Employees and labor activists say they want to see an end to forced arbitration in all cases — not just for sexual harassment — and for all workers. By Shirin Ghaffary and Rani Molla Recode.net
Amid increasing public scrutiny, many major tech companies are reconsidering a practice that bars workers from taking their employer to court over workplace issues such as sexual harassment.
In the past two weeks alone, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, eBay and Square all announced they’d end forced arbitration for cases of sexual harassment. Forced arbitration is an agreement that requires employees to settle disputes in-house rather than in the courts,
The announcement is good news for tech employees because arbitration generally works in favor of employers and tends to involve lower payouts than traditional court cases.
“I’m glad sexual harassment is getting that visibility,” Terri Gerstein, director of the state and local enforcement project at Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, told Recode. “I want other workplace abuses to get this visibility, too.”
Accenture employees are circulating a petition urging the company to cancel its contract to help the Trump administration recruit border patrol agents, the latest in a wave of recent technology-fueled protests by white-collar workers challenging potential collaboration with law enforcement.
“You’re seeing people taking collective action – not just for themselves, in relation to their own salary or hours or benefits, but they’re showing real solidarity,” said Harvard Law School fellow Terri Gerstein, former head of the New York attorney general’s labor bureau.
In the end, the most compelling reason for a company to foist arbitration on its work force is to avoid liability and public exposure that might result from a court case. But if a company wants to avoid liability, blocking workers from court isn’t the best way to do that. The answer is to create a fair and lawful workplace, the best possible workplace, for everyone who contributes to a company’s success and to give workers a voice.
"Rolling back so-called “joint-employer” protections could undermine the Fight for 15 and other vital campaigns."
At stake is the joint-employer standard, where workers are technically employed by a subcontractor, but their working conditions are essentially controlled by the parent company to which they are assigned (in many cases today, so-called “permatemps” do virtually the same job as regular workers, with less pay and job security).
The Trump administration’s Labor Department and the Republican-dominated NLRB...
Epic Systems may have also laid some of the groundwork for the court’s new conservative majority to continue narrowing the scope of federal labor law, scholars said. The court said in that ruling that ling or joining a class action doesn’t qualify as a joint action protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
But the Trump administration led a brief in Epic Systems suggesting that the NLRA’s safeguards for collective worker action only covers group conduct related to self-organization or collective bargaining. “That to me is the most serious and real area to think about an even more conservative Supreme Court changing the law,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, told Bloomberg Law. “In a world where 94 percent of the private sector isn’t engaged in activities related to collective bargaining, that would be a devastating development.”... Read more about The Kavanaugh Tilt: Conservative Justices Could Revamp Workplace Law
Months after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a hefty blow to teachers’ unions, a rash of new lawsuits has emerged that could further damage these labor groups.
There are two main strands to this new wave of anti-union lawsuits: 1) challenges to time-limited windows during which teachers can opt out of membership payroll deductions, and 2) pushes for teachers to be reimbursed for the agency fees they paid before the Janus decision.
Labor and Worklife Program hosts workshop in the shadow of NAFTA negotiations
On August 31, Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program (LWP), in collaboration with the University of Reading, organized a workshop on the “Past and Future of Labor Provisions in the Context of Trade.” Coincidentally, it was the same day President Donald Trump, twenty-six years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), notified Congress of his intent to sign a revised agreement with Mexico and, potentially, Canada...
“This has been a terrible 18 months-plus for working people in this country,” said Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at the Economic Policy Institute. “It’s an unprecedented attack on workers.”
Several worker advocacy groups have seized the moment to propose major overhauls to labor law, including the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, which is exploring policy proposals to reimagine collective bargaining by sector instead of by employer, and to give workers seats on corporate boards, among other recommendations.
It’s not just a reaction to Trump, said Sharon Block, who runs the center with labor professor Benjamin Sachs, though she added he’s certainly making matters worse. 9/3/2018 Under Trump, labor protections stripped away “The little power that workers have, this administration seems to be bound and determined to diminish even more,” said Block, who served on the NLRB board and was a labor adviser to President Obama. “The time for tinkering around the edges has past. What we really need is fundamental change.”