Monthly Archive: April 2014

Apr 23

Title VII 50th Anniversary Conference – Day Two Overview

The second day of the Symposium was held at New York University School of Law in New York City. Professor
 and 
Director 
of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development, Leonard M. Baynes, provided the opening remarks for Day two. After his remarks, Professor Baynes moderated the first panel of the day, which applied the New York experience to Title VII Federalism. The panelists, Allegra A. Chapman Esq., Sandra E. Pullman Esq. and Anjana Samant Esq. are all assistant attorney generals in the
 NYS Office of the Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau.

The panel first explained that as assistant attorney generals they are able to do a lot of work in a variety of ways to defend and protect employees against discrimination through local, state and federal laws. They investigate potential violations of discrimination when employees come to them with a case and there is good faith basis for the claim. The panel was then able to talk about specific groups that are discriminated against, in New York City in particular, and ways in which they can help. They described pregnancy discrimination as tricky to prove because claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) means that the expecting mother has to prove her pregnancy is causing another separate health issue. New York luckily saw this problem and recently passed a law to help women in the workplace during their pregnancy called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).

The panel continued to talk about the LGBT community and cited to a 2011 survey results that shows about one half of transgendered employees were not promoted or hired because of their gender. Although Title VII still does not cover gender identity, the panel clarifies that LGBT activists are working with NYC to create city laws for equal discrimination protection. The last group facing discrimination that the panel discussed was employees with criminal records. Like the LGBT community, these employees do not have Title VII protection, but the city is trying to make laws that would help applicants get their foot in the door. The panel mentioned the “ban the box” law in Buffalo, NY, which prevents employers from asking about criminal records on an employment application, as a good example of protecting applicants with criminal records.

In the second panel of the morning, Professor Karen Fernbach ’78, 
Regional director
 of Region 2 
of the National Labor Relations Board, moderated a panel entitled “Unmet Challenges of Title VII: Labor Opportunities.” Fernbach asked a variety of questions to a panel comprised of Paula Clarity ’07,
 Associate at 
Archer, Byington, Glennon & Levine, LLP, William B. Gould, IV,
 Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law Emeritus at Stanford Law School, 
former chairman of the 
National Labor Relations Board
 and chair of The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, Jay Jaffe, Esq.
Senior Managing Counsel 
1199 SEIU 
United Healthcare Workers East, Amanda Jaret ’13 2013-2014 Law Fellow at the AFL-CIO, and Wilma Liebman, 
visiting Lecturer 
at Cornell University
 School of Industrial and Labor Relations and School of Law and chairman of the NLRB (2009-2011).

After lunch, the final panel of the symposium was comprised of prominent practicing lawyers who provided their perspectives on the Future of Title VII. David R. Marshall, a partner 
at Edwards Wildman Palmer, LLP, led the discussion with practitioners: Paula Clarity ’07, Associate 
at Archer, Byington, Glennon & Levine, LLP, Alfred G. Feliu, Esq. Partner at Vandenberg & Feliu, LLP, William Li ’09, 
Associate 
at the Boyd Law Group, PLLC, Michael H. Masri ’95, 
Partner 
at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP, Terry O’Neil, ’70,
 Partner
 at Bond, Schoeneck & King, LLP, Robert J. Nobile, ’84, Partner at 
Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, and Michael Starr Esq., Partner at 
Holland and Knight. Much of the panel’s discussion focused on how lawyers are realistically tackling discrimination in the workplace and what the next steps are in continuing the decline of discrimination.

Ralph Carter ’14, Dorothy Day Memorial Scholar for Excellence In Labor and Employment Law (Class of 2014) and Inaugural Edwards, Wildman, Palmer Prize Winner for Best Paper on Fair Employment Law (2013-14), provided the closing remarks for the symposium, thanking the co-chairs Professor Gregory and Professor Baynes and all the organizations that helped organize the event.

Specials thanks to everyone who came out to the Title VII Symposium and who shared their time and experiences on this day.

Apr 23

Title VII at Fifty Symposium – Day One Overview

On April 4th and April 5th, the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society co-hosted the Title VII at 50 Symposium in conjunction with with NYU Law School, The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development. For the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the symposium focused on how far we’ve come in the last 50 years and how far we have to go in the hopes of eliminating employment and racial discrimination altogether.

The first day was kicked off by Professor David Gregory, co-chair of the Symposium, Vice Emeritus Dean Andrew Simons and the President of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society, May Mansour ’14. The morning panel was entitled, “The Living History of Title VII: Voices of 1964, and Passing the Torch to a New” and was moderated by Professor Cheryl L. Wade, the Dean Harold F. McNeice Professor of Law at St. John’s University. The panelists were: Paulette Brown, President Elect of the ABA, Dean Andrew Simons, and former U.S. Congressman Rev. Doctor Floyd H. Flake. Paulette Brown spoke of her ability to go to a newly integrated school because of Title VII, although the new environment was far from encouraging. Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake, Former U.S. Congressman and Senior Pastor for the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, discussed how racial minority groups are still facing challenges they should not have to face. With graduation rates for African Americans, Latinos and Asians at 32%, 62% and 75% respectively, Rev. Dr. Flake said that these groups should be in a position today to do what they want to do in regards to their careers and to have the lifestyle they hope for. Vice Emeritus Dean Andrew Simons discussed the case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, as well as Johnson’s address before a joint session of Congress after President John F. Kennedy where he said no eulogy would be better than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights bill.

Before lunch, Professor Gregory and Paulette Brown announced Ralph Carter ’14 as the winner of the Inaugural Edwards Wildman Palmer for Best Paper on Fair Employment Law 2013-14 for his paper on an employer’s use of their employee’s social media information and passwords. During lunch, Professor Janai S. Nelson, 
Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship 
and Associate Director of 
The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development, introduced her former colleague and mentor Jacqueline A. Berrien as the keynote speaker. Ms. Berrien is the current chair 
of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She recounted her time as Associate Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), where she worked prior to being nominated by President Obama to be chair of the EEOC. Berrien then discussed the initiatives and actions being taken by the EEOC since her appointment to shrink the discrimination seen in the workplace through the charges of discrimination brought forth to the EEOC.

After lunch, an all-female panel presented stories of race, gender, ethnicity, and diversity as well as their roles as scholars and journalists. “Stories of Race, Gender, Ethnicity, and Diversity: The Roles of Scholars and Journalists” was moderated by Special Hagan, who kept the debate flowing and the questions coming in a fascinating panel that explored the many different facets of diversity.

Rebecca K. Lee, an 
Associate Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, discussed Fisher v. University of Texas, affirmative action and applying strict scrutiny in higher education. Kimani Paul-Emile, 
an Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, explained her research of employers use of background checks and criminal records in determining whether to hire an applicant as well as if they will terminate an employee if a record is found. Kathleen Wells, a 
Radio Host 
and Multi Media Journalist, discussed research that showed that we still have a long way to go before discrimination is a thing of the past. Sahar F. Aziz, Associate Professor of Law at 
Texas A&M University School of Law, discussed research she conducted that shows the stereotypes facing women, in particular Muslims, and ways in which these women go about trying to remove these stereotypes. Natasha Martin,
 Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Law
 at Seattle University School of Law, talked about how there are still echoes of Jim Crowe laws in the workplace. Lastly, Professor Elayne E. Greenberg, 
Assistant Dean of Dispute Resolution Programs, Professor of Legal Practice
 and Director of the 
Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution at 
St. John’s, discussed implicit biases and how those biases effect decisions made.

The last roundtable of the day discussed affirmative action through the reflections on Fisher v. University of Texas with Professor Gregory, Professor Rebecca Lee, and Professor Gregory’s research students Brendan A. Bertoli ’14, Courtney Chicvak ‘14 
and Sarah Mannix ’15. Bertoli, Chicvak and Mannix discussed their research regarding the Fisher case and how it starts to show where the Supreme Court is heading in regards to Affirmative Action. In addition, Professor Lee provided a deeper analysis from her previous panel discussion into strict scrutiny. Ms. Mannix recalled her experience on the panel as ” a really excellent forum to discuss our research and findings with out practitioners and academics, and a great opportunity for discussion!”

Professor Leonard Baynes, the Ronald H. Brown Professor of Law at St. John’s and Stephanie Rainaud ’15, Symposium Editor for the Journal of Economic and Civil Rights closed out Day One.

Specials thanks to everyone who came out to the Title VII Symposium and who shared their time and experiences on this day.

Apr 21

Overtime Wages Executive Order by President Obama

On March 13th, President Obama declared an executive order to update and modernize the “white collar” exemption of the federal overtime rules that currently exist. These changes ordered to the Labor Department will allow extra pay for millions of workers when they work over 40 hours a week. The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt workers must be paid 1.5 times their pay rate when they work more than 40 hours per week. However, “white collar” employees, who at the time were considered to be high-salary employees, were exempt from this wage protection. According to The New York Times, this no longer the case because today the salary cap that prevents employees from receiving “time and a half” is about $24,000 a year. Subsequently about 88% of workers in the United States, including executive, administrative and professional employees, are exempt from overtime pay. Unfortunately this order from President Obama does not mean that these exempt employees will start receiving overtime pay right away. Instead, the Secretary of Labor will develop a plan to expand the number of workers that will be considered non-exempt and make it easier for both employees and employers to receive and provide this wage protection.

For the official release of the Presidential Memorandum from the Office of the Press Secretary click here!

Do you think this a proper step towards the President’s goal of shrinking economic inequality?

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Apr 10

France to Ban Work Email After Work Hours

A new labor union agreement in France mandates that employees must ignore their bosses’ work emails once they are out of the office and relaxing at home – even on their smartphones. The Guardian reports that France has outlawed employees from reading or responding to “work-related material on their computers or smartphones” after they clock out for the day. This regulation is in response to workers in the tech industry complaining about feeling pressured to be constantly available outside of their 35 hour workweek. According to The Guardian, this will mainly affect over a million employees in the technology and consultancy sectors, including the French outposts of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

If you read french, click here to read a discussion of this and the regulation. If you prefer to read about it in English and after 6pm, click here.

In today’s global economy, is it realistic to ban work email after-hours? Does “after-hours” even exist? These questions are all an outgrowth of this legislation, and while the thought of disconnecting and shutting down is appealing, do you think this regulation is a good idea?

Update: the labor agreement actually does not actually prevent checking emails after 6pm, because the class of workers covered by the agreement are paid based on days worked, not hours. So, the “obligation to disconnect communications tools”, applies only after an employee has worked a 13-hour day. Still, we wonder if this is the best way to help worker’s create a work life balance. More from The Economist here.