Tag Archive: Department of Labor

Mar 30

Title VII at 50 Symposium – THIS WEEK!

The Center for Labor and Employment and the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society would like to invite any interested students or colleagues to the Title VII at 50 Symposium Conference, which takes place this week on April 4 and 5, 2014.

This program is presented in conjunction with the St. John’s Law Review, the Journal for Civil Rights and Economic Development and the St. John’s Journal of International and Comparative Law, the NYU Center for Labor and Employment Law, The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development, and the St. John’s Center of International and Comparative Law.

This two-day symposium commemorates Title VII and featuring panelists and speakers who will assess the past, present and future of Title VII. Please see the attached program for the events schedule and speakers.

This is an amazing learning and networking opportunity for those interested in labor or employment law, and we encourage any interested party to attend. Please feel free to distribute the program and this email to any groups you are a member of. Scholarships and prizes will be awarded at this event.

The conference is free of charge and open to all, but please RSVP to Paula Edwards at (718) 990-6653 or clel@stjohns.edu.

We hope to see you in attendance at one or both days of the conference.

More Information: http://www.stjohns.edu/about/events/school-law-title-vii-50-two-day-symposium
Program – Title VII at 50 Symposium – 3-27-14

Mar 13

Around the Web: March 13, 2014

It might be 19˚ here in New York, but spring is almost here! With the change in seasons, there are a whole host of new issues coming down the pipeline. We are counting down the days until the Title VII at 50 Conference, and have put together a selection of current events that show just how relevant Title VII is today.

First on the list is President Obama’s call to update the minimum salary threshold and revamp overtime rules to expand overtime for salaried employees. This directive is expected to be announced via executive order today, read this before the announcement!
*Update from the New York Times*

Our own Professor Gregory is in the final stages of preparing a paper on Fisher v. University of Texas, and the far-reaching implications that the Supreme Court’s decision may have on diversity. The Wall Street Journal posted an interesting report on the challenges schools face to increase or maintain diversity. Read it and then let us know your views at the Title VII conference. H/T to Brendan Bertoli for this!

Going along with the Title VII theme, activists fighting the employment discrimination faced by the LGBT community are renewing a push for federal legislation that would prohibit anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act did not pass, but activists are hopeful that the president will issue an executive order circumventing the Congress. Click the link for an article framing the necessity of an anti-discrimination initiative.

The Ministerial Exception is making news with a recent case about a gay school administrator fired from a Catholic school. Read the links here, here and here about the issues this case is bringing up.

The EEOC has issued new guides to religious accommodations in the workplace. The documents, titled Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities and an additional fact sheet, gives a guide to when and how employers must accommodate employees’ religiously based requests on clothing, religious dress, head coverings, hair styles, and facial hair. These sheets provide a cheat sheet of the basic requirements of Title VII and provide case specific examples.

What news stories are on your radar? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments, and don’t forget to mark the Title VII at 50 conference (April 4-5) on your calendar!

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 26

15th Annual Worker’s Rights Conference

On October 25th and 26th, I had the privilege of attending the Peggy Browning Fund’s 15th Annual National Law Students Worker’s Rights Conference in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.  The event brought together law students across the country interested in the future of workers’ rights. The conference gave a greater understanding of the issues facing American workers, and was an opportunity to network with fellow students, and top practitioners in the field.

On Friday evening, conference attendees were treated to a showing of Trash Dance.  The film explored an artist’s organization of sanitation workers in Austin, Texas for a performance piece.  After the film, students offered opinions about the film’s metaphors for worker organization.

On Saturday morning, AFL-CIO General Counsel and former NLRB Member Craig Becker delivered the conference’s keynote address.  Mr. Becker reflected on his own experiences when speaking about unions’ future challenges.  He also offered insights into labor cases on the Supreme Court’s current docket and organized labor’s reception of the Affordable Care Act.

Students then participated in workshops that covered various salient issues. I attended three different workshops, all led by prominent figures in organized labor. Dennis Walsh, Regional Director of Region 4 of the NLRB, discussed the NLRA’s nuances in “Introduction to Basic Labor Law”. Fred Feinstein, former General Counsel to the NLRB, detailed how anti-union consultants grew from cottage industry to well-oiled machine in “Future of Worker Mobilization”. Baldwin Robertson, partner of Woodley & McGillivary, summarized issues facing state and municipal union members in “Public Sector Labor Law”.

In the plenary session on Saturday afternoon, panelists Leon Dayan, Jessica Robinson, and Peggy Shorey summarized new assaults on collective bargaining rights in the states, including new right-to-work initiatives and movements to end dues check-offs.  In closing remarks, Dennis Walsh, Marley Weiss and Joe Lurie thanked all conference organizers for their hard work in putting together the engaging and educational programming. It was my pleasure to represent St. John’s University School of Law at the conference.  The Peggy Browning Fund’s programs contribute greatly to the labor law community, and I was fortunate to be a part of this year’s conference.

Panelists (L to R): Peggy Shorey, Leon Dayan, Jessica Robinson, and Matthew Ginsburg.

Panelists (L to R): Peggy Shorey, Leon Dayan, Jessica Robinson, and Matthew Ginsburg.

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.

Mar 20

President Obama Nominates Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary


President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as the next Secretary of Labor.[1] If appointed, Perez would replace former Secretary Hilda Solis, who stepped down in January,[2] and Acting Secretary Seth Harris.[3]

Perez has served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice since 2009.[4] The son of two Dominican immigrants, Perez paid for college by working as a garbage collector and a warehouse worker,[5] later graduating from Harvard Law School.[6] Before becoming an Assistant Attorney General, Perez was Maryland’s Secretary of Labor for two years.[7] He had also served on the Montgomery County Council, giving him experience in local, state, and federal government at the time of his nomination.[8] While running the Civil Rights Division, Perez oversaw several initiatives that received widespread attention. The Division blocked voting rights laws in Texas and South Carolina, leading the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to strike down the Texas law requiring voters to present photo identification.[9] The Division also undertook unprecedented investigation into 17 police and sheriff’s departments.[10]

Obama’s nomination of Perez drew the expected reactions from various interest groups and politicians. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said, “[a]t a time when our politics tilts so heavily toward corporations and the very wealthy, our country needs leaders like Tom Perez to champion the cause of ordinary working people.”[11] James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, praised Perez as “a fighter,”[12] and Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, called Perez’s nomination “an excellent choice.”[13] On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions called Perez the “wrong man for the job,” criticizing his stance on immigrant labor.[14] Even before the official nomination, Republican Senator Charles Grassley said that Perez would have to answer questions about the Civil Rights Division’s role in a housing discrimination case in Minnesota.[15] Other Republicans soon joined in that scrutiny.[16]

During his announcement of the nomination, Obama pointed to Perez’s rich background in government and his strong history of defending civil rights.[17] He reiterated the familiar claims that a “top priority as President is doing everything we need to do to make sure that we’re growing our economy and that we’re strengthening our middle class,” and that his administration is dedicated to “mak[ing] sure that hard work actually pays off in a decent living.”[18] After applauding the Department of Labor for its work under Solis as Secretary, Obama alluded to Perez’s former role as Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, where “he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.”[19]

The President’s latter comment and his nomination of Perez might signal an attempt at real change to the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Obama announced his intention to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 by 2015 in his February, 2013 State of the Union address,[20] and his nomination of Perez is an encouraging, though tentative, first step in such a direction. Even the mention of a living wage in the President’s announcement shows an awareness of the minimum wage’s inadequacy, with the relative value of the statutory minimum falling steadily since the 1960s.[21] Although a meaningful increase to the minimum wage would be daunting politically for any Secretary, Perez would at least have the political experience from Maryland’s government to serve him.

In addition to that goal, Perez devoted some of his time as Maryland’s Secretary of Labor to combating the misclassification of workers as independent contractors.[22] The Department of Labor has considered stopping employers’ misclassification of workers a priority for several years now, beginning a deliberate initiative against it in 2011[23] and announcing a broad survey on the subject early in 2013.[24] In other words, Perez might be the right person to lead the federal agency into a new era of support for workers’ rights. If that is to be his role, he will likely face the wrath of the conservative end of a highly dysfunctional Congress, his first taste of which will be his confirmation hearings. If he survives that and gains the title of Secretary, many will be watching to see if he lives up to the President’s stated hopes.

[1] Remarks by the President Announcing the Nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary (Mar. 18, 2013), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/18/remarks-president-announcing-nomination-thomas-perez-secretary-labor [hereinafter Remarks by the President].

[2] Mark Lander & Steven Greenhouse, Solis Stepping Down as Labor Secretary, N.Y. Times, Jan. 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/business/solis-stepping-down-as-labor-secretary.html?_r=0.

[3] See Remarks by the President, supra note 1.

[4] Sari Horwitz & Lena H. Sun, Obama to Nominate Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary, Wash. Post, Mar. 10, 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-09/politics/37574465_1_voter-id-law-labor-secretary-civil-rights.

[5] Remarks by the President, supra note 1.

[6] Horwitz & Sun, supra note 4.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Peter Baker, Obama Nominates Justice Aide for Labor Post, N.Y. Times, Mar. 18, 2013, at A11, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/us/politics/obama-to-nominate-thomas-e-perez-as-labor-secretary.html.

[12] Id.

[13] President Obama Makes Right Choice for DoL Secretary, SEIU (Mar. 18, 2013), http://www.seiu.org/2013/03/president-obama-makes-right-choice-for-dol-secreta.php.

[14] Evan Perez et al., Labor Pick Assailed for Housing-Bias Deal, Wall St. J., Mar. 19, 2013, at A5, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323869604578368410082168122.html.

[15] Horwitz & Sun, supra note 4.

[16] See Perez et al., supra note 14.

[17] See Remarks by the President, supra note 1.

[18] See id.

[19] Id.

[20] Jim Puzzanghera, Obama’s State of the Union: Topic by Topic, L.A. Times, Feb. 12, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/12/news/la-pn-state-of-the-union-topics-20130212.

[21] See Dean Baker & Will Kimball, The Minimum Wage and Economic Growth, Center for Economic and Policy Research (Feb. 12, 2013), http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/the-minimum-wage-and-economic-growth.

[22] Horwitz & Sun, supra note 4.

[23] See Memorandum of Understanding Between the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor (Sept. 19, 2011), available at http://www.wage-hour.net/file.axd?file=2011%2f10%2fDOL+IRS+Memodandum+of+Understanding.pdf.

[24] Proposed Information Collection Request (ICR) for the Worker Classification Survey; Comment Request, 78 Fed. Reg. 2447 (Jan. 11, 2013), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-11/pdf/2013-00389.pdf.