Category Archive: News

Aug 29

St. John’s Law Student Front & Center

Vice President of Planning for the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society and second year student, Courtney Sokol, was invited to the Hillary Clinton victory party for the New York Primary in mid-April.  Ms. Sokol, who took the opportunity to speak with numerous New York City politicians and St. John’s Law alumni, was photographed by the Associated Press holding a sign that read, “A Woman’s Place Is in the Whitehouse.”  The picture was printed in a number of publications including The Economist and The National Journal.  Ms. Sokol is pictured below:

Hillary Clinton

Aug 29

Recap: 2015-2016 School Year

The St. John’s Labor Relations and Employment Law Society hosted a number of noteworthy guests throughout the 2015-2016 school year. The speakers represented different areas of Labor and Employment Law, ranging from collective bargaining in professional sports to employment contracts with the the unionized workforce in New York City.

In April, Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce of the National Labor Relations Board spoke to the Society about his career path from starting a boutique labor law firm in Buffalo, New York to his appointment by President Obama to serve as Chairman of the NLRB.

Commissioner Robert Linn of the Office of Labor Relations, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, spoke about the challenges associated with bargaining with the unions that represent New York City workers.  He also highlighted his work on the newly developed Health Benefits Program in New York City, which is poised to save the City millions of dollars while offering affordable healthcare to city employees.

The Society also hosted Ann Lesser, the Vice President of the Labor, Employment, and Elections Division of the American Arbitration Association.  Ms. Lesser co-lectured a class with Professor David Gregory on the history of arbitration, the current state of the practice, and the future use of arbitration as a litigation alternative.

Finally, the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society welcomed William Heller, General Counsel to the New York Giants, to discuss collective bargaining with professional football players.  He emphasized the importance of Labor and Employment Law with regard to employment contracts with professional athletes.

The Society looks forward to another fascinating lineup of informative guest speakers for the 2016-2017 school year.

May 09

Transgender Employee Rights

By Natalie Russell.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (“LGBT”) workers are seeing progress in the protection of transgender employee rights by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against workplace discrimination “based on . . . sex.” Traditionally, however, the term “sex” was defined as one’s gender at birth. Any claims that were filed for sex-related acts of discrimination, other than those relating to one’s gender at birth, could not be adjudicated by the EEOC.

The term “sex” was expanded in the 1989 Price v. Waterhouse decision when the U.S. Supreme Court held that sex stereotyping was protected under Title VII. The law continued to evolve and, in 1998, rendering the majority opinion in Onacle v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Justice Scalia acknowledged that same-sex harassment is also discrimination under Title VII.

Still, it was not until the 2012 landmark decision, in Macy v. Dep’t of Justice, when the EEOC recognized that claims based on transgender discrimination are protected under Title VII and can be adjudicated according to 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 of the EEO complaint process. Under Macy, a transgender individual who experiences sex discrimination in the workplace can establish a case under three theories: sex, gender stereotyping, and gender identity. Sex discrimination based on gender identity exists when an agency denies employment because the applicant is transgender, terminates employment based on transgender status or repeatedly uses the incorrect gender pronoun when interacting with or talking about a transgender employee.

On April 9, 2015, the EEOC v. Lakeland Eye Clinic, P.A. $150,000 settlement marked a “historic” moment for the EEOC. It was one of the first times the EEOC filed a case for sex discrimination against a transgender employee. The EEOC has made LGBT coverage under Title VII a priority through its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”). In 2015 alone, the EEOC held over seven hundred events where LGBT rights were discussed. With its directed attention on LGBT coverage, the EEOC has resolved one hundred eighty-four cases and settled twelve of two hundred seventy-one transgender/gender-identity claims it received in 2015.

The EEOC continues its efforts to educate, prevent, and correct LGBT rights and has committed to protecting sex-discrimination rights of transgender individuals.

Mar 28

St. John’s Law School Jumps in Rankings for the Second Consecutive Year

By Amanda Slutsky.

On March 16, U.S. News and World Report released the much-anticipated law school rankings. This year, St. John’s University School of Law increased its ranking by eight spots to number 74. The previous year, St. John’s increased by twenty-five spots! This thirty-three spot jump over two years is an overall representation of the bright future St. John’s offers its students.

The incredible jump can be partially attributed to the opportunities from the School’s different centers, clinics, externships, and honors programs. One particular bright spot is the Center for Labor and Employment Law. At the Theology of Work and the Dignity of Workers Conference in March 2011, Denis Hughes, the President of the New York State ALF-CIO stated, “St. John’s has one of the finest labor programs in the country.” Moreover, under the leadership of Professors David L. Gregory, the Center has recruited some of the most highly regarded practitioners in the field as adjunct professors, such as NLRB Regional Director, Karen P. Fernbach.

Finally, the composition of the student body community may also explain the School’s rapid rise in the rankings. The student body-vibe at St. John’s is unmatched. At many law schools, the inherently competitive nature of ranking students creates a stressful and hostile environment. St. John’s distinguishes itself with students who genuinely help one another succeed. The student body feels like a family that fosters success. As the school’s ranking increases, the student body will inevitably increase in its size, G.P.A., and LSAT scores, but that will not change the friendly environment.

These highlights are among many reasons that demonstrate the bright future that St. John’s offers its students. As a result, St. John’s can be expected to continue rising in the rankings for years to come.

 

 

Mar 15

MLB in Trouble

By Miller Lulow.

Just for a minute, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Tony Clark, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (the “MLBPA” or “Players”). The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) governing the relationship between the MLBPA and the Clubs expires December 1, 2016. Calculated speculation suggests that Bryce Harper, Right Fielder for the Washington Nationals, may be able to sign a $500M free agent contract in the winter of 2019. With Harper’s free agency lurking and the MLB seeing its most fruitful dividends in history, the MLBPA is going to be licking its chops going into the renewal of the CBA. When the MLBPA sits down with the MLB to restructure the CBA, the two positions butting heads will be: “We want a bigger piece of that pie” against “You’ve already had dessert.”

These conflicting positions raise an interesting debate: How much of the rising revenue are Players entitled to receive? The Clubs will assert that the rise in revenue is attributable to smart business decisions that capitalize on, and enhance, the product that the Players put out on the field. Conversely, the Players will argue that there would be no product to capitalize on if it were not for them. Thus, how can the Clubs overcome the Players’ argument that without the Players, the Clubs would not be owners?—they don’t. Instead, they agree and say, “Of course, you’re right, that’s why we pay you so much to begin with!”

The 2016 minimum salary in MLB will be $507,500. Tony Clark’s argument in favor of higher minimum salaries is that MLB players are employed 24/7/365. They are always on the company’s time. Even during the offseason, players are expected to work hard, become better at their craft, and get into better physical shape. Clark’s argument is very powerful once you consider that paying somebody $507,500 for 8,760 hours (1 year) of work means you are paying them $58 per hour. Though there are not many people who would turn down work for $58 an hour, think about working twelve to fourteen hours a day, traveling all over the country, rarely sleeping at home or seeing your family, and rarely getting more than five hours of sleep. Maybe $58 an hour does not seem all that great anymore. This goes to show the difficulty surrounding the impending restructuring of the CBA. As is the case every four years, the Players want more and the Clubs want more. How can we find common ground?

Maury Brown of Forbes.com says that MLB’s revenue grew $500M this year, bringing the total revenue close to $9.5 billion. So, if Harper signs a $500M contract, while he would not be paid all $500M up front, he would be signing a contract for 5.3% of the total MLB revenue. This idea is certain to make Clubs in smaller markets quiver. Harper has just about made it publicly clear that his intention is to be a Yankee—the Yankees have a rapidly declining payroll obligation that will culminate in the 2019 offseason to a mere $45.1M. Though all signs seem to point to the Yankees, because of the free agency system, the prices continue to drive themselves up.

So what ripple effect will a 10 year/$500M contract have on the rest of the players, or perhaps, on the rest of the Clubs? For one, do not think that the Players are ever rooting against each other in salary negotiations. The more money Player X signs for, the more money Player Y signs for, especially if they play the same position. But one player signing for $500M affects everybody, even the 6th-inning middle relievers, because the ripple is so massive. Therefore, the Players are rooting for Harper to sign as big of a deal as possible. On the other side of the table, while there are some Clubs that will pay that money for Harper, the overwhelming majority will not acquiesce. Such an amount would put a lot of pressure on the MLB to continue to raise its gross revenue.

Is it conceivable that one player could sign a contract worth $500M? It certainly looks like Bryce Harper will be that player in 2019. Indeed, this will pose some uncomfortable issues to be hashed out and hopefully agreed upon by the Players and the Clubs in the new CBA. It is interesting to see what kind of trouble it will bring for the MLB.

Feb 05

St. John’s Law Students Continue Dominance in NYSBA Writing Competition and Student Service Awards

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On Friday, January 29, three St. John’s Law students attended the New York State Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section’s Annual Meeting Luncheon, where they received various awards.

Anthony Holesworth (’16) won first place in the Stein Memorial Writing Competition for the second consecutive year. Anthony also won third place in the Kaynard Memorial Student Service Award. He earned a $4,000 scholarship for his combined achievements.

Thomas Rossidis (‘17) won first place in the 2015 Samuel M. Kaynard Memorial Student Service Award, earning a $3,000 scholarship for his achievement.

Marlin Duro (‘17) won third place in the 2015 Dr. Emanuel Stein and Kenneth D. Stein Memorial Writing Competition, earning a $1,000 scholarship for her achievement.

In the past four years, St. John’s students have won eight of the twelve writing prizes and five of the twelve student service awards. Mr. Holesworth is the first student to win the first place research paper prize in two consecutive years (2014: “Student-Athletes or Athlete-Students? The Slippery Slope Presented by College Athletes as Employees”; 2015: “Balls, Strikes, and a Minor Pickle: the Pursuit of Bargaining Power in Major League Baseball and the Lingering Plight of Minor Leaguers”).

St. John’s is immensely proud of these students, who continue to strengthen the St. John’s Law presence in Labor and Employment Law.

The Spring 2016 semester is off to an outstanding start, and it promises to only get better. The Labor Relations and Employment Law Society’s upcoming Spring Speaker Series will feature the General Counsel of the New York Giants, the Commissioner of Labor for the City of New York, and the Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

Sep 12

National Labor Relations Board Favors Fast-Food Unionizing Efforts in a 3-to-2 Ruling

At the end of the summer, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) came down with a game-changing decision that affected fast-food chains and related companies dealing with contractors and franchisees. The decision heavily favored unions because it changed the meaning of an employer-employee relationship by including a staff contractor—a person hired to staff the parent company’s facilities—within the concept of a joint employer. Therefore, because a staff contractor is employed by the parent company, a union is legally entitled to bargain directly with the parent company, bypassing any bargaining relationship with the staff contractor at that specific facility. Previously, employees in this line of work rarely succeeded in union organizing, which, in some degree, was due primarily to their weak negotiating leverage against franchisees and staff contractors. Now, however, the Board significantly made union representation easier through an “indirect test” that establishes a greater number of bargaining relationships through an “ever-widening circle of employers.” For example, if fast-food employees at a particular restaurant choose to become unionized, this decision gives union representatives the opportunity to negotiate not just with the franchisee or contractor of that particular restaurant, but also with the corporate headquarters. For more information on this decision and how it may impact companies beyond fast-food restaurants, check out this article from The New York Times!

Apr 21

Congratulations to 2015 Scholarship Winners!

Dean Michael A. Simons, Dean and John V. Brennan Professor of Law and Ethics, and Professor David L. Gregory, the Dorothy Day Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Center, are pleased to announce the St. John’s Law students named 2015 Scholars for Excellence. They would also like to thank all of the generous alumni donations, including new endowed scholarships by Alumni Michael Borrelli, Robert Nobile, Troy Rosasco, and Isaac Torres. This year, Evan Spelfogel, a senior partner at Epstein Becker and Green, endowed a scholarship in memory of his late wife Beverly, a distinguished graduate of the St. John’s Law Class of 1984.

Congratulations to all of the students and thanks to all of their benefactors. Special thanks to the Selection Committee, including Dean Michael A. Simons, Assistant Dean Jean Arden, Ana Shields, Michael Van Aken, and David Marshall. Each of the 2015 Scholars for Excellence in Labor and Employment Law, and Junior Fellows of the Center, receives a partial tuition merit scholarship. They are:

Marlin Duro ‘17 is the John Boyd Memorial Scholar and the Research Fellow of the Boyd Law Group.
Patrick Boyd ’00, founder of the Boyd Law Group, established this scholarship (2011) and research fellowship (2014). in honor of his Grandfather.

Anthony Holesworth ’16 is the inaugural Professor David L. Gregory Scholar and Research Fellow. Mr. Holesworth is also the Co-President Elect of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society, 2015-2016. David Marshall, Adjunct Professor and Counsel to the international law firm Locke Lord, has inaugurated this research scholarship.

Charles Lazo ‘16 is the Louis E. O’Neil Scholar. Terry O’Neil ’70, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC and Adjunct Professor, inaugurated this scholarship in honor of his Father in 2012.

Matthew O’Neill ’16 is the Jackson Lewis Scholar. The scholarship was established in honor of the late Alan Becker, a partner with the firm and a mentor to the St. John’s Law graduates who founded the scholarship in 2006 in his honor: Ana Shields ‘03, Craig Roberts ‘97, and Chris Valentino’00.

Eric Barnosky ‘16 is the John Sciortino Memorial Scholar, established by Adjunct Professor Troy Rosasco.

Thomas C. Rossidis ’17 is the inaugural Richard J. and Maria Van Aken Memorial Scholar. This scholarship is established by Michael R. Van Aken ’99, Coca Cola Vice President, and Human Resources 21st Century Beverage Partnership Model, in honor of his late parents.

Arthur Rushforth ’16 is the Anthony L. Pedretti Scholar. Mark G. Pedretti ’92, a partner at Reed Smith, inaugurated this scholarship in honor of his father.

Eugene Ubawike, Jr. ’15 is the inaugural Basil Paterson ’51 Memorial Scholar.

Cynthia Lauren Vella ’16 is the Coca-Cola Scholar. Ms. Vella is also the Co-President Elect of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society, 2015-2016. Established in 2010 by Michael R. Van Aken ’99, Coca Cola Vice President, Human Resources, this nationally prestigious scholarship is coupled with compensated summer employment in the corporate labor and human resources functions of Coca-Cola.

Robert W. Vogel ‘16 continues as the Dorothy Day Memorial Scholar. This is the Law School’s senior scholarship for excellence in labor and employment law. The scholarship was founded in 1997 by Robert J. Nobile ’84, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw.

Quinn Wetherall ’16 continues as the Monsignor Thomas J. Darby Memorial Scholar. Mr. James Darby ’84 was a staff lawyer with the office of the Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, an advisor to the now-late Governor of Pennsylvania, and a member of the labor board of Pennsylvania prior to becoming a distinguished arbitrator and mediator. He is the nephew of the late Monsignor, an alumnus of St. John’s University.

Thank you to all of our benefactors for your generous support!

Mar 15

Remembering Cardinal Egan

Cardinal Egan visits St. John's

The Center for Labor and Employment joins St. John’s Law, along with many others, in mourning the passing of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who served as an honorary chair of the CLEL. The Center was honored to host Cardinal Egan last semester, and as Professor David. L. Gregory said, “Everyone at St. John’s was privileged to hear the wise words of the Church’s greatest canon lawyer… He will be missed.”

Feb 11

Step Backwards for Kansas: Governor Rescinds Order Protecting Gay State Workers

On Tuesday, February 10th, Republican Governor Sam Brownback rescinded a 2007 executive order that prohibited employment discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered in state government jobs. Over 7 years ago, Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, passed the executive order, which required government agencies to have programs that prevents harassment against any member of the LGBT community that is looking to work or who currently works in a government agency. Many groups are condemning this behavior from Governor Brownback including national gay-rights group, Human Rights Campaign, and the state’s leading gay-rights group, Equality Kansas. Check out this article from The New York Times to learn more!

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