Thursday, March 30, 2017
The White House just announced that Ivanka Trump will no longer be a White House volunteer or "informal advisor," but will instead be an "unpaid employee." The move to employee status is a positive development, as it ensures that the usual ethical rules that apply to White House workers will apply to her as well. It's also understandable that, given her personal wealth, she would eschew a salary.
This does raise a question for the labor & employment law geeks among us: what about the FLSA's minimum wage? Normally, the FLSA would apply to federal employees, who can't agree to a salary below the minimum. However, I believe that there is a process for seeking a waiver--in this case, likely from the Office of Personnel Management, which enforces the FLSA for federal employees--but there's no mention of whether a waiver is currently being sought (or whether I'm even right about this).
If any readers have more insight, please add a comment.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Camabridge University Press has just published, as part of the Cambridge Disability Law and Policy Series, Paul Harpur's (Queensland Law) Discrimination, Copyright and Equality: Opening the e-Book for the Print-Disabled. Here's the publisher's description:
- While equality laws operate to enable access to information, these laws have limited power over the overriding impact of market forces and copyright laws that focus on restricting access to information. Technology now creates opportunities for everyone in the world, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, to be able to access the written word – yet the print disabled are denied reading equality, and have their access to information limited by laws protecting the mainstream use and consumption of information. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Intellectual Property Organization's Marrakesh Treaty have swept in a new legal paradigm. This book contributes to disability rights scholarship, and builds on ideas of digital equality and rights to access in its analysis of domestic disability anti-discrimination, civil rights, human rights, constitutional rights, copyright and other equality measures that promote and hinder reading equality.
- A valuable resource for advocates, law makers, librarians and others who seek to reform laws, policies and practices that reduce reading equality.
- Provides a comparative analysis of how copyright and anti-discrimination laws interacts.
- Provides an in-depth analysis of advances in international and domestic laws.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a fascinating per curiam opinion this week that addresses gender stereotyping and directly implicates sexual orientation issues. The opinion, Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, is available here. Of particular note is the separate concurring opinion of Chief Judge Robert Katzmann (with District Court Judge Brodie) which provides in part:
"[I]n my view, if gay, lesbian, or bisexual plaintiffs can show that they were discriminated against for failing to comply with some gender stereotype, including the stereotype that men should be exclusively attracted to women and women should be exclusively attracted to men, they have made out a cognizable sex discrimination claim. In such a case, the gender stereotype theory of discrimination would encompass discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
If you are interested in this important and evolving issue I definitely recommend taking a look at this decision and the concurrence.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Bill Herbert (Hunter College) recently did an interview with Radio Higher Ed: "A Primer on Unionization and Collective Bargaining in U.S. higher Education Institutions." According to the summary:
This primer on collective bargaining in higher education traces historical developments of unionization in public and private institutions as well as among tenure track, non-tenure-track faulty and graduate students. In the last five years, unionization activity has increased over 25% in the private sector, mostly in adjunct faculty units. While institutions can participate in voluntary collective bargaining activities, agreements in a formal collective bargaining context include clear rules applicable to the entire bargaining unit and enforcement mechanisms. The emergence of micro bargaining units (department level activity), and specifics of the unionization process are discussed. Specific unions that work with higher education institutions are named. Mandatory subjects in the collective bargaining process include salary, hours, healthcare, pension, professional development grievance, antidiscrimination, academic freedom, tenure, use of facilities, appointment and reappointment details, leaves, holidays, evaluations, personnel files, disciplinary actions, research and fellowship monies. Institutions may resist unionization due to flexibility limitations, institutional concept of shared governance and fiscal implications that may result from compensation negotiations. It is likely that unionization will continue to increase for non-tenure track faculty in the private sector. Regularity of access to faculty by students may be aided by collective bargaining.
Check it out!
Monday, March 27, 2017
Participation in American labor unions have changed radically, albeit incrementally, over the last fifty years. Private-sector union density has declined five-fold, whereas public-sector density has increased almost as significantly. Today, unions rarely strike and in much of the country they are politically impotent. As traditional manufacturing declines and is replaced by on-demand work, unions risk becoming a historical footnote.
This article ties the decline in union density and power to macroeconomic trends that are highly troubling in an advanced democracy, such as rising income inequality and the failure of wage growth to keep pace with GDP growth. It next reviews the traditional prescriptions that labor scholars have advocated to reverse labor’s decline. Finally, it proposes three new radical fixes: authorizing criminal prosecution for willful violations of labor law, expanding labor protections to on-demand workers, and reversing the legal presumption that workers are not represented by a union unless they affirmatively opt in.
Rick has some interesting recommendations in the article, so definitely worth checking out.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled (6-2) in NLRB v. SW General. The Court held that once President Obama nominated Lafe Solomon to be the NLRB's General Counsel, he could no longer serve in his current capacity as Acting General Counsel. This is because of a provision in the Federal Vacancies Act which says that someone can only serve in an acting capacity for a covered position if they served as first assistant to that position for at least 90 days in the previous year. Because Solomon was the Acting GC--not its first assistant--when nominated, he could not continue as Acting GC.
The two dissenters (Sotomayor & Ginsburg) would have held that this provision applies only to individuals who are first appointed as acting officials--not, as was the case with Solomon, those who were already acting once nominated. In addition to a textualist argument, they stressed historical examples similar to what happened with Solomon as well as the history of the Federal Vacancies Act, which was prompted by President Clinton's nomination of Bill Lan Lee to the DOJ's Department of Civil Rights. Scotusblog has a an informative description of the case.
Under the decision, once the President nominated Solomon, he became ineligible to serve as Acting GC. This begs the larger question: what to do about all of his actions during that time (Jan. 5, 2011-Nov. 4, 2013)? Unless I missed it in the decision, the Court doesn't say anything about the practical consequences of its decision. As a result, its probably best to consult the D.C. Circuit decision, which the Court affirmed. That case vacated an unfair labor practice charge. But what of all of the other functions of the GC's office? For instance the certification of elections? Theoretically, this could be an issue for a host of other actions. The D.C. Circuit noted that the NLRB could have, but didn't, argue that the ULP in SW General was made by a regional director acting upon a delegation of authority from Solomon. If challenged, I would expect the NLRB to raise that argument, at least with regard to non-ULP cases, and maybe those too. But the NLRB may not have to rely solely on this argument. At the end of the D.C. Circuit's decision, it emphasized what it saw as an important limiting feature of its decision:
Finally, we emphasize the narrowness of our decision. We hold that the former Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, Lafe Solomon, served in violation of the FVRA from January 5, 2011 to November 4, 2013. But this case is not Son of Noel Canning and we do not expect it to retroactively undermine a host of NLRB decisions. We address the FVRA objection in this case because the petitioner raised the issue in its exceptions to the ALJ decision as a defense to an ongoing enforcement proceeding. We doubt that an employer that failed to timely raise an FVRA objection—regardless whether enforcement proceedings are ongoing or concluded—will enjoy the same success. See 29 U.S.C. § 160(e); Andrade, 729 F.2d at 1499.
This caveat notwithstanding, I do expect parties to raise SW General to try to vacate orders. I think the D.C. Circuit is right that those arguments should not prevail, but I anticipate some extra work for the NLRB to litigate this issue for a while. Also, I'm curious how many parties raised an FVRA argument--any readers have any insight on this?
Saturday, March 18, 2017
James Brudney (Fordham) has just posted on SSRN his article The Internationalization of Sources of Labor Law, 39 U. Pa. J. Int'l L. 1 (2017). The abstract is below. I think James is dead-on correct. Having attended a slew of labor conferences in the developing world recently, in both academic and governmental circles, folks are acutely aware of how their own country's labor laws measure up (or not) to ILO standards, and progress is defined as the incremental process of achieving those standards. Here's the abstract:
This article examines in depth an important but underappreciated development in international labor law: how norms promulgated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) have affected the development and implementation of domestic labor laws and practices since the early 1990s. The newly globalized focus of labor law—energized by substantial expansions in international trade and investment—has been recognized by scholars, practitioners, and governments, but it has not previously been explored and analyzed in this systematic way.
The article focuses on two central regulatory areas—child labor and freedom of association—and relies on doctrinal and policy developments in these areas, as evidenced by the actions of legislatures, courts, and executive branches in more than 20 countries. In doing so, the article addresses how international labor standards have influenced national labor law and practice in the Americas (excluding the U.S.)—directly through the soft-law route of convention ratification and ILO supervisory monitoring, and indirectly through trade agreement labor provisions that incorporate ILO norms. The resultant changes in domestic laws and practices have been evolutionary rather than transformative, and developments in law outpace those in practice, but within these parameters the changes have been substantial. The article then places this internationalizing trend in the context of two recognized theories that seek to explain the socialization of human rights law.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Jeff 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.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Last 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.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Charlotte 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?
Friday, March 10, 2017
Last 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.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Friends of blog Leora Eisenstadt and Deanna Geddes (both of Temple University) have posted on SSRN their fascinating piece, Suppressed Anger, Retaliation Doctrine, and Workplace Culture. The abstract is below:
"Suppressed Anger, Retaliation Doctrine, and Workplace Culture is an interdisciplinary piece combining legal analysis with organizational behavior/psychology research. Suppressed Anger examines and critiques two employment law doctrines on retaliation — the “reasonable belief” doctrine and, what we call, the “manner of the complaint” doctrine and argues that beyond hindering employees’ rights as has been examined in prior scholarship, the law in this area also does a significant disservice to employers by inhibiting emotion expression and thereby negatively affecting workplace culture and productivity. The “reasonable belief” doctrine essentially dictates that for retaliatory conduct to be unlawful, the complaining party must have an objectively reasonable belief that the practices he or she opposed were unlawful, basing the assessment of reasonableness on whether a court would find the practices to be unlawful discrimination. The “manner of the complaint” doctrine arises in cases in which an employer deems the manner of the employee’s complaint regarding discriminatory practices to be insubordinate and fires the employee on that basis. In these cases, courts rarely question an employer’s claim of insubordination, ignoring the circumstances that gave rise to the complaint and focusing solely on the employer’s subjective belief that the employee’s demeanor was unacceptable. The result of both of these doctrines, we argue, is a legal framework that incentivizes employees to stay quiet and refrain from making any complaints.
This piece breaks new ground by drawing on existing scholarship in the psychology and organizational behavior field detailing the negative outcomes when employees suppress anger and other emotions in the workplace, particularly in response to perceived injustice. We use this research to argue that retaliation doctrine inhibits the useful airing of problems that require management attention, instead fomenting worker dissatisfaction and even leading to psychological and physiological issues for individual employees that negatively impact the workplace as a whole. As a result, we maintain that changing retaliation doctrine should not be a goal of workers alone but that employers, upon examining the research on expressions of anger in the workplace should find common ground with their employees."
In this paper, Leora and Deanna explore this important workplace issue which is extremely timely. I definitely recommend taking a close look if you have the opportunity. The paper is available here.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
While a number of concerns have been raised about the on-demand economy, evidence of discrimination has been especially noted and publically condemned. Airbnb, for instance, came under fire when a Harvard Business School study showed that property owners were less likely to accept those with black-sounding names as renters and non-black hosts were able to charge approximately 12% more than black hosts. Similarly, in an October 2016 working paper conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers looking at taxi-services Uber and Lyft showed that the cancellation rate for those with black-sounding names was more than twice as high as for those with white-sounding names. At the same time, largely in other parts of the country, many condemn not discrimination but the antidiscrimination laws designed to curb it, especially laws aimed at shielding those within the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Debates about discriminatory immigration policies dominate national headlines. 70% of the country is aware of the Black Lives Matter movement. We are, in short, in the midst of an important conversation about discrimination, the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil Rights Movement. Legal theorists and philosophers have taken note, arguing for changes to our current antidiscrimination law regime. But while these theorists have disagreed about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law, they have widely agreed in one crucial respect: namely, that any expansion of antidiscrimination law beyond their preferred scope is problematic on autonomy grounds.
The centrality of “autonomy” in these debates should come as no surprise. Throughout our history of racial conflict, all sides have claimed the ideal of autonomy as an ally to their cause. This is possible because of the concept’s flexibility. “Autonomy” can support a range of positions, depending on the presuppositions it’s packaged with. But when scholars invoke “autonomy” in a way that simply deploys these underlying presuppositions, instead of making these presuppositions explicit, situating them against reasonable rivals, and defending them, they fail to have what scholars at this point in time most crucially need: perspective. These scholars seem to neither notice nor understand why those who take different positions on questions of autonomy, or on specific legal interventions, do so, because the real bases of disagreement – which resides within these presuppositions – remain hidden. As a result, their rejection of certain antidiscrimination law regimes and support of others do little to move the debate about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law forward. Antidiscrimination law scholars are trapped in an ongoing cycle of autonomy assertions and as a result, the important debate about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law remains stalled. We cannot afford this.
My aim in this Essay is one of illumination and aid. I attempt to show why the mere assertion that a certain antidiscrimination law “violates autonomy” hides from view the true basis of disagreement and, in so doing, both fails to engage the relevant arguments while also failing to provide readers any reason to adopt the author’s preferred antidiscrimination law regime. I will do this by illuminating the presuppositions underpinning the two main conceptions of autonomy that are invoked in the antidiscrimination law literature. I then situate these presuppositions alongside rival possibilities. My hope is that this project will aid the development of more fruitful antidiscrimination law scholarship moving forward.
Heather has said that she would love to hear any comments on the essay that readers may have, so check it out.