Wednesday, July 25, 2012
ClassCrit V Workshop: From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream
I am excited to share with readers of the blog information about the forthcoming ClassCrit V Workshop: From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream (hyperlink leads to conference website). The conference is scheduled to take place in Madison, Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin School of Law on November 16-17, 2012. The audience participation sign-up deadline is October 15th.
More about the theme of the conference from its website:
This workshop, the fifth meeting of ClassCrits, takes on class and the American dream as its theme. The most quintessentially American trait may be our capacity to look past current misfortune and imagine a brighter future. Americans love a “rags to riches” story and have long believed that hard work and determination will pay off in the long run. Two years into a sluggish “recovery” from the Great Recession, however, many Americans have lost some of that earnest optimism. Faced with persistent unemployment, a nationwide foreclosure crisis, deep cuts to state and local budgets, and declining state support for public education, Americans are questioning the promise of upward mobility. Indeed falling backwards is now a recognized phenomenon affecting more and more of the “middle class,” arguably blurring the distinctions between the “middle class,” the “working classes” and “the poor.”
But, roused by economic insecurity and the political assault on workers’ rights, “ordinary” people from Madison to Zuccotti Park have taken to the streets to voice their dissent. Taking on the slogan “we are the 99%,” the protest movement has launched a national dialogue about income, wealth and structural inequality, race, gender and class divisions in society, and, fundamentally, what it will take to reclaim our vision of a good life. From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream will therefore bring together scholars, economists, activists, policymakers, and others to critically examine both the relationships between and the complexities of class and inequality.
I am excited to be providing a paper on the Wisconsin Public Sector Labor Dispute of 2011 and its relationship to the demise of the Wagner Act model of labor and to recent, class-based movements like Occupy Wall Street. Other worklaw profs scheduled to present include: Brishen Rogers (Temple), Charlotte Garden (Seattle), Nancy Leong (Denver), Ken Casebeer (Miami), Matt Dimick (Buffalo), Jim Pope (Rutgers-Newark), and Ahmed White (Colorado).
This should really be a great conference, so be sure to attend if you will be in the area, or even if you need to jet-hop in!
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Robin Runge (North Dakota School of Law) just had an article published in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.
Here's the cite: Redefining Leave From Work, 19 GEO. J. ON POVERTY L. & POL’Y 445 (2012) (Westlaw Subscription required).
From the Introduction:
The concept of leave from work in the United States has been determined by a collection of social and cultural factors. Workplaces are manifestations of social and cultural beliefs about how work is done, what exceptions or modifications to those norms are acceptable, and how family life is to be conducted. Similarly, the justifiable reasons for taking leave and the qualifications necessary to access leave from work reinforce societal values regarding work and family.
The current leave-from-work laws and policies do not incorporate the work-life and non-work-life experiences of low-wage workers. As a result, the majority of low-wage workers do not have meaningful access to leave from work, and when they do, the leave is underutilized. In this way, the work and family lives of low income workers generally, and low-wage working women in particular, are devalued by effectively denying their existence in the workplace.
Although there has been extensive analysis of how to remedy work-family conflict and workplace discrimination against women as caregivers, there has been limited examination of the work-life experiences of low-wage workers outside their identity as caregivers. Framing low-income working women's issues as “work-family conflict” may not be appropriate or accurate to describe their experiences. Moreover, the focus on leave from work as a primary method for addressing gender equity without discussing employees' control over their work and family lives has ignored the work experience of many low-wage working women, thus rendering the efficacy of this tool less successful in achieving its goal of gender equity.
This Article contributes to this scholarship by incorporating an analysis of low-wage workers' experience with current leave from work laws and policies. This analysis demonstrates that current leave laws and policies have contributed to social and cultural norms about leave that result in inaccessibility and underutilization of leave from work by low-wage workers. Reasons for this underutilization include the lack of control low-wage workers have over their work and family lives, a lack of financial support or incentive to take leave from work, and the mismatch of the permissible reasons for taking leave from work with the lives of low-wage workers. By integrating the work and family life experiences of low-wage workers into leave from work laws and policies, they may become a more effective tool for addressing gender and class inequity in the workplace.
This is a very timely and important article at the intersection of employment, gender, and poverty law. Check it out!
Friday, April 13, 2012
Kenneth Shiotani (National Disability Rights Network) just informed us that the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division has extended the deadline for submitting comments to FMLA proposed regulations. The new deadline is April 30.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The Supreme Court issued it's opinion in Coleman v. Md. Ct. App. today, holding that Congress lacked the power to abrogate state immunity from suits for damages for violations of the FMLA's self-care provisions. Here's the syllabus:
JUSTICE KENNEDY, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE THOMAS, and JUSTICE ALITO, concluded that suits against States under the self-care provision are barred by sovereign immunity. Pp. 3−12.
(a) Under the federal system, States, as sovereigns, are immune from damages suits, unless they waive that defense. See, e.g., Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U. S. 62, 72−73. Congress may also abrogate the States’ immunity pursuant to its powers under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, but it must make that intention “unmistakably clear in the language of the statute,” Hibbs, supra, at 726. It did so in the FMLA. Congress also “must tailor” legislation enacted under §5 “to remedy or prevent” “conduct transgressing the Fourteenth Amendment’s substantive provisions.” Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, 527 U. S. 627, 639. “There must be a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end.” City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 520. Pp. 3−5.
(b) The sex-based discrimination that supported allowing subparagraph (C) suits against States is absent with respect to the self-care provision. Petitioner’s three arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. Pp. 5–12.
(1) Petitioner maintains that the self-care provision addresses sex discrimination and sex stereotyping. But the provision, standing alone, is not a valid abrogation of the States’ immunity from suit. At the time the FMLA was enacted, there was no evidence of such discrimination or stereotyping in sick-leave policies. Congress was concerned about the economic burdens imposed by illness-related job loss on employees and their families and about discrimination based on illness, not sex. Although the self-care provision offers some women a benefit by allowing them to take leave for pregnancy-related illnesses, the provision, as a remedy, is not congruent and proportional to any identified constitutional violations. When the FMLA was enacted, Congress had no evidence that States were excluding pregnancy-related illnesses from their leave policies. Pp. 6–7.
(2) Petitioner also argues that the self-care provision is a necessary adjunct to the family-care provision sustained in Hibbs. But his claim—that the provisions work in tandem to ensure the equal availability of total FMLA leave time to women and men despite their different leave-usage patterns―is unconvincing and does not comply with the requirements of City of Boerne. Also, there are no congressional findings of, or evidence on, how the self-care provision is necessary to the family-care provisions or how it reduces employer discrimination against women. Pp. 8–11.
(3) Finally, petitioner contends that the self-care provision helps single parents keep their jobs when they get ill. The fact that most single parents happen to be women demonstrates, at most, that the self-care provision was directed at remedying neutral leave restrictions that have a disparate effect on women. However, “[a]lthough disparate impact may be relevant evidence of . . . discrimination . . . such evidence is insufficient [to prove a constitutional violation] even where the Fourteenth Amendment subjects state action to strict scrutiny.” Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U. S. 356, 373. Because it is unlikely that many of the neutral leave policies affected by the self-care provision are unconstitutional, the scope of the self-care provision is out of proportion to its supposed remedial or preventive objectives. Pp. 11−12.
JUSTICE SCALIA adhered to his view that the Court should abandon the “congruence and proportionality” approach in favor of one that is properly tied to the text of §5, which grants Congress the power “to enforce, by appropriate legislation,” the other provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. Outside the context of racial discrimination, Congress’s §5 power should be limited to the regulation of conduct that itself violates the Fourteenth Amendment and thus would not reach a State’s failure to grant self-care leave to its employees. Pp. 1−2.
Justice Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have held that the self-care provisions validly enforce the right to be free from gender discrimination.
I haven't had time to read the opinion carefully, but the result is not much of a surprise. One particularly interesting piece is that Justice Scalia seems to be continuing his drive to limit Congress's powers to enact anti-discrimination legislation that is in any way different from what the Fourteenth Amendment provides, although he does apparently see some wiggle room for race discrimination legislation.
Update: Michael Waterstone (Loyola L.A.) has some nice analysis at Prawfsblawg, and I've written several things about the 11th amendment issue and federalism, like this, this, and an article forthcoming in the Wisconsin Journal on Law, Gender and Society that I'll post on SSRN as soon as it's ready for prime time.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Kenneth Shiotani (National Disability Rights Network) gives us the heads-up that the DOL's Wage & Hour Divison will post in tomorrow's Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to the Family Medical Leave Act. Here's a summary of what will be covered:
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division proposes to revise certain regulations of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA or the Act), primarily to implement recent statutory amendments to the Act. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes regulations to implement amendments to the military leave provisions of the FMLA made by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which extends the availability of FMLA leave to family members of members of the Regular Armed Forces for qualifying exigencies arising out of the servicemember’s deployment; defines those deployments covered under these provisions; and extends FMLA military caregiver leave to family members of certain veterans with serious injuries or illnesses. This NPRM also proposes to amend the regulations to implement the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act, which established new FMLA leave eligibility requirements for airline flight crewmembers and flight attendants. In addition, the proposal includes changes concerning the calculation of leave;reorganization of certain sections to enhance clarity; the removal of the forms from the regulations; and technical corrections of inadvertent drafting errors in the current regulations.
The EEOC will hold public hearings tomorrow on pregnancy and caregiver discrimination. From the press release,
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a public meeting on the subject of pregnancy discrimination and caregiver issues at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern Time) Wednesday, Feb. 15, at agency headquarters, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. In accordance with the Sunshine Act, the meeting is open for public observation of the Commission’s deliberations.
At the meeting, the Commission will examine recent trends in discrimination against pregnant workers and workers with caregiving responsibilities, examining these two forms of discrimination as a continuum. The Commission is scheduled to hear from the following invited panelists:
Panel 1: Understanding Pregnancy and Caregiver Discrimination in Today’s Workplace
- Dr. Stephen Benard, Professor of Sociology, Indiana University (via VTC from our Indianapolis District Office)
- Sharon Terman, Senior Staff Attorney, Gender Equity Program, The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center
- Maryann Parker, Associate General Counsel, Service Employees International Union
- Lynn Friss Feinberg, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute
- Deane Ilukowicz, Vice President for Human Resources, Hypertherm
Panel 2: Statutory Framework and Enforcement Efforts
- EEOC’s General Counsel P. David Lopez will provide introductory remarks.
- Peggy Mastroianni, Legal Counsel, EEOC
- Melvina Ford, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor
- Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel, National Women’s Law Center
Panel 3: The Way Forward: Implications for the Future
- Judy Lichtman, National Partnership for Women and Families
- Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Hastings Foundation Chair, Director of the Center for WorkLife Law
Seating is limited and it is suggested that visitors arrive 30 minutes before the meeting in order to be processed through security and escorted to the meeting room.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Earlier this month, the EEOC lost a sex discrimination case on summary judgment, EEOC v. Houston Funding. The employee in that case alleged that she was fired for asking to be able to pump breastmilk upon her return to work after giving birth. The district court judge held that even though discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is a violation of Title VII, that once the employee gave birth, she had no more pregnancy-related conditions and that therefore firing someone on the basis of lactation or pumping breastmilk could not be sex discrimination, citing these other district court decisions in support: Puente v. Ridge, No. M-04.267, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46624, at *1I-12 (S.D. Tex. July 6, 2005); Martinez v. NBC Inc., 49 F. Supp. 2d 305, 311 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Jacobson v. Regent Assisted Living, Inc., No. CV-98-564-ST, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7680, at *30 (D. Or. Apr. 9, 1999; Wallace v. Pyro Mining Co., 789 F . Supp. 867, 869 (W.D. Ky. 1990).
The judge did not address whether lactation was a condition related to childbirth, the noun that comes between pregnancy and the phrase "other medical conditions," which seems rather problematic for the judge's reasoning. I could see the argument that lactation is not necessarily a "medical" condition, because that suggests dysfunction rather than a natural consequence of pregnancy and childbirth, but that was not what the judge appeared to rely on. Joan Willams (U.C. Hastings) has a great counterargument to that in this news story summarizing the woman's claim. She links breastfeeding to transferring immunities from mother to child, and refers to the medical complications like mastitis that can arise when mothers cannot breastfeed or express milk.
Interestingly, the facts of the order read very differently from the facts that the employee is alleging (see the EEOC complaint here). While I can't find a copy of the summary judgment documents to be sure, it looks as if the judge has not viewed the facts in the light most favorable to the EEOC. I see an appeal on the horizon here.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Marcy Karin (ASU) and Katie Onachila have just posted on SSRN their article (American U. LEL Forum, 2012) The Military's Workplace Flexibility Framework. Here's the abstract:
The return of combat troops from Iraq provides a valuable catalyst to take stock of the use of workplace flexibility in the U.S. military and for other employers supporting the military community. Workplace flexibility is a tool the military can use to support its operations, improve the recruitment and retention of military personnel, and fulfill its obligation to support veterans and military families. While the unique mission critical needs of the military are an inescapable variable when creating workplace flexibility policies, the military must meet the workplace flexibility needs of its services members and their families to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the Armed Forces. This article provides an overview of the legal framework for workplace flexibility for the military community, and observations about themes evolving from those laws.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement Statutory Amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act
The U.S. Department of Labor announced that the Wage and Hour Division intends to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement and interpret the statutory amendments to expand the military family leave provisions and to incorporate a special eligibility provision for airline flight crew employees and make some additional regulatory changes. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was recently amended to expand the military family leave provisions and to incorporate a special eligibility provision for airline flight crew employees.
Upon publication, interested parties will be invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov. Only comments received during the comment period identified in the Federal Register published version of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be considered part of the rulemaking record.
More information is available at the Proposed Rule Website.
One of my colleagues here at SLU has his environmental law students draft and submit comments on proposed rules as a way to introduce them to administrative lawmaking and the regulations process. It also forces them to dig deeper into the statutes and the policies and practical implications of enforcement. Marcy has done this too in her classes and has loved the results. She has offered to be a resource to anyone interested it trying it. I am thinking of having my employment discrimination students do the same thing after this encouragement.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Lauren Khouri, Senior Content Editor of the American University Labor & Employment Law Forum writes to tell us that the Forum is issuing a paper call. The paper call is attached here.
Here are som details of the paper call:
The Labor & Employment Law Forum is seeking articles for publication on the following topics:
1) Employee Benefits, including:
• The effects of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal;
• The possible Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) repeal;
• The ramifications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act;
2) Politicization of the labor movement, including:
• Occupy Wall Street;
• The impact of the Citizen’s United decision on the Labor Movement;
• The continuing attack on Public Sector workers;
• Community organizing and the labor community
3) Paid Sick Days, including:
• The national paid sick day movement
• The effect of paid sick leave on women and children
Monday, January 23, 2012
The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation have released the results of a recent survey on feelings of well being and attitudes by race and sex on such wide ranging topics on how secure people feel, what they are worried about, and whether they think race or sex discrimination continues to be a problem. The poll has longitudinal data from 5 years ago, and also goes back farther on at least one of the questions. I use these kinds of surveys to help animate class discussions, especially to talk about why people might choose to litigate or what people might be prepared to believe. It helps ground that discussion in something more than my gut feeling about what people value, which tends, not surprisingly, to be skewed to what I value.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Although this Supreme Court term has fewer employment and labor cases or at least fewer foundation-shaking employment and labor cases than the last few terms, that does not mean that there is nothing to pay attention to. Case in point: Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, which will be argued tomorrow on FMLA leave for state employees.
It's a case that brings together two of my favorite topics, family and medical leave and the 11th Amendment. But wait, you might be thinking, didn't the Court already deal with the FMLA and the 11th Amendment in Nevada Dep't of Human Resources v. Hibbs, and didn't the Court find that Congress could subject the states to suits for damages for FMLA violations? The answer would be, yes, but . . .
You might recall that the plaintiff in Hibbs was a state employee who took leave to care for his sick spouse. He was fired after he exhausted his leave, and he sued under the FMLA's cause of action allowing an employee to sue for damages for interference with, restraint of, or the denial of exercise of FMLA rights. Generally, the 11th Amendment (really actually Article III, but that's kind of a technical federal courts argument that I won't go into here) prohibits suits against unconsenting states for money damages. Congress can abrogate that immunity when it acts validly under the 14th Amendment. In Hibbs, the Court found that the FMLA was validly enacted under the 14th Amendment because it was designed to promote women's equality by ensuring that leave could be taken by both sexes and by encouraging both sexes to take that leave. Traditionally, women have engaged in the bulk of caregiving for young children or adult family members with serious health needs.
That didn't necessarily end the issue, though. Since Hibbs, the Court has increasingly taken an "as applied" approach in its abrogation cases. You might be familiar with Tennessee v. Lane for example, where the Court found that Congress had validly abrogated state sovereign immunity in Title II of the ADA at least insofar as it provided damages actions against states for not providing access to the courts or for inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on prisoners. This stood in stark contrast to Bd. of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, where the Court held that Title I of the ADA was not validly enacted under the 14th Amendment, and so Congress could not subject the states to suits for violations of the act.
Which sets the stage for Coleman. The plaintiff in Hibbs took leave to care for his spouse--an act that is still somewhat unusual for men and certainly not consistent with stereotyped expectations of male gender behavior. The FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act, though. It mandates leave for people to care for their own serious health conditions as well. The self-care provision might seem more analogous to disabilities and things protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (not valid under the 14th Amendment) rather than a part of an effort to disrupt discriminatory patterns on the basis of sex (valid under the 14th Amendment).
The plaintiff has argued that the self-care leave is a part of the effort to disrupt discriminatory patterns on the basis of sex, pointing to employer hesitation to hire women because of a perception that they would be more likely to need leave for their own pregnancy-related health issues. The state of Maryland argues that the self-care provision is designed to prohibit discrimination against those with serious health issues, more like the ADA, and even if it were related to sex discrimination, such a remedy is not congruent and proportional to what the 14th Amendment would provide and so not within Congress's abrogation powers.
It will be interesting to see whether the changes in membership on the Court since Hibbs change the tenor of the argument or the Court's approach.
Update: Here's the transcript. No real surprises, although you can see the Justices arguing with each other through their questions more than usual.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Friend of the blog Marcy Karin (Arizona State) writes to let us know that the Work and Family Researchers Network or WFRN (formerly the Sloan Work and Family Research Network) has released the program for its inaugural conference. The WFRN
is an international membership organization of interdisciplinary work and family researchers. The WFRN also welcomes the participation of policy makers and practitioners as it seeks to promote knowledge and understanding of work and family issues among the community of global stakeholders.
The WFRN facilitates virtual and face-to-face interaction among work and family researchers from a broad range of fields and engages the next generation of work and family scholars. As a global hub, we provide opportunities for information sharing and networking via our website, which includes the only open access work and family subject matter repository, the Work and Family Commons.
The inaugural conference is this June in New York City and features over 600 speakers from thirty countries. a quick glance at the program reveals that amont them are Joan Williams (UC Hastings), Nina Pilard (Georgetown), Beth Burkstrand-Reid (Nebraska), Michelle Travis (San Francisco), Robin Runge (North Dakota), Keith Cunningham-Parmeter (Willamette), Deborah Widiss (Indiana-Bloomington), Melissa Hart (Colorado), Ruth Milkman (CUNY, Sociology) and Marcy Karin (Arizona State).
It looks like a great conference and a great organization to become involved with for anyone working on these work and family issues.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Earlier this month, the Families and Work Institute issued a new study on work-family conflict and men as part of the National Study of the Changing Workforce: The New Male Mystique. About two years ago, the national study revealed that a higher percentage of men ( 60% in dual earner households) than women (47% in dual earner households) were reporting work-family conflict. The current study seeks to answer why that is, and the authors concluded:
We suggest that the increase in work-family conflict experienced by men is a symptom of the new male mystique—today’s male version of the “feminine mystique” coined by Betty Friedan in 1963 to describe how assumptions about women finding fulfillment in traditional domestic roles created tension and conflict for a number of women, preventing them from finding their identities and opportunities for meaningful work. Applying Friedan’s reasoning to men, the “traditional male mystique” would reflect the notion that men should seek fulfillment at work and strive to be successful as financial providers for their families. We use the term new male mystique to describe how traditional views about men’s role as breadwinners in combination with emerging gender role values that encourage men to participate in family life and a workplace that does not fully support these new roles have created pressure for men to, essentially, do it all in order to have it all.
The study released a number of findings. Here are a few:
- Work-family conflict is not simply a function of hours spent working. Job characteristics and psychological factors—including attitudes about work, family and appropriate gender roles—all contribute to men’s work-family conflict.
- Work-centric men are more likely to experience work-family conflict than dual- or family-centric men.
- Men who hold traditional gender role values—i.e., strongly agree the man should earn the money and the woman should take care of the home and children— are also more likely to experience work-family conflict.
The recommendations included more flexible work arrangements for men and more cultural support for men to take advantage of those.
Some of these findings suggest a reason for the conflict beyond the lack of flexibility and supportive bosses that we expect. I would suggest, in fact, that analogizing to the Feminine Mystique is completely backward. Betty Friedan's book was about how many women were not fulfilled by the domestic role they were supposed to glory in. Here, the converse is true. The men feeling the greatest amount of conflict don't seem to be rejecting the breadwinning role that they are supposed to relish--they instead feel the conflict when home encroaches.
In other words, the findings suggest that more men than women are reporting feeling the conflict. To the extent that some significant number of men don't expect to feel any conflict because they see themselves as primarily breadwinners, those men are going to experience the competing demands as conflict rather than as the balance they expected to strike. It seems from the findings that men who expect to prioritize their families as much as or more than work don't report the conflict as much. And perhaps enough women have just been struggling with that expectation issue for so long that they tend to expect the competing demands and so may not experience it as conflict to the same extent.
Maybe it would be a good time to revisit a radical experiment in work-life balance conducted forty years ago by the Norwegian government where couples split a single job. It's reported on in this Time story from last October and sounds really interesting. Most of the couples continued the arrangement after the study and remembered the time as strengthening their family even though they were not particularly well off economically.
Our current economic situation might help reset expectations, although so far it seems to be mostly heightening financial stress on people. On that economic front, legislation has been introduced that while not focused on partners within a family would promote state worksharing programs. The Layoff Prevention Act of 2011, focused on keeping people in jobs with reduced hours, was introduced earlier this month as H.R. 2421. The legislation would provide workers whose hours are reduced with unemployment insurance benefits to account for the reduced hours.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Stephen Ruth (GMU - Public Policy) has just posted on SSRN his chapter (the future book is not indicated) The Dark Side of Telecommuting - Is a Tipping Point Approaching?. Here's the abstract:
This chapter proposes a cautionary view of the potential challenges that would arise if telecommuting implementation increases significantly beyond its present, popular, highly successful baseline. Current telecommuters are the cream of the crop—mature, carefully trained, and mostly from significantly higher-than-average income and education levels. But as more persons are added in telecommuting plans, there may be serious problems. Several of the challenges associated with greater telecommuting participation are described: difficulties in assessing current telecommuting demographics, problems in the evaluation of productivity, the dilemma of determining verifiable costs and benefits, the drawbacks and distractions in home-siting of telework as the levels of education and experience decrease, the imbalance of broadband service, especially for the poor, and the reluctance of some organizations to take advantage regional telecenters.
This is an interesting read. Despite the title, it's not a horror story -- it's a thoughtful explanation of how telecommuting may change many aspects of worklife in the future, and on some of the practical limits of telecommuting. For example:
First, there would be dislocation. An employer would not be very wise to preserve a good permanent office for an employee who is using it only sporadically. So hoteling, which has been around for decades, will begin to be used by average companies and agencies, not just the Fortune 100.... Also, unions and other employee rights organizations will begin to become involved in telecommuting decisions Second, there may be some productivity anomalies. If a person is significantly more successful on a work unit basis while telecommuting, what behaviors can be expected when she or he is back at the office?... Third, there may be a need for an intermediate location for telecommuting due to security problems. No matter how skillful the organization’s tech staff may be, it will more difficult to replicate the secure, sabotage-proof hardware software/software suite available at the primary location in the home computer or the nomadic device. Many of those who have been working at home will need to migrate to the robust, comfortable confines of a telecenter, where it’s easier to replicate the full security protocols that are needed.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
At the beginning of this month, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law two important new employment laws. First, he signed Public Act 11-52, An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees, the first of its kind to be passed by a state. This statute mandates that employers who have fifty or more employees who do not already provide at least five days a year of paid leave to provide up to five days a year of paid sick time. Clearly not every employer is covered, and in addition, not every type of employee is covered even for covered employers, Moreover, employees are not eligible until they have worked 680 hours. Still, Connecticut is the first state to mandate paid sick time in any form, and this is a very important development.
Secondly, Connecticut became the fourteenth state (plus DC for a total of fifteen state and state-like jurisdictions) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination is the statute. Connecticut prohibits discrimination in a variety of contexts outside of employment as well, from housing to provision of utilities, and it added gender identity or expression to most if not all of these. Connecticut also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but that status is not as broadly protected as the new addition.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Sandra Sperino (Cincinnati) writes to tell us of a mentoring program organized and administered by Colleen Medill (Nebraska) for the Section on Women in Legal Education of the American Association of Law Schools. Here is the announcement:
Opportunities for finding a mentor
At different stages of their careers, individuals may need different types of mentoring. Mentoring needs could be in teaching, in scholarship development, or with work-life issues and experiences. Therefore, a "onesize fits all needs for all times" approach to mentoring has proven difficult to implement in the past.
The Section on Women in Legal Education's Mentoring Program takes a different approach to traditional mentoring. The Section's program is structured as an "a la carte" program. The volunteer mentors and their expertise and experiences are listed on the Mentoring Program website. Individuals who desire mentoring are encouraged to contact directly any volunteer mentor on the list who matches the individual’s particular mentoring need(s). Mentors are available to give assistance and advice concerning teaching, scholarship and work-life issues. The URL for the site is: http://law.unl.edu/wile.
Professor Colleen Medill at the University of Nebraska administers theweb site and serves as the chair of the Mentoring Program. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. You may contact Colleen if you want assistance infinding a "match" for the type of mentoring you are seeking.
The Mentoring Program Committee currently is working to develop the web site, publicize it, and expand the list of mentors. The members of the Mentoring Program Committee are: Colleen E. Medill, Chair (Nebraska); Marina Angel (Temple); Michelle Simon (Pace); Jennifer Hendricks(Tennessee); Sandra Sperino (Cincinnati); Melissa Marlow (Southern Illinois); Nicole Huberfeld (Kentucky); Kerri Stone (Florida International);and Ruth Jones (Pacific).
The Section's Mentoring Program and the web site are a work in progress. If you have suggestions for the web site and improving the quality of the program, please contact any member of the Mentoring Program Committee.
The Section also is looking for individuals who want to be mentors. If you would like to be a mentor, please contact Colleen Medill for a Volunteer Mentor Application Form. Colleen can be reached at email@example.com.
This is a wonderful approach to mentoring and a great service to our community. And it's nice to see so many workplace profs helping to make it a reality.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Congratulations to Hollee Schwartz Temple (West Virginia) and Becky Beaupre Gillespie, a journalist, both of whom are work/life balance columnists for the ABA Journal on the publication of their new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect.
Here's an excerpt from the book, available on the Amazon page that describes the project well:
Good Enough Is the New Perfect is based on journalistic research we conducted over two years, beginning in 2008. It draws on exclusive data—our survey of 905 working mothers born between 1965 and 1980 and representing almost every state in the nation—as well as in-depth interviews with more than 100 working mothers. Some of these women were subjects of multiple interviews conducted regularly over one or two years; their generous gifts of time gave us deep insight into the wide range of factors that shape women's choices today. We also have drawn from expert research into issues ranging from marriage to feminism to business; some of the experts we consulted shared hours of time to help us better understand our findings.
Our key findings, by the way, surprised us. Our research revealed two types of working mothers: the Never Enoughs, who felt a constant need to be "the best," and the Good Enoughs, who said that being "the best" wasn't important, as long as they were good enough and happy at work and at home. What caught our attention wasn't that these two groups existed—it was how differently they fared in their attempts to balance work and family.
We want to be clear on one point right away. We intentionally chose to examine only a slice of the maternal population—mothers who had the privilege of education and a certain amount of choice regarding work, including the ability to temporarily scale back hours, switch jobs or take time off. Almost all the women we interviewed—though diverse in race, geography, profession and family background—were college-educated and relatively secure financially. (Which isn't to say that they didn't feel money pressures; many did. But most weren't worried about putting food on the table at night.) Almost all of our survey respondents had attended college, and nearly half worked in jobs that required an advanced degree. We're very much aware that other groups face work/life issues, and that many women do not have much (or any) choice with respect to their work—but that's not the focus of this book.
This is a great addition to the literature on balance, on women, family, and work, and on the growing body of happiness literature. My only small critique is that it seems so woman focused--and so one-partner focused (although I haven't had a chance to read it yet and am going from the web site and descriptions).
I admit that I'm biased on this issue because I currently have a male stay at home spouse, and we have traded off various home/kid duties over time. While there are many gender-specific issues for women in the work-life fit, I'd like to know about issues for men, straight or gay, and for lesbians; I'd like to know whether there are differences based on gender and sexual orientation; and I'd like to know about cooperative partner balancing, too.
Of course, we've all gotten that question in workshops about why we didn't study something else and hated it equally, so maybe that critique is not fair and it's for the next project for someone to take on. Regardless, this book is a fabulous contribution!
Thursday, April 7, 2011
The Seattle University Law Review recently published Crowdsourcing the Work-Family Debate: A Colloquy. The colloquy explores themes presented by Professor Joan C. Williams in her book Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter. Contributors to the colloquy include Professors Richard Delgado, Jean Stefancic, Nancy Levit, Lisa Pruitt, and Katharine Silbaugh, among others. The colloquy also includes a response from Professor Williams and a retrospective reprint of a 1978 address delivered by then-Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her experiences with sex discrimination in the legal profession. In a preface to the reprinted edition, Justice Ginsburg states that she is heartened by the changes from 1978 to today, but that "[a]s Joan C. Williams develops in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate, there is a great distance yet to travel."
Saturday, April 2, 2011
New Report from Center for WorkLife Law: Poor, Pregnant, and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers
Professor Joan Williams and Deputy Director Stephanie Bornstein at the Center for WorkLife Law at U.C. Hastings Law School write to tell us that they just released a report that should be of interest to many readers of this blog—an analysis of caregiver discrimination lawsuits brought by low-wage workers.
Here is the full report, Poor, Pregnant, and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers.
The press release for this report states in part:
A new report released by the Center for WorkLife Law details the extreme measures to which low-wage workers must go to keep a job and care for their children or elderly family members—and the sometimes shocking discrimination they face at work despite these efforts . . .
Even in family emergencies, the report shows, low-wage workers are refused the small kinds of workplace flexibility that are commonplace for middle-wage and professional workers. Ironically, small changes by employers can make a significant difference in keeping experienced employees in their jobs. They can also prevent costly liability: several lawsuits profiled resulted in large verdicts, including four with recoveries of between $2.3 and $11.65 million, despite the plaintiffs’ (a housekeeper, a shipping dispatcher, a bakery delivery driver, and a hospital maintenance worker) low wages.
Sounds like a very interesting study. Check it out.