Wednesday, January 20, 2021
The International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network has just published the inaugural issue of a new law journal – the Global Labour Rights Reporter. The journal is a forum primarily for labour and employment law practitioners globally, including ILAW Network members, to grapple with the legal and practical issues that directly affect workers and their organizations today. It takes a comparative approach, reflecting the worldwide composition of ILAW’s membership. Each issue of the journal will be organized thematically and will highlight notable cases and judicial opinions, trends in the regulation of labour, and analytical pieces which help to envision how practitioners can expand the protection of law, enhance accountability and obtain full and effective remedies. The journal will be published bi-annually, summer and winter, with the possibility of additional articles or contributions being posted on the journal’s website between issues.
- WORKER-ENFORCEABLE SUPPLIER CODES OF CONDUCT AS A TOOL FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE
IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS, by BETTINA BRAUN, AVERY KELLY & CHARITY RYERSON
- ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN LABOUR RELATIONS IN GEORGIA, by RAISA LIPARTELIANI & TAMAR GABISONIA
- ACCESS TO LABOUR JUSTICE AND PROCEDURAL BARRIERS IN COMMENCEMENT OF PROCEEDINGS: A PARADIGM SHIFT IN ZIMBABWEAN COURT PRACTICE OR A JUDICIAL MIRAGE?, by MUNYARADZI GWISAI
- EFFECTIVE JUDICIAL PROTECTION AND THE RIGHTS OF WORKING PEOPLE UNDER COVID-19: A VIEW FROM COLLECTIVE LAW, by MIGUEL ANGEL GARRIDO PALACIOS
- THE RIGHT TO FAIR AND SATISFACTORY WORKING CONDITIONS: RISK PREVENTION AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE, by MARÍA PAULA LOZANO & MATÍAS CREMONTE
- AUSTRALIA’S UNIQUE AWARD SYSTEM HAS BEEN TESTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: IT HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE READILY ADAPTABLE TO PROTECT EMPLOYER INTERESTS BUT LESS EFFECTIVE AT PROACTIVELY PROTECTING EMPLOYEES, by TREVOR CLARKE
- COVID-19 & NEOLIBERALISM: IMPACTS ON LABOUR JUSTICE IN BRAZIL, by PEDRO DANIEL BLANCO ALVES & MAXIMILIANO NAGL GARCEZ
- THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE WHISTLE-BLOWER PROTECTION IN POLAND, by ŁUCJA KOBROŃ-GĄSIOROWSKA
- LABOUR INSPECTION: MORE THAN AN EXERCISE IN ETHICS, by SAMANTHA RAMSAY & BERYL TER HAAR
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Tammy Katsabian (postdoc, Harvard Labor & Worklife Program) has just posted on SSRN her article The Rule of Technology – How Technology Is Used to Disturb Basic Labor Law Protections (forthcoming 25 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. ___ (2021). [Americans should note: she uses "labor" broadly to include what we usually refer to as "employment" law.] Here's the abstract of this timely article:
Much has been written on technology and the law. Leading scholars are occupied with the power dynamics between capital, technology, and the law, along with their implications for society and human rights. Alongside that, various labor law scholars focus on the implications of smart technology on employees’ rights throughout the recruitment and employment periods and on workers’ status and rights in the growing phenomenon of platform-based work. This article aims to contribute to the current scholarship by zooming it out and observing from a bird’s-eye view how certain actors use technology to manipulate and challenge basic legal categories in labor today. This is done by referring to legal, sociological, and internet scholarship on the matter.
The main argument elaborated throughout this article is that digital technology is used to blur and distort many of the basic labor law protections. Because of this, legal categories and rights in the labor field seem to be outdated and need to be adjusted to this new reality.
By providing four detailed examples, the article unpacks how employers, giant high-tech companies, and society use various forms of technology to constantly disturb legal categories in the labor field regarding time, sphere, and relations. In this way, the article demonstrates how social media sites, information communication technologies, and artificial intelligence are used to blur the traditional concepts of privacy, working time and place, the employment contract, and community. This increased blurriness and fragility in labor have created many new difficulties that require new ways of thinking about regulation. Therefore, the article argues that both law and technology have to be modified to cope with the new challenges. Following this, the article proposes three possible ways in which to start considering the regulation of labor in the digital reality: (1) embrace flexibility as part of the legal order and use it as an interpretive tool and not just as an obstacle, (2) broaden the current legal protection and add a procedural layer to the legal rights at stake, and (3) use technology as part of the solution to the dilemmas that technology itself has emphasized. By doing so, this article seeks to enable more accurate thinking on law and regulation in the digital reality, particularly in the labor field, as well as in other fields and contexts.
Monday, January 11, 2021
The Cornell ILR School’s New Conversations Project and Sandra Polaski, Senior Research Scholar at Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center, will hold a live discussion on Tuesday, 19 January 2021 from 9 – 10:15 EST on the topic of Sandra's recent paper, How Trade Policy Failed U.S. Workers--and How to Fix It. Register here.
A group of scholars and practitioners will debate the paper’s proposed changes and their possible impacts for workers. Participants include:
- Sandra Polaski, Senior Research Scholar in the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University, and member of the Independent Mexico Labor Expert Board.
- Desiree LeClercq, Proskauer Employment and Labor Law Assistant Professor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
- Carlos Salas, Visiting Professor of Economics at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UNAM), Azcapotzalco, Mexico City.
- Olabisi Akinkugbe, Assistant Professor at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, Canada.
- Dave Welsh, Country Director of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center in Thailand.
- Jason Judd (Moderator), Executive Director of Cornell University's New Conversations Project in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Saturday, January 9, 2021
We are pleased to present the fi rst issue of the scientific-practical journal Contemporary Labour Law Review, – published by the Center for Contemporary Labour Law. The journal has been launched on 29 November 2019. The launch event, hosted by Tbilisi State University, was attended by the representatives of government and non-governmental sectors working in the field of labour law, judges, legal practitioners, academics and students. The number of attendees at the event and subsequent feedback indicates how great the public interest in the journal has been, which, in turn, obliges us to satisfy the interest of readers and give them the opportunity to read useful information on current and problematic issues of contemporary labour law. We hope that together we will face this important challenge.
Salome Uglava, Victimization as a Mechanism to Protect Employees from Discrimination
Salome Beridze, The Practice of the Supreme Court of Georgia on Labour Disputes (Court’s Explanations About Some
Lado Chanturia, Important Research in Civil Law - Review on the Book by Giorgi Amiranashvili
Andrea Borroni, The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law for the Twenty-First Century – A Review
Giorgi Amiranashvili, Review on the Monograph by Dr. Zakaria Shvelidze - “The Scope of Civil Claims in Labour Discrimination Disputes”
Here's a PDF of the new issue.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Michelle Travis (San Francisco) has posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming 64 Wash. U. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y ___ (2021)) A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility. Here's the abstract:
The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.
I think Michelle is exactly right: "with [57%] of U.S. employers now offering their employees flextime or remote work options as a result of [COVID], it is no longer tenable for courts to define work as something done only at a specified time and place." We can do better.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Forgive me for a bit of self-promotion, but I wanted to flag an amicus brief that a group affiliated with UNC Law filed with the Supreme Court supporting a petition for cert. by the Plaintiff in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety. The question centers on war powers abrogation, specifically whether state employers retain sovereign immunity in the face of congressional war powers legislation. In Torres, that legislation is USERRA, which prohibits employment discrimination based on military service and provides leave and other benefits for servicemembers called to active duty or attending training for, e.g., National Guard. Given the huge number of active and reserve servicemembers, this is an important statute even in normal times. But it's especially so now in a year that saw the greatest mobilization of National Guard troops since Wold War II.
Le Roy Torres was a Texas State Trooper who was called into active duty in Iraq. While there, he continually breathed toxic ash that made him, in addition to thousands of other veterans, very ill. So ill, he was unable to perform his usual trooper duties when he came home. According to Torres’ claim, the Texas Dept. of Safety refused to accommodate him with a desk job, instead forcing him to resign. Torres sued under USERRA, but his employer has argued that courts can’t even hear the claim because of state sovereign immunity. The Texas courts, like several other states, have agreed with this defense. But as I’ve argued in my research, which this and an earlier amicus draws on, these courts are wrong.
I actually first wrote on this topic when I was on the entry-level market. At the time, I argued that despite dicta saying that Article I can’t ever abrogate state immunity, the Court’s historical analysis leaves the door open for certain Article I powers to allow suits against states. Under this analysis, state sovereign immunity is determined by the “plan of the [Constitutional] Convention. In my earlier article, I argued that war powers should be an exception to the “no Article I abrogation” dicta. The Court has recognized that there are exceptions to state immunity; therefore, in what might be the unofficial theme of my research, “if not war powers, then what?” In other words, if there are areas in which states lack immunity, no area has a stronger claim than war powers. Indeed, subsequent to that article, the Court held in Katz that states lacked immunity when it comes to Article I’s Bankruptcy Clause. Which leads one to ask if the Bankruptcy Clause allows suits against states, then surely war powers does too.
Prompted by an earlier Torres amicus brief I wrote while the case was being considered for cert. by the Texas Supreme Court, I revisited this issue post-Katz in my new article, War Powers Abrogation, forthcoming in the George Washington Law Review. In this article, I thoroughly examined the history of the War Powers Clauses from the Articles of Confederation period, through the Constitutional Convention and text, and then the Ratification debates. The article provides the details, but the story is crystal clear: the only reasonable reading of the “plan of the Convention” is that the Founders and states adopted the Constitution fully knowing and intending states NOT to have any sovereignty when it comes to war powers. Instead, a central feature of the Constitution was assuring that the federal government was in charge of the nation’s security, free from state interference. In short, no one during that period—even those who objected to the Constitution—thought that states could interfere with the federal government’s war powers actions, including legislation like USERRA. So far, state courts (which currently have sole jurisdiction of USERRA claims against state employers) have failed to even address this history, instead siding with state immunity claims based on outdated dicta or superficial distinguishing of Katz. Our hope is that the Supreme Court will take up the issue to correct that error. So stay tuned.
Finally, I want to thank those who have helped with this brief and research (and, fingers crossed, one supporting the merits to come). This includes my research assistant, Kemper Patton, staff on the George Washington Law Review, and the several people who helped write the amicus: Elizabeth Fisher (Wiley), Rachel Grossman (UNC Law), Andy Hessick (UNC Law); and Rick Simpson (Wiley). Also thanks to the Torres’ ever-helpful counsel, including Brian Lawler (Pilot Law) and Andrew Tutt (Arnold and Porter). And, last but not least, thanks to Le Roy Torres, his wife, and the other veterans who are trying to simply get their day in court to exercise their rights under USERRA.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Legal Responses to COVID-19 Around the World surveys the labor-related responses of 50 countries to the COVID-19 pandemic. The book currently is available only on kindle, but will be available in hard copy within a week or so. Beyond the book's content, the table of contents provides a really nice list of labor scholars throughout the world.
Here's the complete cite: Legal Responses to Covid-19 Around the World, Cláudio Jannotti da Rocha, Flávia Fragale Martins Pepino, & Rafael Lara Martins, eds. (Lex-Magister [Brazil], 2020) . Disclosure: I contributed the U.S. chapter.
Here's the publisher's description:
This is a collection of papers from 50 countries (6 continents) about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, employment, contracts, business, people’s income, health, courts and dispute resolution systems. The book’s purpose is to allow current and future generations to find, in one place, information about the legal responses to Covid-19 around the world.
December 15, 2020 in Books, International & Comparative L.E.L., International Contacts, Labor and Employment News, Labor Law, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Miriam Cherry just published on JOTWELL her piece, "Income Sharing Arrangements and Coding Bootcamps: Boom or Bust for the Blue Collar Breadwinner?" This is a review of of Jonathan Harris' forthcoming Alabama Law Review article, Unconscionability in Contracting for Worker Training? The review came out this week. An excerpt:
In his forthcoming article, Unconscionability in Contracting for Worker Training, Jonathan Harris explores the contractual issues that arise when workers or job applicants are asked to pay for their training outside of traditional educational structures. This could arise through a training repayment agreement (TRA), which requires an existing employee to repay the employer a fixed sum expended on training if the worker quits or is fired during a set period of time. This Jot, however, will focus on the other setting in which these non-traditional training arrangements are arising, and which Harris discusses at some length in the second part of his article. These are the so-called Income Sharing Agreements (ISAs), which for-profit code academies use. ISAs are contracts that require the trainee to repay a set percentage of future income in exchange for the tuition that enables them to attend a computer coding academy or bootcamp. ...
Ultimately, in Contracting for Worker Training, Jonathan Harris shines a light on novel TRA and ISA contracts. ISA contracts could help some workers upgrade their skills. Unfortunately, as Harris notes, the ISAs could also take advantage of anxious jobseekers. Harris’s article is an illuminating and worthwhile read for those interested in the future of work and a novel application of the unconscionability doctrine.
Check out the full piece, and congrats to both Miriam and Jonathan.
Stephanie Bornstein has just posted on SSRN her article The Politics of Pregnancy Accommodation, 14 Harv. Law & Policy Rev. 293 (2020). It's a great description of the history -- and likely future -- of the meaning of "equality" in the context of pregnancy. Here's the abstract:
How can antidiscrimination law treat men and women “equally” when it comes to the issue of pregnancy? The development of U.S. law on pregnancy accommodation in the workplace tells a story of both legal disagreements about the meaning of “equality” and political disagreements about how best to achieve “equality” at work for women. Federal law has prohibited sex discrimination in the workplace for over five decades. Yet, due to long held gender stereotypes separating work and motherhood, the idea that prohibiting sex discrimination requires a duty to accommodate pregnant workers is a relatively recent phenomenon—and still only partially required by federal law.
This Article documents how decades of internal political conflict about what was best for working women resulted in tortured Supreme Court precedent on, and divergent legislative approaches to, accommodating pregnancy at work. While a diverse feminist movement took a variety of strategies to support pregnant workers, this Article focuses on one core debate in antidiscrimination law: the struggle between a formal or “sameness” and a substantive or “difference” approach to gender equality around pregnancy. It then documents how a third, “reconstructive” approach helped modern advocates move beyond comparing women to men as workers and toward critiquing gendered workplace structures. Striking a hopeful tone, the Article proposes that gender advocates’ legal and political gains have now set the stage for U.S. law to close the remaining gaps in pregnancy accommodation—to fully reflect the fact that pregnant women work and that a significant portion of workers become pregnant.
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Ifeoma Ajunwa (my soon-to-be new colleague!) has just published a short piece in Harvard's Bill of Health, "OVID-19 Immunity as Passport to Work Will Increase Economic Inequality." Some excerpts:
As scientists develop increasingly accurate tests for COVID-19 immunity, we must be on guard as to potential inequities arising from their use, particularly with respect to their potential application as a prerequisite for returning to the workplace.
A focus on immunity as a yardstick for return to work will only serve to widen the gulf of economic inequality, especially in countries like the U.S., which has severe racial health care disparities and uneven access to effective healthcare. This focus could also serve to diminish societal support for further understanding and curtailing the disease....
History has shown that immunity to disease as passport to work can draw a dividing line based on both socio-economic factors and racial group memberships. Writing for Slate, Rebecca Onion notes that “[w]hen yellow fever ravaged 19th-century New Orleans, wealthy white people who ‘acclimated’ [i.e., developed immunity] were rewarded.” White people who had survived yellow fever benefited from “immunoprivilege,” while others suffered social and economic repercussions. In the 21stcentury, a focus on coronavirus immunity rather than prevention of infection could play out similarly.
To acquire immunity, an individual must first survive the disease. Surviving the disease necessities adequate healthcare. Yet, access to healthcare services in the U.S. is unequal. While some COVID-19 patients, like President Trump, are able to receive high levels of healthcare (and even experimental drugs), others lower on the socio-economic spectrum do not have health insurance and can only receive emergency care. Thus, immunity as passport to work would only serve to increase inequality as it would reward those who could afford the care needed to survive.
It is also worth noting that people of color are generally more likely to die of the disease than their white counterparts. Could this lead to a social (even if not scientifically proven) view that white people have greater immunity to the disease than others? If so, imagine how this social view could play out in racial employment discrimination as businesses re-open. Past research shows that racial minorities have had to contend with genetic discrimination in the workplace. ...
It's definitely worth reading the entire piece, so check it out!
Saturday, November 28, 2020
NYU Law School's Center for Labor & Employmet Law is holding an interesting conference this week on "Re-Training America for the Future of Work." The info:
The introduction of artificial intelligence, and machine learning in the workplace has sparked vigorous debate around the extent of worker displacement that could result. Imbedded in these conversations is a consensus on the need for major efforts at worker training, retraining, upskilling, and reskilling. The discussants will cover varying approaches to workforce training to meet the demands of employers for skilled workers while ensuring that high quality career paths await the trainees. The discussants will highlight barriers to quality jobs, including unnecessary licensure requirements, and obstacles to establishing effective training programs. They will also evaluate various approaches to workforce development, including private-sector initiatives, community college-led training, training intermediaries, union and DOL-backed Registered Apprenticeship, a new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program, regional investment, and other models that encourage collective investment in training today’s and tomorrow’s workers. REGISTER
- Daniel Bustillo, Director, Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP)
- Robert Chiapetta, Director of Government Relations, Toyota USA
- Prof. Morris Kleiner, AFL-CIO Chair in Labor Policy, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs
- Dr. Livia Lam, Senior Fellow and Director of Workforce Development Policy, Center for American Progress
- James Murphy, Esq., Spivak Lipton
- Amy Peterson, Executive Director, NYC Mayor's Office of Workforce Development
- Paul Salvatore, Esq., Proskauer
- Teresita Wisell, Vice President and Dean for Workforce Development and Community Education, Westchester Community College
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Great call for papers opportunity with EREJP! From Michael Green...
CALL FOR PROPOSED PAPERS: Final papers due February 1, 2021, Employee Rights & Employment Policy Journal, Annual Symposium: “What Matters for Black Workers after 2020?” As we approach the end of a tumultuous year for all of us and, in particular for black workers, we are seeking papers for publication in Issue 1, Volume 25 of the Employee Rights & Employment Policy Journal on the topic of “What Matters for Black Workers after 2020?”
In 2020, we saw the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others that led to national and international protests in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Unions and many black workers joined in further BLM solidarity during the Strike for Black Lives Matter held on July 20, 2020. Black athletes have engaged in several prominent acts supporting BLM, including kneeling by Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players, the longstanding activism efforts by members of the WNBA, and the NBA wildcat strike in response to the Jacob Blake shooting. Likewise, COVID-19 disproportionately affected black individuals, many of whom were considered essential workers, in substantial and different ways than other groups.
Divisive political actions created many hostilities for black workers in 2020, including the issuance of an executive order banning discussions of implicit bias and critical race theory in training programs of federal contractors as well as the increasing prevalence of white supremacist and militias groups who openly carried weapons threatening many black protesters and poll workers. Unfortunately, 2020 resulted also in the loss of many black civil rights leaders including John Lewis, Elijah Cummings, C.T. Vivian, and Joseph Lowery. After the 2020 election, there remains considerable uncertainty about legislative, executive, and judicial actions in response to the political appointments and agendas of the last four years that may create significant benefits or burdens for black workers. Black persons also continue to have lower salaries and levels of employment with greater opportunities to be arrested or imprisoned.
With these topics and any others that may affect black workers in mind, we ask all the phenomenal, experienced, developing, and budding scholars who have an intellectual interest in matters that affect black workers as we end 2020 to consider this call for proposals to submit a paper. If you are working on or contemplating writing about the above issues or any other key issues that black workers will have to face after 2020, please consider submitting your work for publication. We would like to have initial proposals by December 11, 2020 and final drafts, by Monday, February 1, 2021. This Symposium on “What Matters for Black Workers after 2020?” is sponsored by The Labor Law Group, a non-profit trust of labor and employment scholars who collaborate on various educational projects. Labor Law Group member Michael Green (Texas A&M) will serve as Symposium editor working with journal co-editors and Labor Law Group members, Martin Malin (Chicago Kent) and Noah Zatz (UCLA).
Submission Format and Instructions. We know this is a short window. But to know what the prospects for consideration are, we ask you by Friday, December 11, 2020 to please submit a Microsoft Word document as an abstract, précis, and/or introduction of the article that is developed enough to allow the editors to evaluate the thesis and proposed execution of the project as a proposal to Michael Z. Green, at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrea Hudson at email@example.com. Selected authors of proposals will be notified by December 21, 2020, if not sooner, of the interest in potential publication. Completed papers will be expected by the Monday, February 1, 2021 deadline. Any inquiries about the Call for Papers should be submitted to Michael Z. Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal is a faculty-edited, peer-reviewed journal co- published by The Labor Law Group and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Institute for Law and the Workplace. Authors uniformly praise the Journal’s editing process. The Journal has a student staff who provide cite checking and Bluebooking, but their work is reviewed by the faculty editors, and authors do not deal directly with students.
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
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 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.
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 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.
Monday, September 28, 2020
Sara Slinn (York-Osgoode Hall) informs us that Catherine Fisk (Berkeley) will be delivering the Pierre Genest Memorial Lecture October 6th at 4pm EDT, entitled "Protection by Law, Repression by Law: Bringing Labor Back Into Law and Social Movement Studies". Registration is here.
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law for the Twenty-First Century is now available in paperback. The list price is $34.99, but there's a 20% discount for ordering from this site and entering the code LAW3820 at checkout. Here's the publisher's description:
Over the last fifty years in the United States, unions have been in deep decline, while income and wealth inequality have grown. In this timely work, editors Richard Bales and Charlotte Garden - with a roster of thirty-five leading labor scholars - analyze these trends and show how they are linked. Designed to appeal to those being introduced to the field as well as experts seeking new insights, this book demonstrates how federal labor law is failing today’s workers and disempowering unions; how union jobs pay better than nonunion jobs and help to increase the wages of even nonunion workers; and how, when union jobs vanish, the wage premium also vanishes. At the same time, the book offers a range of solutions, from the radical, such as a complete overhaul of federal labor law, to the incremental, including reforms that could be undertaken by federal agencies on their own.