Today’s News and Commentary– July 18, 2016

The National Labor Relations Board is expected to issue a ruling this summer on whether graduate students are employees with the right to unionize, reports the Wall Street Journal.  Many expect the Board to rule in favor of the graduate students, which would overturn their 2004 decision that graduate students are not employees.  Universities have taken a firm stance against graduate students’ ability to unionize, arguing in a brief to the NLRB that collective bargaining agreements may hinder educational quality.  The AFL-CIO, on the other hand, has argued that graduate students, who provide essential services to universities, are employees who should be entitled to unionize.

The New York Times published an editorial this past Friday on a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s that was recently certified in California, lauding the decision as “another step forward in the battle for fair pay for low-wage workers.”  The lawsuit alleges wide-scale wage theft through unpaid overtime, misrecording of time cards, and failure to pay the minimum wage.  The missing pay is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars for over 500 employees.  McDonald’s maintains that its franchisees, rather than the McDonald’s Corporation, are solely responsible for pay and working conditions.

Fox Searchlight has reached a preliminary settlement with a group of unpaid interns, according to JD Supra.  The case, which began in 2010, resulted in a 2013 decision by the Second Circuit applying the “primary beneficiary” test to determine whether an intern is an employee.  The plaintiffs have said the test “presented “significant risk to [them] on the merits and with regard to certification.”  The settlement, which would pay out $495 to anyone who interned with Fox for at least two weeks from 2005-2010, is awaiting approval by Judge William Pauley.