september 18, 2008
WEEK 3 OF TAKE BACK LABOR DAY

Week Two Roundup

On Labor Day, September 1, we launched the Take Back Labor Day blog project on the new and improved Today's Workplace blog.
Who's blogging? Intro to Take Back Labor Day Join the conversation!
today's workplace: the employee rights blog
The Next New Deal (Jeff Blum): In 1932, at the middle of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt swept into office with the promise of bold economic reforms. Policies implemented in The New Deal stabilized the banking system, cut skyrocketing unemployment, paid farmers and workers fair wages, and created a foundation for a generation of economic growth. A few years later, World War II strengthened America's economy, resulting in twenty years of prosperity. Sounds like fantasy-land, right? Comment
Sharing Labor Day with Transgender Workers (Phil Duran): In 2007, hundreds of gay-rights organizations from across the country signed a statement opposing the first gay-rights bill ever approved by a house of Congress. Why? Because the bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not discrimination based on gender identity/expression. It is likely that future ENDA proposals will include both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as protected characteristics. When that happens, Congress will once again be following the lead that employers from coast to coast have already clearly established in affirming the equal employment rights of their transgender employees. Comment
Labor In Exchange for One's Rights (Paul Bland): A large and growing number of employers across the United States require current and prospective employees to sign away core constitutional rights as a condition of getting a job. "If you want to work here," millions of employees are told, "you have to agree that any disputes you have with us--even if we cheat you, even if we break our contract or break the Fair Labor Standards Act or a basic civil rights act--will be submitted to binding arbitration with an arbitrator who is chosen by an arbitration company whom we pick. If you don't like it, you can't work here. Comment
Domestic Workers Lack Adequate Legal Protections (Melvina Ford): Mr. and Mrs. Ortega* worked and lived in the D.C. home of Ms. Glasson* for the last 7 years. The Ortegas each worked an average of 60 hours a week, cooking, cleaning, and driving Ms. Glasson around town. Last fall, they were fired without notice, given two weeks severance and immediately evicted from Ms. Glasson's home. Ms. Glasson was gracious enough to have a U-Haul waiting for them. The Ortegas were never paid overtime. I wish I could say that this story was uncommon or shocking, but the truth is that I hear some version of this story several times a month. To make matters worse, protecting employees like the Ortegas is difficult because domestic workers are routinely exempt or excluded from many basic workplace laws. Comment
Health Care, Labor, Economy, Prosperity (Jason Rosenbaum): It goes without saying that a healthy worker is a better, more productive worker. Sickness not only cuts into productivity by taking an employee out of the office, but chronic, untreated conditions can sap energy, happiness, and ability, resulting in a less productive environment for both the employee and the employer. This is why in the 1940s, when businesses were competing for workers but couldn't raise wages due to wartime wage controls, health insurance was introduced as a benefit. It was a win for both sides. Comment
Workplace Flexibility ? A New Standard for the American Workplace (Chai Feldblum and Katie Corrigan): In today's difficult economy, we are all more acutely aware of the changing nature of work in this country. American employees are increasingly concerned about job security and losing crucial benefits--while the demands on them in a 24/7, global marketplace have intensified exponentially. Many employees are working more hours than ever before, while others--especially low-wage workers and those in the growing contingent workforce--have little or no control over how many hours they will work in any given week. Comment
Remember, Remember the Fourth of May (Jason Gooljar): Many people don't think about Labor Day. They see it as another day off from work. It's a day when the retail corporations offer incentives to come out and consume. Yet, even those who have an inkling of what Labor Day is and what it's about don't realize that this day masks the real defiance and spirit of the workers' movement. Comment
this week in the courts
Sanders v. Hayden ?(Seventh Circuit; No. 08-1596)
Decision Date: September 12, 2008
In a suit by a plaintiff civilly committed as a sexually violent person, alleging violations of civil rights by state officials for cutting the wages he received for work he performed in the facility, dismissal for failure to state a claim is affirmed where the Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply to civilly-committed sexually dangerous persons.
Decision Date: September 10, 2008
In an employment discrimination case, a decision to enforce an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) subpoena seeking company-wide data is affirmed where: 1) subpoena compliance was not moot due to either the complaining employee having joined a private suit or defendant having complied with an identical subpoena in a separate EEOC investigation; 2) the EEOC retains the authority to issue subpoenas on an employer after issuing a right to sue notice allowing private suit; and 3) the EEOC has jurisdiction to see company-wide data when an individual charges systematic discrimination.
Franzen v. Ellis Corp. ?(Seventh Circuit; No. 07-2009, 07-3358)
Decision Date: September 10, 2008
In a suit alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), breach of contract, and retaliation by defendant-employer, judgment that plaintiff was not entitled to damages or attorneys' fees is affirmed where: 1) while defendant had violated FMLA, plaintiff failed to prove that he would have been able to return to work or that he had attempted to mitigate his damages; and 2) FMLA's required award of attorneys' fees to prevailing plaintiffs did not apply since, despite the jury verdict for plaintiff on the liability issue, the final judgment was correctly entered for defendant.
Hughes v. Region VII Area Agency on Aging ?(Sixth Circuit; No. 07-1570, 07-1647)
Decision Date: September 8, 2008
In an action claiming that defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and retaliated against plaintiff's exercise of First Amendment rights when she received a two-day suspension after a conversation with a co-worker, as well as when she was terminated allegedly due to her discussions with a local newspaper reporter, summary judgment for defendants are reversed in part where: 1) the district court correctly found that defendant-agency is a state actor subject to suit under section 1983; and 2) contrary to the ruling below, plaintiff's speech did relate to a matter of public concern and that her FLSA claims were timely.
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Take Back Labor Day
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