November 15, 2017
Source: Leslie Albrecht, MarketWatch
A few states, including California, have laws granting discrimination protections to independent contractors. Those laws may have helped Lidia, because she was working at a company in Los Angeles, but apparently her college’s career counselor was unaware of them. Washington state and Pennsylvania also protect independent contractors from discrimination. But in most other states, independent contractors are stuck if they want to file a legal complaint about harassment. It’s always best to consult a local attorney for the most up-to-date information on harassment laws in your state, said Paula Brantner, senior adviser with the workers’ rights nonprofit WorkPlace Fairness.
Source: Melissa Stegman, The American Prospect
It’s tough to imagine a more lopsided relationship than an individual and a big financial institution. Or more lopsided results: The CFPB study found that arbitrators side with the financial company more than nine times out of ten.
Source: Daniel Victor, The New York Times
It’s clear on which side doctors come down: They say workers with the flu or a cold should use sick days far more often than they do. Though millions of Americans don’t get paid time off when they’re sick, those who do have the option often don’t take it.
November 14, 2017
Source: Glenn Bain, New York Daily News
The new regulations stop short of prohibiting what’s known as on-call scheduling but require most hourly workers to receive an extra two hours of minimum wage pay for assignments received without two weeks' notice. They also require employers to pay at least four hours for shifts that are cancelled within 72 hours of their start time.
Source: Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg
Reports from Florida during Irma found that despite an evacuation order from the governor, some employers pressured workers into showing up for work. In a survey of 134 people, more than half of respondents said their employers threatened to fire or discipline them for not showing up to work during Hurricane Irma, according to a study by workers’ rights organization Central Florida Jobs with Justice. A librarian said he was told to man the building as a shelter or risk losing his job; a janitor who worked in a nursing home said she was threatened with her job unless she came in the night before the hurricane.
November 13, 2017
Source: Justin Phillips, The San Francisco Chronicle
Many in the restaurant industry describe a culture that has not only failed to eradicate the pervasiveness of sexual harassment but has fostered it. The issue has plagued all types of restaurants, and it’s been embedded for decades. Because of several unique factors — a patriarchal kitchen hierarchy, a transient workforce, an insular community and lack of formal employment standards — the problem is endemic to the industry.
Source: Bryce Covert, Rewire
In early 2013, Natasha Velez says she suffered a fractured index finger after her boyfriend at the time choked her. Even with her finger in a splint, Velez still showed up for her next scheduled shift at a Chipotle in New York City. But at her follow-up appointment, the doctors told her that she had to stay away from work for an additional couple of weeks. When she returned, she says she handed her manager a copy of her protection order that prevented her abuser from coming to the workplace, but her manager still responded by firing her because she had “too many issues outside of work.” This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law that could have aided Velez had it been in place four years ago. While the city passed landmark paid sick leave legislation in 2013, becoming the largest city at the time with such a policy, it didn’t explicitly include people like Velez who may need paid time away from work to deal with violent situations. That will now change: Starting in May of next year, the new legislation will expand the city’s law to include safe time, or time off to recover from domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, or sex trafficking.
November 10, 2017
Source: Jason Grant, New York Law Journal
A Manhattan federal judge has denied Bloomberg LP’s motion to stay a class action lawsuit as the business media giant lobbies the U.S. Court of Appeals for permission to appeal orders certifying two classes in the case.
Source: Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post
Did Briskman deserve losing her job for using her finger to exercise her freedom of speech? Also, should an employer fire a worker over a social media posting?
November 9, 2017
Source: Robert Rubin, The New York Times
Too many people lack access to entry-level jobs with good wages, especially in industries like manufacturing, where activity is actually near a high. The reason is that technology has enabled this work to be done by far fewer employees — or it’s not being done at all, because workers don’t have the specialized skills certain jobs demand.
Source: Steven Greenhouse, The Guardian
As labor unions across much of the world struggle to increase their membership, how do workers get their employers to raise wages and assure safe conditions? That’s the question some of the world’s most innovative worker groups are asking. And they’re hopeful they have found a solution. Several of those groups gathered last week to launch an ambitious effort to improve the lives of millions of workers in the corporate supply chains. Meeting at the Ford Foundation to kick off the new effort, these and other worker advocacy groups maintained that corporate self-regulation was not doing nearly enough to assure safety and adequate conditions for the tens of millions of workers in apparel, electronics and agricultural supply chains worldwide. They are pinning their hopes on a new effort that aims to have workers play a central role in developing workplace codes of conduct and in overseeing enforcement of these codes. Their new effort is called the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network.
November 8, 2017
Source: Kellie Ell, USA TODAY
As the holidays draw closer and holiday hiring is in full swing, industries across the board are feeling the unintended side effects of a falling unemployment rate— now at a 17-year low of 4.1%. But retail, food services and delivery, industries that are an essential part of the holiday grind, are among the most vulnerable.
Source: Dave Jamieson, HuffPost
When billionaire Joe Ricketts on Thursday shut down the Gothamist and DNAInfo news sites he owns, his company didn’t hesitate to identify one culprit: the staff’s successful unionization vote last week. Under U.S. labor law, it’s illegal to tell workers you will shut down operations if they join a union. But it’s not illegal to actually shut down the business once they unionize. Although Ricketts could not have legally laid people off in response to their vote, he was well within his rights to zap the entire company and turn the lights off in part or entirely because of the union. In a 1965 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, even if threats of layoffs are illegal, a company couldn’t be forced to rehire or shell out backpay to workers at a plant it had closed expressly because workers there had unionized. Theoretically, an owner like Ricketts could still run into trouble if it emerges that he closed the company in order to chill union activity at other properties of his. But Ricketts could certainly chill union activity at sites he has nothing to do with.
November 7, 2017
Source: Ryan Cooper, The Week
The journalism world was shocked and appalled last Thursday, when billionaire Joe Ricketts abruptly shut down a slew of media properties he owned — DNAInfo, Gothamist, DCist, Chicagoist, and a few other sites — throwing 115 people out of work. Worse still, all the archives were immediately removed from the internet, with old links redirecting instead to a letter by Ricketts explaining his decision (though reportedly the archives will come back at some future point). The move comes only one week after Gothamist and DNAInfo voted to unionize, and it is widely assumed that the sites were shuttered as punishment for the vote. It's a perfect example of the capital strike — how wealthy business owners will destroy jobs and production when it suits their politics.
Source: Matt Egan, CNN
More former Wells Fargo employees allege they were fired after they tried to blow the whistle on shady activity at the bank. That's according to a new filing by Wells Fargo (WFC), which disclosed claims of "retaliation" by ex-employees. Wells Fargo has been at the center of a number of scandals over the past year. This filing addresses two in particular -- when the bank forced thousands of customers into car insurance they didn't need and when it wrongly charged homebuyers to lock in mortgage rates.
Source: Dana Barrett, Biz 1190 WAFS
Senior Advisor, Paula Brantner joins Dana Barrett to talk about when and if the law requires employers to give workers time off to vote, and whether your political speech and activity are protected in your workplace.
November 6, 2017
Source: Trent Gillies, CNBC
If you're looking for a job, the current market is the best it has been in years. Last week, the government reported that the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in October, with more than six million open jobs available right now. According to the Labor Department, that's near the all-time high in July of this year when there were 6.2 million job openings. At the low point of the Great Recession in mid 2009, there were just 2.2 million jobs in July 2009. In an economy that appears to be gathering momentum, exactly why are some workers being left on the sidelines?
Source: Andy Newman and John Leland , The New York Times
A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union. On Thursday, they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down. For DNAinfo and Gothamist, the staff’s vote to join the Writers Guild of America East was just part of the decision to close the company. The decision puts 115 people out of work, both at the New York operations that unionized and at those in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington that did not.
November 3, 2017
Source: Rachael Bade and Elana Schor, POLITICO
The sexual harassment scandals involving major Hollywood and media figures are focusing new attention on Congress’ procedures, which critics say are woefully inadequate for deterring bad behavior in an institution filled with powerful men and young aides trying to advance their careers. Each congressional office operates as its own small, tightly controlled fiefdom with its own rules and procedures, which makes it that much harder to come forward.
Source: Joann Lublin, The Wall Street Journal
Remote employees perceive greater workplace harm from these problems than on-site employees, including wasted time, more stress, lower productivity and lower morale, the survey found.
November 2, 2017
Source: Noam Scheiber, The New York Times
In the recent wave of reports of workplace sexual harassment, a recurring theme stands out: the willingness of companies’ supposed overseers to ignore credible allegations in order to retain a perceived star. The pattern is so well established that an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force, in a report on sexual harassment last year, gave those who benefit from it a name: “superstar” harassers.
Source: Matthew Yglesias, Vox
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is challenging federal antitrust officials to explain what — if anything — they are doing about the impact of corporate concentration on labor markets. Antitrust law normally comes up in the context of monopoly power, the prospect that a company will control such a large share of output that it can raise prices or reduce quality. But it also applies to situations of monopsony power, in which market concentration offers undue leverage over workers or upstream suppliers. His newfound interest in the matter is part of a broader trend to a heightened interest in antitrust matters across a number of fronts — highlighting a potential opportunity to press anti-business and pro-worker themes.
Source: Meera Jagannathan, Moneyish
Confidentiality provisions or clauses within settlement agreements can also mandate an employee’s silence. In the case of a serial violator, NDAs can function as “a way to prevent (employees) from being witnesses for each other, bolstering each others’ cases, or making the information public and shaming the violator and the company,” attorney Paula Brantner, a senior adviser to the nonprofit Workplace Fairness, told Moneyish.
November 1, 2017
Source: Tammy La Gorce, The New York Times
Tipping norms, or the lack of them, may be especially unfair to housekeepers, who arguably do more for guests than park their cars or push the cart containing their dinners.
Source: Reuters, Reuters
New York City, in an effort to combat the gender pay gap, on Tuesday became the first U.S. city to ban employers from asking job applicants about previous salaries. Asking about past salaries can perpetuate unequal pay levels rather than allow applicants to seek pay based on their qualifications and earnings potential, city officials said. Under the city's new law, the first of its kind to take effect in the country, employers who ask applicants about previous salaries or search for the information in public records will be subject to a fine of up to $250,000.
Source: Theresa Schmidt, KPLC News 7 Lake Charles LA
On Sept. 15 workers descended on Coastal Staffing, a temporary staffing company in Sulphur. They were demanding their checks for hours they say they worked in Texas neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
Paula Brantner, from the Washington, D.C. metro area is senior adviser for an organization called Workplace Fairness. For workers to get paid, she says documentation is key.
October 31, 2017
Source: Hanna Kozlowska, Quartz
A lawsuit filed in a U.S. district court in Illinois alleges that Facebook routinely and knowingly misclassified certain workers as not eligible for overtime compensation. Although it has to be approved by the court, it is proposed as a class action, filed by a former client solutions manager at the company. Susie Bigger, the former “CSM,” as Facebook reportedly calls these positions, alleges that Facebook engaged in “systematic, companywide wrongful classification” of employees who had no managerial responsibilities or decision-making power as exempt from overtime requirements, thus depriving them of additional pay when they worked more than 40 hours a week. The lawsuit alleges the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as Illinois’ minimum wage laws.
Source: Dave Jamieson, HuffPost
Trump’s election last year appeared to signal the death knell for overtime reform, leaving retail outlets, among others, free to order managers and other salaried workers to log very long hours for no extra pay. In its appeal, however, the Trump administration is trying to preserve the right to update the law the same way that Obama did ― by raising the “salary threshold,” the level below which all salaried workers are entitled to overtime pay, regardless of their job duties. On Monday, the Justice Department said it intends to appeal the decision that struck down President Barack Obama’s update to overtime regulations. The Trump administration plans to ask the court to sit on the case while the Labor Department “undertakes further rulemaking.” The move suggests that President Donald Trump, like his predecessor, may try to extend overtime protections to more workers ― but given the usual Republican wariness about boosting workers’ pay by government fiat, probably not nearly as many as Obama had in mind.
October 30, 2017
Source: Todd C. Frankel, The Washington Post
Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.
Source: Kate Rogers, CNBC
UncommonGoods in Brooklyn, New York, has a paid family leave policy in place, offering up to eight weeks of paid time off per year. CEO David Bolotsky says the policy isn't just good for workers — it's good for his bottom line. Come Jan. 1, all businesses in the state will have policies that look much like what workers have access to at UncommonGoods, as New York implements what's being hailed as one of the most progressive paid family leave policies in the nation. The program will be phased in over the next four years, allowing up to 12 weeks of paid time off by 2021 for a new child. The new measures apply to adopted or foster children, as well as ill family members, including children, in-laws and domestic partners. Those who are experiencing family pressures when someone is called to active military service also qualify.
October 27, 2017
Source: Dave McNary , Variety
Spurred by the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has called for unions in all sectors to protect workers from sexual harassment. Carteris, a member of the AFL-CIO executive council, disclosed in her speech that the leadership of the AFL-CIO has formed a cross-industry working group to deal with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. The working group will attempt to develop best practices and tangible resources that make it easier for people to speak out and that helps to ensure a meaningful effective response.
Source: Deena Shanker , Bloomberg
After years of fighting for an Obama-era rule that would help farmers sue the mammoth companies they work for, advocacy groups for America’s small poultry, pork and beef growers may have been dealt a final blow by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The fight was about whether small farmers can sue if they feel they’ve been mistreated by big companies. Poultry farmers, for example, often get their chicks and feed from big meat producers, which in turn pay the farmer for the full-grown product. If a farmer wants to sue a company for retaliating against him because he complained about his contract—say, by sending him sick chicks or bad feed—the farmer needs to show the company’s actions hurt not only him, but the entire industry.
October 26, 2017
2 female former Uber engineers have filed a complaint about their pay and allege they were 'ranked' on their looks
Source: Julie Bort , Business Insider
Two former Uber engineers have filed complaints with California regulators alleging unfair pay and other workplace discrimination, the news website Axios reports. Among other allegations, the women claim their male colleagues ranked their attractiveness, according to The Information. The two women were part of Uber's reliability engineering team. Perhaps the most significant thing about the complaint is that it's based on a law that seems to allow employees to sidestep mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.
Source: Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times
The Harvey Weinstein news has spurred an outcry on sexual harassment from women far from Hollywood. Now some of that outrage is taking a new shape, beyond the repeated revelations, and has begun to influence the legal system. On Monday, New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, a Democrat from Queens, announced she would introduce an amendment to the state’s current anti-discrimination laws. If passed, it would extend certain protection to models, putting designers, photographers and retailers (among others) on notice that they would be liable for abuses experienced on their watch. Models in New York State would require specific provisions because of their convoluted employment chain. Many are classified as independent contractors, with their agencies claiming to act in an advisory capacity.
October 25, 2017
Source: Eduardo Porter, The New York Times
Even if the Trump administration were to deploy the 10,000 immigration agents it plans to hire across the nation’s fields to detain and deport farmhands working illegally, farmers are very unlikely to raise wages and improve working conditions to attract American workers instead.
Source: Adam Ashton , Sacramento Bee
California labor leaders sound almost apocalyptic when they describe a looming Supreme Court case that many of them concede likely will cost them members and money. They’re alarmed by Janus vs. AFSCME, the Illinois lawsuit that challenges the rights of unions in 22 states to collect so-called “fair share” fees from employees who do not want to join bargaining groups but may benefit from representation. That practice has been legal and common since 1977, when the Supreme Court favored union arguments for fair-share fees in a lawsuit against the Detroit Board of Education. Now, unions anticipate a 5-4 Supreme Court decision banning the mandatory dues with President Donald Trump’s nominee on the court, Neil Gorsuch, tilting the balance against their side just a year after the court deadlocked on a similar case against the California Teachers Association.
October 24, 2017
Source: Mike Elk, The Guardian
More workers could die from the long-term effects of cleaning up after hurricanes Harvey and Irma than were killed by the storms, according to a nationwide network of workplace health and safety groups. The mainland US death toll for the two hurricanes, which battered Texas and Florida in August and September, now stands at approximately 200 people. But according to Jessica Martinez, executive director of National Council of Occupation Safety and Health (Cosh), a nationwide network of workplace health and safety groups, a greater number of people will die cleaning up in their wake “if more resources aren’t put into health and safety training from post-cleanup”.
Source: Nick Wingfield , The New York Times
Amazon on Friday tried to quell concerns among employees about sexual harassment accusations against an executive, sending an email to its staff saying the company would review its policies to ensure that “they are doing their job to provide a harassment-free workplace.” The email is the first broad internal communication by Amazon since Roy Price, who oversaw Amazon Studios, left the company this week after details of the accusations became public.
October 23, 2017
Source: Maria Lamagna, MarketWatch
One major reason why repeat offenders can continue harassing for years: Some employers are reluctant to share information about a sexual harasser because they are embarrassed it took them so long to fire him, said Paula Brantner, a senior adviser at Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit based in Maryland. And they may also be protecting themselves against any potential legal action by current and former employees who may have been harassed.
Source: Barb Darrow, Fortune
Here’s some worrisome news: The gender pay gap is more pronounced among freelancers and consultants than it is in corporate settings, according to new research. Female freelance writers, editors, graphic designers, artists, and others who bill for their own work make 32 cents less on average than their male counterparts. This is according to new research from HoneyBook, a website that small businesses and freelancers use to bill for their services. That’s a significantly bigger gap than the 24-cent difference calculated by Payscale and the 19.5-cent cent gap reported in recent U.S. Census numbers.
Source: Carolyn Bick , Al Jazeera
There are at least two million domestic workers in the United States, and most of them are black Americans or immigrant women. They are considered so unworthy of legal protections that basic workers' rights do not extend to them. Now, a political climate and leadership tells them that they are not only unwelcome, but they also should not expect safety because of their skin colour and ethnicity. Many face slave-like working conditions. They are one of the only classes of workers excluded from basic working protections, as set forth in the 1935 still-unamended National Labor Relations Act. Many are poor immigrant women of colour, which puts them in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump's administration.
October 20, 2017
Source: Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg
The Los Angeles hotel workers’ union is getting ready to take on a new incarnation of management: private equity. Organizers are targeting the luxury resort Terranea, which was developed and is now controlled and operated by Lowe Enterprises, a real estate investment firm whose private equity arm manages more than $2.5 billion in assets. On Thursday, resort workers plan to confront their general manager and demand a fair process to unionize. They also plan to file a lawsuit accusing the company of failing to pay workers wages they’re owed -– the kind of illicit cost-cutting that they say exemplifies the worst practices of private equity -- and seek class-action status for the suit.
Source: Christianna Silva , Newsweek
Income inequality is rising and the wage gap is widening for American workers—and the problem is even worse for U.S. senior citizens, a new report shows. It’s so bad, in fact, that the income inequality numbers among the elderly in the U.S. resemble more a report out of a developing country than what would be expected of America. The gap between wealthy and poor seniors is one of the widest in any nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The only countries with wider gaps among seniors are Mexico and Chile, according to a study by the OECD and a CNN article.
October 19, 2017
Source: Aimee Picchi, CBS MoneyWatch
The office should be a place where employees can focus on getting work done, but a good share of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers say they're getting harassed on the job.
Source: Bryce Covert, The Nation
But there’s another reason actresses harassed by Weinstein may have been discouraged from reporting sexual harassment. Any who were working on a Weinstein film were almost certainly classified as independent contractors, not regular employees. And that means that the anti-discrimination and sexual-harassment protections of federal law didn’t apply to them.
October 18, 2017
Source: Amanda Marcotte , Salon
After both the New York Times and the New Yorker published lengthy exposés of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's long history of alleged sexual harassment or assault -- against pretty much any young woman who felt dependent on him for job opportunities -- a larger question has emerged: What can be done? Not about Weinstein in particular, as it seems that the film industry is ready to eject him from a position of power and influence. (As it largely did not do in the cases of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.) But Weinstein is just one part of a much larger problem, which is so widespread and seemingly intractable that society needs more than Twitter hashtags to address it. The solutions will be multifaceted and complicated, of course, but one important piece of the puzzle is the role of unions. Work-related sexual harassment of the sort Weinstein is accused of dishing out is, ultimately, a labor issue.
Source: Louis Hansen , The Mercury News
Three former Tesla factory workers charge in a new suit the company’s factory is a hostile environment for black workers, adding to earlier accusations of racial harassment. The men, who are African-American, claim in a new complaint filed Monday in state court that Tesla supervisors and workers used racial epithets and drew racist graffiti on cardboard boxes. Tesla has faced ongoing labor disputes and disruption this year. The company fired hundreds of workers this month after company-wide performance reviews. The new suit is the second by black employees charging Tesla failed to address racial antagonism at its factory. The electric vehicle maker also has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board over claims it illegally tried to silence workers promoting a union.
October 17, 2017
Source: Farah Stockman , The New York Times
The man from Mexico followed a manager through the factory floor, past whirring exhaust fans, beeping forklifts, and drilling machines that whined against steel. Workers in safety glasses looked up and stared. Others looked away. Shannon Mulcahy felt her stomach lurch. It was December 2016. The Rexnord Corporation’s factory still churned out bearings as it always had. Sometimes a bearing was rumored to have ended up in something notable — the retracting roof of the Dallas Cowboys football stadium or a nuclear submarine — giving the workers a feeling of greatness. But mostly, the bearings were unglamorous. Anonymous. Hidden from view. Like the workers themselves, they were rarely thought of beyond the factory walls. That was fine with Shannon Mulcahy. Being a female steelworker hadn’t been easy. But the factory anchored her otherwise tumultuous life. For 17 years. Until now. Shannon and her co-workers had gotten the news back in October: The factory was closing. Ball bearings would move to a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Roller bearings would go to McAllen, Tex. About 300 workers would lose their jobs.
Chicken Safety: Factory Workers Already Slaughter 140 Per Minute—New Law Could Make This Dangerously Faster
Source: Dana Dovey , Newsweek
Americans eat a whole lot of chicken—about 8 billion each year. In an effort to meet this demand, poultry farmers and some Republican lawmakers are hoping to do away with current regulations that limit the number of chickens workers can legally chop up in a minute. While the result may be good for the chicken farmers, advocates for factory workers say the change would be dangerous for people on the assembly lines. Increasing the speed could put workers at risk for serious injury. A letter from Anthony "Marc" Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, to the NCC notes that poultry workers, who must debone chickens as quickly as possible, are already at twice the risk of being injured on the job as other workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has openly stated that doing away with this rule and allowing lines to work at any speed could result in more injuries among the workers doing the deboning.
October 16, 2017
Source: Brian Heater , TechCrunch
The nature of work is changing on a global level at a rapid pace. The growth of automation, robotics, AI and the like have the potential to displace jobs at an unprecedented rate. And Google will almost certainly be one of the driving forces behind that transformation. The search giant has regularly expressed a desire to help stem some of that negative impact, and now it’s putting its money where its mouth is to the tune of $1 billion. CEO Sundar Pichai announced Grow with Google at an event earlier today in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the next five years, the initiative will commit $1 billion to nonprofits aimed at training American workers and helping build business.
Source: Patricia Smith and Sharon Block , The Hill
This summer, the Labor Department issued a formal “request for information” to get public feedback on which white collar employees should get overtime pay. In August, a federal judge in Texas purported to invalidate the Obama overtime rule in a far reaching and frankly unworkable decision. The judge didn’t just overturn the Obama rule, he also created a nearly impossible test for any future overtime rule to pass. Secretary Acosta is a lawyer and former law school dean. He surely understands the implications of this decision for any future overtime rulemakings, and by extension, the greater uncertainty it creates for businesses and workers around the country. In a time of rising income inequality and stagnating middle class wages, the question of who is entitled overtime is important for America’s workers and for restoring balance in our economy. It isn’t a time to leave workers in limbo, but time is running out for the Labor Department to act.
October 13, 2017
Source: Alana Semuels, The Atlantic
America used to be a place where moving one’s family and one’s life in search of greater opportunities was common. Of course, it wasn’t simply “moving” that mattered—it was that they moved to specific areas that were growing. But over the past 30 years, that regional income convergence has slowed. Economists say that is happening because net migration—the tendency of large numbers of people to move to a specific place—is waning, meaning that the supply of workers isn’t increasing fast enough in the rich areas to bring wages down, and isn’t falling fast enough in the poor areas to bring wages up. Why is this? Why have people stopped moving? The reason, economists believe, isn’t that there are the jobs or wages to entice people to move to economically vibrant cities like New York and San Francisco—there are—but that housing prices are so high there that they outweigh any gains people could make from the better wages. As a result, high-income cities are still appealing to many workers, but only highly skilled workers who can command salaries high enough to make it worthwhile to move. Low-income workers will end up spending much of their incomes on housing if they move, and so stay put.
Source: Paul Blumenthal, HuffPost
Like most of the industry titans in the world of big tech, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is no fan of labor unions. Since 1994, he’s fended away every effort by Amazon warehouse workers to unionize. But when Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013, he inherited more than 1,200 workers unionized with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. That union now claims that Bezos and Washington Post management are trying to gut protections and benefits for workers in the latest contract negotiations.
October 12, 2017
Source: L.M. Sixel , Houston Chronicle
More than half the nation's private sector workforce is barred from the courthouse if they have disputes over pay, working conditions or discrimination, according to new survey of employers about their use of mandatory arbitration contracts. A report by Alexander J.S. Colvin, professor of conflict resolution at Cornell University, found that 56 percent of private-sector, non-union workers are subject to mandatory arbitration, preventing them access to the courts for a wide variety of legal claims including overtime and minimum wage violations, retaliation and discrimination for age, sex, race, national origin and disability. The arbitration contracts are typically a condition of employment.
Source: Z. Byron Wolf , CNN
It took years for the stories to emerge, but when they did, Harvey Weinstein lost his job at the company that bears his name. The same is true for Roger Ailes, the Fox News mastermind who changed cable news. He lost his job after allegations from women were reported. Bill O'Reilly's ratings were strong when he was plucked from his anchor's chair after allegations and reports of settlements with women. As the US comes to terms with sordid, uncovered tales of powerful men preying on women, the shift in acceptance of such behavior feels swift and gratifying; abusers are facing public scorn and consequences in the court of public opinion, if not criminal court. But there's one glaring exception. Incredibly, when there is not a corporate boss and the fate of the powerful man rests with voters, as it did in the case of Donald Trump, he gets a serious promotion. To the White House.
Source: Mike McIntyre, IdeaStream.org
Workplace Fairness Senior Advisor, Paula Brantner, talks with Mike McIntyre about recent sexual harassment scandals in the news, and how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. Start at 12:11 to hear the whole interview.
October 11, 2017
Source: Yoree Koh and Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal
Can Uber Technologies Inc. become a place women want to work? The ride-hailing company is famous for its hard-charging culture. A February blog post written by former engineer Susan Fowler alleged the company had become tolerant of sexism and chauvinism, a revelation that prompted an internal investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and led to the release in June of 47 recommendations on how Uber could improve its workplace. The responsibility for reforming Uber’s culture and carrying out many of the recommendations landed on the desk of Liane Hornsey, the company’s human-resources chief and a former Google and SoftBank executive.
Source: Garrett Epps , The Atlantic
This term at the U.S. Supreme Court seems likely to end with an assault foretold—on America’s public-employee unions. It will come in a case called Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which was granted review on September 28. Janus challenges—for the third time in five years—the financial stability of public employee unions. By coincidence, these unions are an important pillar of the Democratic Party. Janus will be the third attempt since 2012 to gut the unions by court order. Formally it poses a First Amendment question; but under the surface, its central issue is whether public-employee unions are helpful labor organizations or baneful big-government lobbies.
October 10, 2017
Source: Meera Jagannathan, Moneyish
Here’s what to do if you find yourself fending off unwanted sexual attention — physical or verbal — from a coworker or boss:
Think ahead to how you might handle it. “It’s very common that you just freeze” when you get sexually harassed, explains employment lawyer Paula Brantner, a senior advisor to the Workplace Fairness nonprofit. “The best way to keep that from happening is to kind of walk through in advance what you would do if this happened.” Sending a “loud and clear” message in the moment can both help establish that the overture was unwanted from a legal perspective, and potentially nip the problem in the bud, Brantner said.
Source: Chris Perez , New York Post
The financial firm behind Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue has agreed to pay out $5 million to more than 300 women and 15 black employees — over allegations that it paid them less than their white, male colleagues. State Street Corp., which erected the makeshift monument earlier this year to promote gender equality, said they would cough up the dough this week after being audited by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Since at least 2010, hundreds of women were paid less than their male counterparts — in base salary, bonus pay and total compensation, according to federal officials.
Source: Yuki Noguchi , NPR
Suing one's employer can be scary enough, but it's even scarier doing it alone. Many employers are increasingly requiring workers to sign agreements requiring them to resolve workplace disputes about anything from harassment to discrimination to wage theft through individual arbitration. In other words, the language does not permit them to join forces with colleagues who might have similar complaints. Whether such prohibitions on collective arbitration are legal is at issue in a trio of cases heard by the Supreme Court this week. With Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench, many experts say a ruling against the workers in these cases could result in massive changes in how nearly all workplace disputes will be resolved, and how labor laws are enforced.
October 9, 2017
Source: Karl Russell and Peter S. Goodman , The New York Times
Basic economics tells us that when workers are in higher demand, employers should have to pay more for their services. But in recent years, as unemployment has fallen below 5 percent in the United States, wages have not been increasing as fast as in the past.
Source: David Kravets, Ars Technica
California regulators won't require ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to get fingerprinted as part of their background checks to operate in the Golden State. Taxi drivers, however, must be fingerprinted in California.
October 6, 2017
Source: Dominic Holden , Buzzfeed News
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo dated Wednesday to US attorneys across the country and heads of federal agencies. Sessions’ memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.” It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.
Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene , Governing
Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will add a case critical to the future of public-sector unions to its docket. With President Donald Trump's appointment of conservative-leaning Justice Neil Gorsuch, many expect the court to rule against the unions. Such a decision would energize the recent resurgence of state laws that effectively reduce the power of unions in both the public and private sector. Expecting the worst, unions are already preparing for a potential exodus of members and a loss of revenue.
October 5, 2017
Source: Jenny Anderson , Quartz
A new report from the OECD about gender equality includes some good news: Roughly two-thirds of OECD countries have introduced new policies on pay equality since 2013, and more countries are also implementing paid paternity leave. But the research also highlights some less good news: the median female worker still earns almost 15% less than her male counterpart (on average, across the OECD) and that’s barely budged since 2010. The OECD asked representatives of 35 member countries to choose the three “most effective ways to tackle barriers to female employment.” Here’s what they said.
Source: Ian Millhiser, The Nation
Less than one hour into the new Supreme Court term, which began on Monday, one of the Court’s embattled liberals warned that workplace protections that stretch back to the New Deal are in danger. With Neil Gorsuch, the man who occupies a seat that Republicans held open for more than a year in the hopes that Donald Trump would get to fill it, now beginning his first full term, the Court’s Republican majority appears emboldened. Last week, the Court announced that it will hear Janus v. AFSCME, a suit seeking to sabotage public sector unions. Then, it opened the term with three consolidated cases, all of which are likely to give employers a license to engage in many forms of wage theft.
October 4, 2017
Source: Noam Scheiber , The New York Times
On Tuesday, the ice cream maker, which is based in Vermont, took a big step toward changing that, signing an agreement with a farmworkers’ group that establishes labor standards for the company’s suppliers in the state, and creates an enforcement strategy that encourages workers to speak up about violations.
Source: Angela Rose, Reward Expert
Depending on federal and state laws, as well as your employer’s policies, your conduct while on vacation—or even just after hours—could have a direct effect on your job.
RewardExpert recently spoke with attorney Paula Brantner, senior advisor at Workplace Fairness, about the organization’s mission, common off-duty activities that may be prohibited by your employer, and what you should do if you think your rights have been violated.
October 3, 2017
Most people in America want paid leave — here's the real reason the US is the only developed nation that doesn't have it
Source: Rachel Gillett , Business Insider
As conventional wisdom goes, the need for paid parental leave is a polarizing an issue in the US. It's the best way to explain why the US is the only developed nation in the world that doesn't have it. But according to new research, most Americans actually agree that workers should get paid time off to take care of a new baby. According to a poll from our partner, MSN, 93% of Americans agree that mothers should receive some paid leave after new babies arrive. Nationally, 85% of Americans say fathers should be entitled to paid leave, while 88% of Americans say the same for adoptive parents.
Source: Sho Chandra, Bloomberg Businessweek
Sluggish wage growth stands out as the Achilles’ heel of the otherwise sturdy U.S. job market. With the economy almost at full employment, and more than eight years since the recession ended, a sustained pickup in paychecks remains elusive. Stagnant incomes -- one reason for Donald Trump’s presidential win -- mean that workers aren’t fully benefiting from solid demand for labor. Federal Reserve officials are watching for signs of faster earnings growth that would push inflation closer to their goal. Investors are keeping an eye on wages (among other data) to assess how fast the Fed will raise rates.
October 2, 2017
Source: David G. Savage , Associated Press
The Supreme Court opens its term on Monday with Trump administration lawyers arguing for a pro-business ruling that could bar workers from joining together to challenge the legality of their company’s workplace rules, including on wages and overtime pay. At issue is whether businesses may require employees to waive their rights to join with coworkers and instead agree to act alone to settle disputes before an arbitrator. If the high court agrees with the administration, the outcome could sharply restrict the rights of private-sector workers who do not belong to a union.
Source: Eric Mack , Inc.com
Gates points out that the modern workplace was designed for an era when one member of a household pursued a career while another dedicated all of their time to "the unpaid work of caring for family and tending to the house."
September 29, 2017
Source: Kathleen Elkins , CNBC
You often hear about the top-notch employee perks at Facebook: Its headquarters in Menlo Park offers free meals, dry cleaning and even a barber shop. What you don't often hear about are the contract workers, from bicycle mechanics to cafeteria workers, who keep everything running. Full-time employees "have free laundry, haircuts, free food at any time, free gym," Maria Gonzalez, a janitor at Facebook, tells The Guardian. "It's not the same for janitors. We just leave with the check." And despite Facebook's minimum wage of $15, which it established for all of its contractors in 2015, the paychecks don't go far around San Francisco, where the cost of living is 62 percent higher than the U.S. average.
Trump wants to make America great again by using the Supreme Court to gut the rights of non-union workers
Source: Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs , Quartz
In a case called Murphy Oil, slated for the first day of the Supreme Court’s new term, the Trump administration is inviting the court to eviscerate the rights of employees who don’t have a union. Traditionally, workers have turned to labor unions in their fight for a better life. But unions have been under attack for decades, and there are fewer unionized workers today than there were before there was a right to unionize.
September 28, 2017
Marc Benioff got tired of the gender pay gap at Salesforce, so he spent $3 million to close it—twice
Source: Lianna Brinded , Quartz
While a lot of companies toil over policies to promote workplace diversity and equal pay, few invest major sums to immediately fix the problem. Benioff, who signed the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge, also requires that 30% of the attendees of every company meeting be women, and grants equality awards for trailblazers on equal rights in business, government, and nonprofits. The company has also been recognized as a top employer for women across different rankings.
Source: Jimmy Tobias, The Nation
For at least a decade now, the far right has exploited its near-total domination of state government to clamp down on the mere possibility that progressive change could take root in the small specks of blue—the defiant, often Democratic cities—that hover in their midst.
September 27, 2017
Source: Mitchell Hartman, Marketplace
So, what's are the bottom line issues that may be behind Target's decision to boost wages? Retention and recruitment, the company said. And that’s an economic necessity for retailers now, with very low unemployment pitting retailers against each other for talent.
Source: Erik Larson, Bloomberg
The U.S. law that has protected workers from gender and racial bias for more than half a century should not be extended to cover gay and lesbian employees because that isn’t what Congress envisioned when it passed the bill, Trump administration lawyers told a federal appeals court.
September 26, 2017
Source: Maria LaMagna, MarketWatch
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition. The amendment prohibits the government from interfering in the free exercise of speech and religion.That’s why it may give government employees additional protection, since any action against an employee may be considered government action, said Paula Brantner, a senior adviser at Workplace Fairness, an employment law nonprofit.
Source: Max Cea, Salon
Source: Preeti Varathan , Quartz
Target announced that it will raise its minimum pay to $11 an hour, with a goal of setting its lowest wage at $15 an hour by 2020. It was a rare leading moment for the discount retailer, which usually waits for its competition to raise wages before following suit. Other big American companies have inched up their base wages as well.
September 25, 2017
Source: Alan Feuer, The New York Times
So far this year, the lawyer Douglas Wigdor, a conservative Republican, has filed 11
suits against Fox News for defamation, sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Source: Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic
Home-health and personal-care work is one of the country’s fastest-growing occupational sectors. But it is one marked by low pay and meager benefits, a problem that might become more urgent as the U.S.’s population continues to age. On top of that, care workers face high rates of wage theft, tax and benefits misclassification, and employer fraud, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a think tank and advocacy organization.
September 22, 2017
Source: Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press
Tesla Inc. is denying claims that it threatened to fire pro-union workers at its Fremont, California, factory and tried to prevent them from passing out union literature. The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Tesla earlier this month, citing multiple incidents in which Tesla security guards allegedly refused to let off-duty employees hand out leaflets about the United Auto Workers union near the doors of the company's factory. Tesla workers further allege that they were prohibited from discussing worker safety concerns and were interrogated about union organizing efforts by Tesla human resources employees, according to the complaint.
Source: Eric McAdams, Paste Magazine
Critics of “right-to-work” laws point out that they weaken unions and lead to decreased wages. In fact, a 2011 study of RTW states and non-RTW states showed that the biggest difference between workers in the two categories was that average and median wages were significantly higher in non-RTW states (by as much as 16 percent). Now, Elizabeth Warren is attempting to repeal these “right-to-work” laws by introducing a bill called the Protecting Workers and Improving Labor Standards Act.
September 21, 2017
Source: Editorial, The New York Times
Education is supposed to be the nation’s great socioeconomic leveler. That belief, however, is not borne out in the data. Pay gaps between white and black workers have grown since 1979, even after controlling for education, experience and location, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute. In fact, racial pay gaps have expanded the most for college graduates, which makes it seem clear that discrimination is a leading cause.
Source: Josh Eidelson , Bloomberg
Hotel workers in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York have been gathering for training sessions recently on how to handle visits from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The sessions, organized by the labor union Unite Here!, teach workers how to effectively stonewall ICE agents, emphasizing employees’ right to refuse to answer questions or show identification.
September 20, 2017
Source: Matt Murphy , Lowell Sun
As activists ramp up their push to raise the minimum wage again, economists from many of the state's public and private universities are rallying to the cause, supporting a $15 an hour minimum wage as a way to lift families working at the threshold of poverty. Ninety economists have signed a letter supporting the gradual lifting of the minimum wage by four dollars over the next four years until it tops out at $15 an hour in 2021.
Source: Janet Taylor, The Citizen
Although New York state continues to expand programs and services to support in-home care for aging and disabled residents, the effectiveness of additional funding and infrastructure is impeded by the lack of home health aides to provide the services. The shortage of home care workers is largely due to factors such as low pay, lack of benefits, transportation barriers and costs, and often difficult working conditions.
Source: Cliff Albert, KOGO News Radio 600 San Diego
Workplace Fairness Senior Advisor Paula Brantner discusses protections, and lack thereof, for workers who attend rallies, post political views on social media or voice political opinions at work.
September 19, 2017
Source: Daniel Wiessner, Reuters
President Donald Trump will nominate Peter Robb, a management-side labor and employment lawyer from Vermont, to be the National Labor Relations Board’s next general counsel, the White House said on Friday. Robb has been with Vermont-based law firm Downs Rachlin Martin since 1995 and in the past few years published articles critical of NLRB rules designed to speed up the union election process and board decisions that struck down common workplace rules. He must be confirmed by the Senate.
Source: Peter Jamison, The Washington Post
Ari Schwartz, lead organizer for the pro-labor coalition D.C. Jobs with Justice, said activists will continue to push elected officials to adopt stronger workplace laws. “Why should legislation that is going to help people in the city get better jobs, get living-wage jobs, be on a moratorium?” Schwartz said. “I don’t understand how anyone can rule out considering things that people need and policies that are going to help people, on some arbitrary timeline just because the business community is up in arms as they always are.”
September 18, 2017
Source: Anna North, Vox
Advocates for equal pay suffered a setback on Wednesday, as Republicans in the House voted against an amendment that would have protected funding for the collection of pay data by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Last year, the EEOC under President Obama announced it would require private employers with more than 100 workers, and federal contractors with more than 50, to report their employees’ compensation broken down by sex, race, and ethnicity. The requirement, aimed at shedding light on persistent racial and gender disparities in Americans’ pay, was supposed to take effect in March 2018. The Trump administration blocked the requirement earlier this year but left the door open for the EEOC to resubmit revised pay reporting requirements for review.
Source: Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
Google is being sued for gender pay discrimination, turning up the heat on the Internet giant already facing allegations it shortchanges women. Three female former Google employees are seeking class-action status for the complaint filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court. The lawsuit is being brought by three women — Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri — who say they quit Google after being placed at lower job levels, resulting in lower pay and denying them promotions and moves to other teams that would advance their careers. The plaintiffs allege women at all levels are paid less than men and that women are assigned to lower job tiers with less opportunity for upward mobility.
September 15, 2017
Source: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post
The Mine Health and Safety Administration is trying to relax a hard rock mining inspections rule that was published just three days after President Barack Obama left office, by allowing examiners to do their reviews while miners are working and letting companies not record hazardous conditions if they’re immediately corrected.
Source: Erik Larson , Bloomberg
Three women who worked at Google in recent years sued in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that the company continues to pay women less than men for equal or similar work, according to a copy of a complaint provided by their lawyer.
September 14, 2017
Source: Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch
Of 186 countries, 96% require some form of paid maternity leave, according to the World Policy Analysis Center, a nonprofit policy research group. The U.S. is only one of a few that does not.
Source: Grace Donnelly, Fortune
This led to a 0.9 percentage point improvement in the gender wage gap in the since last year. Women earned 80.5 cents to each dollar men earned in 2016, compared to 79 cents in 2015.
September 13, 2017
Source: David Shepardson, Reuters
The head of the 1.4-million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters union is mounting an aggressive effort to convince Congress to reject new rules to speed the deployment of self-driving trucks, warning they could lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and reduce road safety. James P. Hoffa, who has headed the union since 1999, said on Tuesday that Congress could help major trucking companies ultimately get rid of drivers by automating vehicles, which would also pose serious risks to American drivers.