Friday, November 20, 2020
Congratulations to Deepa Das Acevedo (Alabama) on the publication of her edited volume Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Here's the publisher's description:
In Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation, Deepa Das Acevedo and a collection of scholars and experts show why government actors must go beyond mass surveys and data-scrubbing in order to truly understand the realities of gig work. The contributors draw on qualitative empirical research to reveal the narratives and real-life experiences that define gig work, and they connect these insights to policy debates being fought out in courts, town halls, and even in Congress itself. The book also bridges academic and non-academic worlds by drawing on the experiences of drivers, journalists, and workers' advocates who were among the first people to study gig work from the bottom up. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in gig work, the legal infrastructure surrounding it, and how that infrastructure can and must be improved.
Look for a paperback edition to be published in about six months, priced at about $35-40.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Thanks to Colin Fenwick (ILO) for sending this notice that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has an opening for a Trade Policy Research Coordinator. Among other things, the person in this position will coordinate research and analysis on a variety of trade and investment issues relating to the assigned area [including labor], including by reviewing press and other source materials, international trade and investment trends and data, and policy developments in the assigned area, including matters related to specific trade policies in the assigned area.
Rachel Arnow-Richman (Florida) has just posted on SSRN a pair of timely articles related to the pandemic: Temporary Termination: A Layoff Law Blueprint for the COVID Era (forthcoming ABA JLEL) , and Is There An Individual Right to Remote Work? A Private Law Analysis (forthcoming Wash. U. J. L. & Pub. Policy). Here are the abstracts:
Remote Work: One of the gnawing legal questions of the COVID-19 pandemic is the status of remote work. Since the expiration of the first round of government shut-down orders in the summer of 2020, companies have been calling workers back to the job, prompting serious concerns about the risk of workplace transmission. As a consequence, many workers have asked to continue the remote arrangements their employers adopted when forced to close under executive orders. Some employers are acceding to these requests; others are not. This brief essay, prepared for the ABA Journal on Labor & Employment Law, considers this problem from a private law perspective. It concludes that public law offers little protection to individual employees other than those with qualifying disabilities. Companies, however, may be in breach of contract if they terminate employees who have enforceable job security rights for refusing to return to in- person work. Rather than rely on guesswork, the prudent and compassionate choice for employers is to continue temporary remote arrangements to the extent feasible.
Temporary Termination: This paper, prepared for a forthcoming Washington University of Saint Louis symposium on COVID-19, responds to the pandemic-induced unemployment crisis with a strategy for addressing temporary, economic-based terminations. Workplace regulation has long neglected workers separated for economic reasons, leaving the problem to the social welfare system, which is now overwhelmed by record numbers of unemployment applicants. In prior articles, I have drawn on comparative law models to argue for laws requiring employers to provide mandatory advance notice of termination or commensurate severance pay to laid off workers. Building on that work, and drawing specifically on Canadian law, this paper argues for recognizing “temporary separation” as a distinct legal status that confers individual rights to affected employees within the context of a comprehensive law of layoffs. Under this system, all employees terminated for economic reasons would be entitled to advance notice or its equivalent in severance pay. However, employers could suspend such obligations by classifying workers as temporarily separated. Affected individuals would retain their status as employees, obtain fast-track access to unemployment benefits, and enjoy a right to reinstatement when their jobs resume. Should the employer choose not to recall a temporarily separated worker, or if the lack of work becomes permanent, the employer would be required to fulfill its deferred severance obligation.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Join Professor David Doorey, Director of the Osgoode Professional Development LLM in Labour and Employment Law at York-Osgoode, for a conversation with Harvard Law School's Professors Ben Sachs and Sharon Block. The webinar will be November 21, 2020, 3:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. EST, and there is no charge.
In this interactive webinar, Professors Sachs and Block will:
- Discuss the future of labour law in the United States
- Analyze the recommendations for empowering working people, as outlined in their report, A Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy, published by Harvard’s Labor and Worklife Program
- Discuss their early post-election thoughts on what we can expect in terms of work law reforms under President-elect Biden.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Thanks to Desiree LeClerq (Cornell I.L.R.) for sharing this invitation:
Is multilateralism fit for purpose? Join Geneva Macro Labs on Nov 18th @6pm CET (12pm ET) to discuss with our experts Desiree LeClercq (Cornell University) and Prakash Loungani (IMF), moderated by Emmanuelle Ganne (WTO), about the extent to which multilateral institutions have delivered on their mandate and what needs to change to make them (even) more effective. In particular, the experts will discuss the lack of collaboration between UN agencies during COVID-19 recovery efforts as they relate to labor policies. The webinar is free; register here.
Monday, November 9, 2020
Thanks to Tequila Brooks for letting us know that on Wednesday, 18 November at 5 pm EST, the DC Chapter of LERA @DCLERA will host a free webinar chat with Wilma Liebman, Former NLRB Chair and Incoming President of the US Labor and Employment Research Association. Details and registration are here.
Friday, November 6, 2020
Shirley Lin (NYU) & Ezra Cukor (Staff Attorney, Center for Reproductive Rights) have posted on SSRN their chapter LGBTQIA + Discrimination in Employment Discrimination Law & Litigation (Thomson West 2020). Here's the abstract:
Asserting and defending the employment rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people (LGBTQIA+) is a decades-long civil rights struggle. Increasing awareness and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals in U.S. society does not mean that society has not always been sexually diverse, or that sex has only recently been recognized as socially, rather than “biologically,” defined.
In June 2020, The Supreme Court decided a trio of cases wherein it acknowledged for the first time that federal workplace protections reach anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination. In the landmark decision Bostock v. Clayton County, the Court held that because under Title VII an employer cannot rely on sex as a but-for cause, even if not the sole or primary cause, to fire an employee, an employer who fires someone for being gay or transgender “defies the law.” The landmark decision is a result of generations of advocacy by LGBTQIA+ communities and their advocates inside and outside of the courtroom. Although Title VII has prohibited sex discrimination since its enactment, early decisions rejected claims by LGBTQIA+ people as outside the statute’s ambit. Even as the doctrine generally reflected a broader understanding of sex discrimination, leading up to Bostock there existed only a patchwork of lower-court and agency precedent that Title VII covered LGBTQIA+ people (see §§ 27:2, 27:3, 27:5, 27:7.25). As a result, a LGBTQIA+ employee’s ability to seek redress for discrimination against a private employer depended on her zip code, even under federal law. The Supreme Court’s forthright decision opened courthouse doors throughout the country to LGBTQIA+ workers.
The achievement of Title VII protection is a vital milestone but not the end point in addressing discrimination: LGBTQIA+ people have long faced unacceptable levels of workplace discrimination. Despite a dramatic increase in public acceptance post the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, during the administration of President Trump, the hateful rhetoric, and the policy positions taken by the President and his administration concerning LGBTQIA+ people, public tolerance for accepting LGBTQIA+ individuals declined. Moreover, because LGBTQIA+ workers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color face disproportionate employment discrimination, the ongoing struggle for racial justice is integral to achieving meaningful equality for LGBTQIA+ people. Winning a workplace discrimination case can be devilishly difficult, especially for low-income workers who often face formidable barriers even to accessing counsel. Because LGBTQIA+ people face significant hostility and misunderstanding from a variety of social forces, including some courts, lawyers litigating for equal treatment for their LGBTQIA+ clients must innovate and educate as well as advocate. Not only does discrimination in the workplace injure and deprive individual LGBTQIA+ workers of their livelihoods, it stigmatizes LGBTQIA+ people as a group.
Congratulations to Seth Harris, Joseph E. Slater, Anne Marie Lofaso, Charlotte Garden, and Richard F. Griffin, Jr. on the imminent publication of the Third Edition of Modern Labor Law in the Private and Public Sectors: Cases and Materials. Here's the publisher's description:
This casebook adopts a truly modern approach to labor law in the United States, introducing students to the subject as it is practiced today. It is built around two important trends: the shift of union density from the private sector to the public sector and the growth of organizing outside the NLRA process. The third edition adds a new coauthor: Richard F. Griffin, Jr., who served as the NLRB’s General Counsel under President Obama. It also includes the numerous changes in private-sector labor law made by the NLRB under President Trump, Janus v. AFSCME, and more.
Monday, November 2, 2020
Congratulations to Mack Player (Santa Clara) and Sandra Sperino (Cincinnati) on the publication of the 9th edition of their Employment Discrimination in a Nutshell. Here's the publisher's description:
This text is designed to assist students—both law and undergraduate—to achieve a basic understanding of this complex area of the law, and provide an up to date review for the practitioner. The focus is upon Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race, national origin, sex, and religious discrimination), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act as applied to the workplace. The book addresses the method of proving violations, both disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis, including a brief primer of statistical proof, as well as the defenses to the express use of proscribed classifications. Finally, the book provides a quick reference to the complex procedural and remedial provisions of the statutes.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
This article offers a review of and commentary on every opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in each case relating to employment and labor law during the Court's 2019-2020 Term. The article also briefly summarizes the Court's grants of certiorari for its 2020-2021 Term relating to employment in the American workplace. In addition to the author's commentary on each case, the article includes a broader look at how the Court is dealing with workplace jurisprudence, including references to its "shadow docket" and the assignment of majority opinions.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Christopher Albertyn (Albertyn Arbitration Inc.) is kind enough to write this guest post on the important new Canadian decision of Fraser v. Canada (Attorney General), 2020 SCC 28 (CanLII):
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pension plan discriminated against women. The pension plan therefore breached an Equality Right at section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
The claimants were full-time RCMP members who took advantage of a job-sharing arrangement offered by the RCMP. During the period they were job-sharing their employment was characterized as part-time. Part-time employees were not entitled to purchase full-time pension credits. So, when the claimants ended the period of their job-sharing and they sought to purchase their full-time pension credits, they were advised that, as part-time employees during their job sharing, they could not buy back their full-time pension credits. They claimed this determination discriminated against them in violation of section 15(1) of the Charter.
On October 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada (the SCC) ruled that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pension plan breaches section 15(1) on the ground of sex. This was because a provision of the plan perpetuated discrimination against women by precluding members who participate in job-sharing arrangements from purchasing full-time pension credit. The result was that their eventual pension entitlements were less than those, predominantly male employees, who were able to purchase full-time pension credits during periods of less than full-time work, including when they were on disciplinary suspension. Only those regular, full-time employees who were on the job-sharing program were not able to purchase the credits for their periods of less than full-time work.
The S.C.C. found that the RCMP pension plan has a disproportionate impact on women and so violated women’s rights to equality under the Charter.
The finding was not because “women continue to have disproportionate responsibility for childcare and less stable working hours than men, but because the pension plan ‘institutionalizes those traits as a basis on which to unequally distribute; pension benefits to job-sharing participants” [para.136].
Justice Abella, writing for the S.C.C., made clear that the Charter guarantees substantive equality, having regard to the actual impact on the affected employees. On its face the imposition of less favourable pension benefits for job-sharing members seemed to affect all RCMP members equally, but it had a disproportionate impact on the women officers, and so was found to be discriminatory.
The S.C.C. applied the two-step test to section 15(1) claims. The claimant had to demonstrate:
- that the impugned action, in its impact, created a distinction based on a prohibited ground, and
- that the action imposed had a disproportionately adverse effect on the members of the protected group, in this case, women.
On the first step, the S.C.C. found that statistical evidence showed a clear association between sex and fewer working hours. So, the RCMP’s use of a temporary reduction in working hours as a basis for imposing less favourable pension consequences had an adverse impact on women. The RCMP members who took part in the job-sharing program were predominantly women with young children. Most of these women gave childcare as their reason for doing so.
In holding that the second step was established, the S.C.C. found that the RCMP’s pension plan perpetuated a long-standing gender bias that favoured “male pattern employment” (permanent, full-time workers with long uninterrupted service records) over “female pattern employment” (temporary or part-time service). This resulted in a disproportionate economic disadvantage for women.
This case is important in reiterating and clarifying how discrimination cases are to be decided. It gives a clear statement that substantive equality is the standard on which the protection is to be decided. Also, the question is not whether a provision explicitly targets a protected group for differential treatment, but rather, does the provision do so indirectly through its impact? The S.C.C. suggested that two types of evidence are useful to provide that a law or action has a disproportionate impact on a protected group: evidence of the full context of the protected group (i.e. their physical, social, cultural or other barriers), and evidence about the results or effects of the law or action on them. To establish the link between the impugned provision and the alleged disadvantage, the claimants need only demonstrate consistent statistical disparities in how the provision affects them, without having to explain why that was the result. Such evidence “is itself a compelling sign that the law has not been structured in a way that takes into account the protected group’s circumstances”. Through such evidence, some seemingly neutral policy can be shown to have a disproportionate impact on the protected group.
The S.C.C. also had some helpful additional observations:
- The intention of the legislator is irrelevant. It is not necessary to prove an intention to discriminate.
- If the claimants demonstrate that a law has a disproportionate impact on members of a protected group, they need not independently prove that the protected characteristic “caused” the disproportionate impact, i.e. that the basis of the exclusion was the protected characteristic. The effect is all that matters.
- The claimants need also not show that the impugned provision affected all members of the protected group in the same way, or even at all. Practices that amount to partial discrimination are no less discriminatory than those in which all members of a protected group are affected.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Big news for Chicago-Kent’s Institute for Law in the Workplace.
Long-time leader Professor Martin Malin is retiring in 2021. Professor Malin built the ILW into a national center for research, training, dialogue, and reflection on the law that governs the workplace. As someone who personally benefitted from Professor Malin’s expertise and mentorship, I wanted to send out a public thank you for all of this work in the field.
The ILW is naming an excellent new director. In the fall of 2021, Professor Michael Z. Green will become the second director to lead the institute. Congratulations, Professor Green!
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
It's that time of year again (actually it's a bit late, but ... 2020): SEALS is open for submissions for its 2021 conference. The dates are July 26-August 1 (although our panels will be only a couple of days of that) and it's tentatively planned to be at the Boca Resort, although if things still aren't safe then I'm sure they do remote again, which worked well this summer.
At this point, please let me know if a) you're interested in participating in a SEALS panel TBD, or (especially) b) you have any ideas for a panel or discussion group. As a reminder, we can have either or both of panels--which are more traditional presentations--or discussion groups, which involve a larger group engaged in more of a back-and-forth. One obvious area that I'd like to organize is something on COVID's impact on the workplace. So if that's of interest, please reach out!
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Congratulations to Mark Rothstein, Lance Liebman, Kimberly Yuracko, & Charlotte Garden on the publication of Employment Law, Cases and Materials (9th ed. 2020). Here's the publisher's description:
This popular casebook provides a comprehensive overview of the constitutional, statutory, regulatory, and common law principles of employment law. The doctrinal development of the law is assessed in light of contemporary economic, technological, social, and political conditions. The 9th edition includes a more detailed treatment of independent contractors and gig workers, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination under Title VII, updates on employee health coverage, and the Secure Act of 2019 dealing with small employer retirement plans. Among the statutes covered by the casebook are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Desiree LeClerq (Cornell ILR) sends an invitation to an online fireside chat with ILO Director General Guy Ryder this Thursday, 15 October, 08:30am Eastern Time. The discussion will address a range of issues, including rising unemployment, the impact of the crisis on migrant and informal workers, the impact of trade agreements on workers, and gaps in social protection. The final portion will be open to audience questions. Desiree will moderate. Registration is free and is available here.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Thanks to Lance Compa for circulating this: The AFL-CIO and SEIU have filed a complaint with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association against the Trump administration for violations of ILO standards on Freedom of Association in connection with the Covid-19 crisis in the workplace. Here is a Washington Post article on the complaint; here is the complaint itself.
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Sara Slinn (York - Osgoode) has posted on SSRN her timely and well-written article Protected Concerted Activity and Non-Unionized Employee Strikes: Worker Rights in Canada in the Time of COVID-19, 57 Osgoode Hall L.J. ___. Here's the abstract:
During the pandemic employees in the US have engaged in a wave of strikes, protests and other collective action over concerns about unsafe working conditions, and many of these involved non-unionized workers in the private sector. Similar employee protests were notably absent in Canada. This article examines the differences in labour legislation between the US and Canada which may help to explain these diverging experiences, primarily: the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) section 7 protection for concerted activity, and the NLRA section 502 ability for a good faith strike due to abnormally dangerous conditions for work. This article outlines and compares the situation of, and consequences for, three categories of workers engaging in a strike over fears of workplace safety: unionized employees, non-unionized employees, and non-employees, such as independent contractors under the NLRA compared to under the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA), as generally representative of Canadian labour legislation. In the final section, this article considers how a statutory provision similar to the NLRA protected concerted activity provision might be incorporated into Canadian labour legislation such as the OLRA. It also considers some more fundamental questions that such changes might prompt policymakers to reconsider, including: the focus of our statutory system on “organizing” collective action to the exclusion of “mobilizing” collective action, and questions about the potential role of minority unionism in our labour legislation system.
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law -- SB 1384 -- that augments the authority of the state's Labor Commissioner, an office that typically handles wage claims for low-wage and unrepresented workers in what are called "Berman Hearings". The text of the new law follows the page break below. This new law authorizes the Commission to represent financially strapped workers when a court has compelled arbitration under a mandatory arbitration agreement, if the Commission decides the case has merit. The Commissioner already has this authority for poor claimants in regular civil cases if the individual already has prevailed. The law responds to systemic problems shown by research that individual employees who are obliged to arbitrate claims pro se, without counsel, lose most of the time.
Below the break is the legislative counsel's digest and the test of the statute.
The new (4th) edition of Arbitration Law will be published in November and available for Spring 2021 courses. Authors are Kathy Stone (UCLA), Rick Bales (ONU), and Alex Colvin (Cornell ILR). Here's an excerpt from the publisher's description:
This casebook presents a comprehensive treatment of the legal issues involved in arbitration. The first four chapters address issues that arise under written agreements to arbitrate contained in private contracts. They present the law that has evolved under the Federal Arbitration Act, a statute that governs arbitration in contracts involving interstate commerce. Chapter 5 looks at arbitration in the labor management context that is governed by the Labor Management Relations Act. Chapter 6 addresses international commercial arbitration. Together the book is designed to give students a thorough understanding of arbitration law, and to provide a solid foundation for legal practice, whether in alternative dispute resolution tribunals or in the civil justice system.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020