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Articles on workplace-related issues from newspapers and Internet news sources around the country.

September 23, 2016

To fight wage gap, D.C. bill would bar employers from asking about past salaries

Source: Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post

The D.C. Council is considering legislation to bar businesses from asking prospective employees about their salary history before making job offers, a practice advocates say exacerbates a cycle of unequal wages for women.

Companies must prove need for permanent replacements in strikes, NLRB officer says

Source: Mark Gruenberg, Workday Minnesota

In what would be a major advance for workers’ use of the ultimate economic weapon, the strike, the National Labor Relations Board’s top enforcement officer, its general counsel, is proposing that companies must prove – not just state – that only by hiring “permanent replacement” workers can they keep going economically, after the firms force their own employees to strike.

September 22, 2016

Southwest Union Leaders Send Contract to Pilots for Vote

Source: Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg

Leaders of Southwest Airlines Co.’s pilots union agreed to send a tentative contract agreement to its members, clearing the way for a vote on the deal that would boost pay and retirement benefits.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association board voted 21-2 to authorize balloting, union President Jon Weaks said in an interview Wednesday. The board did not recommend approval or rejection of the contract, which was reached Aug. 29 after talks that stretched over more than four years.

Evidence suggests employers can make a simple fix to help close the gender wage gap

Source: Chris Weller, Business Insider

One of the most compelling studies that Kliff cites in arguing for flexible hours comes from Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard.

By Goldin's measure, the fields that offer the least flexibility — law, business, finance, and some health professions — have the biggest gender wage gaps. Those with more flexibility, such as pharmacy and science work, have smaller gaps.

Dads Are Taking Longer (Paid) Paternity Leaves

Source: Beth Pinsker, Time

Companies no longer treat men and women differently when it comes to paid parental leave.

September 21, 2016

"Fair scheduling" bill dies in D.C. Council

Source: Aaron C. Davis, The Washington Post

Legislation intended to give hourly employees more predictable work schedules effectively died Tuesday before the D.C. Council, with lawmakers saying that they were hesitant to pile too many costs onto employers in a single year.

The D.C. Council voted 9 to 4 to table the bill, leaving little chance that lawmakers would reach a final decision this session on the council’s third major pro-labor bill.

CTU strike vote begins Wednesday but no date set yet

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun times

Chicago’s public school teachers will be asked again this week to authorize a strike in case they decide to walk out of Chicago Public Schools later this fall.

Most teachers, aides and social workers in the Chicago Teachers Union are being asked to vote Wednesday morning before school, but any schools that don’t get everyone who’s eligible can also try again Thursday and Friday if necessary, according to the union, which did not release a sample ballot.

21 States Sue To Block Labor Department's Overtime Rule

Source: Daniel Fisher, Forbes

Texas, Oklahoma and 19 other states have sued the federal government to block the Labor Department’s new overtime rule, saying the Obama administration is trying to impose heavy costs and its own policy choices on the states in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

September 20, 2016

4 Things to Ask Before Accepting a Job Offer

Source: Robin Madell, U.S. News and World Report

What makes a great place to work? Research has shown that it's not just about the work itself, but what an organization offers its staff that allows them to stay engaged and innovative. With this in mind, if you've been offered a job, it's important to try to get a sense of the company's culture before deciding whether or not to accept it.

Allina, nurses contest each other's resolve as strike enters third week

Source: Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune

Allina reported that more than 500 of the 4,800 union nurses have called to say they want to return to work at the five affected hospitals. Meanwhile, the union said it received a report that an intensive care unit closed at Allina's flagship hospital, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, amid turnover in replacement nurses.

Last-Minute Work Scheduling Is a Real Health Risk, Research Shows

Source: Sarah Ponczek, Bloomberg

Want to increase your happiness? Look no further than your work schedule. Unstable working hours can harm employees' financial security and amplify their stress, according to research from the Washington-based Center for Equitable Growth.

September 19, 2016

Towards universal retirement

Source: Editorial, Boston Globe

The gap between what Social Security will pay Americans like Celestin and the cost of life after age 65 has to be made up somehow — by raiding college funds, taking out additional mortgages, continuing to work, or accepting, as half of future retires will be forced to do, a reduced standard of living.

It is tempting to sit back and let our productive and cooperative Congress implement reasonable fixes to Social Security and other programs that could help improve Americans’ life after retirement.

A Sour Surprise for Public Pensions: Two Sets of Books

Source: Mary Williams Walsh, The New York Times

But more important, it raises serious concerns that governments nationwide do not know the true condition of the pension funds they are responsible for. That exposes millions of people, including retired public workers, local taxpayers and municipal bond buyers — who are often retirees themselves — to risks they have no way of knowing about.

When labor laws left farm workers behind -- and vulnerable to abuse

Source: Kamala Kelkar, PBS Newshour

Blocking farm workers from a federal right to organize unions would guarantee, “a continuance of virtual slavery until the day of revolt,” a New York politician warned his colleagues during a hearing in the 1930s.

Eighty years later, with Mexicans having largely replaced black Americans in the fields, farm workers lack the federal rights afforded to most laborers — even as they face some of the toughest working conditions in the country.

Pushing Employees to Go the Extra Mile Can Be Counterproductive

Source: Kai Chi (Sam) Yam, Anthony C. Klotz, Wei He, and Scott Reynolds, Harvard Business Review

Some people are intrinsically motivated to exceed their job descriptions in order to support organizational goals. These self-starters need no external cues to help a co-worker learn a new skill; offer suggestions for process improvement; recruit a new employee; or volunteer for an assignment.

September 16, 2016

Chipotle Avoids DOL Scrutiny Despite ‘Wage Theft’ Claims

Source: Ben Penn, Bloomberg BNA

Chipotle Mexican Grill is under attack from a lawmaker and thousands of employees for alleged “wage theft,” but the restaurant chain is mostly avoiding scrutiny from the agency that enforces federal overtime law.

New overtime rules mean changes for nonprofits and their employees

Source: Renata Sago, WVTF Public Radio

But come December, the council and mission-based nonprofits like it will have to track that. It used to be if workers made $23,660, then they were exempt from overtime pay. The federal government’s new salary threshold for overtime pay has nearly doubled to $47,476. In an industry where fundraising is king and long hours queen, nonprofit administrators are scrambling to figure out how they’ll comply with the new law.

September 15, 2016

Silicon Valley's not-so-secret bias: Ageism

Source: Jon Swartz, USA Today

They have years of experience and plenty of talent — and they can't land a job. People over the age of 40 or worse, 50, are often persona non grata in Silicon Valley's youth culture, where executives are upfront about their hiring preference for engineers fresh out of college.

Called "one of the most ageist places in America," Silicon Valley can't hide the pervasive lack of gray hair and wrinkles in its workforce.

Workers Pay More for Health Care as Companies Shift Burden, Survey Finds

Source: Reed Abelson, The New York Times

But underneath some of those figures, some important changes are underway. The biggest shift is that workers continue to pay an ever-greater share of their medical bills, a trend for several years now. That is why Mr. Altman said that despite the overall moderation in costs, “it doesn’t feel that way to average people.”

Colorado minimum wage proposal gets support of U.S. Labor Secretary

Source: Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Wednesday threw the Obama administration’s full support behind Colorado’s Amendment 70, which seeks to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020.

“This is one where the nation is watching,” Perez told a round table of workers, business owners and nonprofit and union leaders gathered at Teatulia Tea Bar in Denver. “The President is with you. I am with you.”

Colorado minimum wage proposal gets support of U.S. Labor Secretary

Source: Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Wednesday threw the Obama administration’s full support behind Colorado’s Amendment 70, which seeks to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020.

September 14, 2016

This new paid leave policy may be the smartest perk for families yet

Source: Jena McGregor, The Washington Post

Yet a new policy announced last week by Deloitte, which offers U.S. employees 16 weeks of paid “family leave,” may be the smartest benefit yet. It isn’t the longest policy out there. But it appears to be among the broadest, allowing not only new parents but any Deloitte employee with family caregiving responsibilities to dip into the generous perk.

The Post Office’s future is in jeopardy – a strike is the only option

Source: Dave Ward, The Guardian

This Thursday, thousands of Communication Workers Union members will go on strike from the Post Office in a dispute over job losses, the closure of their pension scheme and the very future of the industry. While the scale of what our members are fighting is stark – with 2,000 job losses this year alone – the truth is that over the past five years they have endured a relentless programme of cuts and closures and the Post Office has become a case study in the limitations of austerity-era thinking.

The Economic Expansion Is Helping the Middle Class, Finally

Source: Neil Irwin, The New York Times

The most decisive evidence of improving fortunes is found in new census data released Tuesday showing that median household income rose a whopping 5.2 percent in 2015, to around $56,500. According to that data, incomes rose for black families, white families, Hispanic families and Asian-American families. It rose for young people and in households headed by middle-aged adults and older people. In short, the improvement was across the board to a remarkable degree.

Companies Can't Set Own Rules For Injured Workers, Okla. Court Says

Source: Michael Grabell, NPR

A national campaign to rewrite state laws and allow businesses to decide how to care for their injured workers suffered a significant setback Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma's version of the law is unconstitutional.

September 13, 2016

JPMorgan Chase Whistle-Blower Suit Revived by Appeals Court

Source: Bob Van Voris, Bloomberg

A whistle-blower lawsuit claiming JPMorgan Chase & Co. fired a wealth manager for reporting a client’s possible illegal behavior was revived for a second time by a federal appeals court.
The New York court on Monday reversed a judge’s decision to throw out the lawsuit and ordered him to consider the case. Jennifer Sharkey sued in 2010 claiming she was fired as a vice president in J.P. Morgan’s Private Wealth Management Group for investigating allegations that a long-term client might be involved in fraud or money-laundering.

Wage-and-hour plaintiffs likely to back NLRB’s bid for SCOTUS review of class waivers

Source: Alison Frankel, Reuters

On Friday, as expected, the National Labor Relations Board and the Justice Department filed a petition for certiorari in NLRB v. Murphy Oil, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether employment contracts requiring workers to arbitrate disputes individually are invalid under federal labor laws. The government’s petition for Supreme Court review of a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals follows two other requests last week for Supreme Court to hear the same issue.

Worker Strike Could Cause A Significant Peeps Shortage Next Easter

Source: Abigail Williams, The Huffington Post

Attention all Peeps lovers: The neon-colored marshmallow birds and bunnies you decapitate every Easter may be in short supply next year.

Last week, 400 employees at the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania factory that manufactures Peeps, Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales went on strike. Workers are protesting new wage and benefits proposals from their employer, Just Born Quality Confections.

September 12, 2016

New Overtime Rule Presents Big Challenge to Small Businesses

Source: Isaac Oates, Workforce

The Department of Labor’s new rule regarding the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act will go into effect Dec. 1, which the DOL projects will impact 4.2 million workers across the country.

This rule will impose a substantial increase in the minimum annual salary that must be paid to employees to qualify for certain exemptions from the FLSA’s overtime pay protections from $23,660 to $47,476.

Watch Out for Witness Bias in Workplace Investigations

Source: Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg BNA

Employers need to keep a close eye out for potential biases of witnesses and managers when investigating employee complaints of workplace discrimination.

A $15 Minimum Wage Would Stop 1.2 Million Households From Going Hungry

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation

 For such a wealthy nation, hunger is shockingly widespread in the United States. Food insecurity has risen about a third since the recession, to 14 percent of households nationwide. So why is it so hard for the world’s richest economy to provide poor people with enough money to feed themselves? Now we have some numbers to help explain to lawmakers what to the rest of us has become painfully obvious

September 9, 2016

Workers Paid by Card Will Gain Protections in New York State

Source: Stacy Cowley, The New York Times

Workers in New York State who receive their wages on prepaid cards will gain consumer protections next year that advocates say are among the strongest in the nation. The new rules are intended to guarantee that employees do not have to pay any fees to gain access to their paychecks.

Deloitte Just Gave Its Workers 16 Weeks Paid Leave For Caregiving

Source: Ann Brenoff, The Huffington Post

Professional services giant Deloitte LLP just rocked the benefits world with word that its employee package will now include paid leave for all caregiving, including eldercare. Fortune magazine called the move “the latest in the paid leave arms race” ― a battle to attract and retain the best and brightest by offering a package that reflects workers’ needs more accurately.

Managing the Hidden Stress of Emotional Labor

Source: Susan David, Harvard Business Review

With the possible exception of Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch, very few of us have the luxury of being able to be completely and utterly ourselves all the time at work. The rest of us are called upon to perform what psychologists call “emotional labor” — the effort it takes to keep your professional game face on when what you’re doing is not concordant with how you feel.

September 8, 2016

Deloitte Just Gave Its Workers 16 Weeks Paid Leave For Caregiving

Source: Ann Brenoff, The Huffington Post

As of this month, Deloitte will offer up to 16 weeks of fully paid leave including maternity and paternity leave, eldercare and aid for other sick family members or partners.

Workers Paid by Card Will Gain Protections in New York State

Source: Stacy Cowley, The New York Times

Workers in New York State who receive their wages on prepaid cards will gain consumer protections next year that advocates say are among the strongest in the nation. The new rules are intended to guarantee that employees do not have to pay any fees to gain access to their paychecks.

New York City Passed Paid Sick Leave, and Guess What? It Didn’t Kill Any Jobs.

Source: Henry Grabar, Slate Magazine

A ton of research has also shown that flexible leave policies have a positive effect on worker productivity, happiness, and health.

EEOC Gets $435K for Black Temp Workers in Mississippi

Source: Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg

A nationwide employment agency will pay $435,000 to settle claims by the EEOC it excluded black job seekers when staffing temporary jobs at a FedEx SmartPost location in Southaven, Miss.

People With Disabilities Aren’t Entitled to the Minimum Wage

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation

Although federal labor law’s guiding principle is “equal pay for equal work,” workers with disabilities are categorically restricted from earning equal pay under antiquated federal labor laws, and physically barred from regular workplaces. People with disabilities are literally stuck on a second-class wage scale, based on the assumption that they lack the competence to be equally productive.

New York City Passed Paid Sick Leave, and Guess What? It Didn’t Kill Any Jobs.

Source: Henry Grabar, Slate

Did a labor force of hypochondriac slackers cause businesses to relocate to Nassau and Westchester Counties? It doesn’t look like it: New York City’s share of metropolitan employment has actually increased, slightly, in the two years since the revised law took effect.

September 7, 2016

NLRB’s Punitive Remedy Allowed

Source: Scott M.Wich, Society for Human Resource Management

Unlike certain legal actions in court, there has never been a right by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fashion punitive remedies. However, a recent decision enforced an NLRB order that arguably punished the employer for unlawful activities.

Harassment Policy Failed to Defeat Title VII Lawsuit

Source: Scott M.Wich, Society for Human Resource Management

Almost two decades have passed since the twin U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Burlington Industries v. Ellerth and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton led HR professionals to roll out detailed policies in an effort to limit employer liability for sexual harassment.

September 6, 2016

Fox settles Carlson's sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes for $20M

Source: Roger Yu, USA Today

FOX agreed to pay $20 million to former broadcaster Gretchen Carlson to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against former FOX News CEO Roger Ailes.

Why Are Companies Abandoning On-Site Day Care?

Source: Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg

Yet unlike other family-friendly benefits that are on the rise—such as paid parental leave—on-site child care is on the verge of extinction. Only 3 percent of organizations offer unsubsidized day care services, according to the Society for Human Resources 2016 benefits survey. That figure is down from 9 percent in 1996. "It certainly would be an advantageous benefit, I think, that many people would enjoy having," said Tanya Mulvey, a researcher at SHRM.

September 5, 2016

Common Sense: The Key To An Empowered Workplace

Source: Chris Myers, Forbes

In giving up the structure that was created to ensure that employees stay focused and on task, leaders of empowered organizations must trust that their employees are putting forth exceptional effort.

September 1, 2016

Walmart plans to cut 7,000 jobs

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation

Walmart, the US supermarket chain, plans to cut 7,000 back office and accounting jobs in its US stores. A Walmart official said the employees affected by the changes would have the option of moving into jobs serving customers if they chose to stay.

Developing Employees’ Strengths Boosts Sales, Profit, and Engagement

Source: Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund , Harvard Business Review

We know, for example, that the more hours a day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect. In addition, people who use their strengths every day are more than three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life and six times more likely to be engaged at work.

Volkswagen Rejects Auto Union Plea and Files Appeal on Labor Board Ruling

Source: Reuters, Fortune

Volkswagen AG said on Thursday it has filed an appeal of a federal labor board decision on its dispute with the United Auto Workers union in Tennessee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The National Labor Relations board on Aug. 26 sided with the UAW in the union’s effort to get VW to negotiate wages and benefits for about 160 of the 1,500 hourly workers at a VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

August 31, 2016

EEOC Gets $435K for Black Temp Workers in Mississippi

Source: Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg BNA

Aug. 30 — A nationwide employment agency will pay $435,000 to settle claims by the EEOC it excluded black job seekers when staffing temporary jobs at a FedEx SmartPost location in Southaven, Miss. ( EEOC v. Res. Emp’t Sols., LLC , N.D. Miss., No. 3:14-cv-00217, consent decree filed 8/26/16 ).

King’s Way Baptist Church to pay $25,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

ATLANTA - The King's Way Baptist Church, Inc., an independent Baptist church in Douglasville, Ga., which operates the King's Way Christian School, will pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Graduate Students, the Laborers of Academia

Source: Mark Oppenheimer , The New Yorker

The National Labor Relations Board has conceded the obvious: that graduate students can have two roles at once. “In other words,” the ruling holds, “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.”

Former Little Big Burger owners settle unpaid wage dispute for $675K

Source: Matthew Kish, Portland Business Journal

The former owners of Little Big Burger have reached a $675,000 settlement with workers who claim they didn't get paid for overtime.
They also reached a settlement with a worker who claimed he was fired in retaliation for demanding unpaid wages.

August 30, 2016

SEC Issues $22M Whistleblower Award

Source: Samuel Rubenfeld, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday announced its second-largest whistleblower award since the program’s inception in 2011, issuing $22 million to a person who helped the agency stop a “well-hidden fraud” at the tipster’s company.

Seattle’s ‘secure scheduling’ offers hourly workers protection

Source: Phuong Le, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Seattle leaders have proposed new rules for retail and food-service businesses with hourly employees, including requiring them to schedule shifts two weeks in advance and compensate workers for some last-minute changes — the latest push by a city that has led the nation in mandating worker benefits.

August 29, 2016

Appeals Court Weakens Employer Liability Shield in Discrimination Cases

Source: Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal

A ruling by a federal appeals court in New York could make it easier for employers to face liability in discrimination cases where the firing was caused by company negligence.
The case before the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt with a company accused of bungling its response to a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a female employee who was later fired.

EEOC Issues Final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues after Public Input Process

Source: U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Today the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, to replace its 1998 Compliance Manual section on retaliation. The guidance also addresses the separate "interference" provision under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits coercion, threats, or other acts that interfere with the exercise of ADA rights.

August 26, 2016

Apple, GM Join White House Initiative to Address Gender Pay Gap

Source: Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg

The agreement signed by 29 companies on Friday includes an annual review of pay by gender at each company, and an examination of hiring and promotion practices for unconscious bias and barriers to women reaching higher-level jobs. The pledge stops short of companies promising to pay men and women equally for equal work.

Why mental health programs in the workplace are good for business

Source: Erin McGinty, Benefit News

One in five Americans suffers from mental health conditions, compared to the number of Americans with diabetes and heart disease.
Without improved treatment, the world will lose 12 billion workdays to depression and anxiety disorders alone by 2030, according to World Health Organization estimates.

August 25, 2016

A Labor Movement That’s More About Women

Source: Jonathan Timm , The Atlantic

As they’ve grown, worker centers have become one of the most potent forces for advancing women’s economic interests, such as equal pay, equal protection under the law, and access to family-friendly workplace benefits. It’s no coincidence that many of the most prominent alt-labor groups are run by women.

Injured Workers Face Stacked Deck During Workers’ Comp Appeals Process, Critics Say

Source: Liz Wagner, Michael Bott, and Jeremy Carroll, National Broadcasting Company Bay Area

Many of California’s injured workers say they don’t have a fighting chance to recover under a workers’ compensation claim. The Investigative Unit is digging into a system that many patients and doctors say unfairly denies medical care, and examining an appeals process critics claim rubber-stamps denials of critical treatment.

August 24, 2016

EEOC settles case over Muslim server fired for wearing headscarf

Source: Dawn Geske , Penn Record

PHILADELPHIA – A settlement has been awarded in a case against a Philadelphia restaurant with an apparent "no hoodies" policy regarding an employee’s right to wear a headscarf as part of her religious freedom.

Chipotle under fire for illegal workplace policies

Source: Jackie Wattles, CNN Money

The National Labor Relations Board said in a recent decision that Chipotle has to amend four rules that are illegal because they can "chill employees" from exercising their collective bargaining rights. The ruling has implications for what workers everywhere are allowed to say on social media.

August 23, 2016

Paying People to Stay Home When They’re Sick Results in Fewer People Getting Sick

Source: Susan Rinkunas, The Cut

Here’s a revolutionary thought: Letting people stay home when they’re sick without docking their pay could help curb the spread of diseases. Specifically, a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the flu rate “decreases significantly” when employees are given paid sick days.

Company can't ban employees from pursuing workplace claims as a class, 9th Circuit says

Source: Debra Cassens Weiss, American Bar Association Journal

Federal labor law bars companies from requiring employees to give up their right to band together to pursue workplace claims, a federal appeals court has ruled.

CFPB Must Protect Consumers From Rip-Offs Hidden in the Fine Print

Source: Public Citizen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) should limit the financial industry’s use of forced arbitration clauses in contracts that prevent consumers from filing class-action lawsuits, Public Citizen (PDF) and Americans for Financial Reform (PDF) told the agency in separate comments filed late Monday.

August 22, 2016

Worker Hours Are More Unpredictable Than Ever

Source: Rebecca Greenfield , Bloomberg

These new hourly workers not only make less money, but they have much less predictable schedules than hourly workers had before the recession, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.

August 19, 2016

Appeals court upholds NLRB actions in labor dispute

Source: Lydia Wheeler, The Hill

The nation’s second most powerful court on Friday sided with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in a case challenging actions the board took against a company that tried to keep employees from joining a union.

August 18, 2016

'Not becoming of a woman': lawyers may finally get recourse for harassment

Source: Megan Carpentier, The Guardian

American Bar Association adopted model rule just last week to encourage states to implement discrimination sanctions – currently unavailable in half of US states

Domestic workers could soon have extended overtime pay protections as bill heads to governor

Source: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

Domestic workers in California assist countless individuals, families and communities across the state and deserve to continue receiving a fair wage with overtime for their day-to-day hard work.

August 17, 2016

Complete Maintenance Janitorial Service to Pay $45,600 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

Source: U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

NEW ORLEANS - Complete Maintenance, Inc., a Dallas/Fort Worth commercial janitorial service doing business in the New Orleans Metropolitan area, has agreed to pay $45,600 in damages and provide other significant relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

6 Months After Settling Sexual Harassment Claims, a Worker Faces the Consequences

Source: Miranda Marquit, Magnify Money

Whether the employee is a famous news anchor or an office assistant, reporting sexual harassment at work is never an easy battle to wage alone. It’s arguably more difficult for the average worker, who may not feel they have the professional clout or the financial means to take action.

August 16, 2016

6 Things You Should Know About Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Source: Lindsey Lanquist, Self

Even though Donald and Eric Trump say that women should respond to harassment by changing companies or not let themselves get harassed in the first place, experts argue that’s not really how workplace sexual harassment plays out. Here are six things you need to know about sexual harassment in the workplace, and what to do if you find yourself in this terrible position.

Listen to Your Employees, Not Just Your Customers

Source: Beth Benjamin, Havard Business Review

That’s when Callahan’s team took an unusual step: The team created and linked an employee feedback system to its customer feedback system, in order to flag interactions where customers and employees had different perceptions.

July 7, 2016

New overtime rule could help millions

Source: Andy Uhler, Marketplace.org

The Obama Administration called a new Labor Department regulation on overtime a major win for workers, but it has some companies declaring they will change their business models to reduce payroll costs. The regulation won’t go into effect until December 1. Caleb Sneeringer, a former Walgreens manager in Waco, Texas, said he knows people who would be affected by the rule change, but the word hasn't gotten to them yet. "I don’t think they have any clue,” he said.' There are two ways to become eligible for overtime. Being paid hourly wages. Butmployers often get out of paying it by classifying workers as salaried managers. Or earn less than a specified amount. Before, a manager at a Walgreens making more than $23,660 wasn't eligible for overtime. As a result, those employees were often given more work because it was, essentially, already paid for. Now, that salary threshold will double, to $47,476. Caleb Sneeringer was making $46,000 when he worked Walgreens. “I would have been affected," he said. "And I would have been affected in the places where the most damages to me kind of was done and how much, I don’t want to say abuse, but, if you’re a hard worker you can get overworked and overused.” Dawn Hughey worked in retail for more than 20 years until she was injured on the job and retired. She is now something of a spokesperson for this rule change. “When I applied for the job at a Dollar General, they told me that position would be 44 hours a week, varied schedule, maybe a couple of nights," she said. "And that was not true very long. I was opening and closing the store every day, so from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night, every day, seven days a week.” Under the new rule, Hughey would have been paid a lot of overtime hours at time and a half. For employers, that’s expensive. Businesses are already talking about eliminating the salaried positions altogether and just paying those employees an hourly wage. Another other option is bumping the managers’ salary to just above the threshold, to make sure they don’t qualify for time and a half.

Seattle mayor proposes more paid leave for city employees with newborns, ill family members

Source: Patricia Madej, The Seattle TImes

A plan proposed Wednesday by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the majority of the City Council means that city employees could see considerable time off to spend with newborns or sick family members, a move that coincides with a nationwide conversation on paid leave. The plan would: extend the city’s four-week paid parental leave to eight weeks; give city workers four weeks of paid family leave; and reorganize and provide additional training within the city’s human-resources department.Councilmember M. Lorena González, who will sponsor the plan, said it is the council’s way of tackling a national issue. The United States is one of only three countries that doesn’t guarantee some form of paid parental leave. “This is, once again, Seattle stepping into an area we believe we can be progressive leaders,” González said. The proposal, which could cost about $2.9 million, grew out of a recommendation from the city’s “Workforce Equity Strategic Plan.” The City Council hopes to consider it in August. Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said there were many interviews and surveys with city employees taken into account. “We are taking steps to improve equity in access to city employment for potential new hires, and in the career development of our existing employees,” Murray said in a statement. “And, we want to ensure that all city employees can afford to be there when their families need them the most, whether it’s welcoming a new child into the family or caring for an ailing family member.

NLRB Will Report Federal Contractors' Labor Violations

Source: Lawrence E. Dube, Bloomberg

July 5 — The National Labor Relations Board is preparing to report alleged labor law violations by government contractors named by regional directors in unfair labor practice complaints, the agency disclosed in a memorandum to its field offices. Associate General Counsel Anne Purcell wrote July 1 in Memorandum OM 16-23 that the NLRB will ask charged employers to provide information that could identify them as federal contractors. When an employer is named in an unfair labor practice complaint, the NLRB will report the information to a federal database to comply with the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order President Obama signed on July 31, 2014. The executive order requires the NLRB and other agencies to assist contracting agencies and officials in assessing labor law violations by employers with government contracts valued at more than $500,000. The NLRB won't forward information to the database if an employer settles or resolves an unfair labor practice case before the issuance of a complaint. Purcell said the NLRB has already correlated some data points from its case management system for forwarding to a federal database. The database will be used by the labor compliance advisers, who will assess whether contractors' labor law violations should be classified as serious, repeated, willful or pervasive. Beginning with unfair labor practice complaints issued on or after July 1, she said, the NLRB will also collect data on whether an employer is or has been a federal contractor, and will gather identification numbers, including Commercial and Government Entity and Data Universal Numbers System identifiers, and employer or taxpayer identification numbers.

July 6, 2016

Part-Time Jobs and Thrift: How Unpaid Interns in D.C. Get By

Source: Katie Shepherd, New York Times

WASHINGTON — When Dominic Peacock found out he had been selected for an unpaid summer internship at the National Congress of American Indians here, he looked up the airfare from Albuquerque, rejected the option, and boarded a bus and rode 44 hours. Now, after a long day thumbing through bills and working for legislation to protect tribal artifacts, he walks a few blocks to a hotel restaurant where he buses tables until 1 a.m. His workweek 60 to 75 hours long affords him one day off to catch up on chores in his American University dorm room and explore the city. “This is the schedule that I want,” said Mr. Peacock, a senior at the University of New Mexico and member of the Acoma Pueblo tribe. “I’m going to finish this. I don’t care what it costs.” Thousands of interns like Mr. Peacock have descended on the nation’s capital, hoping to gain connections and work experience answering phones, sorting mail and occasionally helping with larger projects in congressional offices, federal institutions, nonprofits and legal divisions across the city. And unlike private companies, the government and nonprofit organizations do not have to pay them. More than 200 federal programs within Washington offer internship positions, some paid, some not. Congressional offices, which hire thousands of interns each year, pay very few of them. And the White House does not pay a single intern out of almost 100. Still more unpaid interns come to work for local nonprofits. And since a federal appeals court ruling last year, some private companies can hire free interns if the students earn college credit instead of wages.

Canada Post issues 72-hour lockout notice, work stoppage possible Friday

Source: Pete Evans, CBC News

Canada Post said it intends to lock out its workers starting on Friday after months of negotiations have failed to make a labour deal between the postal carrier and its largest union. The move comes hours after Canada Post said its latest offer presented on June 25 was fair and reasonable, and that it still hoped to negotiate a deal with the union. The Crown corporation blamed prolonged negotiations, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' strike mandate and the financial cost of a rapid decline in mail volume. "Nearly all of our largest e-commerce customers have already moved most or all of their parcel volumes to other carriers, resulting in a volume decline of at least 75 per cent from these customers," the carrier said in a statement Tuesday.But the 72-hour notice does not necessarily mean the mail will stop being delivered as of Friday. Rather, Canada Post says, the lockout notice allows the carrier to "take measures that are necessary to respond to the changing business reality." Both sides say they are hopeful a deal can be reached before then.

A new tipping point for the American workforce

Source: Aimee Picchi, CBS News

The American workforce has reached a historic tipping point, with college-educated workers now representing a larger share of the workforce than those with only high school diplomas. Workers with a college education or higher now represent 36 percent of the labor force, compared with 34 percent for those with only a high school diploma or less, according to a new study from Georgetown University. The remaining 30 percent of the workforce is comprised of workers with more than a high school education but less than a bachelor's degree. The shift points to the labor dynamics emerging in the post-recession years, when the majority of newly created jobs have gone to workers with at least some education beyond high school. College graduates benefited the most during the recovery, accounting for almost three-quarters of the 11.6 million jobs created after the recession, the study found. The tipping point may be exacerbating the growing divide between America's haves and have-nots, given that college-educated workers are finding jobs with solid pay, pushing the less educated into lower-paying, low-skilled jobs. "The harsh truth is the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and lead author of the report, in an interview. Jobs for high school graduates "went away and it doesn't look like they are coming back." During the recovery, Americans with graduate degrees gained 3.8 million jobs, while those with bachelor's degrees gained 4.6 million jobs. About 3 million jobs were added for those with associate's degrees or some college education, while only 80,000 jobs were created for people with high school diplomas or less. Given the escalating cost of college, some students and their parents are increasingly questioning whether it's worth going into debt for a postsecondary degree. Yet without those postsecondary credentials, workers may find fewer pathways to economic stability, given that many of the occupations that once provided a middle-class life for high-school graduates are opting to hire employees with college degrees.

July 5, 2016

San Francisco Considers Tax on Tech Companies to Pay for Boom’s Downside

Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Maria Poblet, who leads an organization that assists Latino families facing eviction in San Francisco, says she appreciates the philanthropy that the city’s technology companies do in far-flung places to address global poverty and the environment. But what she really wants to see them do is pay more taxes to help with homelessness and lower-cost housing in San Francisco. “You have a C.E.O. who cares about kids in Ghana one week or dolphins the next week. Those are important,” she said. “But the people impacted by displacement in San Francisco are a worthy cause, too.” Ms. Poblet is part of a group of activists behind an initiative by three city legislators to impose a payroll tax that would apply only to technology companies, which have been the engine of a booming economy that now appears to be slowing. Eric Mar, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors, announced the proposal last week for a 1.5 percent payroll tax that would serve as a form of indemnification for what he described as the downside of the technology boom. Tech companies have been “a tremendous benefit to the city in many ways,” Mr. Mar said. “But I don’t think they’ve been paying their fair share.” The proposal for what has become known as the tech tax comes as officials struggle to fill growing gaps in the city budget. Money from the tech tax would go toward paying for programs for the homeless and the housing “affordability crisis,” Mr. Mar said.

Behind shrinking middle-class jobs: A surge in outsourcing

Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times

For nearly 20 years Alfredo Molena made a middle-class living repairing bank ATMs in Los Angeles, despite being a high school dropout and immigrant from El Salvador. By 2000 he was earning about $45,000 a year, enough to support his wife and two children in a spacious apartment and take periodic vacations to El Salvador and Hawaii. He had health insurance, a matching 401(k) plan, and a company-supplied cellphone and vehicle. But it all unraveled in 2005 after his employer, Bank of America, subcontracted the work to Diebold Inc., a firm specializing in servicing ATMs. Today Molena drives a truck long-haul for about $30,000 a year, putting him in the bottom third of household incomes. He has no medical insurance. “I cannot afford it,” he snapped. Globalization and the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and other cheap-labor countries are commonly blamed for driving down the wages and living standards of ordinary American workers, but there is another, less-known factor behind the shrinking middle class: domestic outsourcing.

MIT pay raise shows janitors’ union clout

Source: Katie Johnston, Boston Globe

Under a new contract approved Thursday, janitors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will soon make more than $49,000 a year, nearly as much as low-level lecturers at the school earn. The janitors will be among the highest paid custodians in the country, evidence of the steady gains made since their union’s Justice for Janitors movement was launched 30 years ago. The new contract will bump up janitors’ pay to $23.67 an hour over the course of three years, according to the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents the workers. Lecturers at MIT make less than $56,000 a year on average, according to the salary website glassdoor.com. Janitors started rallying for higher pay in the mid-1980s as part of an SEIU campaign often compared to today’s Fight for $15 actions. Union janitors who took to the streets of Los Angeles in 1990 were beaten by baton-wielding police officers, spurring favorable contract negotiations and sparking a turning point in the movement. In 2002, Boston janitors went on strike for three weeks, bringing low-wage workers out of the shadows and launching a local labor movement, said Russ Davis, executive director of the workers’ advocacy group Massachusetts Jobs With Justice. “They clean the buildings at night,” Davis said. “They were very much this hidden workforce that no one knew about.”

July 1, 2016

What happens when we all become our own bosses

Source: Emily Badger, Washington Post

The “sharing economy” has evoked two possible futures for what work will look like in the years to come: one dystopian, the other idealistic. In the first, workers scurry among shopping trips, carpools, minor home repairs and menial errands so that the wealthy don’t have to. “Work” will mean piecing together other people’s tasks, with no benefits, picking up a few bucks Mechanical Turk-ing in between. In the second, the sharing economy will free workers of the 9-to-5 drudge, making more of us “micro-entrepreneurs” who set our own hours and incomes. Finally empowered to profit off our own assets and time, we won’t need traditional employers. Arun Sundararajan believes in this second vision or, at least, the idea that the first is not inevitable, that we might still redesign benefits and labor protections that would leverage the next fundamental shift in the economy for broad good. His case for optimism in his new book, “The Sharing Economy: The end of employment and the rise of crowd-based capitalism,” is compelling in large part because it comes from a business-school wonk and not a “sharing!” proselytizer devoted to the literal meaning of the word. Sundararajan, a professor at New York University, is more interested in who owns the means of production than how to create belonging (Airbnb’s buzzword) or community (part of Etsy’s mission). We’re witnessing the beginning, he argues, of a radical change in how economic activity is organized where “the ‘crowd’ replaces the corporation at the center of capitalism.” And so when you buy something a dress, a ride to the airport, a vacation rental you may get it from a marketplace of individuals rather than a big company. And when you earn income, it may come from your own car or home workshop connected over the Internet to a crowd of consumers and not an employer’s biweekly paycheck.

Rauner signs stopgap budget, school funding bill — but relief from stalemate proves temporary

Source: Monique Garcia, Kim Geiger, and Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune

Illinois political leaders cut a deal on a makeshift budget Thursday to keep state government afloat for six months, ensure schools open this fall and rescue the financially struggling Chicago Public Schools a temporary reprieve to the stalemate that's gripped the Capitol for a year and a half. Quite temporary, as it turned out. Minutes after the bill cleared the House, Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan took to the microphone and needled his chief nemesis, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. "We have seen with previous successful budget efforts that we can come together, achieve compromise and pass a budget when the governor's demands relative to his personal agenda that hurts families are dropped," Madigan said. "That happened again today." A few hours later, Rauner emerged from days of sequestration in his Capitol office and doled out praise to Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for their "flexibility" and "creativity" in the tricky negotiations. Left out of the accolades was Madigan, the guy whose power Rauner is trying to erode this fall by spending millions more of his fortune on legislative campaigns. Despite claims the budget deal would help build trust following months of scathing attacks from both sides, Rauner vowed he was not abandoning the economic agenda he's made a condition of a more permanent budget deal. Madigan maintained Democrats would stand their ideological ground. That means, at least for now, the front lines of the political battle will shift from the Capitol dome to parade routes, doorsteps and mailboxes in House and Senate districts statewide.

Unionized janitors in Denver metro area ratify new contract

Source: David Migoya, The Denver Post

The labor union representing more than 2,400 janitors won a new contract late Wednesday that increases their wage to $15 an hour by 2020 and broadens health care coverage to three outlying metro Denver counties, the union announced. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 are employed by 27 cleaning companies that operate in 180 buildings around the metro area. The membership is expected to vote on ratifying the contract July 9. The four-year contract goes into after ratification and along with pay raises will not increase health care costs, SEIU said in a statement. “We have helped raise the living standards for workers in the Denver metro area and winning a path to $15 will help the local economy for years to come,” said Patricia Robles, a janitor for ABM and vice president of SEIU Local 105. “It shows other workers that when you unite together, you can win.” The contract comes three years after Fight for $15 actions began nationally, where rallies were held to increase minimum wages to $15 an hour. Earlier this year, security guards at Denver International Airport who were SEIU members won pay raises to $15 an hour.

Unionized janitors in Denver metro area ratify new contract

Source: David Migoya, The Denver Post

The labor union representing more than 2,400 janitors won a new contract late Wednesday that increases their wage to $15 an hour by 2020 and broadens health care coverage to three outlying metro Denver counties, the union announced. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 are employed by 27 cleaning companies that operate in 180 buildings around the metro area. The membership is expected to vote on ratifying the contract July 9. The four-year contract goes into after ratification and along with pay raises will not increase health care costs, SEIU said in a statement. “We have helped raise the living standards for workers in the Denver metro area and winning a path to $15 will help the local economy for years to come,” said Patricia Robles, a janitor for ABM and vice president of SEIU Local 105. “It shows other workers that when you unite together, you can win.” The contract comes three years after Fight for $15 actions began nationally, where rallies were held to increase minimum wages to $15 an hour. Earlier this year, security guards at Denver International Airport who were SEIU members won pay raises to $15 an hour.

June 30, 2016

5th Cir. Revives Texas Suit Over EEOC Criminal Check Guidance

Source: Kevin McGowan, Bloomberg

June 28 — The state of Texas may challenge in court the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's enforcement guidance on employers' use of criminal background checks, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled ( Texas v. EEOC, 5th Cir., No. 14-10949, 6/27/16 ). In a 2-1 decision, the appeals panel said a federal district court erred by dismissing the state's lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Instead, the Fifth Circuit said Texas as a state employer has standing because it is covered by the EEOC's 2012 guidance and must alter its hiring policies or incur significant costs if the guidance were enforced against the state. The guidance also is a “final agency action” subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, the court said. The decision clears the way for a potential district court ruling on whether the EEOC's guidance exceeds the agency's authority under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Depending on how broadly the lower court frames the issue, it could resolve that question for Texas alone or more generally for all public and private employers, said Gerald Maatman, a management lawyer with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. The EEOC has drawn “pretty widespread criticism” regarding its criminal check guidance for acting more like a legislature than an enforcement agency, Maatman told Bloomberg BNA June 28. Employers “should applaud” the Fifth Circuit's ruling and will be watching “very closely” to see what the district court does, he said.

To Compete Better, States Are Trying to Curb Noncompete Pacts

Source: Steve Lohr, New York Times

In today’s on-your-own economy, workers are urged to be entrepreneurial job hoppers, constantly adapting and searching for the next opportunity. But an estimated 30 million Americans nearly one fifth of the nation’s work force are hobbled by so-called noncompete agreements, fine print in their employment contracts that keeps them from working for corporate rivals in their next job. Now a number of states are looking to untangle workers from these agreements. The Massachusetts House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this week on a noncompete reform bill. The state is also the location of a union organizing campaign on the noncompete practices of the EMC Corporation, a large technology company based in Hopkinton, Mass., that is known for its aggressive application of these employment contracts. Other states are also taking steps as noncompete agreements have spread to summer interns and sandwich shop employees. Hawaii banned noncompete agreements for technology jobs last year, while New Mexico passed a law prohibiting noncompetes for health care workers. And Oregon and Utah have limited the duration of noncompete arrangements. At the federal level, the White House published a report on noncompete contracts in May that concluded “noncompetes can impose substantial costs on workers, consumers and the economy more generally.” The Treasury Department also issued a report this year criticizing the excessive use of the contracts.

For Employees, Workplace Technology Stirs Up Both Angst And Exuberance

Source: Joe McKendrick, Forbes

For today’s employees, the increasing digitization of enterprises is a mixed bag. The threat of automation is real, yet technology is also putting employees in greater control of their careers to a degree never seen before. So, from an employee perspective, technology giveth and technology taketh away. The technology paradox was highlighted in a recent study from ADP Research, which found both angst and exuberance about workplace technology. The study, which covered 2,403 employees across the globe, found that while most workplace changes are perceived positively, there is fear that automation and smart machines will replace work being done by humans. Ninety percent of people believe technology will allow for deeper connections across distance and time. However, 45 percent fear that automation, smart machines and artificial intelligence will replace people for repetitive work. The ADP study also finds job security is a concept that has taken on a different meaning it is no longer provided by employers, but is managed by employees themselves. Previously, individuals defined security by tenure. “Today, with shifts in the workplace especially increased automation employees define security by the reach of their professional network and the ability to tap into relationships to find non-linear jobs that can extend a career,” the report’s authors report. In addition, 89 percent of respondents will choose to work on personal interests or things that impact society and 82 percent will define their own work schedule.

June 29, 2016

Atlantic City Inches Closer To Casino Workers Strike

Source: Darren Heitner, Forbes

Many workers ask their employers for time off prior to the start of a long July 4 holiday in the United States. On July 1, Atlantic City casinos may not have a choice in the matter as the New Jersey city’s casino workers plan to embark on a strike. These workers have likely been made aware of statistics from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released in April, which indicate that Atlantic City’s eight casinos collectively enhanced their operating profits by over 40% in 2015. Seven of the eight casinos increased their operating profits. Now roughly 6,000 casino workers who handle everything from preparing food to cleaning rooms could go on strike unless concessions are made by the largest casino operators. Atlantic City’s main casino workers’ union has indicated that it is very likely that a strike will break out against at least one of the main casinos in the jurisdiction, which includes Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal. The union’s position is that workers made concessions in the recent past when casinos were traveling through tough times and that workers are past due for a raise. An important item on the casino workers’ agenda is to bargain for a return of health care and pension benefits for those employed at the Trump Taj Mahal. If a strike takes place, expect the Trump Taj Mahal to serve as ground zero on July 1. The Trump Taj Mahal is owned by billionaire Carl Icahn.

Proposed San Francisco Tech Payroll Tax Would Raise Millions

Source: CBS News San Francisco, CBS News

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Tech companies in San Francisco have received millions of dollars in tax breaks for years, but now some city politicians want to make an exception to that rule. The proposed ballot measure would come in the form a new payroll tax in San Francisco that large tech companies would have to pay. Revenue raised from it would help fight the city’s two biggest problems: homelessness and the housing crunch. From Yelp to AirBnB, tech companies have seen wild success in the past few years. And now the city they call home wants to cash in. “It’s going after the large companies to pay their fair share,” said SF Supervisor Eric Mar. Mar is behind the ballot measure that would slap a 1.5 percent payrolltax on tech companies, but not the little fish. His proposal focuses on tech companies with more than one million dollars in gross revenue. “This is a way of assessing a fair share for these large tech companies that have benefited greatly from the city’s tax policies over the past five years,” explained Mar.

District of Columbia mayor signs $15/hour minimum wage into law

Source: Ian Simpson and Alstair Bell, Reuters

The District of Columbia's mayor has signed a $15-an-hour minimum wage into law, a rate adopted by a growing number of U.S. cities and states seeking to battle income inequality. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the measure late on Monday. The bill boosts minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020, with subsequent hikes tied to inflation. "Three months ago, I said we would take up the #FightFor15 inDC and I am so excited to sign it into law today!" Bowser, a Democrat, said on her Twitter feed. The bill had been unanimously approved by the city council. It was opposed by business owners who argued that it would raise costs and lead to automation, and would make the city less competitive with neighboring suburbs. Washington joins California and New York in making $15 the hourly minimum. At least eight cities, including Seattle, have also approved the $15 base. Supporters had said that Washington's robust economy and growing population meant it could support a higher minimum wage.

June 28, 2016

For Detroit’s Children, More School Choice but Not Better Schools

Source: Kate Zernike, New York Times

DETROIT — On the face of it, Ana Rivera could have had almost any choice when it came to educating her two sons. For all the abandoned buildings and burned-down houses in her neighborhood in the southwest part of this city, national charter school companies had seen a market and were setting up shop within blocks of each other, making it easier to find a charter school than to buy a carton of milk. But hers became the story of public education in a city grasping for its comeback: lots of choice, with no good choice. She enrolled her older son, Damian, at the charter school across from her house, where she could watch him walk into the building. He got all A’s and said he wanted to be an engineer. But the summer before seventh grade, he found himself in the back of a classroom at a science program at the University of Michigan, struggling to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, known as the worst urban district in the nation. They knew the human body is made up of many cells; he had never learned that. When his school stopped assigning homework, Ms. Rivera tried enrolling Damian at other charters, but the deadlines were past, the applications onerous. Finally, she found him a scholarship at a Catholic school, where he struggled to rise above Ds all year. “He doesn’t want to hear the word engineering,” she said. Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos. Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States. While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.

Labor unions file lawsuits challenging ‘right-to-work’

Source: Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail

Eleven state labor unions filed petitions in Kanawha Circuit Court Monday challenging the state’s new “right-to-work” law as an illegal taking of union property and resources. “First and foremost, it’s unconstitutional because it’s an illegal taking of property without due process,” said Josh Sword, secretary treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, one of the 11 plaintiffs. The lawsuit, and a motion for a preliminary injunction to block the law from going into effect July 1, contends that the Workplace Freedom Act (SB 1) is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free.” Vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, but enacted into law by override votes with no Democratic support in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Senate, the legislation allows employees in union shops to opt out of paying union dues. The lawsuit contends that amounts to an illegal taking of unions’ property and resources, since state and federal labor laws require unions to negotiate contracts and provide representation to the non-union employees at “considerable cost” to the unions. “Requiring unions to provide services to free riders while simultaneously prohibiting unions from charging for those services necessarily takes union funds and directs them to be expended on behalf of third parties,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit contends one intent of the law is to discourage employees from joining unions. “Why, the employee would ask, should I pay for something that the law requires be made available to me for nothing,” the petition states. “Such a circumstance would naturally and predictably seriously burden a union’s ability to recruit and retain members.” In April, a Wisconsin circuit court judge overturned that state’s right-to-work law in a case that similarly argued the law amounts to an unconstitutional taking of union property and resources. That ruling has been stayed, pending an appeal to the Wisconsin state Supreme Court.

EEOC Settles One of Its First Sexual Orientation Lawsuits

Source: Kevin McGowan, Bloomberg

June 24 — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a Maryland employer have settled for about $200,000 one of the agency's first lawsuits against a private employer alleging that sexual orientation bias violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act ( EEOC v. Pallet Cos., D. Md., No. 16-595, consent decree 6/23/16 ). The settlement is a “very positive resolution” that “reflects the EEOC's commitment” to litigating the Title VII sexual orientation issue, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. The EEOC's settlement of its complaint against Pallet Cos. requires the packaging supplies company to pay $182,200 to Yolanda Boone, a lesbian former employee who said she was harassed because of her sexual orientation and fired in retaliation for complaining about it. The company, which operates as IFCO Systems, also would contribute $20,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights advocacy organization, according to the consent decree filed June 23 in federal district court. Sexual orientation isn't listed as a protected category under Title VII, but the EEOC contends that bias based on sexual orientation is inherently sex discrimination. No federal appeals court has ruled that Title VII prohibits bias based solely on sexual orientation. Judge Catherine C. Blake of the federal district court in Maryland still must sign the consent decree between the EEOC and Pallet.

June 27, 2016

For Md. workers who may have been shortchanged, a hotline and many questions

Source: Josh Hicks, Washington Post

Corrections officers, hospital staff and other Maryland public employees have flooded a state hotline with calls since the government admitted it has shortchanged many workers for overtime, night shifts and special assignments that involve extra pay. “Our members all have the same big three questions: Who was underpaid, for how long, and when will it be fixed?” said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3, the largest union representing Maryland public employees. State officials say they still do not know the exact scope of the problem, but they say it could stretch back decades, affecting up to 13,000 current employees and an unknown number of retired and former public workers. [Maryland underpaid state employees possibly 13,000 of them] Employees such as Catherine Frazier, a personal-care assistant and AFSCME representative at the state-run Spring Grove Hospital in Catonsville, are frustrated as they wait for answers. “At one point, I was doing overtime every day,” Frazier said. “Why should we try to work overtime to get extra money if we’re not going to get all of it?” The Department of Budget and Management discovered the problem while testing a new digital payroll program that the state installed at most agencies after May 25. Previously, the state was using dozens of different payroll systems, many of which were paper-based and required manual calculations that could lead to human error. By running old timesheet data through the new program, officials realized that the computer numbers did not match the manual calculations from the past. The review looked at compensation for 100 employees from 24 agencies, according to union officials who were briefed on the analysis. The Department of Budget and Management plans to conduct a new round of tests in coming days to gain a better sense of how many workers have been affected by errors and how much back pay the government might owe. Department officials have offered few specifics about what that work will entail.

What will happen if Atlantic City casino workers strike?

Source: The Associated Press, Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY — Atlantic City's main casino workers union is threatening to go on strike against five of the city's eight casinos on July 1 unless a new contract is reached by then. The union is seeking to recoup benefits and compensation it gave back to the casinos in past negotiations when the gambling houses were in dire shape. Here's a look at the major issues, and the impact a walkout is likely to have on the casinos, the workers and the city: THE ISSUE The strike threat by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union involves trying to get back things it gave up or did without in past negotiations. That includes health and pension benefits, vacation and other time off, and of course, salary. The union says that its members have seen their salaries increase by only 80 cents per hour since 2004 and that it's time to ensure a decent living wage for members. The casinos are just starting to see their finances stabilize after a horrendous period that saw four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos shut down in 2014 amid competition in neighboring states. But Atlantic City could soon have competition within its own borders: New Jersey voters will decide in November whether to authorize two new casinos near New York City. A study commissioned by Resorts Casino Hotel for an anti-expansion group predicts that northern New Jersey casinos would cause three to five of Atlantic City's eight casinos to close. A study by an independent Wall Street firm predicted as many as four could close.

The Supreme Court Has Left an Undocumented Workforce in Limbo

Source: Alexia Fernandez Campbell, Atlantic

“Heartbreaking.” “Discouraging.” This is how immigration-reform advocates have described the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision or lackthereof on the constitutionality of President Obama’s deportation-relief program. “Across the country, business owners, growers, hotel builders, they were really looking forward to having a stable and legal workforce,” says Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. “Now we’re back to square two.” Expanding the program to a larger group of undocumented youth, plus many of their parents, could have added up to five million people to the U.S. workforce. Instead, the Supreme Court’s deadlock in Texas v. United States means that a lower court’s decision to halt the program and the possibility of legal job opportunities for many undocumented workers still stands. Since the ruling, little has been said about the 800,000-plus undocumented youth currently allowed to work under the original 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants work authorization and deportation protection to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. President Obama merely said the current injunction wouldn’t apply to those allowed to work under the 2012 program, since the injunction was aimed at the expansion of the program, which he announced in 2014. That expansion would have granted protection to a much larger group of immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids, plus their parents. Now, the future of the program is very much in limbo, depending on who becomes the next president and who that president subsequently nominates to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

June 23, 2016

Ugly Divorce’ No Grounds for Getting Fired, State High Court Rules

Source: Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal

Employees may not be fired for getting divorced, even when a marital separation threatens to turn “ugly,” New Jersey’s highest court ruled. In a wrongful discrimination case, the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a former employee of a non-profit group that provides emergency medical transportation and rescue services. The plaintiff, Robert Smith, had been employed as director of operations of the Millville Rescue Squad. He claims he was fired in 2006 after informing his supervisor that he was “engaged in an affair with a volunteer worker, and that he and his wife, who also worked for the rescue squad, were separated and about to commence divorce proceedings,” according to the court’s opinion.

White TV anchor fired after racial comments fights back with discrimination lawsuit

Source: Katie Mettler, Washington Post

In March, a white award-winning broadcast news anchor in Pittsburgh posted on her professional Facebook page what she claimed was a heartfelt call to action on the perceived black-on-black crime epidemic in the United States, particularly in the city she’d covered for almost 20 years.The post came two weeks after she covered a mass shooting at a backyard barbecue that left four people injured and six dead, including a pregnant woman, in Wilkinsburg, a majority black borough. The district attorney called the heinous crime calculated, planned and one of the “most brutal” he had seen in his 18-year tenure.Police did not immediately release names or descriptions of the suspects. When WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell took to Facebook, there had been no arrests.Yet the veteran journalist drew her own conclusions about the perpetrators anyway, comments that were decried as racist and demeaning — and that eventually cost her her job...Now Bell is striking back. On Monday, an attorney for the mother of five filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf claiming that if she were black, her Facebook post would not have been considered a fireable offense in the eyes of her employer.

The next $15: Seattle’s latest labor movement is about scheduling — and power

Source: Bethany Jean Clement, The Seattle TImes

From “clopens” to on-call work, tales from restaurant and retail workers show how scheduling practices stink, sometimes literally. James was on a three-hour break between shifts. He didn’t want to give his last name or the name of the restaurant where he works, as he was concerned about his continued employment there. He’d just worked 10 hours; now he had this three-hour break, and then he’d have, he estimated, four or five hours back on. In the restaurant industry, James said, this was “very common.” He looked tired and — not to be unkind — greasy; he smelled like a man who’d just worked a 10-hour restaurant shift, equal parts old food and human effort.“Life’s a pisser,” James said. “I’m used to it.” But he used his break to support the new movement for secure scheduling in Seattle, at an event put on by Working Washington — the people who led the way for the city’s $15 minimum wage — and the blog Seattlish. It was a Secure Scheduling Storytelling Slam: an activist version of The Moth–style live storytelling.

June 22, 2016

Study: Social media now a workplace tool for some

Source: Ryan W. Miller, USA Today

While a majority of workers in the USA still don’t use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for work-related purposes, those who do are finding some benefits to the networking platforms, according to a Pew Research Center study out Wednesday. The study of more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed how Americans use social media in their professional lives for either work or non-work related purposes. Although only 19% of workers use Facebook and 3% use Twitter for work-related purposes, 78% say these sites are useful for networking and finding new job opportunities. Seventy-one percent of surveyed workers find these platforms useful for connecting with others in their field. Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at Pew, said the study, which tried to look at both the positive and negative aspects of social media in Americans' work lives, indicates a shrinking separation between people's work and personal lives.

D.C. Cir. Finds NLRB Order Clashed With Precedent

Source: Lawrence E. Dube, Bloomberg

The National Labor Relations Board didn't properly conclude that a construction company interfered with employee rights and unlawfully assisted a union where the board failed to distinguish its earlier ruling in another case that was “on point and controlling,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held ( NLRB v. Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, 2016 BL 197743, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1212, 6/21/16 ). The NLRB held that Garner/Morrison LLC illegally conducted “surveillance” of employees and assisted the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters at a meeting with employees, but Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the court June 21 that the board “evaluated nearly identical conduct and the same legal questions” and reached a contrary result in a 1964 decision involving another employer. Finding the similarities between the two cases were significant enough that the board needed to distinguish the earlier case or explain its deviation from the precedent, the appeals court vacated the board's unfair labor practice findings against Garner/Morrison and the Carpenters.

June 21, 2016

Has your workplace turned into a political battleground?

Source: Ed Leefeldt, CBS News

Flip on the TV, and all you hear are the insults the presidential candidates spew at each other. Fistfights erupt at rallies, and demonstrators battle with police outside. Cleveland and Philadelphia, hosting the summer conventions, have bought riot insurance.So what's it like at your office? Is a Hillary supporter glaring at you? Is a Trump follower putting up bumper stickers in the break room? And what about that shouting at the water cooler? If you believe a new report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which polled 457 human resource professionals in May, things aren't too bad ... yet. Employees acknowledged that there's "greater political volatility" in the workplace, with more than a quarter reporting "tension, hostility or arguments" among co-workers. Roughly two-thirds said nothing had changed, and a mere 5 percent reported less agita on the job than in previous years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen: Slowdown in job market likely ‘transitory’

Source: Ylan Q. Mui, Washington Post

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen expressed hope Tuesday morning that the slowdown in the U.S. job market would prove temporary, but she emphasized that the central bank would be cautious in raising interest rates again.Yellen, testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, acknowledged that hiring has dropped off sharply in recent months but also pointed to early signs that wages are beginning to rise after years of stagnation. She said she is "optimistic" that the progress in employment will continue. "We believe that will turn around, expect it to turnaround, but we are taking a cautious approach … to make sure that expectation is born out," Yellen told lawmakers

Labor Department needs to clarify change to overtime rules, rules Supreme Court

Source: Associated Press, Associated Press

The Supreme Court says the Labor Department must do a better job of explaining why it is changing a longstanding policy on whether certain workers deserve overtime pay.The justices on Monday asked a lower court to take another look at whether federal law allows the agency to require overtime pay for people working as service advisers at auto dealerships.The 6-2 ruling comes in a case involving a California auto dealer that claims its service advisers are similar to car salesmen or mechanics, who are exempt from overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

June 20, 2016

Why America’s men aren’t working

Source: Ylan Q. Mui, Washington Post

The national unemployment rate has fallen by more than half since the nation emerged from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It peaked at 10 percent in 2010 and stood at just 4.7 percent last month. That’s mostly good news: Private employers have added more than 14 million jobs. About 2 million people have been out of a job for six months or longer, far too many but only about a quarter of the number of long-term unemployed people seven years ago. By almost every measure, the labor market has made incredible progress. But there’s one statistic that has been vexing economists. The size of the nation’s workforce -- known as the labor force participation rate -- continues to fall. Since the start of the downturn, the percentage of that population that has a job or is looking for one has dropped more than 3 percentage points, to 62.6 percent, a level not seen since the 1970s. The problem is particularly pronounced among men between the ages of 25 and 54, traditionally considered the prime working years. Their participation rate has been declining for decades, but the drop-off accelerated during the recession. The high mark was 98 percent in 1954, and it now stands at 88 percent. A new analysis from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, slated for release Monday, found that the United States now has the third-lowest participation rate for “prime-age men” among the world’s developed countries.

Why the buffet of employee benefits has exploded over the past 20 years

Source: Jena McGregor , Washington Post

Student loan repayment. Lengthy parental leave. Unlimited vacation. Company-paid wedding expenses.
If it seems like the menu of employee benefits is turning into an ever more varied and sundry buffet of assorted perks, it is. The twentieth annual employee benefits survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, released Monday, now tracks nearly 350 fringe benefits offered to workers by their employees. New this year: Paid foster child leave, coverage for health care services provided by video, genetic testing coverage for diseases like cancer. That number represents an exponential growth such extras tracked in the annual survey. Twenty years ago, it asked H.R. professionals about 60 perks. Ten years ago, it surveyed them on 219.

June 19, 2016

Airbnb Vows to Fight Racism, but It's Users Can't Sue to Prompt Fairness

Source: Katie Benner, New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, made a vow this month to root out bigotry from his business. His online room-sharing company has recently been grappling with claims of discrimination, with several Airbnb users sharing stories on social media about how they were supposedly denied a booking because of their race. The issue came into the open in December, when a working paper by Harvard University researchers found it was harder for guests with African-American-sounding names to rent rooms through the site.
“This is a huge issue for us,” Mr. Chesky said at a company eventin San Francisco in early June. “We will be revisiting the design of our site from end to end to see how we can create a more inclusive platform.” But even as Mr. Chesky promised to stamp out racism from Airbnb, the company’s class-action litigation policy makes it tough — if not impossible — for customers to push the start-up to make any substantive changes on the issue. Airbnb requires that people agree to waive their right to sue, or to join in any class-action lawsuit or class-action arbitration, to use the service.

June 18, 2016

Union Authorizes July Strike Against 5 Atlantic City Casinos

Source: Wayne Parry, ABC News

Atlantic City's casino workers say they'll go on strike against five of the city's eight casinos on July 1 if a contract isn't reached by then. Members of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union voted Thursday to authorize a strike against Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's and the Tropicana. The union had already authorized a strike against the Trump Taj Mahal. A spokesman said Thursday several thousand workers cast ballots, which were 96 percent in favor of a strike. The remaining three casinos Borgata, Golden Nugget and Resorts have been given an indefinite extension by the union, which says talks with them have been making progress. The union says workers made painful sacrifices that need to be reversed now that Atlantic City's casinos are regaining their financial footing. "To me the most insulting thing is that in 2011 this union gave up part of its package to help the casinos when they were struggling," union president Bob McDevitt said. The vote comes at a precarious point for Atlantic City as it begins to stabilize from the loss of four of its 12 casinos in 2014, grapples with a $100 million budget shortfall and tries to fight off a state takeover and the prospect of in-state competition from two proposed casinos in the northern part of the state. "These five employers clearly are not in touch with what their employees are feeling," McDevitt said. "What is happening at the table is an insult. The day before a strike vote, Tropicana offered a five-year wage freeze. The day before!" Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, which runs the Tropicana and the Taj Mahal, said the company has invested $160 million at the Tropicana since 2011.

Why U.S. companies hope French workers lose their sweet deal

Source: Michael Molinski, USA Today

PARIS — France’s government is on the verge of drastically changing its centuries-old Labor Code to make it easier to hire and fire workers and companies in America are waiting for the ripple effects to wash ashore. At its heart, among the many bylaws in the 3,400-page Labor Code are laws that protect jobs so that a corporation can’t fire a worker without due cause. Companies in France as well as companies in America want to change the Labor Code to make it more flexible. French companies, they say, can’t be competitive without these changes. French workers and students taking to the streets to protest the changes, and the people of France are with them. A survey last week by French polling company IFOP showed that six of 10 French people support the strikes. What are the changes? Under the proposed changes, large companies would be able to negotiate deals with their staffs directly, rather than go through unions, to work longer than the 35-hour week currently allowed, at lower wages. Companies can do this only at times when they face economic difficulties or are seeking to boost market share. The changes also would make it easier for companies to use economic reasons to justify layoffs. In addition, unions would have less influence on negotiating salaries, paid holidays, bonuses and pensions. The unions are staunchly opposed to the changes, saying they could lead to a reduction of workers’ rights, benefits and job protection. The changes are a “danger to our rights, and our lives,” read a social media headline published by Mobilization Paris 1, a group representing students at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, one of France’s biggest universities. The students were supposed to be one of the sectors of society that would be in support of the changes, but instead, the students oppose them, saying they would jeopardize equality.

Cleveland councilmen propose phased-in approach to city's $15 minimum wage plan

Source: Leila Atassi, Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland City Councilmen Jeffrey Johnson and Brian Cummins have introduced proposals to phase in a $15 an-hour citywide minimum wage over five to six years – alternatives to a plan submitted by a group of petitioners that would set the wage at $15 beginning in January. Johnson told cleveland.com Wednesday that his proposal calls for workers to be paid at least $12 an hour in 2017, with 75 cent raises during each of the next four years. Starting in 2022, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation. A similar plan submitted by Cummins takes a slightly more incremental approach, beginning at $8.85 in 2017, with annual 10 or 11 percent raises until 2022. Both Johnson and Cummins have said that phasing in the wage hike addresses the issues raised by local economists, who testified during a recent council hearing that the original proposal would be too high, too fast, and that the net result would be a loss of jobs and businesses. "I believe this will answer the concerns of the business community, while still achieving our goals of rectifying income inequality and creating a living wage for the citizens of Cleveland," he said. Whether a majority of council would support such alternatives is unclear. Johnson is the only member who has expressed support for the original proposal, and he is not a member of council's influential leadership team. Council President Kevin Kelley has said he opposes raising the minimum wage only in the city, but would support a statewide initiative. The city currently does not have a citywide minimum wage, though the state's minimum wage is $8.10 an hour.

June 17, 2016

Paid sick leave proposal passes City Council committee

Source: Alexa Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune

Chicago took a major step Thursday toward requiring nearly all employers to offer workers paid sick leave, with a measure excoriated by some business interest groups as overly complicated and inconsiderate of business owners' needs. Workers and labor organizers cheered after the City Council's Committee on Workforce Development and Audit approved the earned sick time ordinance proposal in a unanimous voice vote. The full City Council is expected to consider the measure at Wednesday's meeting. Under the proposed ordinance, employees would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, with a cap of five sick days in a 12-month period. Employers could offer more if they wish. If approved, Chicago would join 26 other U.S. cities, five states and one county with paid sick time laws on the books, according to A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group on work-family policies. The Chicago measure would take effect July 1, 2017.

BPS teachers take part in ‘walk-in’ over union contract

Source: Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe

Boston teachers and their supporters are taking part in a “walk-in” demonstration before classes Friday morning to call on the School Department to negotiate a fair contract with the Boston Teachers Union, the union said. At Sumner Elementary School, teachers and students marched out of the building and into Roslindale Square holding signs that read “Fully fund BPS!” and “Fighting for English Language Learners! Join us!” The Boston Teachers Union contract expires Aug. 31. “Our members recognize the unfairness and shortsightedness of the department’s latest proposals, which will harm our students, compromise teaching and learning, and impose harsh measures on our professional teaching force,” union president Richard Stutman said in an e-mail to members Tuesday.

Microsoft fights ruling that strengthens definition of employee

Source: Mario Trujillo, The Hill

Microsoft and a high-powered list of business trade groups are fighting to block a government ruling that strengthens employment standards for temporary contractors. In a brief filed this week, the technology giant warned that more harm than good would come from a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that could require companies like it to treat contractors as actual employees. Microsoft previously received praise from the White House for only hiring contracting firms that give their employees at least 15 days of paid leave. But the company said that those requirements could actually put Microsoft on the hook as a joint employer under the new NLRB ruling. Microsoft is against that because the ruling has already opened the company up to collective bargaining pressure from its contractors, and could lead to striking. The company said it is counterintuitive that President Obama could applaud Microsoft’s policy as “great work” for families, while at the same time the NLRB rule discourages others from taking up those policies of “corporate social responsibility." “Unfortunately, the Board’s unprecedented new joint employer standard, and subsequent events stemming from it, have deterred others from joining Microsoft in this important effort,” Microsoft’s lawyers argued. The case challenging the NLRB rule is currently at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A number of groups, along with Microsoft, filed friend of the court briefs in the case this week. They include the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and a number of others.

June 16, 2016

Macy's strike apparently avoided

Source: CBS/AP, CBS News

NEW YORK -- Contract negotiations between Macy's (M) and the union representing workers at the company's flagship store in New York City continued early Thursday in an effort to reach a deal and avoid a strike -- and the effort seems to have paid off. The union involved posted word on its Facebook page at about 5:00 a.m. Thursday, saying, "THE NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE HAS APPROVED A TENTATIVE AGREEMENT!! Everyone should report for their regular shifts." The union had said workers wouldn't walk out Thursday morning, but if no agreement had been reached, a strike was possible later in the day. The old contract expired at midnight Wednesday. Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents the 5,000 workers including the 3,500 from the store, said key issues that still needed to be resolved included health care, unpredictable schedules and pension plans for senior employees. The store, a tourist attraction famous for its prominence in the city's Thanksgiving Day parade, hasn't had a strike since 1972. Workers in branch stores in the Bronx, Queens and White Plains, New York, were prepared to strike, as well. "In these continued negotiations for a fair contract at Macy's, we have support from countless leaders and allies in New York and across the country," Appelbaum said. "Macy's needs to move quickly to put in place a real framework for a new contract that addresses the needs of workers." Seeing the threat of a strike as real, Macy's placed ads seeking temporary workers in local newspapers including The New York Times. Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan said earlier, "We are committed to keeping the lines of communication open and continuing the talks round-the-clock with the goal of reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable both for our workers and the company." The ads seeking temporary workers are a "standard but necessary practice" to ensure preparedness in the event of a strike, she added.

Visa Abuses Harm American Workers

Source: The Editorial Board, New York Times

There is no doubt that H-1B visas temporary work permits for specially talented foreign professionals are instead being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, recently became the latest large American company to use the visas in this way, following the lead of other employers, including Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), Disney, Toys “R” Us and New York Life.The visas are supposed to be used only to hire college-educated foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialized knowledge,” and only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. But in many cases, laid-off American workers have been required to train their lower-paid replacements. Lawmakers from both parties have denounced the visa abuse, but it is increasingly widespread, mainly because of loopholes in the law. For example, in most instances, companies that hire H-1B workers are not required to recruit Americans before hiring from overseas. Similarly, companies are able to skirt the rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing the actual hiring of those workers to Tata, Infosys and other temporary staffing firms, mostly based in India.Criticism of the visa process has been muted, and reform has moved slowly, partly because laid-off American workers mostly tech employees replaced by Indian guest workers have not loudly protested. Their reticence does not mean acceptance or even resignation. As explained in The Times on Sunday by Julia Preston, most of the displaced workers had to sign agreements prohibiting them from criticizing their former employers as a condition of receiving severance pay. The gag orders have largely silenced the laid-off employees, while allowing the employers to publicly defend their actions as legal, which is technically accurate, given the loopholes in the law.

Beer Distributor Fighting NLRB Drug Test Ruling in 2nd Cir.

Source: Lawrence E. Dube, Bloomberg

June 14 — The National Labor Relations Board held last year that a New York employer illegally denied a worker's request to have a union representative present at a company-ordered drug test, but Manhattan Beer Distributors LLC is vigorously challenging the board's decision in the Second Circuit ( Manhattan Beer Distributors LLC v. NLRB, 2d Cir., No. 15-1485, briefing completed 6/13/16 ). In a 2-1 decision (362 N.L.R.B No. 192, 204 LRRM 1322 (2015)), NLRB Members Kent Y. Hirozawa and Lauren McFerran held Manhattan Beer gave a driver who allegedly smelled of marijuana an illegal ultimatum when the employee couldn't locate a union steward—take a drug test without representation or face the termination of his employment. Then-Member Harry I. Johnson dissented from the ruling. The company and the NLRB are divided on whether a drug test was an investigatory “interview” or whether it was more like examinations and tests where union representation has not been considered a statutory right. In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the employer argued in a June 13 brief that the NLRB majority ignored a long-standing distinction between an interview presenting a “confrontation” that triggers the right to union representation and “investigatory tools” like examinations and tests that do not entitle a worker to union representation. The NLRB argued that Joe Garcia Diaz's encounter with Manhattan Beer managers “clearly was confrontational, and constituted an investigatory interview.”

June 14, 2016

D.C. Cir. Backs NLRB Award of Union's Bargaining Expenses

Source: Lawrence E. Dube, Bloomberg

June 10 — The National Labor Relations Board had the authority to order two Illinois nursing homes to pay a union's bargaining expenses as a remedy for the employer's unfair labor practices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held ( Camelot Terrace, Inc. v. NLRB, 2016 BL 185321, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1071, 6/10/16 ). Writing for the court June 10, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said Camelot Terrace Inc. and Galesburg Terrace Inc. did not dispute that they engaged in serious unfair labor practices. She wrote that “we have little trouble concluding that awarding bargaining costs in the appropriate case is within the Board's statutory remedial authority.” However, the court declined to enforce the board's order that the nursing homes pay litigation costs incurred by a labor union and the NLRB's general counsel. The D.C. Circuit recently held that the board lacks statutory authority for such remedial orders. Labor Board Ordered Employer Payments The NLRB said in a 2011 decision (357 N.L.R.B. No. 161, 192 LRRM 1179 (2011); (04 DLR A-1, 1/6/12), that the evidence presented showed the nursing homes “blatantly circumvented the bargaining process and disregarded their statutory bargaining obligation by unilaterally implementing numerous changes in the employees' terms and conditions of employment and engaging in direct dealings with employees.” The board adopted an administrative law judge's findings that the company made patently unreasonable contract proposals, including a proposed ban on union leafletting within 5,000 feet of a facility and a proposal that union-represented employees be allowed to resolve grievances with management and without the union's involvement. The board ordered traditional remedies, including the reinstatement of an illegally discharged employee, but it also agreed on a 3-0 vote to order the employer to compensate a Service Employees International Union local for its bargaining expenses incurred after commencement of the employer's illegal conduct.

Liberal Return Policies for Consumers Can Reduce Retail Workers’ Pay

Source: Rachel Abrams, New York Times

Earnestine Gay, a longtime worker in the fragrance department at Macy’s in Herald Square, clearly remembers a bottle of perfume that was returned recently. It was practically empty. “There was maybe a spray left,” Ms. Gay, 50, said. Yet Ms. Gay knew that the bottle, bought weeks earlier, would probably lower her commission because it would count against her sales for that week. The perfume’s return was not terribly unusual. These days, people are returning goods in record numbers, and often in worse condition, encouraged by the flexible return policies adopted by e-commerce sites like Amazon and the brick-and-mortar stores trying to keep pace. But unlike returns at online retailers, those at many department stores have a side effect: They can unexpectedly lower a worker’s paycheck weeks or months after a sale is made. “If you’re thinking, ‘This is my income for the week,’ and then you find out a month later, ‘Oh that wasn’t my income at all,’ you have to plan pretty far into the future,” said Stephanie Luce, a professor of labor studies at the City University of New York. Some of the country’s leading department stores allow returns for up to one year, like Nordstrom, or set no time limit at all, like Macy’s. The commissions paid to sales representatives at Macy’s can be affected by returns made within six months, while returns at Nordstrom affect workers for up to a year. These windows, union leaders say, are too long and fuel a culture of returns that has added instability to the paychecks of retail workers.

What If The Drivers Owned Uber, An NYU Professor Asks

Source: George Anders, Forbes

Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, has been thinking a lot about the impact of Uber, Airbnb and other companies that are defining “the sharing economy.” In a new book, Sundarajan caps off 220 pages of careful analysis with a provocative final chapter that explores what could happen if, in effect, the drivers owned Uber. Right now, the leading lights of the sharing economy are set up as traditional corporations, with ownership being divided between management and outside investors. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a little ironic, though, given the actual mechanics of the people-empowering ways that these companies do business. Lodging-oriented companies such as Airbnb and OneFineStay, for example, don’t operate hotels. Instead, they provide social platforms that let millions of property owners around the world act like mini-hotels themselves, renting out spare rooms to whatever travelers might come their way. Airbnb and its ilk make money by charging a commission on each transaction. It’s the same story with companies such as Uber, Lyft and Bla Bla Car, which are making huge inroads into the hired-ride business that used to be the preserve of taxi and limousine companies. The newcomers don’t own any fleets of cars or have drivers formally on their payrolls. Instead, they provide a social platform that lets countless car-owners pick up side income as occasional (or frequent) drivers for hire. Sundararajan’s sympathies lie with these legions of new micro-entrepreneurs, trying to build successful new lines of work in the sharing economy. In his book, “The Sharing Economy,” the NYU professor expresses concern that everything could turn into “a disparaging race to the bottom that leaves workers around the world working more hours for less money and with minimal job security and benefits.”

June 13, 2016

Which Labor Market Data Should You Believe?

Source: Binyamin Appelbaum, New York Times

When the unemployment rate falls below 5 percent, it usually means things are going pretty well. It was 4.7 percent in May, a level last seen in November 2007. A different measure of the economy’s health, however, is beeping and flashing red. It says that labor market conditions have deteriorated with each passing month this year. In May, it fell to its lowest level in seven years. Called the Labor Market Conditions Index, it has been billed as a more complete measurement than that old war horse, the unemployment rate. There are two possible explanations for the index’s decline: one somewhat comforting, and the other scary. Let’s do comfort first. It’s possible we’re not making progress because we’ve more or less arrived at our destination what economists call full employment. This somewhat misleading term doesn’t mean that everyone has a job. It means that the reservoir of people seeking work has receded to a historically normal level. There is some evidence for this. Notably, the low unemployment rate. But there are also some pretty strong reasons for skepticism. My personal favorite: In 2007, about 88 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 were working. Now, roughly 85 percent of such men are working.

Seattle must address the painful realities of on-demand economy

Source: Elizabeth J. Kennedy, The Seattle TImes

IN recent weeks, Uber heralded its emerging fleet of self-driving cars and $3.5 billion capital infusion, affirming for many what they already believed about the ride-share giant: Uber is the future. Summoning a ride from your pocket that is hindered by neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night (surge pricing notwithstanding) can certainly feel like the future. But for its drivers, many of whom struggle to piece together stable wages, Uber is the past resurrected. As the undisputed leader of the on-demand economy, Uber argues that its innovative business model has made “traditional” workplace laws unnecessary. By classifying its drivers as independent contractors, Uber avoids paying millions of dollars in taxes and prevents its workers from accessing employment protections, such as wage and hour standards, safety requirements, anti-discrimination laws and the right to form a labor union. To address this imbalance, the Seattle City Council demonstrating that local governments can also innovate in this new economy voted unanimously last December to give drivers for Uber (and its mustachioed doppelgänger, Lyft) the right to bargain collectively over wages and working conditions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the powerful employer lobby, swiftly filed a lawsuit on the industry’s behalf to block implementation of the ordinance. Though the technology fueling the on-demand economy may be new, the Chamber’s lawsuit recycles defunct antitrust arguments made by employers more than a century ago, during the not-so-gilded industrial era.

New pay regulations may help home health agencies, as well as workers: Jeffrey Grossman, Commonwealth Care Group

Source: Jeffrey Grossman, Cleveland.com

Guest columnist Jeffrey Grossman is a graduate of Emory Law School and the owner of Commonwealth Care Group, a concierge home health service provider which pays caregivers wages double the Federal minimum. In January 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) officially extended federal wage protections to home care workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, entitling them to the federal minimum wage, time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and pay for time spent traveling between clients. Predictably, lobbyist groups working on behalf of home care agencies have petitioned the Supreme Court to upend the new regulation. Their petition currently sits in limbo while the eight-member Court delays its consideration (presumably in fear of an unproductive 4-4 voting split while awaiting the confirmation of a ninth Justice). In the interim, those hoping for a review should consider the positive impacts of the new regulation and the opportunities it presents. While on the surface this unfunded government mandate hurts home health agencies struggling to offer care within already slim Medicaid reimbursement margins, there is also a business case for increasing wages. First, increased wages will help entice new workers to the field, enabling agencies to care for more patients.

June 10, 2016

Poll finds Californians are strongly in favor of state's minimum wage increase

Source: Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times

Californians strongly back the state’s minimum wage increase to $15 the highest in the country even though they believe the wage hike will hurt their pocketbooks and the state’s economy, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Almost two-thirds of the state’s registered voters surveyed in the poll agreed with the phased-in wage increase, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in April. Starting next year, the state will begin gradually boosting the minimum wage from $10, eventually reaching $15 an hour by 2022 with increases after that tied to inflation. Support for the decision was broad across all demographics, with especially strong backing from black voters as well as the state’s poorest and youngest adults. Large majorities believe that the wage increase will give lower-income workers more money to spend and that businesses will benefit from lower employee turnover, increased productivity and customer satisfaction. At the same time, though, similarly high percentages of those surveyed expected negative consequences, including layoffs and business relocations to states with lower minimum wages. Almost 90% of respondents believed that prices for consumers would rise because of the wage hike.

Illinois AG sues Jimmy John's over noncompete pacts; chain 'disappointed'

Source: Samantha Bomkamp, Chicago Tribune

The Illinois Attorney General's office has filed a lawsuit against Jimmy John's, alleging the company imposes "highly restrictive non-compete agreements on its employees." The attorney general's office alleges that all employees from sandwich shop workers to delivery drivers are required to sign a noncompete agreement as a condition of employment. The agreement bars them from working at another sub shop while being employed at Jimmy John's and for two years after leaving the company, the attorney general's office says. Specifically, the office claims that the agreement specifies that Jimmy John's employees cannot work at another company that derives at least 10 percent of its sales from selling "submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita, and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches" within two miles of a Jimmy John's. Jimmy John's, based in Champaign, has about 270 locations in Illinois and 2,000 nationwide. "By locking low-wage workers into their jobs and prohibiting them from seeking better paying jobs elsewhere, the companies have no reason to increase their wages or benefits," attorney general Lisa Madigan said in a statement.

'Gig economy' losing appeal as full-time job market improves

Source: Bloomberg News, Bloomberg

There's been a shift in the U.S. economy over the past decade toward more work being done by independent contractors, on-call workers and others in what the government calls "alternative work arrangements." Economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger documented that earlier this year, showing that these "gig economy" workers went from 10.1 percent of the workforce in 2005 to an estimated 15.8 percent in 2015. But there is also a long-established cyclical pattern in which people leave self-employment and contracting gigs for full-time work as the job market improves, and this economic expansion is proving to be no exception. The source of this data, MBO Partners, provides back-office services for independent workers, which for the purposes of its survey are defined as those "who turn to consulting, freelancing, contract work, temporary assignments or on-call work regularly each week." That's pretty similar to the definition of alternative work arrangements in the Katz-Krueger survey. It's less expansive than other estimates of the independent or freelance workforce you may have heard about, which get to bigger numbers by including part-time workers or those with conventional jobs who freelance on the side, among others. Full-time independents, those who put in more than 15 hours a week, now number an estimated 16.9 million (about 11 percent of employed U.S. civilians), according to MBO Partners. Another 12.4 million do independent work less than 15 hours a week.

June 9, 2016

Weighted by Debt, Puerto Ricans Divided Over Federal Oversight

Source: Lizette Alvarez, New York Times

CAGUAS, P.R. — Standing at his lottery ticket concession in this town speckled with graceful colonial-era buildings, Félix Muñiz Rivera said the island’s economic meltdown had proved one thing amid all the uncertainty: Puerto Rico’s political leaders, no matter the party, could not be trusted to pull the commonwealth out of the quagmire they created. “The politicians, red and blue, have stolen this country; they have finished this country,” said Mr. Muñiz, 74, who grew up here and helped inaugurate this now half-closed pedestrian mall where he runs his business. “When a patient is sick, he needs medicine. When a patient is in critical condition, he needs intensive care. That’s what the junta is.” The junta is the name here for the federal control board that could end up overseeing the reboot of Puerto Rico’s economy, chiefly by ensuring that the island repays its crippling $72 billion debt in an orderly way, funds its pensions and balances the budget steps likely to require layoffs and cuts in services. The debt stems, in large part, from decades of the government’s spending and borrowing more money than it could pay back, a habit that steered the country into economic collapse and now threatens the public pension system. But as the House on Thursday takes up a contentious White House-backed bill to establish the independent board, Puerto Ricans are sharply divided over the legislation as they try to decide what is worse: the homegrown leaders whom they feel have failed them, or a federally appointed independent board that many distrust. So while there is widespread backing here for the bill, there is a strong and vocal opposition, including by those elected officials who would be forced to govern with a control board looking over their shoulders, union officials, many young people and artists, and advocates for Puerto Rican independence.

The Brutal Journey Back to Work for Millions of Americans

Source: Craig Torres and Michelle Jamrisko, Bloomberg

Phyllis Swenson recognizes the financial breaking point. She sees it in the faces of people who seek shelter at her church. She hears it when they call there asking for food, a spare gift card, anything. Now, the shadow of unemployment and loss is stalking her. “It’s scary,” says Swenson, who recently received a foreclosure notice on her home. The 63-year-old Fairfax, Virginia, resident is among millions of Americans who haven’t rebounded with the improving U.S. economy. Part-time work at Vienna Presbyterian doesn’t pay all her bills, and almost a year of futile job-hunting has left her desperate. “Recovery?” she scoffs. “How are we recovering?” The labor market has staged a strong comeback: Unemployment is 4.7 percent, down from 9.5 percent when the economy started expanding in June 2009. Employers have added an average 150,000 jobs a month this year, though May slowed to just 38,000. The rate at which people quit, a handy measure of job mobility, is trending up. Yet some Americans still feel a deep sense of betrayal. Their journey back to meaningful work has been brutal -- if they even arrived -- leaving them with depleted savings, increased debt, homes lost to lenders and for some, long searches that stripped away their most valuable possession: self-esteem. Many who did find jobs now earn less, with fewer benefits. This has helped fuel Donald Trump’s improbable rise and Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge to Hillary Clinton. Thousands cheer at rallies when the Republican front-runner claims he’ll put people back to work and the Democratic contender rails against income inequality.

Miami Beach sets local minimum wage higher than state rate beginning 2018

Source: Joey Flechas, Miami Herald

Miami Beach’s City Commission unanimously voted to create a citywide minimum wage Wednesday, the first time that a Florida city has set a local minimum higher than the state mandate and a challenge to state law. The state minimum is $8.05 an hour. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the citywide minimum wage will be set $10.31 and increase a dollar a year until 2021, when it will reach $13.31. From then on, the City Commission will have the discretion to increase the minimum wage further using the local consumer price index. The local ordinance will apply to all employers in Miami Beach that fall under federal requirements to pay a minimum wage, which are businesses with gross revenues of $500,000 or more. Tipped workers would still have the lower state minimum wage if the tips get the workers’ wages up to the city-mandated minimum. The ordinance, which Mayor Philip Levine proposed in early May, represents a direct challenge to state law that preempts local governments from setting their own minimum wages. The city’s attorneys maintain they stand on firm legal ground and would prevail in a legal challenge. Local labor unions have come out in strong support of the ordinance, citing it as a positive step toward dealing with a fast-increasing cost of living. The higher minimum wage could make a modest dent in the city’s notably wide gap between wages and the cost of living, which include higher rents in some parts of the city that used to be more affordable.

June 8, 2016

Jobs Threatened by Machines: A Once ‘Stupid’ Concern Gains Respect

Source: Eduardo Porter, New York Times

They replaced horses, didn’t they? That’s how the late, great economist Wassily Leontief responded 35 years ago to those who argued technology would never really replace people’s work. Horses hung around in the labor force for quite some time after they were first challenged by “modern” communications technologies like the telegraph and the railroad, hauling stuff and people around farms and cities. But when the internal combustion engine came along, horses as a critical component of the world economy were history. Cutting horses’ oat rations might have delayed their replacement by tractors, but it wouldn’t have stopped it. All that was left to do, for those who cared for 20 million newly unemployed horses, was to put them out to pasture. “Had horses had an opportunity to vote and join the Republican or Democratic Party,” Leontief wrote, they might have been able to get “the necessary appropriation from Congress.” Most economists still reject Professor Leontief’s analogy, but the conventional economic consensus is starting to fray. The productivity figures may not reflect it yet but new technology does seem more fundamentally disruptive than technologies of the past. Robots are learning on their own. Self-driving cars seem just a few regulations away from our city streets.

D.C. lawmakers approve $15 minimum wage, joining N.Y., Calif.

Source: Aaron C. Davis, Washington Post

The D.C. Council unanimously agreed to boost the city’s hourly minimum wage to $15 on Tuesday, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser pledged to sign the measure into law, lifting pay for low-income workers to among the highest in the country within four years. The developments marked a victory for unions, which targeted the nation’s capital for a symbolic win in the “Fight for $15” campaign in a presidential election year. Polls find strong support for a $15 wage floor as many Americans have become frustrated by the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs and the growth of low-paying retail and service jobs. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has tapped into that frustration in his presidential bid, calling for a federal $15 minimum, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has said she would support a $15 minimum wage if it is implemented gradually. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has alternatively said both that wages are too high and that “people have to get more.” The District’s move is the latest in a series of unexpected and rapid-fire victories for the $15-minimum-wage movement. What began as an audacious push by fast-food workers just a few years ago is evolving into a new labor standard, with state lawmakers in California and New York agreeing to implement a $15 minimum wage by 2022 and legislatures in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey weighing similar measures.

Browning-Ferris fights U.S. ruling on 'joint employment' in court

Source: Robert Iafolla and Daniel Wiessner, Reuters

A California waste management company at the center of a closely watched case told a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday that the new U.S. labor board standard for "joint employment" is so broad and vague that it makes it impossible for employers to structure their business relationships with contractors. Browning-Ferris Industries, a subsidiary of Republic Services Inc, argued the National Labor Relations Board's joint employment standard robs employers of their due process rights in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Many employers use contract labor in part to avoid the costs and complications that come with directly employing workers. But being categorized as a joint employer can stymie that effort, as they can be held liable for labor law violations and required to bargain with worker unions. About a dozen business groups – from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association to the American Hospital Association and the National Association of Home Builders – plan to file briefs supporting Browning-Ferris’ position, as does Microsoft Corp. Browning-Ferris is appealing an August 2015 NLRB ruling that found it was a joint employer of workers it hired through a staffing agency at its recycling facility in Milpitas, California. Prior to that decision, companies qualified as joint employers of workers hired by another business if they had "direct and immediate" control over employment matters. The NLRB expanded on that by ruling joint employment can exist when companies have only indirect or unexercised control over contract workers' employment conditions. According to business groups, the ruling has the potential to disrupt a range of business-to-business relationships, including those that companies have with vendors, staffing agencies, subcontractors and subsidiaries.

June 7, 2016

District of Columbia to vote on $15/hour minimum wage

Source: Ian Simpson and Peter Cooney, Reuters

The District of Columbia's city council is set to vote on Tuesday on a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a rate adopted by a growing number of U.S. cities and states seeking to battle income inequality. The 13-member council will hold a first vote on a measure to boost the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020. The current base wage is $10.50, and will go up by $1 on July 1 under existing law. If the measure becomes law, the U.S. capital will join California and New York in making $15 the hourly minimum. At least eight cities, including Seattle, have also approved the $15 base. The measure is backed by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, and supporters say it will help trim the gap between rich and poor and keep residents from being pushed out because of rising living costs. Washington's robust economy, rising number of businesses and growing population mean it can support a higher minimum wage, supporters of the measure say. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour. The $15 minimum is estimated to raise wages for 114,000 workers, or about 14 percent of the District of Columbia's workforce, according to an analysis for the council by the non-profit Economic Policy Institute. The higher pay proposal is supported by unions but has drawn opposition from the District's Chamber of Commerce. It says the District should not raise wages until neighboring suburbs do, and that the higher pay would drive up the cost of living.

How do we research the “sharing” economy — when the data can’t be validated?

Source: Andrew Gelman, Washington Post

In social science, we talk a lot about replication, transparency and open data. We’re rightly concerned when researchers publish and publicize dramatic claims without sharing their raw data. Recent examples include Michael Lacour’s faked study on attitudes toward same-sex marriage and a controversial paper on “air rage” in which the data not released for business reasons and then questioned by an aviation journalist. Today we have a story that goes in the other direction: a researcher who has gathered data that he is willing to share, but he is concerned about data quality. Here’s Tom Slee, who wrote to me in a private email that he has given me permission to post: For the last couple of years I’ve collected data on Airbnb listings in a wide variety of cities, and I now have well over a 2.5 million data points. It’s been a useful exercise, and it’s led to some interesting journalistic stories. Now I’m getting an increasing number of queries from academics for data and for the code that collects it. I’m happy to comply as and when I can, but there are obvious problems with the verifiability of the data itself. Individual surveys of cities on or around a particular date can be compared with partial data releases that Airbnb occasionally makes public, but those are always aggregated in one way or another, and have a definite slant to them. The method itself is not rocket science, but even if it were I could not vouch for it, as its success or failure depends on the changing form and practices of the Airbnb web site itself. Most of my surveys are, I believe, accurate for public policy discussion purposes but there are times (for all kinds of reasons) when some of the data may be inaccurate.

5th Cir. Backs NLRB Ruling on Macy's Bargaining Unit

Source: Lawrence E. Dube, Bloomberg

June 3 — The National Labor Relations Board's controversial Specialty Healthcare standard for determining appropriate units in representation elections survived a closely watched test in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ( Macy's, Inc. v. NLRB, 2016 BL 175991, 5th Cir., No. 15-60022, 6/2/16 ). The appeals court June 2 upheld the NLRB's certification of a unit of cosmetics and fragrances employees at a Massachusetts Macy's department store, rejecting the company's argument that the ruling departed from NLRB precedent and abused the board's discretion. A number of business groups supported the retailer's challenge of the board action, but the Fifth Circuit became the fourth appeals court to enforce NLRB rulings based on the board's 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision. Since the board's announcement of its new Specialty Healthcare standard for bargaining unit determinations in 2011, employers and business organizations have criticized the ruling and predicted the decision would lead to a proliferation of small voting units and potentially a complicated array of bargaining units in a single business. The board applied the new test to a union petition for an election at Macy's, and the much-watched case took four years to work its way to the appellate court.

June 6, 2016

Divide on tipped-worker issue remains as D.C. vote nears on $15 minimum wage

Source: Aaron C. Davis, Washington Post

The D.C. Council could vote as early as Tuesday to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, putting the nation’s capital among a vanguard of jurisdictions boosting low-wage pay to try to combat growing income inequality. Under a proposal by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), the District would join New York and California in ratcheting up the city’s hourly minimum to $15 from $10.50. The proposed increase would more than double the federal minimum of $7.25, which is paid to workers in 21 states including Virginia. “This will be a historic victory for workers and a message heard nationwide,” said D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), whose committee passed the legislation last week and who predicted victory Tuesday before the full council. If passed, a final vote on the wage bill could come before the end of the month. The District’s minimum wage was scheduled to increase in July by $1 for the third time in three years. Under the bill, it would increase about an additional 70 cents a year thereafter, reaching $15 by 2020. After that, increases would be tied to inflation. Although the wage increase would give unionized grocery workers, health-care aides and others a victory in their “Fight for $15” campaign, the legislation has fractured a coalition of labor groups that have been pushing for a ballot measure in the District for a $15 minimum.

Overtime rule is a lifeline for the middle class

Source: The Boston Globe Editorial Staff, Boston Globe

THE SNAPSHOT VIEW of the US economy is, mostly, a comforting one: Unemployment has steadily fallen, inflation is almost nonexistent, consumer spending in April rose at the fastest rate since 2009, and the housing market remains solid. But the picture is missing something essential: higher wages. For many workers, a pay raise is a fading memory. Household incomes have largely been stagnant for years, exacerbating an already yawning gap between the nation’s economic elite and most everyone else. President Obama has repeatedly railed against the injustice of income inequality, but he stands no chance of coaxing Congress into doing anything meaningful about it. Recognizing that political reality, Obama wisely exerted his executive powers last month, unveiling a change in federal rules that govern who qualifies for overtime pay. The regulations, which are scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, mark a desperately needed win for lower-level employees who are paid by salary and don’t receive a dime extra when they log more than 40 hours in a week. Under the new regulations, salaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually, or $913 weekly, will have to be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours. That’s a significant increase from the current threshold of $23,660, which has been updated just once since the 1970s a number so pitifully low that it doesn’t meet federal poverty guidelines for a family of four, never mind qualify as managerial-level pay. In his weekly radio address on May 21, Obama noted that four decades ago, more than 60 percent of American workers qualified for overtime based on their salary level, compared with a mere 7 percent now. The rule change will increase that to 35 percent, according to the Department of Labor, adding 4.2 million people to the ranks of overtime-eligible including 83,500 in Massachusetts. Obama called it “the single biggest step I can take through executive action to raise wages for the American people.”

Seattle weighs rules for work schedules

Source: Janet I. Tu, The Seattle TImes

Jerry Cole has a landscaping business. Four years ago, in order to make ends meet, he took on a second job as a courtesy clerk at the Rainier Beach Safeway. Starbucks says scheduling has improved. Changes in schedule software and policies described But the scheduling demands of the second job including erratic hours and a schedule that isn’t posted until three days before the workweek starts makes it difficult to do his first job. “It’s hard to schedule my landscaping business with clients on a regular basis because I’m having to juggle my landscaping around when I have to be at Safeway week to week,” he said. Stories from workers such as Cole are spurring some Seattle City Council members and Mayor Ed Murray to devise a scheduling law that could affect thousands of workers and many retailers in the city. Worker and employer representatives are meeting in separate groups to pin down what they want, or at least what they can live with.

June 4, 2016

'We need to continue fighting for equality': Assembly approves gender-equity pay bill

Source: Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

Continuing efforts to close the pay gap between men and women, the California Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit employers from seeking salary histories from job applicants. Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) argued that employers use the salary histories as justification to continue underpaying women. “The fact we are still having to argue that women workers should be paid fairly and equitably for their work is outrageous,” Campos said. “I’m glad my Assembly colleagues agree we need to continue fighting for equality.” The assemblywoman cited U.S. Census data indicating that women average 79 cents in pay for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. African American women earn 60 cents for every dollar, she said. AB 1676 next goes to the Senate for consideration. The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups opposed the bill, arguing that basing compensation solely on an applicant's prior salary is already recognized as a questionable business practice. They say more time is needed to see how a bill approved last year, SB 358, works. That measure requires same pay based on substantially similar work.

America’s jobs market has had a great 2016. Will it last?

Source: Yian Q. Mui, Washington Post

For the first time since the recession ended, America’s job market has been firing on all cylinders: Workers have been finding more jobs, making more money and spending more of their paychecks. So far this year, the economy has added an average of 192,000 jobs a month, a healthy pace that has renewed hope of finding employment for many workers. Those who already have jobs are enjoying the fastest wage growth since the recovery began. And that is helping to give households the confidence to spend their money, fueling the biggest spike in purchases in seven years. New data slated to be released Friday will shed light on whether these trends continued in May. But the solid performance of recent months has shown that the economy can withstand the global turmoil that has repeatedly threatened to sideswipe the American recovery. Just a few months ago, analysts were raising the specter of another U.S. recession as plunging oil prices, a strong dollar and a slowdown in China caused wild swings in financial markets. Now, there are fears that Britain’s historic vote later this month over whether to remain in the European Union will spark renewed turbulence around the world. That could prompt the Federal Reserve to wait until July to raise interest rates again, rather than at its meeting later this month. Still, barring a “Brexit,” the central bank is widely expected to move this summer, a sign of how resilient the economy, and particularly the labor market, has proven.

NLRB Splits on Permanent Replacements Rule

Source: Jay-Anne B. Casuga, Bloomberg

June 1 — A California continuing care facility violated federal labor law when it hired permanent replacements for striking workers to allegedly punish the union and its members and avoid future strikes, the National Labor Relations Board held 2-1 ( Am. Baptist Homes of the West , 2016 BL 171734, 364 N.L.R.B. No. 13, 5/31/16 ). “In this unprecedented decision, two members of the NLRB have cast aside 68 years of unbroken precedent that had held that the hiring of permanent replacements for striking employees is a legitimate economic weapon that employers may use, regardless of motive, once a union deploys its weapon to strike,” David Durham with DLA Piper in San Francisco told Bloomberg BNA June 1. He represented American Baptist Homes of the West, which does business as Piedmont Gardens. Members of Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers-West had gone on strike in August 2010 over collective bargaining disputes. They eventually made an unconditional offer to return to work, but Piedmont Gardens already had permanently replaced the striking employees and refused to reinstate them. Reversing an administrative law judge's ruling, Members Mark Gaston Pearce and Kent Y. Hirozawa found that the company hired the replacements for “independent unlawful purposes,” including punishing striking workers in retaliation for engaging in activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Dissenting, Member Philip A. Miscimarra said board precedent requires the purported independent unlawful purpose to be extrinsic to the parties' bargaining relationship or unrelated to the strike.

June 3, 2016

More Americans Plan to Retire After 70

Source: Suzanne Woolley, Bloomberg

U.S. workers are more confident that they'll be able to retire someday. Just not until they're 70.
Some 23 percent of Americans with jobs said they planned on being septuagenarian employees, up from 16 percent in 2009, according to Willis Towers Watson, a human resource consulting firm. While the average employee calculates he or she will retire at age 65, as a group they place the odds that they'll still be working at age 70 at 50 percent. If love of the job is what keeps someone working until or beyond 70, that's one thing. (Or beyond age 80: Hello, Mssrs. Buffett and Bogle.) But the survey of 5,100 U.S. employees, and 30,000 in total, in 19 countries, found that employees who expected to work longer were "less healthy, more stressed and more likely to feel stuck in their jobs than those who expect to retire earlier."
The evocative and somewhat creepy term used for these people is "hidden pensioners." An even less happy survey result is that 40 percent of those planning to work into their 70s feel stuck in their jobs. Of those planning to retire at age 65 or earlier, about 28 percent feel that way. "The decline of defined benefit plans and employer subsidies for early retirement removed one tool that encouraged that orderly rate of workers retiring," said Steve Nyce, a senior economist at Willis Towers Watson. There is some good news in the survey, however: In the U.S., and around the world, the level of short-term financial worry has fallen.

Morgan Stanley to Rate Employees With Adjectives, Not Numbers

Source: Michael J. de la Merced, New York Times

For years, Morgan Stanley employees were graded in part on a numerical scale that rated them from 1 to 5. Now, the Wall Street firm plans to change those evaluations by taking away the numbers. Morgan Stanley told its staff on Thursday that it was overhauling how employees are assessed in several ways, including by discarding the number scale in favor of lists of up to five adjectives. The changes are the latest effort by a stalwart of corporate America to change how it evaluates employees. Some companies, like Microsoft and Morgan Stanley’s longtime rival Goldman Sachs, have made their own changes, which have also included getting rid of numerical ratings. Others, like the consulting firm Accenture, have decided to do away with the annual performance review altogether. To these companies, the ritual had proved wasteful and ineffective. For Morgan Stanley, annual reviews are still helpful in determining how well employees do their jobs. But the current system in which staff members were asked roughly eight questions and ranked, in addition to being questioned about “areas for development” was in need of a change. Evaluators will now be asked to list up to five adjectives that describe the employees. The aim is to give more direct feedback and better steer staff members toward areas of improvement.

The workplace is a last bastion of stigma. But even that’s beginning to change.

Source: Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post

Even as people with mental illness reveal their struggles to strangers on the Internet, they’re reluctant to divulge them at work. Their fears are founded; stereotypes of those with mental illness as unreliable, less competent and even dangerous abound in the workplace. “I am constantly amazed at how widespread the fear of people with mental illnesses is and the false association with violence and dangerousness,” said Jennifer Mathis, the director of programs at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. The Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990 made it illegal to discriminate against an employee with a mental-health issue and required “reasonable accommodations” be made for those who disclose. But there remains a high level of bias in the workplace, according to a 2011 study led by Boston University professor Zlatka Russinova. The study found that many people who revealed their mental illness at work reported experiencing prejudice and discrimination afterward. These reactions threatened “not only their professional confidence but their sense of worthwhileness as a person as well,” the study’s authors wrote. Katherine Switz, a Harvard Business School graduate who has been hospitalized twice because of her bipolar disorder, said she never even considered disclosing her mental-health condition to her bosses at GE and McKinsey. While hospitalized for what she told them was a “health issue,” Switz said she realized she didn’t know any people who were successfully coping with mental illness who could provide her hope. She decided that if she couldn’t find the courage to speak out, nothing would change.

June 2, 2016

D.C. Council advances bill for $15 minimum wage

Source: Aaron C. Davis, Washington Post

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour passed a committee vote Wednesday, setting up a final series of votes on the measure by the D.C. Council this month. The council so far appears likely to keep intact the bulk of Bowser’s plan: matching New York City and California with one of the nation’s highest hourly minimums. The District’s minimum wage would increase by about 70 cents a year, reaching $15 by 2020. After that, it would be indexed to inflation, probably rising a couple of percentage points each year. The council’s Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee, however, did ramp down a proposal by Bowser (D) to increase tipped workers’ guaranteed minimum. Tipped workers in D.C. currently guaranteed a base rate of $2.77 an hour. Employers are supposed to make up the difference if a worker does not reach the hourly minimum through earned tips. Under Bowser’s plan, tipped workers’ base rate would have risen to $7.50 an hour. But committee chairman Vincent B, Orange (D-At Large) said it wasn’t clear if that would upset the balance in the city’s restaurant industry, and he persuaded colleagues to take down the hourly base rate to $5.55, or roughly double the current $2.77.

Paying (and Paying and Paying) a Debt to Society

Source: Adam Chandler, Atlantic

Last week, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a ruling that sent a small shockwave through the criminal-justice world. Rather than sentencing a woman who had been convicted of smuggling more than a pound of cocaine into the United States to a few years in prison, Judge Frederic Block opted for extraordinary leniency and gave her probation. Block’s rationale was simple enough: The “collateral consequences” of being a convicted felon are punishment enough. Quoting experts on American incarceration, Block laid out how having a conviction (or even a minor brush with the law) on one’s record often makes it difficult to secure housing, public assistance, and a good education. “Remarkably, there are nationwide nearly 50,000 federal and state statutes and regulations that impose penalties, disabilities, or disadvantages on convicted felons,” he wrote in the 42-page opinion. A conviction makes it hard to get a job: The Justice Department estimates that 60 to 75 percent of former inmates fail to find work within the first year of being released. And yet employment is associated with much lower rates of recidivism. “Statewide rates of recidivism range from about 31 to 70 percent, while the rates for those placed in jobs shortly after their release ranged from 3.3 to eight percent,” a study by the conservative Manhattan Institute found last year.

Payday Loans’ Debt Spiral to Be Curtailed

Source: Stacy Cowley, New York Times

The payday loan industry, which is vilified for charging exorbitant interest rates on short-term loans that many Americans depend on, could soon be gutted by a set of rules that federal regulators plan to unveil on Thursday. People who borrow money against their paychecks are generally supposed to pay it back within two weeks, with substantial fees piled on: A customer who borrows $500 would typically owe around $575, at an annual percentage rate of 391 percent. But most borrowers routinely roll the loan over into a new one, becoming less likely to ever emerge from the debt. Mainstream banks are generally barred from this kind of lending. More than a dozen states have set their own rate caps and other rules that essentially prohibit payday loans, but the market is flourishing in at least 30 states. Some 16,000 lenders run online and storefront operations that thrive on the hefty profits. Under the guidelines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the watchdog agency set up in the wake of 2010 banking legislation lenders will be required in many cases to verify their customers’ income and to confirm that they can afford to repay the money they borrow. The number of times that people could roll over their loans into newer and pricier ones would be curtailed. The new guidelines do not need congressional or other approval to take effect, which could happen as soon as next year.

June 1, 2016

President Obama’s Overtime Pay Plan Threatens the ‘Prada’ Economy

Source: Noam Scheiber, New York Times

For decades, bosses at publishing houses, glossy magazines, consulting firms, advocacy groups, movie production companies and talent agencies have groomed their assistants to be the next generation of big shots by working them long hours for low wages. Call it the “Devil Wears Prada” economy, after the novel depicting life working for a fictionalized Anna Wintour, the longtime Vogue editor. But now, with the Obama administration moving to require time-and-a-half overtime pay for most salaried employees making less than $47,476 a year, that business model is suddenly under assault. The change presents more than an economic challenge for the companies that rely on the willingness of young, ambitious workers to trade pay and self-respect for a shot at a prestige job down the road. In the eyes of those who have survived the gantlet of midday coffee runs and late-night emails, the administration’s overtime regulation represents nothing less than the beginnings of a cultural shift, and not necessarily a welcome one. “You want to bump into the boss at 8 o’clock at night,” said Dan Reynolds, chief executive of Workman Publishing, the publisher of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and many of Sandra Boynton’s children’s books. “I’m interested in how this will affect that,” Mr. Reynolds said. “It’s more of a cultural thing than anything else.”

The Quiet Worker Recovery

Source: Derek Thompson, Atlantic

Economic pessimism is en vogue in America today, a point not lost on many politicians. "You are going to be so proud of your country, because we’re gonna turn it around, and we’re gonna start winning again,” Donald Trump has promised crowds. There are, however, reasons to be proud already of the economy’s performance in the last few years. While the U.S. clearly faces some thorny problems with inequality, geographic sorting, and intergenerational mobility, it is nonetheless true that this recovery has been a machine of unshakable consistency, despite being overshadowed by not only the lurid circus of the presidential election, but also by several global eruptions, from the collapse of oil to the vertigo of Venezuelan inflation. Just a few years ago, several measures of the labor market’s strength had sunk to historic lows. The share of the economy going to workers’ wages fell to its lowest level in half a century in 2012. The labor-force participation rate had fallen to its lowest rate since the 1970s. The inflation-adjusted minimum wage was 30 percent lower than its 1968 peak.

Cleveland's proposed $15 minimum wage would tie with Seattle's for highest in America

Source: Leila Atassi, Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- If Cleveland's proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage comes to pass, the city will tie with Seattle for the highest minimum wage in America, two local economists told members of Cleveland City Council Tuesday. But unlike Seattle's new wage, which is being phased in and won't hit the $15 benchmark for small businesses until 2021, Cleveland's would be all at once imposed on any business with more than 25 employees, beginning in January. The effect could be devastating for some Cleveland business owners, faced suddenly with the challenge of supporting a payroll that has grown by 85 percent, said Bill Kosteas, chair of the economics department at Cleveland State University, and Albert Sumell, associate professor at Youngstown State University. The economists were invited by Council President Kevin Kelley to address council on the implications of legislation proposing the new wage. Cleveland currently does not have a citywide minimum wage; the state's is $8.10 per hour. The Service Employees International Union, through a newly formed local group called Raise Up Cleveland, had collected enough signatures of Cleveland voters to compel council to introduce the legislation earlier this month. If council votes down the ordinance or adopts an amended version, the petitioners have the option of putting the original language on the ballot for Cleveland voters. Two weeks ago, a group supporting the initiative, including SEIU 1199 President Becky Williams and former State Sen. and former Cleveland Councilwoman Nina Turner, appeared during a council hearing and urged members to consider the economic inequality that plagues the black community. The top 20 percent of Cleveland income-earners collect 53 percent of the overall income earned in the city, Williams said, and less than 10 percent of the overall income goes to the bottom 40 percent.

May 31, 2016

Verizon Strike to End as Both Sides Claim Victories on Key Points

Source: Noam Scheiber, New York Times

Verizon reached a series of tentative agreements with unions representing nearly 40,000 striking workers over the holiday weekend, retreating on some of the major points of contention, including pension cuts and greater flexibility to outsource work. But after a six-and-a-half week strike, the company also gained some important tools for paring down its work force in the coming years. “The tentative agreements reached today are good for our employees, good for our customers and will be good for our business,” Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer, said in a statement. “They also include key changes sought by the company to better position our wireline business for success in the digital world.” The agreements reached on Sunday and Monday between Verizon and two major unions will most likely bring to an end the work stoppage, which began on April 13. The striking members in both unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, must now vote on the agreements. That is likely to happen in the next two or three weeks, and they are widely expected to approve them. They will return to their jobs beginning on Wednesday as part of a short-term “back-to-work agreement.” “This contract is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America said in a statement.

Farmers Wait, And Wait, For Guest Workers Amid H-2A Visa Delays

Source: Lauren Rosenthal, NPR

American farms should be in full swing right now. But some farmers are running behind, waiting on work visas for planters and pickers from out of the country. The H-2A visa program is delayed for the third year in a row. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke: A professor and a doctor walk onto a farm. Kathleen Terrence, a pediatrician, kneels in an onion field outside Lisbon, N.Y., with a bunch of kids. As they prepare to plant some 30,000 onions, they're all taking tips from Mark Sturges but he's no farmer, either. He's a literary critic. "Are you guys ready?" he asks them, laughing gently. "It's gonna be fun." These are just some of the volunteers who stepped up to plant onions for Kent Family Growers, in upstate New York. But farm owner Dan Kent says he's worried about the rest of his growing season. The workers he hired are a month late. "I am assuming that our guys are still in southern Mexico, where they live, waiting for word that they have an appointment at the U.S. Consulate somewhere on the border," Kent says. Kent hired his three delayed laborers through the H-2A visa program for seasonal farm jobs. The program has fallen behind every year since 2014. The reasons vary from year to year, but the outcome is the same. As a result, says Kristi Boswell with the American Farm Bureau, farmers have reported losses of up to $300,000.

Here’s why equal-pay activists are looking toward Maryland

Source: Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post

Progressive activists organizing a blitz of equal-pay legislation in dozens of statehouses found some success in Maryland this year with the Democratic-majority legislature and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. This month, Hogan signed measures expanding the state’s equal-pay law by prohibiting employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their wages and from providing less-favorable advancement opportunities to women. Advocates say it is the most comprehensive equal-pay legislation to become law this year. “For a pro-business and conservative governor to sign this bill into law should send a signal that these laws are very common-sense and not oppressive to businesses,” said Nick Rathod, director of the State Innovation Exchange, which organizes national campaigns for progressive state laws. But the provisions in the legislation are fairly modest compared to some of the proposals that have been floated elsewhere, including a bill in Hawaii that would require state contractors to report payroll and gender data and a Massachusetts proposal that would bar employers from considering salary histories in negotiations a practice activists say perpetuates a cycle of unequal wages.

May 27, 2016

Court Rules Companies Cannot Impose Illegal Arbitration Clauses

Source: Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Noam Scheiber, New York Times

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that companies cannot force their employees to sign away their right to band together in legal actions, delivering a major victory for American workers and opening an opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh in. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago struck down an arbitration clause that banned employees from joining together as a class and required workers to battle the employer one by one outside of court. In its opinion, the three-judge panel said that Epic Systems, a Verona, Wis., health care software provider, violated federal labor law when it required its workers to bring any disputes individually to arbitration, a private system of justice where there is no judge or jury. “The increasing use of mandatory arbitration agreements and the prohibition on workers proceeding as a class has been one of the most major developments in employment the last decade,” said Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor law at Harvard Law School. “Most of the court decisions have facilitated this development. This is a major move in the opposite direction.” By preventing employees from joining together in a collective action, the court said, the arbitration clause ran afoul of a critical piece of the National Labor Relations Act, a landmark 1935 law that gave workers the right to unionize and engage in concerted action.

The Dynamics Of The Digital Workplace

Source: Carol Zichi, Information Week

As companies begin to fully embrace the digital workplace, they should focus on the employee experience the same way they would on the customer experience. As technology makes the world more connected, it is shrinking barriers for employees and creating an entirely new workforce and work environment: the digital workplace. What Is The Digital Workplace? Gartner describes the digital workplace as “a business strategy for promoting employee effectiveness and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment.” The idea of “from the cubicle to the corner office” no longer exists in the digital workplace, as work is no longer a place. Instead, it now has similar characteristics to an application. Employees want to access “work” on whatever platform they choose, both when and where it is convenient for them. Moreover, mobility often blurs the lines between employees’ work and home life while placing a certain level of expectations on employers. Creating a truly digital workplace is a significant challenge, but organizations that address the necessary dynamics will create a competitive advantage in terms of productivity, innovation, collaboration, and overall employee satisfaction.

Labor Department Backs Foot Locker Workers in Pension Spat

Source: Jacklyn Wille, Bloomberg

May 25 — The Department of Labor is urging a federal appeals court to make it easier for workers to bring class actions challenging misleading statements about their pension benefits. The DOL has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to rule that a group of Foot Locker Inc. workers can bring a class action against the company without having to prove that each individual worker relied on Foot Locker's misrepresentations about the effects of a 1996 pension plan change. If the Second Circuit agrees with the DOL, the ruling would make it easier for workers to file class actions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, whereas a decision to the contrary would limit the ability to obtain class-wide relief in cases claiming that an employer misled its workers about retirement benefits. In February, three industry groups filed a brief arguing the other side of this issue. They urge the Second Circuit to require each Foot Locker worker to individually demonstrate detrimental reliance on the company's misrepresentations. Foot Locker and its workers have spent nearly a decade in court over the company's switch from a traditional pension plan to a cash balance plan, with the workers claiming that Foot Locker concealed the way this switch would negatively affect their benefits. The lawsuit is noteworthy because the workers' requested relief reformation of the Foot Locker pension plan to restore the benefits they lost is a form of equitable relief that has only recently gained traction in disputes over ERISA benefits.

May 25, 2016

New York Attorney General Accuses Domino’s of Wage Theft in Lawsuit

Source: Marc Santora, New York Times

The system, as outlined in a lawsuit filed by the New York State attorney general, was as simple as it was flawed. A pizza is ordered from Domino’s. A pizza is made. A pizza is delivered. The workers who assembled and delivered the pie clock their hours on a computer system, and those workers are then paid. But for years, according to the lawsuit against the corporate franchiser that owns Domino’s Pizza, the computer system used by franchises across the state systematically undercounted hours worked by employees, shortchanging them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday, was the latest salvo in a campaign by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, against what he says is a pattern of corporations shortchanging low-wage workers. Since 2011, Mr. Schneiderman has secured more than $26 million for almost 20,000 workers who were bilked of wages. But unlike past cases, this one directly targets the corporate franchiser. If the state wins, Mr. Schneiderman hopes the case sets a precedent that makes it harder for corporations that run franchise businesses to avoid responsibility for the actions taken by the stores under their corporate umbrella. “Wage theft is an epidemic causing harm to low-wage workers struggling to support their families every single day,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

Wedding expenses and Tesla leases: The arms race in employee perks

Source: Jena McGregor, Washington Post

Nick DeMarco runs a small biotech startup in Raleigh, N.C., that makes scientific instruments. But what got his company, Practichem, attention from CNBC's "Power Lunch," the Huffington Post, Fortune and other media outlets last week wasn't the innovative products he's making. It was his promise to lease Tesla Model 3s to employees when they become available. "The world’s changed a lot, and technology people are really hard to bring in," DeMarco, who has 10 full-time employees and is trying to double that number with new hires, said in an interview Monday. He believes spending money to lease the wildly popular cars which are not expected to be available until at least the end of next year will turn out to be a smarter recruiting investment than funneling more money to headhunters. Though he sees the leases as rewards for good performance to help retain current workers, he's also hopeful the media coverage and word-of-mouth from employees will help him hire people with the skills he needs in what he calls an "esoteric field." "We're not sexy," he says. DeMarco's Teslas may be particularly flashy. But companies have been increasingly thinking beyond the usual buffet of benefits as they try to hire and retain workers with in-demand skills amid a tighter labor market. Companies like Fidelity and PwC have publicized the student loan repayment perks they now offer. Firms such Netflix, IBM and KKR have touted family-friendly benefits such as extended parental leave, free shipping for employees' breast milk or paid travel expenses for new mothers' nannies. Boxed Wholesale, an e-commerce company with 122 employees that sells bulk goods, sent out a news release last week announcing that it will help pay for all employees' weddings after the CEO learned about one of his employee's financial needs.

10 Things You Should Know About Work by the Time You're 30

Source: Alison Green, U.S. News and World Report

During your first years in the workforce, you can expect to have a huge learning curve – not just about the details of your job, but about broader issues of how to manage your career and operate successfully in an office. How do you deal with difficult co-workers? Figure out if you're paid fairly? Understand what HR's convoluted memos mean? You'll keep mastering work skills throughout your career, but here are 10 key things that you should make sure you know about work by the time you're 30. How to talk to people much more senior than you. It's pretty common to be intimidated by company higher-ups or industry experts when you're just starting out in your career. But if you let yourself stay intimidated, it will keep you from forming relationships and gaining visibility with decision-makers, and that can hold you back professionally. Don't be shy about chatting with higher-ups or sharing your ideas when appropriate. The more you act like a colleague (which you are), the more you'll be seen that way. How to respond to critical feedback. Being able to listen to feedback about your work with an open mind is enormously important, because feedback is one of the most direct ways to get better at what you do. If you respond defensively or shut down, you'll prevent yourself from hearing important information, lose points with your boss and maybe even make it less likely that you'll hear information that could help you in the future. Instead, listen with an open mind and respond with something like, "This is really useful to hear," or "I appreciate you sharing this with me." If you can't stomach those, try, "I want to take some time to think about this, but I appreciate you telling me."

May 24, 2016

High tech firms lag in diversity, EEOC says

Source: Joe Davidson, Washington Post

While the high tech industry is a major source of economic growth in the United States, it generally lags well behind other parts of the private sector in the employment and advancement of women, people of color and older workers. That’s the take-away from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forum in Washington last week on “Innovation Opportunity: Examining Strategies to Promote Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in the Tech Industry.” An agency study, “Diversity in High Tech,” found high-tech firms generally are whiter and more male dominated than other parts of the private sector. “Compared to overall private industry, the high-tech sector employed a larger share of whites (63.5 percent to 68.5 percent), Asian Americans (5.8 percent to 14 percent) and men (52 percent to 64 percent), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4 percent to 7.4 percent), Hispanics (13.9 percent to 8 percent), and women (48 percent to 36 percent),” the report said. In the executive ranks, the disparities were even starker. At 83 percent, this top level is almost all white. And among the white executives, 80 percent are men.