Category Archive: News

Apr 10

France to Ban Work Email After 6 PM

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?

Mar 14

Workers sue McDonald’s for wage theft

McDonald'sYesterday, McDonald’s workers filed seven class-action lawsuits in New York, California and Michigan Thursday. The suits allege that McDonald’s has forced employees to work off the clock, not paid them overtime and struck hours off their time cards, and those discrepancies resulted in wage theft.

The suits varied by state. In New York, worker’s claimed that their wage was driven below the federal minimum wage because of unreimbursed expenses. In California, the workers alleges meal and break violations. In Michigan, workers claimed they would only start getting paid only when customers walked into the restaurants, even if they had been at work for hours.
All of these claims violate the federal Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and In all of these cases, the relationship between the franchises and the corporate parent company will be examined.

The suit comes in the midst of a long public relations campaign by fast-food workers demanding higher wages.The workers are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which specializes in representing plaintiffs in class actions. This case will surely be a fascinating case to watch unfold. Click over to the New York Times for more on the beginnings of this case.

Feb 20

What’s New With the CLEL – Spring Update

The Center for Labor and Employment works closely with the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society at St. John’s. The LRELS is the student-run arm of the Center and is headed by President May Mansour ‘14, Co-Vice Presidents Sarah Mannix ‘15 and Rich Berrios ‘14, Treasurer Monica Hincken ’14 and Secretary Samantha Kimmel ‘15. Next year, Cynthia Vella ’16 and Stephen Halouvas ’15 will join the board. In addition to the many opportunities offered by he LRELS and the Center for Labor and Employment, there are several exciting events taking place this semester.

The first event was a Distinguished Speaker Series, A Conversation with Harry I. Johnson III, a former partner at Arent Fox and a current NLRB Member appointed by President Obama. This event took place on February 19 and Mr. Johnson joined Professor Gregory’s labor law class on February 20 as well to give a speech about recent NLRB decisions, the decision making process and how the agency operates. Mr. Johnson graciously spoke to the attendees and provided fascinating and entertaining insights into the NRLB. (Stay tuned for pictures of the event!)

Next up, he Center for Labor and Employment will co-host a symposium entitled Title VII at 50, with NYU Law School, The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, on April 4-5, 2014. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the programs will celebrate the evolution of Title VII over the years and the current state of the law. In attendance will be some of our most distinguished alumni as well as very prominent academics and practicing attorneys in the field. Some of the presenters will include: Paulette Brown, President-Elect of the ABA; Amanda Jaret ’13, Law Fellow AFL-CIO; Samuel Estreicher, Director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law at New York University; as well as other NLRB directors, and Professors. Over Friday and Saturday there will be roundtables and panel discussions covering a variety of topics including Professor Gregory’s forthcoming paper, “Past as Prologue in the Affirmative Action Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court: Reflections on Fisher v. University of Texas.” The conference will be an exploration of the living history of Title VII while looking ahead to what the next fifty years will bring. The winners of the inaugural Edwards Wildman Palmer Prize and the 2014 Coca-Cola Refreshments Scholar will be announced at the conference.

There are many opportunities to get involved with the Center for Labor and Employment and the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society. Please follow the TWEN page or visit stjclelblog.org to stay updated on the happenings and scholarship opportunities.

Feb 04

Northwestern Football Players Petition NLRB for Election

The football team at Northwestern University is fighting to create a labor union. The players are hoping to get a cut of the very lucrative NCAA revenue as well as make arrangements for their safety on the field and after they graduate.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from being paid to play college sports, but they may receive compensation in the form of scholarships and living expenses. The players at Northwestern hope that collective bargaining will help them get more of a cut from the profits in the form of a salary. With the recent news about the devastating, cumulative injuries that football players can suffer after years of getting hit in the head, player are also focused on getting better health benefits as well as money to pay for the healthcare later in life.

Stay tuned to this story, which is sure to lead to contention between the players, the school and the NCAA.

Jan 29

Congratulations!

DSC_3471copyCongratulations to Ms. Amanda Jaret ’13, who has accepted an offer to join the staff of the Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, following her current appointment as the Graduate Fellow in the Office of the AFL-CIO General Counsel.

Amanda is an alumni of this blog, as well as the Labor and Employment Law Society and St. John’s Law Review. Among her many achievements, Amanda is a Junior Fellow of the Center for Labor & Employment Law and was ranked in the top of her class.

Congratulations to Amanda!

Jan 10

Podcast – Boeing and the Middle Class

boeingHere at the blog, we are always on the lookout when labor and employment issues are in the news. One recent news item that has brought labor issues to the forefront was the struggle between Boeing and its workforce in the state of Washington. Boeing’s International Association of Machinists Union members narrowly approved a new labor contract last week, which effectively sacrificed their pensions for guaranteed work on the new Boeing 777X jet. Although the contract has saved Boeing jobs for their workforce, at what cost? Labor contract’s like these can have a huge effect on middle class workers, especially when there are steep cuts in benefits.

Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream? ponders the implications of this new contract in an opinion piece for the LA Times. Check out the article and listen to the podcast from NPR (link below). With income inequality on the rise, topics like this are sure to merit lots of debate in the coming year.

Listen to the podcast here.

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Jan 08

Around the Web – New Year’s Edition!

4950670414_8b5205edc5_mHappy New Year and welcome back to the blog! 2014 started with a bang and promises to be a great year! We are especially excited about the upcoming Title VII at 50 Symposium taking place April 4-5 2014. The year is young but there are already lots of stories on our radar!

Social Media is sure to be a hot topic again this year as employers explore the boundaries of monitoring employees and investigating prospective employees online. This article explores a study where researchers found essentially zero correlation between an applicant’s facebook profile and their actual job performance. Some food for thought next time you want to check out a potential hire online!

A hint of good news for the year ahead? Hiring in the private sector increased in December, says a new report. Private-sector payrolls added over 200,000 positions in December, mainly in manufacturing and construction. The benefits and wages are other topics that will garner attention this year. The Senate voted on Tuesday to advance a three-month extension of unemployment benefits that expired over the holidays and resume negotiations on the long term outcome of the benefits. Many states, including New York, have increased their minimum wages effective December 31, and many more are considering increases in the year ahead.

Fitness is always a hot topic in the month of January, but for some female Marines increasing their arm strength was more than just a New Year’s resolution, it was a job requirement. Starting in 2014, all female Marines were supposed to be able to do at least three pullups on their annual physical fitness test and eight for a perfect score. When Only 45% of the women tested could do the 3 pullups, the Marine’s delayed the implementation of new standard. This article explores the requirements and minimum qualifications that women hoping to be trained for combat must meet.

Happy New Year and make sure to add your name to the list for information about the Title VII at 50 Symposium here!

Oct 29

Around the Web – Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

If your costume and your recipe for witches brew are all ready for Thursday, you might think you’re all set for Halloween! Although this mostly secular (and highly commercialized) holiday may seem like an excuse to eat candy all day, some employers have discovered the pitfalls of celebrating this holiday in the workplace. There have been Title VII cases brought on behalf of employee’s whose religion does not permit them to celebrate this holiday. This case involves the Title VII claim of a Jehovah’s Witness who was asked to participate in a Halloween carnival despite her religious beliefs. Some Christian sects do not celebrate Halloween in protest of the holiday’s pagan roots.

The importance of sensitivity to religious observance is a hot topic lately. This article from the Wall Street Journal highlights the importance of sensitivity to religion in the workplace and the rise of religious discrimination claims. Read the article here.

A key point for employers and managers is to remember that if someone does not want to participate in Halloween festivities, do not make them. Here’s a refresher of EEOC guidelines on religious discrimination.

If you do celebrate, submit your costume to the Above the Law costume contest and check out FindLaw’s tips for a spooktacular Halloween!

Halloween bonus: A scary story… a messy office could earn you fines from the Department of Labor, just ask Rebecca Minkoff.

Happy Halloween!

Oct 10

Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc.: Unpaid Interns Are Not Employees

Unpaid interns are filling the court system. Many wage and hour cases have been heard by courts (more are upcoming) but very recently a more disturbing trend has emerged. A federal district court in New York ruled last week that unpaid interns are not “employees” and thus are not able to recover for sexual harassment under New York City’s Human Rights Laws (NYCHRL).

In the case of Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc., the Southern District of New York threw out the hostile work environment discrimination claims of Lehuan Wang, a broadcast journalism intern from Syracuse University. Ms. Wang alleged that her supervisor engaged in inappropriate conversations, including inviting her to his hotel room where he touched her and tried to kiss her. Ms. Wang also alleged that she had been discussing permanent employment with the supervisor, and after this incident, the supervisor was no longer interested in hiring her. Ms. Wang is a Chinese citizen and would have required Phoenix to sponsor her work visa.

Though the plaintiff argued she qualified as an employee under the NYCHRL even though she was unpaid, the court disagreed. The court found that the NYCHRL does not extend its protections to unpaid interns. The Court stated that an employment relationship is an essential condition of this claim and because Ms. Wang was not compensated this relationship did not exist. Despite this unfavorable ruling, Ms. Wang was able to maintain her failure to hire complaint under city and state Human Rights Laws.

This case is an interesting example of the predicament employer’s (and employee’s) may face because of an unpaid internship. Although the court did not extend the definition of “employee” under the NYCHRL, employers and employees alike should be aware of the recent ruling. A link to the full decision in Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc. is available here.

Sep 18

FLSA Update: New Rule Expands Coverage to Home Care Workers

Photo Credit: VA

Photo Credit: VA

Yesterday, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the final version of a rule that will expand the coverage provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Under the new rule, home care workers will be protected by the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA.[1]  Although home care workers whose primary role is to provide companionship to the patient remain exempt from the provisions, the expansion of coverage is expected to bring approximately 2 million additional workers under the coverage umbrella.[2]

Already, both sides of the issue have expressed opinions on why the expanded coverage either will or will not be a good thing in the long run.  Proponents of the new rule have highlighted the fact that a large number of workers who were traditionally underpaid for the services and hours they provided may now have an opportunity to earn a fair salary.[3]  Opponents of the new rule warn of “unintended consequences” that will result from requiring the payment of minimum wage and, in particular, overtime.[4]  They believe that one potential consequence will be the creation of an underground industry within the home health care industry comprised of workers who do not have proper training.[5]

The new rule takes effect January 1, 2015.[6]  Between now and then, the DOL will work with stakeholders in the industry, including the agencies who employ home care workers, home care workers, and patients, on implementation.[7]  More information, including fact sheets and details about upcoming webinars, are available at a special DOL website, which can be accessed here.


[1] United States Department of Labor, Minimum wage, overtime protections extended to direct care workers by US Department of Labor, September 17, 2013, available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/WHD20131922.htm.

[2] Id.

[3] Bryce Covert, Why It Matters That Home Care Workers Just Got New Labor Rights, Think Progress, September 17, 2013, available at http://www.thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/09/17/2634411/home-care-workers-rule-change.

[4] Angela Gonzales, New ruling on home care workers could mean bigger bills for consumers, Phoenix Business Journal, September 17, 2013, available at http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/blog/health-care-daily/2013/09/new-ruling-on-home-care-workers-could.html.

[5] Id.

[6] Department of Labor, supra at note 1.

[7] Id.

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