Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Chris Albertyn (Albertyn Arbitration, Toronto) has sent the position paper Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Workers in the Labor Market, drafted by labor law academics in Israel. Here's the introduction:
Covid-19 poses numerous challenges to the labour market. The most recent are dilemmas concerning the appropriate regulation of access to work for unvaccinated workers, and the possible infringement of labour rights that may ensue. Being the first country in which large scale vaccination took place, there is a heated debate within Israel on this topic. As part of the public discourse, 17 labour law experts from academic institutions around Israel have written the position paper presented below:
We, a group of leading labour law scholars from Israeli law faculties, have been closely monitoring the public and legal discourse around the access of unvaccinated workers into workplaces. We are concerned that at this time, when a large share of the adult population in Israel is being vaccinated, there are calls to terminate the employment of workers who are not. To this end, we wish to emphasize a few basic principles of labour law and human rights that lie at the heart of Israeli law and international labour law. These principles should guide regulation on this issue, whether it is negotiated by the parties to collective labour law, the legislature, or in the labour courts' judgements.
April 7, 2021 in Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor and Employment News, Labor Law, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sunday, March 7, 2021
This semester, the law students in Professor Lea VanderVelde’s Employment Law course have been doing cutting-edge research into how the pandemic is impacting work laws, as it re-arranges workplaces, requires business closures, transforms the ways we get goods, decimates the service sector, and sickens millions of workers.
As students studied the traditional topics in the employment law curriculum, they also researched how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting these laws. They were introduced to the sources that experts in the field use to keep up on fast-moving changes, such as reading on-line sources like the Daily Labor Report, white papers of leading law firms, and current state and federal agency guidelines from the Department of Labor and EEOC.
“The sudden emergence of COVID-19 forced considerable changes in many aspects of life—and Professor Vandervelde’s paper addresses its impact on some key areas of employment law. Professor Vandervelde’s course provided us with the proper foundation to effectively address the pandemic’s effect in this area of law. It was an honor and a privilege being a part of this research,” said Iowa Law student Kevin Kim.
This research allowed VanderVelde’s students to witness change as it happened, to reflect on the likely direction the law would take, and to assess the pandemic’s lasting influence on employment law.
Each student produced a different report analyzing how the issue was changing under the new circumstances.
“The opportunity to write a paper involving employment law and the COVID-19 pandemic was my favorite part of this class with Professor VanderVelde. It gave me a chance to apply employment law doctrines I have learned in class to current events. This was not only a fantastic way to test my understanding, but it also provided a practical application of the same processes attorneys and legal scholars undergo,” said 2L Nicholas Day.
By studying their chosen issue over several weeks, students were able to watch changes as they evolved, a method that excellently prepares them for the field of employment law as it exists and prepares them to anticipate the changes to come.
Topics, complete with bibliographies, included the latest thinking on the following questions:
- How previous pandemics changed the baseline of employment laws.
- Implications of the pandemic on the gig economy.
- How COVID-19 has impacted OSHA.
- How will unemployment compensation funds be sustained under higher unemployment claims in various states, and what requirements are likely to be waived.
- Occupational-specific issues, such effects on public school teachers, medical licensure due to tele-practicing of medicine, and even whether the cancellation of college and national football are likely to affect current efforts to re-classify student players as employees.
- The pandemic’s effect on wage theft, and sick leave.
- How work-from-home affects monitoring employees and recording hours and whether work from home re-classifies employees as independent contractors.
- Employee privacy including what questions employers can ask? How much employers can mandate changes in their employees’ social lives and whether employers can legally mandate vaccinations?
- Do whistleblowers alerting others to dangerous practices get protection against retaliation?
- What is the legal significance of classifying workers as essential workers?
Altogether, the students’ reporting produced a 90-page white paper on where employment law stands at the current moment, and how one would expect it to change. You can read their research here.
CAS (thanks to Lea & Peyten Little)
Thursday, February 4, 2021
As the nation confronts multiple federal and state attacks on employee noncompetition agreements (NCAs), one issue has remained relatively obscure: may an employer that terminates a worker for reasons not related to performance nevertheless enforce an NCA? A scattering of cases mostly holds no, and the recent Restatement of Employment Law’s agreement with those decisions is likely to be very influential for the great majority of jurisdictions that have not yet addressed the question but may be forced to in light of massive COVID-related layoffs.
This Article supports the Restatement’s proposed rule, while exploring the fascinating doctrinal and policy issues implicated in the question. Ultimately, it sees the rule as rooted in concerns about fairness to employee that are typically given short shrift in current doctrine. This is true even for a Restatement that otherwise seems decided to opt for an economic approach that would validate NCAs that are “reasonably tailored” to defined legitimate employer interests.
Adoption of a rule denying enforcement in such situations also poses some interesting second-order questions, such as how to determine when a termination is performance-related and probable employer responses to a new dispensation. All are explored in the pages that follow.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Nicole Porter (Toledo) has just posted on SSRN her article #MeToo and the Process That's Due: Sexual Misconduct Where We Live, Work, and Learn. Here's the abstract:
The #MeToo movement has been instrumental in bringing attention to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and sexual assault (collectively, sexual misconduct ) in all walks of life and in all environments, including at work, school, home, and out in public. But the movement has also brought with it a great deal of confusion about how we define sexual misconduct and whether and when legal liability attaches. Part of that confusion can be blamed on the fact that at least three discrete areas of law can possibly apply to sexual misconduct—criminal law, Title VII (when the sexual misconduct takes place in the workplace), and Title IX (when the sexual misconduct takes place in schools and universities). Adding to that confusion is that there are several inconsistencies between how these three areas of the law address issues surrounding sexual misconduct. The most prominent of these inconsistencies is the varied due process protections that apply, depending on where the sexual misconduct takes place. This article will discuss these inconsistencies, and will address the issue of whether these differences can be justified. In the end, this article concludes that the increased due process protection for Title IX cases (compared to Title VII cases) cannot be justified. Thus, it proposes a compromise response to answer the question—how much process is due?
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.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
DC LERA has another great international labor program. Christy Hoffman is the General Secretary of UNI Global Union, the global union federation for workers in services which represents 20 million members in 150 countries. She will be speaking January 19, 2021, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm. on the topic Remaking the World of Work for the Service Sector. Registration is free -- follow the instructions at this link.
Thanks to Tequila Brooks for sending this along.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Monday, June 22, 2020
Major League Baseball implemented a temporary rule limiting signing bonuses for new players as a cost-saving measure when teams are bringing in no revenue. One result: teams with a history of treating their workers well are attracting talent they otherwise would have had little chance of luring. Here's the take-away:
The Royals jumped to the top of many players’ lists because of their demonstrated commitment to their minor leaguers. While most of Kansas City’s competitors wavered on paying minor leaguers at all this summer—and then released scores of them—only the Royals and Minnesota Twins said they would keep every prospect. Royals general manager Dayton Moore justified that action by telling reporters, “The minor-league players, the players you’ll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High-A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game as 10-year or 15-year veteran players.”
In saying that, the Royals positioned themselves to take advantage of a very simple market inefficiency: not treating your lowest-paid employees like garbage.
Jared Diamond, The Royals Are Taking Advantage of a New Market Inefficiency Wall St. J. (June 19, 2020).
Monday, May 25, 2020
Desiree LeClercq (formerly Director for Labor Affairs at the Office of the United States Trade Representative; currently en route to Ithaca NY to teach at the Cornell ILR School) writes to tell us:
LERA has been hosting a series of webinars free to members and non-members that examine various labor elements of the COVID pandemic. This Thursday, May 28, from 10-11am, I will be moderating a panel on ""Global Governance During Pandemic: Implications of Force Majeure and National Emergency for Worker Rights Protections." Panelists will include representatives from the ILO, the World Bank, the World Maritime University, Solidarity Center, and Sustainable Enterprises. In case of interest, the link to register and receive the Zoom link may be accessed at: https://lera.memberclicks.net/lera-webinar-series--ler-during-covid-19.
This looks like a terrific program!
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
A group of authors from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the University of Indiana have just posted on SSRN Using the Eye of the Storm to Predict the Wave of Covid-19 UI Claims. Here's the abstract of this timely article:
We leverage an event-study research design focused on the seven costliest hurricanes to hit the US mainland since 2004 to identify the elasticity of unemployment insurance filings with respect to search intensity. Applying our elasticity estimate to the state-level Google Trends indexes for the topic “unemployment,” we show that out-of-sample forecasts made ahead of the official data releases for March 21 and 28 predicted to a large degree the extent of the Covid-19 related surge in the demand for unemployment insurance. In addition, we provide a robust assessment of the uncertainty surrounding these estimates and demonstrate their use within a broader forecasting framework for US economic activity.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Katherine Stone has a piece in the April issue of The American Prospect magazine, called The Rise of Neo-Feudalism. Together with her co-author, Robert Kuttner, the article argues that "Western democracies are not simply embracing neoliberalism in the sense of deregulating the economy. Elites are pursuing something aptly described as a new form of feudalism, in which entire realms of public law, public property, due process, and citizen rights revert to unaccountable control by private business." Among other examples, the article discusses the proliferation and expansion of arbitration as private judicial systems that operate to eliminate hard-won worker rights.
In addition, Katherine Stone discussed the article, and the ramifications for worker rights, on NPR's show, Background Briefing. The segment is posted online here and here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
The Italian Labour Law E-Journal has published a special issue describing the global labor responses to covid-19. Here's a description:
This special issue of the Italian Labour Law e-Journal intends to provide a systematic and informative overview on the measures set out by lawmakers and/or social partners in a number of countries of the world to address the impact on the Covid-19 emergency on working conditions and business operations. The aim is to understand which labour law norms and institutions and which workplace arrangements are being deployed in the different legal systems to tackle the global health crisis. Another aim is to find whether and to what extent the established body of laws is proving able to cope with the problems raised by the current extraordinary situation or whether, on the contrary, new special regulations are being introduced. The national reports may be subject to updating in case of major changes.
Friday, March 27, 2020
The ABA International Labor & Employment Law Section has published a Special COVID-19 edition of its Newsletter, describing the myriad different responses that countries have taken to adjusting LEL laws to respond to the virus. Here's a description:
COVID-19 is now a truly global pandemic and is affecting hundreds of millions of people at both deeply personal and professional levels. Countries are attempting to respond in different ways, from quarantines to special health care initiatives to financial stimulus packages. Countries also are responding in myriad ways that affect workers and workplaces.
This special edition of the newsletter contains a series of short articles describing how several countries from throughout the world are using workplace laws to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate its effects on workers and workplaces. Though our survey is not comprehensive, it nonetheless provides a snapshot of the often thoughtful and creative ways that countries are responding to the crisis. We hope it will provide guidance not only to the international labor and employment attorneys who regularly read this newsletter, but also to policymakers worldwide considering how their countries might best restructure workplaces and protect workers in a time of crisis to mitigate both the devastating health effects of the virus and its disruption of the economic activity on which we all depend for our livelihoods.
Monday, March 2, 2020
David Doorey (York University) has launched a new collaborative law blog called Canadian Law of Work Forum. The blog accepts contributions from scholars, practitioners, and students on topics related to work law and labour policy and will be a great resources for U.S. scholars interested in keeping an eye on Canadian developments. David is also encouraging posts from non-Canadian scholars on comparative law issues. Please visit the blog and consider submitting pieces to David (email@example.com). Great move, David!
Monday, January 27, 2020
Thanks to Jon Harkavy for word that the Clean Slate for Worker Power project has issued its final report A Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy. Here's a brief excerpted description from Kelsey Griffin:
An initiative of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program — called Clean Slate for Worker Power — released its final report Thursday calling to overhaul American labor laws and increase workers’ collective bargaining power. Law School Faculty members Sharon Block and Benjamin I. Sachs led the project. The initiative brought together leading activists and scholars to recommend policies aimed at empowering working people.
The report claims that an extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of few people has created economic and political inequality in the United States. It argues that current labor laws have fostered systematic racial and gender oppression. It also asserts that labor laws exclude vulnerable workers from vital labor protections and devalue the work performed by these workers.
Block and Sachs said they believe addressing this economic and political inequality would require a completely new system of labor law, rather than simply adjusting current policies. The report recommends that labor laws better enable working people to build collective organizations to increase their leverage with employers and in the political system. The policy recommendations aim to increase worker representation and inclusion by expanding the coverage of labor laws for independent contractors, as well as undocumented, incarcerated, and disabled workers. The report lays out an array of options for alternative worker representation in addition to labor unions, such as work monitors — employees who would ensure compliance with federal labor regulations.