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Kim Kardashian is being sued for employment practices that are sadly common

May 26, 2021

Terri Gerstein

In the latest celebrity labor scandal, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West was sued in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday by seven workers accusing her of wage theft, retaliation and more. They literally worked on the grounds of her home. Kardashian West’s response to these allegations? “These workers were hired and paid through a third-party vendor,” her spokesperson said. “Kim is not party to the agreement made between the vendor and their workers, therefore she is not responsible for how the vendor manages their business...

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When corporations deceive and cheat workers, consumer laws should be used to protect workers

May 5, 2021

Working Ecoonomics Blog
Economics Policy Institute

Terri Gerstein, Lorelei Salas, and David Seligman

Some public enforcement agencies (and even private lawyers) have recently attacked corporate misconduct of this sort by enforcing laws traditionally used to protect consumers in order to address unfair and deceptive labor market practices that target working people, often immigrants and people of color. More enforcement agencies and lawyers should follow their lead. Public enforcement agencies that focus on enforcing consumer...

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Many workers don’t get new paid sick leave, because of ‘broad’ exemption for providers, report finds

Many workers don’t get new paid sick leave, because of ‘broad’ exemption for providers, report finds

August 11, 2020

By Eli Rosenberg
Washington Post

A government watchdog said in a report out Tuesday that the Labor Department “significantly broadened” an exemption allowing millions of health-care workers to be denied paid sick leave as part of the law Congress passed in March to help workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

But an Office of the Inspector General report noted that a move by the Labor Department to more broadly expand how they categorize health-care providers ended up leaving far more workers without a guarantee of paid sick leave than the agency’s estimate of 9 million.

Actions taken to enforce the sick-leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act have skewed even further away from investigations: 85 percent have been resolved through conciliations.

“These numbers just look so different than the numbers that I’m used to seeing in terms of conciliations versus investigations,” said Sharon Block, a senior Obama administration labor department official. “It really does jump out. That 85 percent is just a really big number.”

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July 28, 2020

by Duke Today Staff
in Duke Today

Employees planning a return to their workplaces face a series of obstacles thanks in part to failures by the federal government, three experts said recently during a panel discussion at Duke. The July 9 panel was part of the Duke University Initiative for Science and Society's ongoing “Coronavirus Conversations” series. 

Panel participant Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, added that “every workplace [should] have a safety monitor who can provide information and confidential advice to workers about their right to a safe workplace.” 

“There are no OSHA regulations specific to coronavirus transmission,” Ms. Block says.  “In the past,” she said, OSHA has “looked at CDC guidance and said to employers, this is the best thing that we know … in short order about how to protect workers. So we're going to enforce CDC guidance.”

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Creativity And Diversity: How Exposure To Different People Affects Our Thinking

July 27, 2020

Shankar Vedantam
Jennifer Schmidt
Parth Shah
Tara Boyle
Hidden Brain Podcast, NPR

Social scientist Adam Galinsky has found that people who have deep relationships with someone from another country become more creative and score higher on routine creativity tests.

"There's something about deeply understanding and learning about another culture that's transformative," Adam says.

Harvard economics professor Richard Freeman has an interesting study on diversity in science. He found that published scientific research receives greater attention if the authors are ethnically diverse.... Read more about Creativity And Diversity: How Exposure To Different People Affects Our Thinking

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How COVID turned a spotlight on weak worker rights

June 23, 2020

 Liz Mineo
Harvard Gazette

Block and Sachs point to flaws in the social safety net, an indifferent OSHA, and a system that favors employers over employees.

As the economy reopens after the COVID-19 shutdowns, businesses are taking a varied, often patchwork approach to ensuring health and safety for their workers, and much uncertainty persists regarding employers’ obligations and employees’ rights. The Gazette spoke with labor law experts Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School (HLS), about how the pandemic has turned a spotlight on the lack of clear workplace protections in general, and in particular for women and people of color, who were disproportionately represented among those deemed essential. Block and Sachs recently co-authored a report urging that U.S. labor law be rebuilt from the ground up. On June 24, they will release the report “Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response.”

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Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?

March 30, 2020

Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block
Ask a Professor Podcast
Harvard Magazine 

WHY WOULD IT TAKE AN AMAZON WORKER, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have...

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Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

December 16, 2019

by Sharon Block, Benjamin Sachs and Laura Weinrib
OnLabor Blog

According to the Crimson, Harvard has circulated an email advising departments seeking to hire spring teaching fellows (and other student workers) to include certain language in job postings and offer letters. The Crimson reports that the email “recommends departments include a provision in postings and offer letters that conditions teaching fellow positions on whether candidates can commit to a start...

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Why conservatives must take principled action for workers

Why conservatives must take principled action for workers

September 17, 2019

The Hill

When conservative British lawmakers bucked their leader on Brexit, many of us in the United States were left wondering, where are our principled conservatives willing to take on the president? Maybe our conservatives have lost the muscle memory of how to do something like this. It seems unlikely any will take on the president any time soon. But maybe they can begin with smaller steps to start rebuilding that muscle.

A great opportunity for taking principled action is happening this month. A bill that prohibits forced...

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Why Uber Thinks It Can Still Call Its Drivers Contractors

September 12, 2019

Aarian Marshall
Uber will not treat its California drivers as employees, the ride-hail company’s head lawyer said Wednesday, despite a new law designed to do just that. The law would create a more stringent test to separate independent contractors from full-time employees. The company’s argument rests on a premise that’s been a cornerstone since its early days: that Uber is a technology company, not a transportation one.

The ...

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Forging a new workplace compact: An optimistic Labor Day message

Forging a new workplace compact: An optimistic Labor Day message

September 2, 2019

The Hill

I approach this Labor Day optimistic that a broad cross-section of American workers and leaders are ready to negotiate and build a new workplace compact that reduces income inequality, restores dignity and respect for all who work, narrows the divides that separate us and ushers in a new era of sustained prosperity.

The academic community is likewise poised to play a more activist and constructive role in supporting a new workplace compact. MIT is about to issue initial findings of a ...

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No More Corporate Lawyers on the Federal Bench

August 21, 2019

Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang
The Atlantic

In response to President Donald Trump’s historic transformation of the federal judiciary, several Democratic candidates for president have promised to prioritize the swift appointment of a new wave of federal judges if they enter the White House.

But if Democrats hope to reverse Trump’s success in seeding the federal judiciary with extreme ideologues, they need to do more than nominate and confirm judges swiftly. They need to start nominating a whole different kind of judge. The next Democratic president should try nominating judges who haven’t been partners at big law firms.

Instead of someone like Katyal, Democrats ought to nominate judges whose day jobs involve working for ordinary Americans. That means, for example, choosing lawyers who represent workers, consumers, or civil-rights plaintiffs, or who have studied the law from that vantage point. Many outstanding lawyers have dedicated their career to advancing the interests of workers. For example, Deepak Gupta has represented the employees’ side in multiple arbitration cases before the Court, and Jenny Yang is a former plaintiffs’ lawyer and former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sharon Block is a former National Labor Relations Board member who now runs an employment-law program at Harvard Law School,... Read more about No More Corporate Lawyers on the Federal Bench

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Barstool Sports Founder’s Tweetstorm Raises Labor Row

August 13, 2019

by Alex Ebert and Chris Marr
Bloomberg Law

In a series of Aug. 13 tweets, Barstool’s Dave Portnoy threatened to fire and sue employees that reached out to union lawyers. The tweets followed an Aug. 12 blogpost where he dared his employees to attempt to form a union, so that he can “smash their little union to smithereens.”

“Under any reading of the federal labor law, telling workers that they’re going to be fired if they seek advice or help about a unionization campaign is flatly illegal,” said Harvard law professor Ben Sachs. “In my estimation, even the Trump NLRB would consider that illegal.”

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The Next Union Era

July 25, 2019

National Review

While labor unions can have value, their current structure in the United States serves almost nobody well. As much as anything else, organized labor needs individuals who like Rolf not only want to organize but also see the need to be innovative in the very way that labor organizations do business.

In addition, as Harvard Law School’s Benjamin Sachs has proposed, unions should be allowed to “unbundle” their services so that they can advocate political causes without bargaining collectively. This could help give workers a...

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