Employee Rights Briefing
July 2017
What We're Reading
The Institute News

Employee Rights In The News news
In The News
On June 5, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed the Uninsured Employer Act, which creates a fund for assisting injured workers whose employers are not insured.

On June 8, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary R. Alexander Acosta announced the withdrawal of the DOL's 2015 and 2016 informal guidance on joint employment and independent contractors. USA Today reporter Paul Davidson explained the implications of the move in his article, " Worker-Friendly Rules Scrapped By Labor Dept." A new Economic Policy Institute report released on May 31 drew connections between the joint employer standard and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The U. S. House of Representatives, on June 8, passed the Financial CHOICE Act, which, among other provisions, would revoke the "fiduciary rule" recently enacted by the DOL to ensure that investment advisors act in their clients' best interests. A powerful explanation of the impact of the bill on consumers and workers was written by Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren published an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe applauding the rule, asserting that " Saving For Retirement Just Got Easier."

In their June 8 article, " Utah Legislature's Amendments to Two Wage Statutes Now In Effect," Kirton McConki, PC explains recent reforms to the Utah Wage Claims Act (UWCA) and Utah Payment of Wages Act (UPWA). Among other changes, the revisions expanded both the definition of who qualifies as an "employer" and the types of damages and penalties to which aggrieved workers may be entitled.

The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), on June 12, published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to rescind the currently-enjoined "persuader rule." Finalized in March 2016, the rule was designed to fight union-busting by requiring companies to report any "actions, conduct, or communications" they have engaged in to "affect an employee's decision regarding his or her representation or collective bargaining rights." The deadline for interested parties to submit comments is August 11.

On June 13,  The New York Times Editorial Board asked readers if they " Remember The Promise Of Good Jobs?" In the article, the Board explains how Federal Reserve and Republican legislative policies are serving to suppress wage growth.

Workers' Rights By The Numbers:

The number of states that have passed legislation defining the employment relationship since 2015.

The total number of DOL investigators tasked with enforcing wage laws for over 135 million workers in 7.3 million workplaces in the year 2016.
( DOL )

The number of
Minnesota hourly workers who are paid the minimum wage or less.
( Fox9 )

The estimated number of
jobs that will be lost if the Republican healthcare bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law.
15 Billion
Estimated value in dollars of wages taken from workers through minimum wage violations between 2013 and 2015.

An in-depth report published by  USA Today on June 16  exposed the harrowing exploitation faced by workers in the trucking industry. On June 23, truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles  ended a weeklong strike that sought to raise awareness of working conditions akin to  modern-day indentured servitude.

The DOL's Wage & Hour Division recently  reinstated the practice of issuing opinion letters, which had been replaced by general guidance in 2010. A  Bloomberg BNA article, " Labor Department Shifts on Overtime, Opinion Letters," explains how the changes signal a pro-employer approach to labor policy in the new administration.

The Minneapolis City Council moved forward on June 30 with  raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2022.

On July 1, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens announced he will not veto a bill passed by the state legislature  prohibiting cities and localities from enacting a minimum wage higher than the state's. Once the state law goes into effect on August 28, it will cut St. Louis' minimum wage workers' pay from $10 per hour to $7.70 per hour.

Employee Rights In The Courtscourts
In The Courts
On June 6, attorneys for the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc. filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, in which they seek to have public-sector union fee arrangements deemed unconstitutional.

In a complaint filed on June 7 in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, plaintiffs in the class action suit Alvarez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. argued that while the nationwide injunction on the revised overtime rule prevents "the Labor Department and its officials from 'implementing and enforcing'" the rule, it does not prevent workers like themselves from filing suit to vindicate their rights under the rule.

On June 30, in its reply brief filed in State of Nevada v. Dept. of Labor, the DOL asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reverse the nationwide injunction currently preventing the Department from implementing or enforcing the rule expanding overtime protections for workers.
The Institute News
inst1The Institute Bids Farewell To Founding Executive Director Terisa E. Chaw
The Institute is saddened to say goodbye to its founding Executive Director, Terisa E. Chaw, who will be retiring this month. The Institute family is indebted deeply to Teri, whose vision brought The Institute into being and whose energy and commitment has guided its development. Teri truly has been our greatest champion of employee rights advocacy, and her contributions toward advancing equality and justice in the American workplace are immeasurable. Under her leadership The Institute has become a powerful voice for employees, and as we move forward, we will continue in our work with Teri's vision in our minds and her spirit in our hearts. Thank you, Teri, for all that you have done and will do. We wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.

inst2The Faces Of Forced Arbitration Project Launched At 2017 NELA Annual Convention
The Institute was proud to launch its groundbreaking project, The Faces of Forced Arbitration, at the 2017 NELA Annual Convention last month. Designed to serve as a platform for workers to tell their personal stories and share the real harm they endure when they lose their right to go to court, the first phase of this project focuses on how forced arbitration silences sexually harassed workers and allows systemic harassment to persist. You can read one such worker's story and learn the facts about forced arbitration on the new Faces of Forced Arbitration page on The Institute's website.

The Institute invites you to join us in helping to grow. We are seeking stories of people who have been forced to endure wage theft, violations of their civil rights, or other forms of workplace malfeasance, yet were denied the ability to be made whole because of a forced arbitration clause. Please share information about this project with your networks, and encourage the people you know who have been harmed by forced arbitration to speak up. If you know of any employees who would like to participate in this groundbreaking effort, please have them contact The Institute's Paul H. Tobias Attorney Fellow Elizabeth Colman at ecolman@employeerightsadvocacy.org.

inst3The Institute Welcomes Interim Executive Director Phillip Arca
In mid-June, The Institute was very pleased to welcome our new Interim Executive Director, Phillip Arca. Prior to starting his own consulting firm, Arca & Associates, Phillip gained extensive experience leading public interest and service organizations, including acting as the Executive Director of the St. Vincent DePaul Society of Alameda County, a countywide social services organization, from 2003-2012. Phillip will be with The Institute through the end of 2017, and will be assisting with an organizational assessment that will lay the groundwork for bringing on a new, permanent Executive Director for The Institute in 2018.

inst3Workers Beware: Forced Arbitration Can Happen To You
The use of forced arbitration clauses in the workplace is becoming more and more pervasive. Yet, because the proceedings often are confidential, it is impossible to know how many employees are affected. To expose companies that try to shield themselves from public accountability, The Institute has launched its Workers Beware project, which enables employees to discover whether an employer is known to force its workers to forego their rights in exchange for a paycheck. Now workers and allies can use our reporting tool to help expand this list by identifying companies that attempt to hide their bad behavior behind the closed doors of forced arbitration proceedings.

The Employee Rights Briefing is a monthly newsletter designed to help keep you up-to-date on breaking news and emerging trends impacting America's workers. From the growth of forced arbitration of employment disputes, to employee misclassification, to stories of wage theft and workplace discrimination, the Employee Rights Briefing will report on employment law and policy developments from the federal government to state legislatures to the courtroom and everywhere in between. Our goal is to provide you with a digestible snapshot of the events shaping employment law and policy, so that you can be kept abreast of the most important issues facing today's workers.

We welcome your feedback! If you have any questions, or are aware of any stories or issues you think should be included in the Employee Rights Briefing, please contact us. If you would prefer not to receive the Briefing in the future please unsubscribe below.