Friday, October 9, 2015

The Restorative Workplace

Deborah Thompson Eisenberg just posted her piece on The Restorative Workplace:  An Organizational Learning Approach to Discrimination. Here's the abstract:

On the fiftieth anniversary of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, many employers continue to search for ways to implement the law’s antidiscrimination and equal opportunity mandates into the workplace. The current litigation-based approach to employment discrimination under Title VII and similar laws focuses on weeding out “bad apples” who are explicitly prejudiced. This “victim-villain” paradigm may fail to correct the complex, nuanced causes of workplace discrimination, or exacerbate the problem. This article explores an alternative approach — restorative practices — that may integrate the policy goals of antidiscrimination laws into the practical realities of managing an organization. Restorative practices engage everyone in the organization with a sense of ownership in and commitment to the mission of building an inclusive, egalitarian workplace. 

Merging research from the fields of employment law, organizational management, and cognitive psychology, this article analyzes how restorative practices can facilitate an organizational learning approach to workplace discrimination. Proactively, restorative dialogue helps to build social capital, reduce explicit and implicit biases, and cultivate a shared commitment to egalitarian norms. Reactively, restorative practices can manage defensive routines often triggered by discrimination complaints and provide a process that can transform conflict into greater understanding and change. A restorative approach makes it more likely that the individuals involved — and the larger organization — can repair the harms caused by discrimination, correct systemic issues underlying the problem, and learn to prevent inequities in the future.

 I'm looking forward to reading it!




October 9, 2015 in Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Robots in the workplace

There is a very, very interesting article on by Emily Dreyfuss about her experience teleworking via an iPad robot on wheels.  I haven't thought deeply about technology in the workplace, so this article was rather mind-blowing for me, and opens up all sorts of avenues for employment law inquiry.  Ms. Dreyfuss discusses, for example, how violated she felt when a co-worker moved or touched her robot without her permission; how freeing it felt to be very pregnant at her home yet not pregnant at all in her robot incarnation at work; how she and her co-workers had to negotiate accommodations to account for her robot's mobility or lack thereof. Harassment law?!?  Identity at work?!?  Analogs to disability law?!?  Fascinating. 

- Charlotte AlexanderCbd7fc5680db457f32f5d6f34c07610e

September 10, 2015 in Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


1. There's an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on an antitrust suit challenging an alleged no-poaching agreement between Duke and UNC.  Cooperation or Collusion? Lawsuit Accuses Duke and UNC of Faculty Non-Poaching DealIt may not match the hype about the Silicon Valley no-poaching litigation, but it does strike pretty close to home. And, crediting the Chronicle's report, there's apparently a dispute about whether the schools have a policy or just a practice. Conscious parallelism, anyone.  Not to mention the reality that there is some movement between the professoriat at the two universities. 

2. Jonathan Harkavy has posted his always-interesting annual review of Supreme Court employment decisions. 


September 9, 2015 in Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rogers on "Sharing Economy"-Workers and Defining Employment

RogersBrishen Rogers (Temple) recently posted on SSRN his essay Employment as a Legal Concept. Here's the abstract to this timely piece:

The employment status of workers for “sharing economy” firms such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Handy is becoming a major legal and political issue. This essay takes up that question, building on the ongoing cases against Uber and Lyft. Against most commentators, it first argues that the ambiguous legal status of Uber and Lyft drivers is not a symptom of outdated legal tests. Rather, that ambiguity reflects a deeper conceptual problem: that our laws lack a satisfactory definition of employment in the first place. The solution to that problem, the essay argues, lies in recognizing employment as a legal concept through and through, and thus recognizing that questions of employment status inevitably involve contestable value judgments. The Uber and Lyft cases, for example, present a conflict between two important sets of social goods: on the one hand, distributive justice and a more egalitarian political economy; on the other hand, the substantial welfare benefits promised by the companies’ innovations. While reasonable people will disagree, the essay argues that imposing employment duties would strike an appropriate balance between these goals — ensuring that the benefits of disruptive technologies are fairly shared with those whose labor makes those technologies profitable.


August 13, 2015 in Employment Common Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Silicon Valley, Meet Labor Law

WhitneyThis is cross-posted from PrawfsBlawg with permission of the author, Heather Whitney (Bigelow Fellow, Chicago).

I worked on Google’s Global Ethics & Compliance team from 2007-2010 and at that time the thought of labor law having anything to say about the happenings of the Bay Area tech scene seemed unimaginable to most people – including those practicing law. Employment, sure, but not labor. (I’ve found this to be a bit true in academia as well – labor conjures up visions of coalminers or public school teachers but definitely not anybody working at tech companies.) Well, the other day a friend sent me a Wired article titled, “what happens when you talk about salaries at Google” and it reminded me of why that view can get companies into some real trouble.

The article itself is just a string of tweets from a former Google talking about what happened when she decided to conduct a salary transparency experiment at Google. Long story short, she and some coworkers got talking about salaries on the internal social network (I take it she’s talking about one of Google’s many internal email list, like misc), decided to make a spreadsheet where employees could add their own salary information, and then posted a link to the form on her internal profile.

The thing took off. Other people built the spreadsheet out to include fields on gender and a bunch of other stuff that made it possible to get even more out of the data, as it wont to happen when a bunch of smart people get going on something they find interesting (this quality is also a big part of what makes working at Google great). The next week the Googler who started the project was “invited” (I love that) to talk with her manager. Apparently her manager and the higher ups weren’t happy about the project. And, according to this Googler, her manager said “don’t you know what could happen?” And then something else interesting happened, though it takes a second to explain.

At Google, Googlers can give each other what are called “peer bonuses.” Basically, if someone else did something cool and you want to recognize them for it, you can easily click a few things, say a few words about why they’re great, and bam – the person gets $150 in their next paycheck. It’s pretty cool and, though my memory is hazy, people give them for all sorts of reasons. Someone helped you with a work project? Send away. Someone organized a fun bike ride or group outing? That can be peer bonus worthy, too. While the manager of the person receiving the award has to approve it, it was basically a sure thing. (NB: like the Googler writing, I also didn’t realize until reading this article that there was any manager approval of peer bonuses at all. No doubt because I, too, had never heard of one being rejected.) Anyway, while this Googler was receiving peer bonuses for creating this salary sheet, her manager was rejecting them all. Interestingly, while the Googler in question, a (I believe) black woman, was having her peer bonuses denied by her manager, a white man who was also involved in setting up the sheet was getting peer bonuses and those were all approved. Meanwhile, the spreadsheet continues, people use it to talk to their managers about getting raises, and some actually succeed in getting them.  

This entire story is full of labor law (and internal compliance training) issues, some easier than others. Here are a couple:

  • Could the company prohibit employees from using the internal system to talk about salaries? From creating a spreadsheet, using internal tools, that discusses that? What about prohibiting employees from putting up status messages that direct other employees to the spreadsheet?
  • Can a manager call an employee in for a meeting about her promotion of salary transparency? And if so, can the manager say “don’t you know what could happen” about it?
  • If the company has a peer bonus system where bonuses are virtually automatic though have nominally required manager approval, can a manager start rejecting bonuses if they are tied to the employee promoting salary transparency? What if bonuses are supposed to be given only for work-related activities (even though that hasn’t been enforced much, if at all, in the past)

Whether tech companies realize it or not, Section 7 rights are alive and well. And with the unionization of tech shuttle drivers and 140 Google Express workers seeking the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if labor issues start coming up more and more in the Bay Area – including, perhaps most interestingly, for those who we often forget might have them at all.


July 31, 2015 in Labor Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tenth Annual Colloquium Registration Open

WPBDeborah Widiss (Indiana) has good news to share:

The annual Colloquium on Scholarship in Employment and Labor Law (COSELL) will be held at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Sept. 11-12, 2015, in Bloomington, Indiana. This conference, now in its tenth year, brings together labor and employment law professors from across the country. It offers participants the opportunity to present works-in-progress to a friendly and knowledgeable audience.

 Registration is now open at:

 If you’re planning to come, please go ahead and register now; you can fill in details about the project you will present later in the summer.

 The conference is free, and we will provide all meals during the conference. Travel & hotel information is found on the website.

 Please feel free to contact any of us with questions.

 We will look forward to hosting you in Bloomington!


April 28, 2015 in About This Blog, Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty News, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Zero-Hour Contracts: The Newest Way Workers Are Getting Screwed

0A zero-hour contract is a "contract" of employment creating an on-call arrangement between employer and employee and in which the employer asserts it has no obligation to provide any work for the employee. It's become common in the United Kingdom, and apparently is being "offered" to employees by many American-owned companies including McDonald's and Burger King. In many ways, it's similar to just-in-time scheduling that has become increasingly common in the U.S. retail/fast-food economy, except that in some weeks an employee many receive zero work hours.

Ewan McGaughey (King's College London) has just posted on SSRN his essay Are Zero Hours Contracts Lawful? Here's the abstract:

Are zero hours contracts lawful? This note responds to the DBIS consultation on banning exclusivity clauses (August 2014). It asks the following: what is a zero hours contract? To what extent are zero hours contracts legal? Why have zero hours contracts spread? And finally, what is the right thing to do?



December 6, 2014 in International & Comparative L.E.L., Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2014

SEALS call for participants

SEALS 2015The Southeastern Association of Law Schools holds its annual meeting every summer at the end of July/beginning of August, and planning for next year's programming has started. For the past several years, a workshop for labor and employment law has taken place over several of the days. Michael Green (Texas A & M) is helping to organize the workshop for next summer. If you are interested in participating, feel free to get in touch with him: Some suggestions already made include panels or discussion groups on whistleblowing, joint employer issues, termination for off-duty conduct (including recent NFL scandals), disability and UPS v. Young, and a junior scholars workshop.

One additional piece of programming already proposed is a discussion group on attractiveness issues in Employment Discrimination cases. Wendy Greene is helping to organize it, so get in touch with her if you are interested in participating on that topic.

And regardless of whether you get in touch with Michael or Wendy, you should think about proposing programming for the annual meeting if you are at all interested and regardless of the topic. The meeting is surprisingly (because of the lovely environs) substantive, and the environment is very relaxed and is designed to be egalitarian.  Here are the details:

The SEALS website is accepting proposals for panels or discussion groups for the 2015 meeting which will be held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club  Boca Raton, Florida, from July 27 to Aug. 2.  You can submit a proposal at any time.  However, proposals submitted prior to October 31st are more likely to be accepted.

This document explains how to navigate SEALS, explains the kinds of programs usually offered, and lays out the rules for composition of the different kinds of programming: Download Navigating submission. The most important things the Executive Director emphasizes are these:  First, SEALS strives to be both open and democratic.  As a result, any faculty member at a SEALS member or affiliate school is free to submit a proposal for a panel or discussion group.  In other words, there are no "section chairs" or "insiders" who control the submissions in particular subject areas.  If you wish to do a program on a particular topic, just organize your panelists or discussion group members and submit it through the SEALS website.  There are a few restrictions on the composition of panels (e.g., panels must include a sufficient number of faculty from member schools, and all panels and discussion groups should strive for inclusivity).  Second, there are no "age" or "seniority" restrictions on organizers.  As a result, newer faculty are also free to submit proposals.  Third, if you wish to submit a proposal, but don't know how to reach others who may have an interest in participating in that topic, let Russ Weaver know and he will try to connect you with other scholars in your area.


October 6, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty News, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching, Wage & Hour, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Work Hour Insecurity

In the recent debate over raising the minimum wage, an issue that’s often left out of the conversation is that of work hour insecurity.  An hourly worker’s take-home pay is determined by two variables: her hourly wage and the number of hours she works.  The effect of increasing the hourly wage will be blunted if the worker struggles to find sufficient hours of work.   And more and more workers are struggling, particularly in service-sector jobs.  Service employers like hotels, restaurants, and retail stores are increasingly adopting “just-in-time” scheduling, using sophisticated software to track customer demand and then adjusting workers’ schedules at the last minute in order to meet a pre-set ratio of labor hours to customer demand. 

A recent New York Times article describes the effects of just-in-time scheduling:

  • "A worker at an apparel store at Woodbury Common, an outlet mall north of New York City, said that even though some part-time employees clamored for more hours, the store had hired more part-timers and cut many workers’ hours to 10 a week from 20.
  • As soon as a nurse in Illinois arrived for her scheduled 3-to-11 p.m. shift one Christmas Day, hospital officials told her to go home because the patient “census” was low. They also ordered her to remain on call for the next four hours — all unpaid.
  • An employee at a specialty store in California said his 25-hour-a-week job with wildly fluctuating hours wasn’t enough to live on. But when he asked the store to schedule him between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. so he could find a second job, the store cut him to 12 hours a week."

The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t regulate employers’ scheduling and staffing decisions (except in some narrow circumstances where the statute has been interpreted to require payment of wages to “on call” workers who are “engaged to wait” for work assignments), but some state laws and unions’ collective bargaining agreements do contain guaranteed pay provisions.  These require employers to pay “call-in” and “send-home” pay, or a minimum number of guaranteed hours of pay when a worker is called in to work unexpectedly or sent home early.  These requirements are supposed to disincentivize just-in-time scheduling.  However, as I explore in a forthcoming Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article with co-authors Anna Haley-Lock and Nantiya Ruan, the laws are woefully underutilized by workers and relatively easy to work around for savvy employers.

Given the recent public interest in and support for raising the minimum wage, now is an excellent time for additional attention to the problem of work hour insecurity.  In trying to end working poverty, we should be focusing on both wages and hours, and exploring possible solutions (including perhaps expanded guaranteed pay laws) to the problem of work hour insecurity.

-- Charlotte Alexander

August 8, 2014 in Wage & Hour, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Call for Papers

AalsRebecca Lee, Chair of the AALS Section on Labor Relations and Employment Law sends along the following call for papers:

AALS Section on Labor Relations and Employment Law

"Emotions at Work: The Employment Relationship During an Age of Anxiety"

2015 AALS Annual Meeting

January 2-5, 2015

Washington, DC

The Executive Committee of the AALS Labor Relations and Employment Law Section is seeking abstracts for papers to be presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The section program is entitled Emotions at Work: The Employment Relationship During an Age of Anxiety. The papers will be published in the Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, a multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal published by ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The program will focus on the emotional aspects of the employment relationship during uncertain economic times. Many individuals are currently experiencing a greater range and intensity of emotions at work, both as employees and as employers, due to heightened anxiety and pressures. Are these emotions in the workplace openly recognized and managed, and if so, how? In what ways should employment law or workplace policy address these concerns?

A panel of leading scholars already committed to present will provide a multidisciplinary perspective on these questions. We are seeking one additional speaker who will present on a relevant topic, and we particularly encourage new voices to submit a paper abstract.

The Labor Relations and Employment Law Section program will take place on Monday, January 5, 2015 from 10:30am to 12:15pm. The program is co-sponsored by the Section on Socio-Economics.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 400 words and a resume to Section Chair Rebecca Lee at by September 1, 2014. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified before October 1, 2014.

Looks like a great opportunity and a good program.


July 7, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Faculty Presentations, Labor and Employment News, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ninth Annual Colloquium Registration

WPBJust a friendly reminder from conference organizers, Melissa Hart and Scott Moss at the University of Colorado Law School, that the deadline to register to attend, and/or present a paper at, the 9th Annual Labor and Employment Scholars Colloquium is Friday, August 1, 2014.  The Colloquium is scheduled in Boulder between September 11-13, 2014.

 You can register and submit a paper proposal at this link:


 Please direct any questions to Melissa Hart (Melissa.Hart@Colorado.EDU) or Scott Moss (Scott.Moss@Colorado.EDU).


June 12, 2014 in About This Blog, Arbitration, Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Registration Open for the 9th Annual Colloquium on Labor and Employment Law at U. of Colorado

From conference organizers Scott Moss and Melissa Hart, at the University of Colorado Law school comes word that registration is open for the Ninth Annual Colloquium on Labor and Employment Law Scholarship. The dates will be September 11th to the 13th in Boulder. 

As many of you already know, this is a terrific opportunity to get to know colleagues in an informal setting and exchange ideas as we discuss works-in-progress. Past participants likely would agree that the friendly, low-key atmosphere and productive sessions, as well as the chance to socialize with our colleagues, make this gathering especially fun and valuable.

The Colloquium will follow the familiar format. We will workshop papers all day Friday through Saturday afternoon. Exact times TBD; check the event webpage for updates as the Colloquium approaches.

To register, click here.


April 24, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AALS Contracts Section Call for Proposals

AalsNancy Kim (California Western), chair of the AALS Contracts section sends along this call for proposals for the annual meeting which might be of interest to the many readers of the blog:


JANUARY 2-5, 2015


The AALS Contracts Section solicits proposals for presentations at the Section’s Annual Meeting program, Mind the Gap! - Contracts, Technology and Legal Gaps, to be held in Washington, D.C. on January 2-January 5, 2015.

Technological innovation has created new challenges for the law. New technologies often create legal and ethical questions in areas such as privacy, employment, reproduction and intellectual property. Who owns the data collected by embedded medical devices? Can employers wipe departing employees’ phone data? To what extent are companies liable for harms created by their inventions, such as driverless cars?  Who owns crowd sourced content?

Courts and legislatures are often slow to respond to these issues. To fill this legal gap created by rapid advancements in technology, businesses and individuals attempt to reduce their risk and uncertainty through private ordering. They limit their liability and allocate rights through contractual provisions. Technology affects the way contracts are used as well. Employers may have employees agree to remote phone wiping policies in their employment agreement or through click wrap agreements that pop up when they connect to the network server. Through contracts, businesses establish norms that can be hard to undo. The norm of licensing instead of selling software, for example, was established through contract and has become entrenched as a business practice. The collection of online personal information through online contracts is another example.

The Section seeks two or three speakers to join our panel of invited experts to discuss how technology has affected the use of contracts. How have parties used contracts to address the risks created by technologies? In what ways have contracts been used to privately legislate in the gap created by technological advancements? What concerns are raised when private ordering is used to fill the legal gap created by technology? What are, or should be, the limits of consent and contracting where emerging technologies are involved?

Drafts and completed papers are welcome though not required, and must be accompanied by an abstract. Preference will be given to proposals that are substantially complete. Please indicate whether the paper has been published or accepted for publication (and if so, provide the anticipated or actual date of publication). There is no publication requirement, but preference will be given to papers that will not have been published by the date of the Annual Meeting.

We particularly encourage submissions from contracts scholars who have been active in the field for ten years or less, especially those who are pre-tenured, as well as more senior scholars whose work may not be widely known to members of the Contracts Section. We will give some preference to those who have not recently participated in the Section’s annual meeting program.

DEADLINE: August 15, 2014. Please e-mail an abstract or proposal to section chair, Nancy Kim ( with “AALS Submission” in the title line by 5:00pm (Pacific Time) August 15, 2014. Submissions must be in Word or PDF format.


April 16, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Employment Common Law, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | 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.


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


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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Updated edition of ADR in the Workplace

Cooper ADR 3d- Front CoverCongratulations to Laura Cooper (Minnesota), Dennis Nolan (South Carolina, Emeritus), Stephen Befort (Minnesota), and our own Rick Bales on publication of the third edition of their casebook (from the Labor Law Group), ADR in the Workplace. From West's announcement: 

West Academic has just published the Third Edition of ADR in the Workplace, a casebook that covers substantive and procedural issues of arbitration and mediation in both the union and non-union workplace.  On behalf of The Labor Law Group, authors Laura J. Cooper, Dennis R. Nolan, Richard A. Bales and Stephen F. Befort, have updated the 2005 Second Edition in many respects including recent court and arbitration decisions, new scholarly analysis, and current notes and questions.  Changes include new empirical and statistical information, a significant number of new labor and employment arbitration cases illustrating contemporary developments, a look at the effects of the recent upheavals in state regulation of public sector collective bargaining, and an expanded section on federal sector arbitration.  Among the book’s appendices is an extensive research guide on labor arbitration and alternative dispute resolution in employment.  West Academic plans to publish in Summer 2014, for professors adopting ADR in the Workplace, a book of materials and teacher’s guidance for classroom simulations of arbitration and mediation in both union and non-union settings.



February 25, 2014 in Arbitration, Books, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Helping Transgender Employees Find Acceptance in the Workplace

CohenSteve Cohen (Labor Management Advisory Group) has posted the first in a series of articles at Psychology Today about transgender individuals in the workplace. The transgender population, he says, "is the next frontier in social justice". He points out that transgender employees who come out are worried not just about discrimination, but about rejection. See Fairness in the Employment Setting Can Be Everything.



December 20, 2013 in Employment Discrimination, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 16, 2013

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. 


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.


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

Monday, December 2, 2013

Big Data Meets Employment Law

New ImageMoneyball was, of course, about a kind of personnel selection process, albeit in the exotic universe of picking baseball players, so it's not surprising that "big data"  has continued to develop in the employment setting.  If you haven't been following this stuff, a good place to start is a recent article in the Atlantic, They're Watching You at Work.

As the scare title suggests, some of the developments continue the seemingly inexorable erosion of employee privacy. For example, electronic "badges" that collect data on employee interactions at a pretty deep level -- length, tone of voice, how much people interrupt, demonstration of empathy, etc.  Team performance, apparently, can be predicted to a remarkable degree merely by the number of exchanges.  And more refined data can identify "charismatic connectors" (maybe we used to call them "supervisors"?).

But privacy issues aside, Big Data has the potential to shift the criteria by which employers hire, and maybe not in obvious ways.  One company thinks "one solid predictor of strong coding is an affinity for a particular Japanese manga site."  And another uses video games (Wasabi Waiter, for one) "to suss out human potential."  You might want to rethink telling Junior to put the iPad down and pick up a book.

Of course, in one way we've been here before, as the article stresses. "Scientific" human resources is not new, but this time, unlike prior fads, the approaches may in fact be scientific.  In other words, the terabytes of data now available may allow a present day employer to have far more confidence that a successful Wasabi Waiter player will perform well on the job than an employer in the past could have expected from someone who passed the Wonderlic test with flying scores.

If so, we may  see massive changes in the way employees are selected and rewarded, and not so very far in the future.  Not all of which may be bad: the article stresses that such techniques may ameliorate the discriminatory effects of cognitive bias and the inequality concerns with current use of university/GPA as rough screens for probable performance. 

But the legal implications remain to be worked out. We may be looking at yet another round of testing litigation, although this time the "test" being challenged might be Wasabi Waiter. (Oh, if you're wondering, the goal is to deliver the right sushi order to the right customer in an increasingly crowded restaurant.)

I don't really know enough to assess this brave new world, and I do well recall that earlier "advancements" promised similar results with very little success. Still, it's something to keep an eye on. 

Hat tip to Liz Tippett for sending me the article. 


December 2, 2013 in Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)