultimately, the 11th Circuit declined to abolish the immutability doctrine in EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions and held that CMS’ “no locks” mandate did not violate Title VII, as the EEOC would be unable to produce evidence that all individuals who adorn locks are Black or that only individuals who adorn locks are Black. Though the court did not rule in the EEOC’s favor, it did engage in a fairly lengthy dialogue about the meaning of race and competing arguments of notable race and law scholars. Aside from the exploration of race, this opinion may be of interest to proceduralists and those interested in the application of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, the (purported) demarcation between disparate treatment and disparate impact theories of liability, and statutory interpretation more generally. 

The opinion relied very heavily on legal scholarship for its analysis. In addition to citing Wendy, the opinion cites Ian Haney Lopez, Camille Gear Rich, Sharona Hoffman, Barbara Flagg, Richard Ford, Annelise Riles, Kenji Yoshino, Juan Perea, and Rhonda Magee Andrews in its discussion of what race is. Ultimately the court relied on what it believed Congress thought race was in 1964--a set of immutable physical characteristics--and its prior precedent. But the court's analysis went a bit further, too, considering the legal scholarship. The opinion expressed some concern about including cultural or behavioral practices as part of the identity protected by Title VII because those practices might vary by individual and change over time. The court was very uncomfortable with the idea that courts would have to decide what was an "authentic" part of a racial group's culture and what was not. Despite the court's reluctance to agree with many of the scholars it cited, the fact that the opinion considers this work so carefully is heartening. 


September 16, 2016 in Employment Discrimination, Faculty News, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Doorey on Climate Change and Labor Law

Fellow blogger, David Doorey ( has just posted on SSRN a new article, A Law of Just Transitions: Putting Labor Law to Work on Climate Change. The abstract:

Climate change will dramatically affect labor markets, but labor law scholars have mostly ignored it. Environmental law scholars are concerned with climate change, but they lack expertise in the complexities of regulating the labor relationship. Neither legal field is equipped to deal adequately with the challenge of governing the effects of climate change on labor markets, employers, and workers. This essay argues that a legal field organized around the concept of a 'just transition' to a lower carbon economy could bring together environmental law, labor law, and environment justice scholars in interesting and valuable ways. "Just transitions" is a concept originally developed by the North American labor movement, but has since been endorsed by important global institutions including the International Labour Organization and the U.N. Environmental Program. However, the prescriptions that would guide a policy of just transition have been under-explored in the legal literature. This paper marks an important early contribution to this challenge. It explores the factual and normative boundaries of a legal field called Just Transitions Law and questions whether such a field would offer any new, valuable insights into the challenge of regulating a response to climate change.

This is definitely an intersection that we haven't heard much about, but as we can see from the politics surrounding trade and climate agreements, it's clearly one that it's important. 


September 15, 2016 in Labor Law, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Harkavy's Annual Review of SCOTUS LEL Decisions

HarkavyJon Harkavy (Patterson Harkavy) has just posted on SSRN his annual (30th?) review of the Supreme Court's work in the employment area.  The article will be presented at a seminar in late October at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. Here's the abstract:

This article, the author's longstanding annual review of the Supreme Court's work in the employment area, examines in detail every decision of the 2015-2016 term relating to employment and labor law, with commentary on each case and additional observations about the Court's work in this term and the upcoming one. In particular, the author uses the latest term's decisions as a lens for examining broader aspects of the Court's jurisprudence, particularly in light of disruptive changes in the nature of the employment relationship and in the composition of the Court itself.


September 9, 2016 in Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Estreicher Proposes "Safe Harbor" Rule to Promote Employment of High-Risk Applicants

EstreicherSam Estreicher (NYU) has posted on SSRN his article Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives through 'Safe Harbor' Rules. Kudos to Sam proposing something designed to create job opportunities for the heretofore nearly unemployable; I hope this helps move the discussion forward. Here's Sam's abstract:

This paper urges government agencies responsible for enforcing antidiscrimination laws to use existing authority to promulgate “safe harbor” rules to encourage employment of individuals who are unlikely to obtain employment because of the risks to employers of an erroneous hiring, coupled with the improbability of enforcement. Such perennially frustrated job seekers include individuals aged 65 and over, individuals with obvious disabilities whose employment entails significant accommodation costs, and individuals convicted of serious crimes.

Without detracting from traditional education and enforcement activities, the responsible administrative agencies should promulgate “safe harbors” for employers willing to hire individuals from these categories of high employment risk. The safe harbor would be in the form of a regulation, promulgated after notice and opportunity for public comment, that individuals from these categories may be hired as probationary employees for a defined, say three-year, period, during which they may be discharged without cause or consequence for the employer. (Other provisions of the antidiscrimination laws would be unchanged). If such employees are retained beyond the probationary period, they would be treated the same as other employees in all respects, including the full force of the antidiscrimination laws.

The benefit of the safe-harbor approach is that it directly addresses the concerns that motivate the employer’s non-hiring decision. The employer is given a relatively cost-free opportunity to evaluate whether engaging the employee from the high-risk category will in fact entail the predicted risks or whether an employee’s actual performance will belie the predicted concern.


This is a preliminary look at the potential benefits of a “safe harbor” approach to antidiscrimination goals. Creation of carefully cabined regulatory safe harbors for hiring employees from high-risk categories has the potential to spur improved utilization of such employees with limited harm to the moral force of the antidiscrimination regime.


September 4, 2016 in Disability, Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chong on Hollywood's Blinding Whiteness

ChongChrissy Shu Jien Chong (San Francisco) has just posted on SSRN her article (21 Asian Pacific American L.J. (2016)) Where are the Asians in Hollywood? Can §1981, Title VII, Colorblind Pitches, and Understanding Biases Break the Bamboo Ceiling? Here's an excerpted abstract:

Despite America's recent diversity craze, the bamboo ceiling appears stronger than ever in Hollywood. The entertainment industry's lack of racial diversity is disappointing, but the legal system's failure to protect minorities from Hollywood's discriminatory hiring practices is even more depressing. ... [W]hites hold 84% of on-screen acting roles and 94% of behind-the-cameras positions. Asian Pacific Americans only held 3% of on-screen acting roles and 0.8% of behind-the-cameras positions.

[This article] argues that the dramatic under-representation of Asian Pacific Americans in Hollywood is caused by racially discriminatory practices that are fueled by implicit and explicit biases. ... [The article] discusses an array of industry solutions, such as diversity and debiasing programs, colorblind pitches and casting, more Asians in the arts, self regulation, and organizing with other minorities. But the article ultimately determines the best solution to Hollywood's diversity problem is legislative action.


August 26, 2016 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Call for papers from the Center for Applied Feminism & Intersectionality

The Center for Applied Feminism (Baltimore) has a call for papers that will be of interest to some of our readers:




The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law seeks paper proposals for the Tenth Anniversary of the Feminist Legal Theory Conference.  We hope you will join us for this exciting celebration on March 30-31, 2017.

This year, the conference will explore how intersecting identities inform -- or should inform -- feminist legal theory and justice-oriented legal practice, legal systems, legal policy, and legal activism. Beginning in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw identified the need for law to recognize persons as representing multiple intersecting identities, not only one identity (such as female) to the exclusion of another (such as African American). Intersectionality theory unmasks how social systems oppress people in different ways.  While its origins are in exploring the intersection of race and gender, intersectionality theory now encompasses all intersecting identities including religion, ethnicity, citizenship, class, disability, and sexual orientation. Today, intersectionality theory is an important part of the Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName movements. For more information, see

We seek submissions of papers that focus on the topic of applied feminism and intersecting identities.  This conference aims to explore the following questions: What impact has intersectionality theory had on feminist legal theory?  How has it changed law and social policy? How does intersectionality help us understand and challenge different forms of oppression?  What is its transformative potential? What legal challenges are best suited to an intersectionality approach? How has intersectionality  theory changed over time and where might it go in the future?

We welcome proposals that consider these questions from a variety of substantive disciplines and perspectives. As always, the Center’s conference will serve as a forum for scholars, practitioners and activists to share ideas about applied feminism, focusing on connections between theory and practice to effectuate social change. The conference will be open to the public and will feature a keynote speaker. Past keynote speakers have included Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Dr. Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Amy Klobuchar, NOW President Terry O’Neill, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, and U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner.

To submit a paper proposal, please submit an abstract by Friday October 28, 2016 to Your abstract must contain your full contact information and professional affiliation, as well as an email, phone number, and mailing address. In the “Re” line, please state: CAF Conference 2017. Abstracts should be no longer than one page. We will notify presenters of selected papers in November. About half the presenter slots will be reserved for authors who commit to publishing in the annual symposium volume of the University of Baltimore Law Review. Thus, please indicate at the bottom of your abstract whether you are submitting (1) solely to present or (2) to present and publish in the symposium volume. Authors who are interested in publishing in the Law Review will be strongly considered for publication. For all presenters, working drafts of papers will be due no later than March 3, 2017. Presenters are responsible for their own travel costs; the conference will provide a discounted hotel rate as well as meals.

We look forward to your submissions. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Margaret Johnson at For additional information about the conference, please visit


August 26, 2016 in Conferences & Colloquia, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ontiveros on the Exploitation of High-Skilled Tech Workers

Ontiveros_mariaMaria Ontiveros (San Francisco) has just posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming BJELL) H-1B Visas, Outsourcing and Body Shops: A Continuum of Exploitation for High Tech Workers. Here's the abstract:

This article analyzes the exploitation of immigrant workers under the H-1B visa program. It analyzes pure H-1B workers that work directly for the company that sponsor the visa; outsourced H-1B workers that work on a visa sponsored by an outsourcing vendor; and body shop workers who work on a visa sponsored by a labor contractor that operates outside the legal boundaries of the law. The article provides a comprehensive survey of lawsuits brought under the visa laws for prevailing wage violations, wage theft, benching, and liquidated damages. It also discusses lawsuits brought as independent causes of action under state tort and contract law; the TVPA; RICO; and employment discrimination statutes. The article argues that even perfect enforcement of existing law will not eliminate H-1B worker exploitation because the program includes systemic inequalities and subordinating structures that are modern manifestations of involuntary servitude, debt bondage and unfree labor. The unfree system of labor created by the guest worker program is based in the ways in which threats of deportation and liquidated damages prevent workers from complaining or quitting; the way in which the visa sponsor's control of the guest worker's labor parallels antebellum slave codes; the commodification of immigrant workers as part of the human supply chain; and the lack of citizenship rights guaranteed to these guest workers.


August 23, 2016 in Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Yamada on Unpaid Internships

UnpaidDavid Yamada (Suffolk) has just posted on SSRN his article (8 Northeastern U. L.J. 357 (2016) The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships. The article offers a comprehensive overview and assessment of major legal, policy, and advocacy developments concerning unpaid internships during the past six years. This includes the Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures litigation concerning unpaid internships, which culminated in 2016 Second Circuit decision that restricts, but does not foreclose, future challenges under the FLSA.

The article already has received a huge amount of attention -- 500+ SSRN downloads. This obviously is a critically hot topic.

Here's an excerpt from the abstract:

Until very recently, the legal implications of unpaid internships provided by American employers have been something of a sleeping giant, especially on the question of whether interns fall under wage and hour protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state equivalents. This began to change in 2013, when, in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., a U.S. federal district court held that two unpaid interns who worked on the production of the movies “Black Swan” and “500 Days of Summer” were owed back pay under federal and state wage and hour laws. Although the decision would be vacated and remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015, the door to challenging unpaid internships remains open, thanks in part to this litigation.

This Article examines and analyzes the latest legal developments concerning internships and the growth of the intern rights movement. It serves as an update to a 2002 article I wrote on the employment rights of interns, David C. Yamada, The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns, 35 Conn. L. Rev. 215 (2002). Now that the legal implications of unpaid internships have transcended mostly academic commentary, the underlying legal and policy issues are sharpening at the point of application. Accordingly, Part I will examine the recent legal developments concerning internships, consider the evolving policy issues, and suggest solutions where applicable.

In addition, the intern rights movement has emerged to challenge the widespread practice of unpaid internships and the overall status of interns in today’s labor market. Thus, Part II will examine the emergence of a movement that has both fueled legal challenges to unpaid internships and engaged in organizing activities and social media outreach surrounding internship practices and the intern economy.


July 29, 2016 in Employment Common Law, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New Book: Invisible Labor

51gF-gQv01L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Congratulations to Miriam Cherry (Saint Louis), Marion Crain (Washington University) and Winifred Poster (Washington University, Sociology) whose book Invisible Labor has just hit the shelves. The book is a collection of chapters by authors from, primarily, sociology and law, exploring types of labor that are unpaid and unseen. From the synopsis:

Across the world, workers labor without pay for the benefit of profitable businesses—and it's legal. Labor trends like outsourcing and technology hide some workers, and branding and employer mandates erase others. Invisible workers who remain under-protected by wage laws include retail workers who function as walking billboards and take payment in clothing discounts or prestige; waitstaff at “breastaurants” who conform their bodies to a business model; and inventory stockers at grocery stores who go hungry to complete their shifts. Invisible Labor gathers essays by prominent sociologists and legal scholars to illuminate how and why such labor has been hidden from view.

The collection brings together what previously seemed like disparate issues to show common threads among the ways labor can be invisible, and the breadth of contributions is impressive. I had the chance to attend a symposium set up by the editors to flesh out these ideas a couple of years ago and found the topics fascinating then. I can't wait to read the book!


July 19, 2016 in Books, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, International & Comparative L.E.L., Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kim on Algorithmic Discrimination

KimPauline Kim (Washington U.) has just posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming 2017 William & Mary Law Review) Data-Driven Discrimination at Work. Here's the abstract of this timely article:

A data revolution is transforming the workplace. Employers are increasingly relying on algorithms to decide who gets interviewed, hired or promoted. Proponents of the new data science claim that automated decision systems can make better decisions faster, and are also fairer, because they replace biased human decision-makers with “neutral” data. However, data are not neutral and algorithms can discriminate. The legal world has not yet grappled with these challenges to workplace equality. The risks posed by data analytics call for fundamentally rethinking anti-discrimination doctrine. When decision-making algorithms produce biased outcomes, they may seem to resemble familiar disparate impact cases, but that doctrine turns out to be a poor fit. Developed in a different context, disparate impact doctrine fails to address the ways in which algorithms can introduce bias and cause harm. This Article argues instead for a plausible, revisionist interpretation of Title VII, in which disparate treatment and disparate impact are not the only recognized forms of discrimination. A close reading of the text suggests that Title VII also prohibits classification bias — namely, the use of classification schemes that have the effect of exacerbating inequality or disadvantage along the lines of race or other protected category. This description matches well the concerns raised by workplace analytics. Framing the problem in terms of classification bias leads to some quite different conclusions about how the anti-discrimination norm should be applied to algorithms, suggesting both the possibilities and limits of Title VII’s liability focused model.


June 29, 2016 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

COSELL Website Open for Registration


Information and link to registration:


The University of Washington and Seattle University will be co-sponsoring this year’s COSELL Conference on Friday and Saturday, September 23rd and 24th.  Rooms are being reserved at Hotel Deca, near the UW campus, for the nights of Thursday, Sept. 22nd through Saturday, Sept. 24th.  Rooms are priced at about $209/night - please reserve a hotel room as soon as possible given hotel attrition policies.   Light breakfast and lunch will be provided on Friday and Saturday, as well as a dinner on Friday night at the UW Club, overlooking Lake Washington.  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is served by all major airlines, but particularly Alaska Air, Delta, Jet Blue and United.

The website has information about the hotel, and the registration page has space for you to enter your paper topic and an abstract.  Registration for the conference is open until 31 August 2016.  Please send any questions or concerns, whether it’s about the conference or “things to do in Seattle” to Prof. Lea Vaughn at  Thank you!

June 14, 2016 in Conferences & Colloquia, Faculty Presentations, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Call for Papers, AALS: Classifying Workers in the Gig Economy

AalsThe Executive Committee of the AALS Labor Relations and Employment Law Section announces that it is seeking abstracts as part of a Call for Papers to be presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting program in San Francisco. The program, titled Classifying Workers in the “Sharing” and “Gig” Economy, will take place on Thursday, January 5, 2017 from 8:30 am to 10:15 am.  Co-sponsored by the AALS Immigration Law, Business Associations, and Contracts Sections, this program will start immediately after a Breakfast jointly sponsored by the AALS Labor Relations and Employment Law and Employment Discrimination Sections held from 7 a.m. to 8:30 that morning.

This program will focus on the emerging trend of businesses using “on-demand” workers who share economic risks with those businesses as nominally independent contractors. These workers consider the job opportunity as an individual “gig,” characterized by flexibility conveniently gained from technology. State, federal, and local legislatures and related labor and employment law enforcement agencies have started to add items to this analysis beyond the typical “1099/W-2" common law control nomenclature. 

As a result, the question of who is an employee in the gig and sharing economy has become an ever-increasing concern. During the program, a panel of leading labor and employment law scholars will address this question from a multi-disciplinary approach including the examination of unique issues for business franchises and immigrant workers.

We are seeking an additional speaker who will present on a relevant topic, and we particularly encourage new voices to submit a paper abstract. Papers presented during this program may be published by the Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal. To be considered as an additional speaker, please submit an abstract of no more than 400 words and a resume to Section Chair, Michael Z. Green, at by August 26, 2016.  The Executive Committee of the Section will decide on the additional speaker(s). Any selected speaker(s) will be responsible for his/her registration fee as well as hotel and travel expenses related to speaking at the program on January 5, 2017. Any inquiries about this Call for Papers should be submitted by e-mail to Professor Green.


June 13, 2016 in Conferences & Colloquia, Employment Common Law, Faculty Presentations, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Annual Colloquium Save the Date


The University of Washington and Seattle University will be co-sponsoring this year’s COSELL Conference on Friday and Saturday, September 23rd and 24th.  Rooms are being reserved at Hotel Deca, near the UW campus, for the nights of Thursday, Sept. 22nd through Saturday, Sept. 24th.  Rooms are priced at about $209/night.  Light breakfast and lunch will be provided on Friday and Saturday, as well as a dinner on Friday night at the UW Club, overlooking Lake Washington.  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is served by all major airlines, but particularly Alaska Air, Delta, Jet Blue and United.

The website will be posted soon.  In the meantime, please send an email indicating your interest and the title + abstract of any paper you wish to present to Prof. Lea Vaughn at  As soon as the site is up, she will let you know so that you can complete your formal registration. Thank you!

June 1, 2016 in Conferences & Colloquia, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Secunda and Hertel-Fernandez on Workplace Political Intimidation

Secunda HFAs the primary season transitions more solidly into the presidential election, our thoughts in the labor and employment world naturally turn to workplace captive audience speeches. WPB emeritus Paul Secunda (Marquette) is probably the country's expert on the subject. He has an important piece out in the UCLA Law Review Discourse with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (doctoral candidate in government and social policy, Harvard), who has been engaged in empirical work to study the scope of employer political intimidation. The article, Citizens Coerced: A Legislative Fix for Workplace Political Intimidation Post-Citizens United summarizes some of Hertel-Fernandez's empirical findings and recommends that Congress amend Title VII to prohibit discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or belief.

The article lays out a compelling case and a workable solution. It finishes with this powerful exhortation:

As the country enters into a highly-contested and polarizing presidential election cycle, it is imperative that Congress act quickly to end political coercion in the workplace.  Consistent with longstanding principles of freedom of speech, expression, association, and political affiliation, private-sector employees, just as much as their public-sector counterparts, have the right to engage (or not engage) in political activities without fear of retribution or disadvantage from their employer.  It is one thing to provide corporations with expanded free speech rights in the electoral process.  It is quite another to permit companies to coerce workers in their political expression.  We should not tolerate the latter encroachment on worker autonomy.

The article is a great read, and I highly recommend it.


May 4, 2016 in Commentary, Employment Discrimination, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Seiner on Class Actions in the On-Demand Economy

JosephSeinerOur own Joe Seiner has just uploaded an essay to SSRN: Tailoring Class Actions to the On-Demand Economy, 77 Ohio State L.J. __ (2017) (forthcoming). From the abstract: 

In O’Connor v. Uber, 2015 WL 5138097 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2015), a federal district court permitted a class-action case to proceed on the question of whether 160,000 drivers were misclassified by their employer as independent contractors rather than employees. The case has garnered widespread interest, making headlines across the country. Yet it represents only one of many class-action cases currently pending against technology companies in the modern economy. Indeed, similar systemic claims have already been brought against Yelp, GrubHub, Handy, Crowdflower, Amazon, and many others.

The courts have largely floundered in their efforts to address the proper scope of class cases brought against corporations in the on-demand economy. This is likely the result of a lack of clarity in this area as well as the unique fact patterns that often arise with technology-sector claims. Nothing has been written on this issue in the academic literature to date, and this paper seeks to fill that void in the scholarship.

Navigating the statutes, case law, and procedural rules, this Essay proposes a workable five-part framework for analyzing systemic claims brought in the technology sector. This paper sets forth a model for the courts and litigants to follow when evaluating the proper scope of these cases. The Essay seeks to spark a dialogue on this important—yet unexplored— area of the law.

As Joe writes in the abstract, classification issues in the on-demand or platform economy are a very hot topic right now, and this essay on systemic claims is a valuable contribution to the broader issues.


March 30, 2016 in Employment Common Law, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)