Monday, August 14, 2017

Firing Nazis

CharlottesvilleDavid Yamada (Suffolk) has a post worth reading over at Minding the Workplace on Can an employer fire a publicly-avowed white supremacist?  The answer: almost certainly yes for private-sector employers; yes with some free-speech caveats for public-sector employers.

Also worth reading is Dean Dad's post today on When Neutrality Isn't an Option. Those of us in higher-ed administration need to be able to work with folks of widely varying political stripes -- so long as we can find "common ground ... in the name of helping the students and the community." But

[p]ublic higher education is for the entire public. A movement that denies that there even is such a thing -- that assumes a better and a worse public, whether by race, religion, or whatever else -- is an existential threat to our mission. We need to be willing to treat it accordingly.

That means not “teaching the controversy,” or pretending that there are “many sides” to this one. Anti-semitism, for instance, doesn’t really lend itself to a “pro or con” analysis. It’s wrong. It’s just flat wrong. White supremacist terrorism is wrong. And that’s not just a personal view, although it is also that; it’s a precondition for doing the work we do every single day.

rb

 

August 14, 2017 in Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Public Employment Law, Religion, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

You're [Not] Fired!

NotYesterday's Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. has hit a historical low point for firings and layoffs:

Americans are less likely to be laid off than at any point in at least 50 years. For every 10,000 people in the workforce, 66 claimed new unemployment benefits in July, trending at the lowest point on record going back to 1967. The previous low point, 83 per 10,000, was touched in April 2000, at the height of a tech boom. Separate Labor Department data shows the rate of layoffs and other discharges as a share of total employment this year is at the lowest level on records back to 2000.

The steep fall in layoffs is mainly a result of a vastly improved labor market. It means Americans have more job security than they may realize less than a decade after dismissals spiked in the 2007-2009 recession. But other factors with more mixed implications are at play, including elevated levels of long-term unemployment, an aging workforce, a decline in manufacturing work and more risk-averse businesses, which also point to a less dynamic economy.

For the full story, see Eric Morath, You're Fired! No, Wait, Keep Working.

rb

August 8, 2017 in Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Macron's Plans for Labor

MacronMany thanks to Dennis Nolan (South Carolina emeritus; NAA) for forwarding Sylvain Cypel, Macron’s California Revolution, which has a detailed discussion of French President Emmanuel Macron's plans for French labor law. Here's an excerpt:

Continuing deindustrialization has shut millions of older employees out of the job market. And unemployment among the young is beating all records: at the end of April 2017, the number of officially registered jobseekers hit 5,836,000—the same number as in the United States, a country with five times France’s population! For the past forty years, whether governed by the right or the left—or even during short periods of “cohabitation”—neither side has been able to curb unemployment.

...

[N]ew macroniste politicians closely follow their leader’s core socioeconomic philosophy: that in today’s world, the people who rise to the top, or at least stay afloat, are those who’ve succeeded in adapting to the relentless process of globalization and its technological disruptions. There will be less and less room for job security and more and more for people who have a capacity for innovation and adaptation. Gone are lifelong professional careers. Likewise gone are rigid job descriptions and fixed work schedules. In this, Macron once again embodies a very American way of thinking. And he believes that France has to catch up to the current reality of the labor force.

...

But the first real test of the new president’s mandate will be the new labor law that he intends to issue as an executive order, before asking France’s parliament to vote on it. Macron wants to move fast. He wants to take advantage of the “big bang” of his election and his opponents’ stunned paralysis to abolish much of the existing French labor code, which, because of powerful labor unions, was designed to cater to the best-protected employees—especially those in heavy industry—and has long been skewed toward the interests of workers in general at the expense of greater flexibility and efficiency for private enterprise. Just how far does he mean to take this? Clearly, as far as he can.

The real question is whether Macron is ready to take on the unions or will seek to compromise with them. His approach to economic reform has been well known since his tenure as economics minister (2014–2016): a major deregulation of existing laws to allow employers to practice less “rigid” employment and hiring policies, including fewer restrictions on salaries and working conditions. These measures, he argues, are essential if there is to be a revival of the French job market. Employers, who are also asking for a freer hand in firing workers, claim these measures will bring a reduction in labor costs. The corollary to these ambitions, and the condition for their success, is a significant reduction of what remains of the unions’ power, already enormously diminished. (Fifty years ago, 22 percent of all employees were union members, while that number is currently 7.7 percent, according to the OECD).

When Macron tried to put these reforms into effect as economics minister under François Hollande, he encountered very strong resistance from the unions and from the public itself. After a series of protest marches and demonstrations, the law had to be issued by Prime Minister Valls, through a procedure designed to avoid a parliamentary vote, which it seemed quite unlikely to pass. Today the basic problem is much the same. The unions are so hostile to reforming the labor market because, behind the apparent “change,” it is possible to glimpse a policy that’s been at work for a long time already. Ever since 1984, all governments, right and left, have worked tirelessly to shatter administrative and legal “rigidity” with respect to hiring and firing. And yet, France’s steadily worsening joblessness has never been brought under control. Even worse, in France as in nearly all the rest of the Western world, inequality has become ever more deeply entrenched, in lockstep with the deterioration of middle-class purchasing power. It’s not hard to imagine, therefore, that the unions might once again be the front line of resistance to still more radical measures to deregulate the labor market.

rb

July 9, 2017 in International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Telework for the Future

TeleworkI came across today an interesting new article, on a topic I hadn't thought much about before, posted recently on SSRN. The article, by W.C. Bunting of the U.S. DOJ-Civil Rights Division, is Unlocking the Housing-Related Benefits of Telework: A Case for Government Intervention. Here's the abstract:

The central claim of the present article is that some form of government intervention is necessary to make telework arrangements sufficiently binding in the long-run for employees living in, or near, city centers to feel comfortable incurring the costs of relocating to more remote, lower-priced areas, and to ensure the long-run financial self-sufficiency of private telework centers, which provide important benefits, not just to employers and employees, but to society generally. The public benefit considered here is the capacity for telework, and telework centers specifically, to provide lower-priced housing alternatives for middle- and high-income earners who choose to live in, or near, the city center to reduce the time spent commuting, but who would otherwise choose to live in more remote, lower-priced areas if commuting costs were lower. As explained, a minimal amount of government intervention is necessary, however, to overcome several key economic challenges that preclude employees from relocating to remote, lower-priced exurban or rural communities, as well as the formation of a new and exciting private-sector enterprise—the privately-operated telework center.

rb

 

July 7, 2017 in Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Conservative Case for Unions

YellowJonathan Rauch has written The Conservative Case for Unions in the Atlantic. Congratulations to Matt Dimick (Buffalo) for a prominent mention, and for Rauch's discussion of Dimick's work on the Ghent System. Here's an excerpt from the article:

All workers do not suffer equally from the decline of unions: In today’s fragmented, hypercompetitive, and globalized workplace, high-powered professionals enjoy more autonomy and respect than ever. Less educated workers, by contrast, have lost agency and, in many cases, dignity. Edward Luce of the Financial Times puts the problem well in his new book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism: “In survey after survey, the biggest employee complaint is being treated with a lack of respect. Whether they work in an Amazon warehouse, serve fast food, or sit in a … customer-service cubicle, they feel diminished by how they are treated.” That has implications not just for the well-being of workers, but for the health of capitalism and even of democracy.

In America, the modern conservative movement was founded on anticommunism and antiunionism. Senator Barry Goldwater (“Mr. Conservative”) built his career bashing unions. President Ronald Reagan, although a former union leader himself, made his bones by breaking the air-traffic controllers’ union. Just this past February, Republicans succeeded in their long push for a right-to-work law in Missouri. But the conservative war on unions is beginning to look like a Faustian bargain. If 2016 taught us anything, it was that miserable workers are angry voters, and angry voters are more than capable of lashing out against trade, immigration, free markets, and for that matter liberal democracy itself.

rb

June 23, 2017 in Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

ABA JLEL Call for Papers

LogoThe ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law now welcomes submission of manuscripts for possible publication in Volume 33 of the Journal for 2017-2018. The Journal, whose subscribers include the 20,000-plus members of the ABA Section of Labor & Employment Law, seeks articles of current practical interest to labor and employment attorneys written by attorneys, judges, government officials, and professors. Articles should not exceed forty pages with both text and footnotes double-spaced. Academics may submit manuscripts of immediate relevance to practicing attorneys derived from longer, previously-published articles if they are within this length limitation. Manuscripts should be submitted in Microsoft Word as an attachment to an e-mail sent to abajlel@umn.edu. Inquiries to the Faculty Co-Editors, Stephen F. Befort and Laura J. Cooper, may also be sent to that e-mail address.

rb

June 19, 2017 in Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Baumol, Higher Ed, and Professional Labor

BaumolWilliam Baumol (econ.; NYU, Berkeley, Princeton) died yesterday. He informed the way many of us think about higher-ed financing and professional labor. I am re-posting here an excerpt from Dean Dad's tribute this morning:

Longtime readers know that I consider [Baumol's] signature contribution to economic thought -- Baumol’s Cost Disease -- one of the foundational truths of higher education.  (The same could be said for health care and live entertainment.)  He waited until late in life to commit the idea to book form; his book The Cost Disease should be required reading for anybody who presumes to comment or work on the economics of higher education....

His idea is generally downplayed or ignored in discussions of higher ed financing.  That’s everyone’s loss.  He never really solved the issue, but he gave us a map to understand it.  That’s a genuine contribution.  Well done, sir.
--
Baumol’s insight helps us understand, too, the broad-based assault on the professions.  Why are “disruptors” so intent on undermining the educated professional middle class?  Because until now, people in those jobs were able to demand significant salaries due to scarcity.  If you’re the first to break that scarcity, whether through automation, disaggregation, or some other variation, you can hoover up those gains for yourself.  Which is exactly what’s happening.

When you break the link between labor and production, it becomes much easier to hoard value in a few hands.  We’re only beginning to grasp the implications of that.

rb

May 5, 2017 in Books, Labor/Employment History, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Hirsch & Seiner: Unions Deserve a Place in the Uber Economy

Hirsch  SeinerJeff Hirsch (North Carolina) and Joe Seiner (South Carolina) have just posted on SSRN their extraordinarily timely article A Modern Union for the Modern Economy, ___ Fordham Law Review ___(forthcoming 2018) Here's the abstract:

Membership in traditional unions has steeply declined over the past two decades. As the White House and Congress are now completely Republican controlled, there promises to be no reversal of this trend in the near future. In the face of this rejection of traditional bargaining efforts, several attempts have been made to create alternative “quasi-union” or “alt-labor” relationships between workers and employers. These arrangements represent a creative approach by workers to have their voices heard in a collective manner, though still falling far short of the traditional protections afforded by employment and labor law statutes.

This Article critiques one such high-profile, quasi-union effort in the technology sector—the Uber Guild. While the Guild does not provide any of the traditional bargaining protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it offers Uber drivers some input over the terms and conditions under which they work. Falling somewhere between employment-at-will and unionization protected under the NLRA, the Uber Guild is a creative attempt to help both workers and the company to better understand how they can improve the working relationship.

This Article navigates the Uber Guild and other nontraditional efforts that promise a collective voice for workers in the face of a precipitous decline in union membership. Closely examining the implications of these existing quasi-union relationships, this Article explores how workers in the technology sector face unique challenges under workplace laws. We argue that these workers are particularly well situated to benefit from a nontraditional union model and explain what that model should look like. While there can be no doubt that a traditional union protected by the NLRA is the optimal bargaining arrangement, we must consider the enormous challenges workers in the technology sector face in obtaining these protections. A modern union is needed for the modern economy.

rb

March 17, 2017 in Labor Law, Scholarship, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stone: Globalization Necessitates Redistributional Policies

StoneLast night Kathy Stone (UCLA) served on a panel (moderated by Steven Greenhouse) at the Zocalo Public Forum in downtown Los Angeles on the Topic: Does Globalization Only Serve the Elites? She took the position that globalization as currently structured primarily helps elites, and that here in the U.S., we need to introduce redistributional social policies to ensure that working people and other disadvantaged groups share in globalization’s benefits.  The event was taped and will air on C-Span in the near future.

rb

March 16, 2017 in Commentary, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden in The Atlantic on Trump and Unions

GardenCharlotte Garden (Seattle U.) has just published in The Atlantic Unions Are Wondering: Resist or Assist? Congrats to Charlotte for taking this topic -- which we all know is important -- to a wider audience (or, as she said in a Facebook post: "in which I convinced The Atlantic to let me write about NLRA Section 8(b)(4) for them"). Here's an excerpt:

The first month of the Trump administration was mostly a discouraging one for labor unions. Since taking office, the president has frozen federal hiring (though he did pledge to hire 15,000 border patrol agents) and restated his support for a national “right to work” law that would disrupt unions’ funding mechanisms. He also sought the confirmation of Andy Puzder, a fast-food CEO who’s not fond of minimum-wage or overtime rules, to head the Department of Labor, only to see him withdraw amid public outcry.

Still, some within the labor movement have cheered Trump’s use of the presidential bully pulpit to harangue employers who send jobs overseas, and voiced optimism about Trump’s stated desire to “buy American and hire American.”

This has left many labor unions with a decision about how best to serve their members going forward: Should they try to get along with Trump, in the hope that they will be able to help guide his efforts to court working-class voters? Or should they take to the streets alongside progressives calling for workplace-based actions, like the recent nationwide strikes by women and by immigrants?

rb

March 15, 2017 in Labor Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Gender Budgeting - Or Why Tax is a Feminist Issue

CaseLast week's The Economist ran a couple of stories on how "gender budgeting" can help persuade governments to pay more than lip service to women's rights. Below is an excerpt from the summary Making Women Count; an extended-play version is Tax is a Feminist Issue: Why National Budgets Need to Take Gender into Account.

... [S]ome policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government’s heart is through its pocket.

At its simplest, gender budgeting sets out to quantify how policies affect women and men differently. That seemingly trivial step converts exhortation about treating women fairly into the coin of government: costs and benefits, and investments and returns. You don’t have to be a feminist to recognise, as Austria did, that the numbers show how lowering income tax on second earners will encourage women to join the labour force, boosting growth and tax revenues. Or that cuts to programmes designed to reduce domestic violence would be a false economy, because they would cost so much in medical treatment and lost workdays.
...
Partly because South Korea invested little in social care, women had to choose between having children, which lowers labour-force participation, or remaining childless, which reduces the country’s fertility rate. Gender budgeting showed how, with an ageing population, the country gained from spending on care. Rwanda found that investment in clean water not only curbed disease but also freed up girls, who used to fetch the stuff, to go to school. Ample research confirms that leaving half a country’s people behind is bad for growth. Violence against women; failing to educate girls properly; unequal pay and access to jobs: all take an economic toll.

rb

 

March 10, 2017 in Employment Discrimination, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stone: Unions in the Gig Economy

StoneKathy Stone (UCLA) has just published Unions in the Precarious Economy:
How collective bargaining can help gig and on-demand workers (American Prospect, 2/21/17). In it, she discusses various types of precarious workers, including workers in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries, as well as workers who perform "gigs" as independent contractors for internet platform companies.  She gives examples to show how various types of precarious workers can benefit from forming unions and bargaining collectively. Here's an excerpt:

The various forms of on-demand work tend to defeat the protections of our system of labor regulation, which assumes that employees have regular payroll employment. Seemingly, unions are also not much help, since they, too, are based on the assumption of regular jobs. But if we dig a little deeper, there is a long history of unions protecting their members from employers’ efforts to force workers to bear all the risks and costs of fluctuating demand. This is true in industries as varied as construction, airlines, hotels, and entertainment.

If the Trump administration changes rules and laws to weaken traditional unions—which it is almost certain to do—these new strategies become that much more important. Some of these are unions that organize and collectively bargain under the terms of the National Labor Relations Board. But others, in the world of so-called alt-labor, use worker centers, associations, and other worker-empowerment strategies that are not technically unions. If the Trump administration changes rules and laws to weaken traditional unions—which it is almost certain to do—these new strategies become that much more important.

rb

February 26, 2017 in Labor Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Outsourcing the Drug War to Private Employers

DrugOne of my favorite higher-ed bloggers, Matt Reed (aka "Dean Dad"), posts today on the disconnect between the increasing decriminalization private-sector drug testing, and the consequent labor-market distortions. Here's an excerpt; his entire post When Did We Decide That? is well worth the read:

.

Without ever really having the conversation, as a society, we seem to have decided to outsource the war on drugs to private employers.

Referenda legalizing marijuana for recreational use passed in several states, having already passed in several others.  It’s legal for documented medicinal use in many more, and I’m told that getting the relevant documentation is less strenuous in some places than others.  The culture seems to be saying, albeit in stages and regionally, that it has better things to worry about.  

But during the same period that many state legal barriers have fallen, employer drug screening has become widespread.  

In talking with some local employers about the gaps they’re struggling to fill, I’ve heard repeatedly that the single biggest barrier to finding good people is getting candidates who can pass a drug test.  Tests snag an alarming number of people.  That’s especially true in the jobs that don’t require graduate degrees but that do pay pretty well, such as the skilled trades.

rb

November 16, 2016 in Employment Common Law, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lobel on the Gig Economy & LEL

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

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

rb

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Co-Authoring with Non-American Profs & Practitioners

TransnationalI just uploaded my most recent article, Transnational Employment Trends in Four Pacific Rim Countries, 34 UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal ___ (forthcoming 2017) (co-authored with Lia Alizia, Masako Banno, Maria Jockel, Melissa Pang, and Catherine Tso). I mention this not because this is a groundbreaking work of legal scholarship, but instead to encourage others to consider co-authoring scholarship with non-American  faculty members and practitioners. This article, for example, had its genesis in a panel I served on at a LawAsia Employment Conference. I find it rewarding to bring together a disparate group of folks to pool their interest and expertise in topics related to labor/employment law, and a huge side benefit is creating relationships that can far outlast a specific project.

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September 20, 2016 in Employment Common Law, International & Comparative L.E.L., Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Harkavy's Annual Review of SCOTUS LEL Decisions

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

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

rb

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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Yamada on Unpaid Internships

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

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

Here's an excerpt from the abstract:

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

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

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

rb

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New Book: Invisible Labor

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

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

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

MM

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Seiner on Class Actions in the On-Demand Economy

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

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

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

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

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

MM

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

EEOC Sues for Sexual Orientation Discrimination

EEOC The EEOC issued a press release today, announcing that it has brought two cases alleging that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII. From the press release:

The federal agency's Philadelphia District Office filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Scott Medical Health Center, and, in a separate suit, in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, against Pallet Companies, dba IFCO Systems NA.

In its suit against Scott Medical Health Center, EEOC charged that a gay male employee was subjected to harassment because of his sexual orientation. The agency said that the male employee's manager repeatedly referred to him using various anti-gay epithets and made other highly offensive comments about his sexuality and sex life. When the employee complained to the clinic director, the director responded that the manager was "just doing his job," and refused to take any action to stop the harassment, according to the suit. After enduring weeks of such comments by his manager, the employee quit rather than endure further harassment.

In its suit against IFCO Systems, EEOC charged that a lesbian employee was harassed by her supervisor because of her sexual orientation. Her supervisor made numerous comments to her regarding her sexual orientation and appearance, such as "I want to turn you back into a woman" and "You would look good in a dress," according to the suit. At one point, the supervisor blew a kiss at her and circled his tongue at her in a suggestive manner, EEOC alleged. The employee complained to management and called the employee hotline about the harassment. IFCO fired the female employee just a few days later in retaliation for making the complaints, EEOC charged.

These cases are an outgrowth of the agency's decision in the federal sector case Baldwin v. Dep't of Transp., Appeal No. 0120133080 (July 15, 2015). In that case, EEOC held that Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination includes discrimination because of sexual orientation because:

(1) sexual orientation discrimination necessarily involves treating workers less favorably because of their sex because sexual orientation as a concept cannot be understood without reference to sex; (2) sexual orientation discrimination is rooted in non-compliance with sex stereotypes and gender norms, and employment decisions based in such stereotypes and norms have long been found to be prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII; and (3) sexual orientation discrimination punishes workers because of their close personal association with members of a particular sex, such as marital and other personal relationships.

 The EEOC has also been filing amicus briefs in private cases urging the courts to accept this argument, most recently in Burrows v. The College of Central Florida and Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, both in the 11th Circuit. Accepting it would mean that the courts could stop struggling with trying to distinguish between sex stereotyping cases that are cognizable because they are really about sex and sex stereotyping cases that are not cognizable because they are about sex but also sexual orientation.

MM

March 1, 2016 in Beltway Developments, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)