Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lawyers and Mental Health

Depression liesBrian Clark (Charlotte) has posted part 3 of his series on Coming Out with mental health issues. It's as good as the first two. 

April 10, 2014 in Commentary, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Equal Pay Day

Ryan-Gosling-ryan-gosling-22881860-1280-960(Photo credit The Individualist Feminist) Happy Equal Pay Day, the day that women's pay catches up to men's from last year. The gap is currently 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, but that does not account for racial differences. Black women only make 64 cents to every dollar a white man makes. For Latina women, it’s 54 cents. President Obama's new workplace orders are heartily applauded by those of us who think that something other than women's fully empowered and free choices are driving this gap.

MM

April 8, 2014 in Commentary, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lawyers and mental health

Depression lies Brian Clark (Charlotte) has posted part 2 of his series on Coming Out with mental health issues. It's as good as promised.

April 3, 2014 in Commentary, Disability, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lawyers and mental health

Depression liesBrian Clarke (Charlotte) has a very thought provoking piece at Faculty Lounge on lawyers and mental health. The figures on lawyers and depression are particularly horrifying. This is just the first of a planned three-part series, and the second and third installations look to be as good as this one--and so far, even the comments are good. Perhaps law schools and the legal community ought to be more vocal about strategies of self care and its place in our professional lives.

(necklace above available from the Bloggess's online store)

MM

March 31, 2014 in Commentary, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shriver Report Documentary: Paycheck to Paycheck

SHRIVERcovfront-1-144x192Back in January, Maria Shriver's organization "A Woman's Nation" issued its third report on fundamental challenges facing women in the U.S.: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. I have not had a chance to read the whole report, which focuses on financial insecurity of women and the children who depend on them, and the impact of that financial insecurity on our country's institutions and econonic futures, but the parts I have read have been very thought provoking. For more, see the Shriver Report's home page.

In connection with that report, Shriver and HBO created a documentary, Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, to personalize the struggles of low wage workers, most of whom are women. The documentary is streaming free at HBO Docs YouTube page this week only.

MM

March 17, 2014 in Commentary, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Widiss on Leveling Up After DOMA

DwidisssmallDeborah Widiss (Indiana-Bloomington) has posted on SSRN her new essay, forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal: Leveling Up After DOMA.

Here is the abstract:

Even though the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act precluding federal recognition of same-sex marriages has been held unconstitutional, more than half of the nation’s same-sex couples remain ineligible for full federal marriage rights because they live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. The common response to this problem is to urge Congress to enact a uniform “place of celebration” rule under which any lawful marriage would be recognized as valid for federal purposes, and many federal agencies have adopted this rule in implementing discrete statutes that reference marriage. This approach mitigates the inequity of current policy, but it has significant weaknesses that have not been adequately considered. It requires same-sex couples to travel out-of-state — and often very significant distances — to marry simply to claim federal benefits, imposing an unfair burden on same-sex couples and one which will likely further exacerbate class-based variation in marriage rates. And it increases the risk that some same-sex couples will become trapped in unwanted marriages, because jurisdictional rules typically require couples divorce in their home state and many states refuse to recognize same-sex marriages even to dissolve them.

This invited essay challenges the underlying assumption that state-licensed marriages should continue to be the exclusive mechanism for accessing core federal rights. It advocates instead creation of a federal domestic partner or “marriage” registry available to (at least) same-sex couples wherever they live. This would effectively “level up” federal marriage policy to address the discrimination against same-sex couples left in DOMA’s wake. It also suggests that a federal domestic partner registry could be structured to make at least some federal marriage rights more generally available to unmarried same-sex and different-sex couples who meet specific criteria. Even if, at some point, same-sex couples are permitted to marry in all states and the problem of derivative federal discrimination disappears, broader trends suggest that cohabitation and non-marital childbearing rates will continue to rise. A domestic partner registry could be a vehicle for more fairly and effectively distributing government benefits, rights, and obligations among diverse family forms.

Although not a traditional employment law piece, its premises are very relevant for ERISA, FMLA, and other employment-related issues.  A very thought provoking proposal by Deborah, and one that should be considered seriously by policy-makers.

PS

January 14, 2014 in Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kramer's New Paradigm for Sex Discrimination Law

Zak KramerZak Kramer (Arizona State) has a new paper on SSRN that I can't wait to read. The New Sex Discrimination is an attempt to rationalize our view of sex discrimination, taking into account the reality that people perform their gender identities in different ways. From the abstract:

Sex discrimination law has not kept pace with the lived experience of discrimination. In the early years of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, courts settled on idea of what sex discrimination looks like — formal practices that exclude employees based on their group membership. The problem is that sex discrimination has become highly individualized. Modern sex discrimination does not target all men or all women, nor does it target subgroups of men or women. The victims of modern sex discrimination are particular men and women who face discrimination because they do not or cannot conform to the norms of the workplace. These employees have been shut out of a sex discrimination regime that still expects employees to anchor their claims to a narrative of group subordination.

This paper proposes a new regime for sex discrimination law. The model for the new sex discrimination regime is religious discrimination law. Unlike other areas of employment discrimination law, religious discrimination law offers a dynamic conception of identity and a greater array of different theories of discrimination. Sex discrimination law can and should work this way, too. On a broader level, the paper recalibrates sex discrimination law’s vision of equality. Difference is universal; no two people are the same, and this is a good thing. Thus the central task of sex discrimination law should be to better recognize — and in turn protect — the distinctive ways in which employees express their maleness and femaleness. It is these differences, after all, that shape the way employees experience modern sex discrimination.

Provocative and timely.

MM

December 16, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, Religion, Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bisom-Rapp and Sargeant on Sex Discrimination in the US and UK

Susan Bisom-Rapp and Malcolm SargeantSusan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) and Malcolm Sargeant (Middlesex U. Business School, UK) have just posted on SSRN a working draft of their new paper, It's Complicated: Age, Gender, and Lifetime Discrimination Against Working Women—The U.S. and the U.K. as Examples. Susan presented this at the 8th Annual Colloquium on Recent Labor and Employment Law Scholarship held by our friends at UNLV. From the abstract:

This paper considers the effect on women of a lifetime of discrimination using material from both the U.S. and the U.K. Government reports in both countries make clear that women workers suffer from multiple disadvantages during their working lives, which result in significantly poorer outcomes in old age when compared to men. Indeed, the numbers are stark. In the U.S., for example, the poverty rate of women 65 or older is nearly double that of their male counterparts. Older women of color are especially disadvantaged. The situation in the U.K. is comparable. One study, analyzing gender and age group, found that women in the U.K. were at a greater risk of poverty throughout their working lives. That study revealed a significant statistical difference in poverty risk between men and women under the age of 50, which decreased for the 50-64 age group, and then increased dramatically for those 65 and older, resulting in a poverty gap that was more than twice the average for the whole population in the UK. 

To capture this phenomenon, this paper develops a model of "Lifetime Disadvantage," which considers the major factors producing unequal outcomes for working women at the end of their careers. One set of factors falls under the heading "Gender-Based Factors." This category concerns phenomena directly connected to social or psychological aspects of gender, such as gender stereotyping and women’s traditionally greater roles in family caring activities. A second set of factors is titled "Incremental Disadvantage Factors." While these factors are connected to gender, that connection is less overt, and the disadvantage they produce increases incrementally over time. The role of law and policy in ameliorating or exacerbating women’s disadvantages is considered in conjunction with each factor, revealing considerable incoherence and regulatory gaps. 

An effective and comprehensive regulatory framework could help compensate for these gender-based disadvantages, which accumulate over a lifetime. Using the examples of the U.S. and the U.K., however, we demonstrate that regulatory schemes created by "disjointed incrementalism" (policies that tinker along the margins without considering women’s full life course) are unlikely to vanquish systemic inequality on the scale of gender-based lifetime discrimination.

Really interesting work. 

MM

December 16, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, International & Comparative L.E.L., Pension and Benefits, Scholarship, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tippett on Child Abuse and the Workplace

TippettElizabeth Tippett (Oregon) just posted on SSRN her article Child Abuse as an Employment Dispute. Here's the abstract:

Child abuse has traditionally been viewed as the exclusive province of the child welfare system and the police. But when child abuse accusations are made against an employee, such as a teacher or a childcare worker, it is also an employment law problem. The employer must decide how to respond to the accusations and whether to retain the employee accused of abuse. The employer's role becomes especially important when the child welfare system declines to take action following a report of abuse, or when the alleged conduct is insufficiently abusive to trigger a mandated report to the state.

Ignoring the employment law dimension of child abuse and mistreatment has proven problematic for employers, the accused employees, and the children in their care. Courts and labor arbitrators often inadvertently discourage employers from adopting better internal processes for preventing and mitigating child abuse and mistreatment. Employers who naively defer to child welfare determinations in their contracts and policies can find themselves hamstrung when they later find it necessary to discipline an employee notwithstanding state inaction. Passive employers also harm their employees by failing to provide notice and training on acceptable forms of workplace conduct.

A regulatory system that encourages employers to play a more active role could benefit children and their parents. Workplace-specific policies and practices can be crafted and updated in consultation with the preferences of their constituent parents. Children may be less likely to be harmed where an employer implements robust processes for preventing and addressing abuse and mistreatment.

rb

December 13, 2013 in Employment Common Law, Scholarship, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Yamada on Intellectual Activism and the Role of Academics as Public Intellectuals

DyamadaAlthough not a traditonal piece of labor and employment law scholarship, David Yamada (Suffolk) has written up a blog post on issues relating to intellectual activism and the role of academics as public intellectuals. It includes, among other things, a link to a short article David recently posted to SSRN, "If It Matters, Write About It: Using Legal Scholarship to Promote Social Change," which discusses how legal scholars can harness their scholarship for change initiatives and discusses some of the advocacy and public education work David has been doing on workplace bullying, unpaid internships, and other topics.

I thought this subject matter would be of interest to many readers of this blog, who through their own work seek to effect social change through intellectual activitism in the labor and employment law context.

PS

December 4, 2013 in Faculty News, Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cunningham-Parmeter on Men at Work, Fathers at Home: Uncovering the Masculine Face of Caregiver Discrimination

Cunningham_web-1-10Keith Cunningham-Parmeter (Willamette University College of Law) has posted on SSRN his recently-published piece in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law: Men at Work, Fathers at Home: Uncovering the Masculine Face of Caregive Discrimination.
 
Here is the abstract:
Despite their many workplace advances, women remain constrained by an enduring social expectation that they will manage their families’ domestic lives. Women will not achieve full workplace equality until men do more at home, and men will not enter the domestic sphere if they face employment retaliation for doing so. Men at Work, Fathers at Home addresses this problem by critically evaluating the legal challenges that fathers and other male caregivers face in proving claims of workplace discrimination. Drawing from Supreme Court precedent and gender theory, the Article explains how masculine norms deter men from asserting their caregiving needs at work, while undermining their ability to prosecute discrimination claims in court. By examining how these men can combat biases against male caregiving, the Article seeks to advance the goal of gender equality for both sexes.
This is a promising article that draws from Supreme Court precedent and gender theory to critically evaluate the unique legal challenges that male caregivers face in proving claims of workplace discrimination.  Keith's piece will no doubt contribute much to the continuing debate over caregiver discrimination in the workplace.

PS

November 14, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hofstra Conference on the ACA/ADA/FMLA and the Workplace

Hofstra conf.

Friend of the blog Marcy Karin (ASU) writes to remind us of a symposium/CLE that readers of the blog will be interested in, especially those of you in the New York area. On Friday, Hofstra's Labor and Employment Law Journal will be holding a symposium on health legislation and the workplace. Forging a Path: Dissecting Controversial Health Legislation in the Workplace. The symposium will take place at Hofstra University Club, David S. Mack Hall, North Campus, Hofstra University, on Friday, November 1, 2013, from 9 am to 3 pm.

 The lineup is impressive. Here are the details:

Keynote Speaker: Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security, U.S. Department of Labor

Panel 1: The Evolution of Anti-Discrimination Disability Laws: Defining Reasonable Accommodation and Disability

  • Rick Ostrove ’96, Partner, Leeds Brown Law, PC
  • Keith Frank ’89, Partner, Perez & Varvaro
  • Marcy Karin, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Work-Life Policy Unit, Civil Justice Clinic, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University
  • Jeffrey Schlossberg ’84, Of Counsel, Jackson Lewis LLP
  • E. Pierce Blue, Special Assistant and Attorney Advisor, Office of Commissioner Chai Feldblum, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Panel 2: Workplace Uncertainties Under the ACA: Preparing the Employer and Employee for the Road Ahead

  • Jill Bergman, Vice President of Compliance, Chernoff Diamond & Co., LLC
  • Steven Friedman, Shareholder and Co-Chair, Employee Benefits Practice Group, Littler Mendelson P.C.

Panel 3: The FMLA 20 Years Later: What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go From Here?

  • Robin Runge, Professorial Lecturer in Law, George Washington University Law School
  • Rona Kitchen, Assistant Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law
  • Joseph Lynett, Partner, Jackson Lewis LLP
  • Nicole Porter, Professor of Law, The University of Toledo College of Law

Registration is $100 per person. Includes continental breakfast, lunch and CLE credits. Free for Hofstra University students, faculty, staff and administrators.

 Sponsored by: Littler Mendelson P.C.

MM

October 30, 2013 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, Pension and Benefits, Scholarship, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Freeman Guest-Blog Post: Death of an Adjunct Sparks Discussion on the Challenge of Precarious Employment in Higher Ed

Harris-FreedmanI am happy to introduce below a very interesting guest post today by Harris Freeman (Western New England) on the tragic death of an adjunct faculty member at Duquesne and its labor and employment law implications.  PS

This past weekend, NPR’s Weekend Edition ran a story on the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an 83-year old adjunct French professor at Duquesne University, and that school’s refusal to recognize the vote of its adjuncts to unionize. After 25 years of teaching French as an adjunct, Duquesne dismissed Vojtko this past spring; she was earning about $10,000 a year without benefits or health insurance.  At the time of her termination, Vojtko, who was undergoing cancer treatment. supported the adjunct union backed by the United Steelworkers. In June, the Duquesne adjuncts, who comprise nearly half the faculty in the school’s liberal arts college, won a an NLRB-sponsored election. Duquesne immediately challenged the vote claiming that its status as a religious institution exempts it from any obligation to bargain with the adjunct union.  The NLRB rejected the university’s position, and Duquesne has appealed.  Editorials and news articles on Vojtko’s passing and the unionizing effort peppered the Pittsburgh media.

The NPR story went viral on social media, rekindling the longstanding criticisms of labor and many others in higher ed who raise a host of concerns regarding the ballooning number of adjunct faculty that are now essential to the running of most large colleges and universities.  The numbers are stark. The American Association of University Professors reported in 2011 that 70% of college faculty worked outside the tenure track; in 1975 it was 43%. Part-time teachers in higher ed number more than 760,000 or about half of the non-tenured teaching faculty. NPR reports average yearly pay for adjuncts, professionals with Ph.Ds, Masters and J.D.s  - often itinerant “roads scholars” teaching at multiple institutions – is between $20,000 and $25,000.  

In this environment, adjunct organizing keeps gaining steam. This past spring adjunct organizing conferences sponsored by SEIU and the Steelworkers Union occurred respectively, in Boston, a veritable hub of the higher ed industrial complex, and Pittsburgh. In Boston, the home of 13,000 adjuncts, SEIU Local 500 is pursuing a city-wide, cross campus organizing strategy. Already, some larger state university systems, (e.g., University of Massachusetts) have accreted adjuncts into existing faculty unions and some small private colleges (e.g., New School for Social Research, New York; Emerson University, Boston and Georgetown, Washington D.C.) have recognized adjunct unions.  In fact, SEIU Local 500 now claims that it represents the majority of adjuncts in the Washington D.C. area.

What may be new is that the current discussion of the work conditions facing adjuncts comes on the heels of a national dialog on the ills of precarious employment that keeps widening as a result of temps, part-timers, and other low-wage employees organizing and speaking out. In recent months, the major news outlets covered job actions and strikes by warehouse temps doing the grunt work for retailers in the global logistics sector and the coordinated protest strikes of low-wage workers employed at America’s ubiquitous fast-food outlets.

This information and these events provide much grist for the teaching mill in any workplace law course and a cautionary tale for all academics.  In this context, recall that the ABA is considering removing the requirement of tenure for law school accreditation. The downward pull of precarious work in mainstream labor markets has a long reach that should cause all tenured faculty and others in the academy with some form of job security to take a closer look at what is happening at their law school, college, or university.

HF

Death of an Adjunct Sparks Discussion on

the Challenge of Precarious Employment in Higher Ed

 

This past weekend, NPR’s Weekend Edition ran a story on the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an 83-year old adjunct French professor at Duquesne University, and that school’s refusal to recognize the vote of its adjuncts to unionize. After 25 years of teaching French as an adjunct, Duquesne dismissed Vojtko this past spring; she was earning about $10,000 a year without benefits or health insurance.  At the time of her termination, Vojtko, who was undergoing cancer treatment. supported the adjunct union backed by the United Steelworkers. In June, the Duquesne adjuncts, who comprise nearly half the faculty in the school’s liberal arts college, won a an NLRB-sponsored election. Duquesne immediately challenged the vote claiming that its status as a religious institution exempts it from any obligation to bargain with the adjunct union.  The NLRB rejected the university’s position, and Duquesne has appealed.  Editorials and news articles on Vojtko’s passing and the unionizing effort peppered the Pittsburgh media.

 

The NPR story went viral on social media, rekindling the longstanding criticisms of labor and many others in higher ed who raise a host of concerns regarding the ballooning number of adjunct faculty that are now essential to the running of most large colleges and universities.  The numbers are stark. The American Association of University Professors reported in 2011 that 70% of college faculty worked outside the tenure track; in 1975 it was 43%. Part-time teachers in higher ed number more than 760,000 or about half of the non-tenured teaching faculty. NPR reports average yearly pay for adjuncts, professionals with Ph.Ds, Masters and J.D.s  - often itinerant “roads scholars” teaching at multiple institutions – is between $20,000 and $25,000.  

 

In this environment, adjunct organizing keeps gaining steam. This past spring adjunct organizing conferences sponsored by SEIU and the Steelworkers Union occurred respectively, in Boston, a veritable hub of the higher ed industrial complex, and Pittsburgh. In Boston, the home of 13,000 adjuncts, SEIU Local 500 is pursuing a city-wide, cross campus organizing strategy. Already, some larger state university systems, (e.g., University of Massachusetts) have accreted adjuncts into existing faculty unions and some small private colleges (e.g., New School for Social Research, New York; Emerson University, Boston and Georgetown, Washington D.C.) have recognized adjunct unions.  In fact, SEIU Local 500 now claims that it represents the majority of adjuncts in the Washington D.C. area.

 

What may be new is that the current discussion of the work conditions facing adjuncts comes on the heels of a national dialog on the ills of precarious employment that keeps widening as a result of temps, part-timers, and other low-wage employees organizing and speaking out. In recent months, the major news outlets covered job actions and strikes by warehouse temps doing the grunt work for retailers in the global logistics sector and the coordinated protest strikes of low-wage workers employed at America’s ubiquitous fast-food outlets. 

September 25, 2013 in Commentary, Labor Law, Teaching, Union News, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage from DOL

Wedding ringsThe Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) released today guidance (Technical Release 2013–04) defining the meaning of the terms “spouse” and “marriage” under ERISA in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June in U.S. v. Windsor

Here is the pertinent text from the Technical Release:

In general, where the Secretary of Labor has authority to issue regulations, rulings, opinions, and exemptions in title I of ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, as well as in the Department's regulations at chapter XXV of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the term 'spouse' will be read to refer to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex who were legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who are domiciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages. Similarly, the term 'marriage' will be read to include a same-sex marriage that is legally recognized as a marriage under any state law....

The terms 'spouse' and 'marriage,' however, do not include individuals in a formal relationship recognized by a state that is not denominated a marriage under state law, such as a domestic partnership or a civil union, regardless of whether the individuals who are in these relationships have the same rights and responsibilities as those individuals who are married under state law.

DOL Secretary Thomas Perez suggests that the DOL plans to issue additional guidance in the near future.

PS

September 18, 2013 in Beltway Developments, Pension and Benefits, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lobel on TALENT WANTS TO BE FREE: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding

Talent wants to be free new coverOrly Lobel (San Diego) is about to release (on Sept. 30, 2013) her new book through Yale University Press: TALENT WANTS TO BE FREE: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding (Amazon link where to find book).


From the press release:
In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, the “War for Talent” is one of the most significant organizational challenges of the decade. The term, coined by McKinsey & Company in 1997, describes an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees in our innovation-driven economy. Today, the talent wars have become characterized by a singular factor: the control of human capital, or, people and the knowledge they carry. The belief is that if an organization can control these assets – that is, if Google, for example, can prevent its employees from defecting to Facebook, taking critical skills knowledge with them – it will acquire an advantage and become a top player in the industry.
But in her new book, TALENT WANTS TO BE FREE: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding (Yale University Press; hardcover; September 24, 2013), University of San Diego Law Professor Orly Lobel argues that we’ve got the logic all wrong. Far from promoting innovation, too much control of talent – through tactics such as harsh non-compete agreements and strict protection of trade secrets, patents, and copyright – backfires and ultimately stifles the very innovation that organizations so desperately seek. Drawing on original research into motivating employee creativity, analysis of recent litigation, and empirical data from economics, psychology, and network science, Lobel explores how the ways in which we fight over talent can either enhance or inhibit the innovative spirit of an organization. Based on her research, as well as well as her experiences consulting for businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs, Lobel offers leaders a new paradigm for managing people and their ideas in the 21st century.  

Looks to be a great and timely read and makes a persuasive argument why restrictive covenants in employment may be squelching worker innovativation America needs to complete in the global economy of the 21st Century. Pick up a copy!

            PS

September 18, 2013 in Book Club, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rogers on Justice at Work: Minimum Wage Laws and Social Equality

Rogers_profileBrishen Rogers (Temple) has just posted on SSRN his new article entitled: Justice at Work: Minimum Wage Laws and Social Equality.

Here is the abstract: 

This article develops a new normative defense of minimum wage laws. Existing legal academic debate asks how effectively such laws deliver resources to the working poor compared to transfer programs such as wage subsidies and negative income taxes. Such transfers have clear advantages in terms of redistribution, for they target the poor rather than all workers, and they do not cause unemployment. Legal scholars have therefore criticized minimum wage laws both on utilitarian grounds of aggregate wealth maximization and on liberal egalitarian grounds of fairness toward society’s worst-off.

Accepting for the sake of argument that minimum wage laws cause inefficiency and unemployment, this article nevertheless defends them. It draws upon philosophical arguments that a just state will not simply redistribute resources, but will also enable citizens to relate to one another as equals. Minimum wage laws advance this ideal of “social equality” in two ways: they symbolize the society’s commitment to low-wage workers, and they help reduce work-based class and status distinctions. Comparable tax-and-transfer programs are less effective on both fronts. Indeed, the fact that minimum wage laws increase unemployment can be a good thing, as the jobs lost will not always be worth saving. The article thus stands to enrich current increasingly urgent debates over whether to increase the minimum wage. It also recasts some longstanding questions of minimum wage doctrine, including exclusions from coverage and ambiguities regarding which parties are liable for violations.

As Congress will no doubt be debating the raising the minimum wage soon, Brishen provides an excellent argument for why the US should follow an approach that embraces both an increase in the minimum wage (to a level beyond poverty wages) and a wage subsidy in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or something similar.  As Robert Reich recently argued on YouTube, both a higher minimum wage and EITC are an essential part of rebuilding this nation's economy with better paying jobs.  Brishen's article provides another important justification for raising the minimum wage.

PS

September 3, 2013 in Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Fifth Circuit holds that lactation discrimination violates Title VII

BreastfeedingIn the first circuit court of appeals decision on the issue, the Fifth Circuit, in EEOC v. Houston Funding II held yesterday that discriminating against an employee because she is lactating or expressing milk is sex discrimination. The decision reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer and remanded the case to the district court. We reported on the district court decision here, and you might recall that the district court had held that lactation was not a condition related to pregnancy because it did not start until pregnancy had ended.

The Fifth Circuit's decision held that lactation was a medical condition related to pregnancy and childbirth because it was a physiological state caused by pregnancy and subsequent childbirth. It further relied on prior circuit precedent, which had held that menstruation, a normal part of female physiology, was a condition related to pregnancy and childbirth:

Menstruation is a normal aspect of female physiology, which is interrupted during pregnancy, but resumes shortly afterthe pregnancy concludes. Similarly, lactation is a normal aspect of female physiology that is initiated by pregnancy and concludes sometime thereafter. If an employer commits unlawful sex-based discrimination by instituting a policy revolving around a woman’s postpregnancy menstrual cycle, as in Harper, it is difficult to see how an employer who makes an employment decision based upon whether a woman is lactating can avoid such unlawful sex discrimination. And as both menstruation and lactation are aspects of female physiology that are affected by pregnancy, each seems readily to fit into a reasonable definition of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

In a footnote in this section, the court distinguished cases about whether a failure to accommodate an employee who wanted to express milk at work in a particular way violated Title VII. Title VII does not require accommodations for women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, just that those women be treated the same as other employees who may be similar in their ability or inability to work. So if the employer never allows employees to take breaks, it may not be required by Title VII to allow lactating women to take breaks, for example. 

This case was not about whether the employer had to accommodate the employee's request to use her breast pump at work, or at least not yet. Instead, it was about whether she was fired just for saying that she had said was lactating and wanted to express milk at work. She hadn't asked for any special accommodation yet. The employer doesn't exactly deny that; instead, it contends that she was not fired at all and instead abandoned her job.

This decision is an important development in the area of sex discrimination in sex-specific contexts. The accommodation framing seems somewhat problematic, though. It seems too easy to see a request related to expressing milk as something special, disregarding the kinds of actions employees simply take without requesting or requests that employees make all of the time that aren't viewed as accommodating. For example, even workplaces with rigid requirements about where employees must be and for how long (think a factory production line or cash register at a store) often provide breaks for employees to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or just rest for a few minutes. If an employee uses one of these breaks for some other purpose, it seems problematic to suddenly frame it as an accommodation.

With the amendment of the FLSA to require that most employers provide reasonable breaks and facilities to allow lactating women to express milk, perhaps this issue will fade, but it still says a lot about what we view as the "norm" to talk about accommodating pregnant or lactating women, when we don't talk about accommodating people with full bladders.

h/t N. William Metke, @metkelaw

MM 

May 31, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Widiss on the PDA and ADA Interplay

WidissDeborah Widiss (Indiana--Bloomington) has posted a new article on SSRN: Gilbert Redux: The Interaction of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Amended Americans with Disabilities Act. Here is the abstract:

Pregnancy -- a health condition that only affects women -- raises complicated questions regarding the interaction of employment policies addressing sex discrimination and those addressing disability. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), enacted in 1978, mandates that employers “shall” treat pregnant employees “the same for all employment-related purposes” as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Despite the clarity of this language, courts regularly permit employers to treat pregnant employees less favorably than employees with other health conditions, so long as the employer does so pursuant to a “pregnancy-blind” policy such as accommodating only workplace injuries or disabilities protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under this reasoning, recent amendments expanding the scope of disabilities covered by the ADA could have the perverse effect of decreasing employers’ obligations to pregnant employees. This Article argues that these decisions misinterpret the PDA. The same treatment clause creates a substantive, albeit comparative, accommodation mandate. Rather than focusing on the presence or absence of discriminatory intent, courts should simply assess whether the employer has, or under the ADA would be required to, accommodated limitations like those caused by pregnancy. This approach appropriately incorporates consideration of the costs that accommodations impose on employers but insulates that inquiry from still persistent misconceptions regarding pregnant women’s capacity and commitment to work.

This Article is the first to consider in depth how the 2008 amendments to the ADA interact with the PDA. In addition to providing textual analysis, the Article provides historical context that helps confirm that the PDA means what it says. Commentary on the PDA generally characterizes the statute’s same treatment language as a response to some feminists’ concerns that requiring “special” accommodations for pregnancy would increase the risk of discrimination or backlash against women generally. This Article contributes to the historical literature on the PDA by identifying a distinct — complementary but largely overlooked — benefit of the PDA’s same treatment language: it came on the heels of an extraordinary expansion of employer and government support for health conditions other than pregnancy. Thus, although the PDA does not itself require specific pregnancy accommodations, its enactment required many employers to provide far more robust support for pregnancy than they had previously. This historical context has direct relevance for contemporary doctrine, since it is closely analogous to the recent expansion of the ADA. The unduly narrow conception of comparators currently used by many courts interpreting the PDA risks relegating pregnancy once again to the basement.

Timely and important--particularly since the EEOC is currently evaluating its guidance on the interaction of Title VII, the ADA, and the FMLA.

MM

February 20, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, Scholarship, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Final FMLA Rule on Military and Flight Crews Expansion to Be Published Tomorrow

FmlaKenneth Shiotani (National Disability Rights Network) gives us the news that the Department of Labor will be publishing its final rule on the recent amendments to the FMLA that expanded coverage to flight crews and family members of those in the military--for a refresher on those expansions, see here, here and here.

And here is the final rule itself

MM

February 5, 2013 in Beltway Developments, Disability, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Happy 20th Anniversary FMLA