Today’s News and Commentary — September 8, 2016

As reported by Reuters, Epic Systems recently filed a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to decide whether employers can require workers to arbitrate employment disputes individually instead of banding together in group actions. The Seventh Circuit decision, from which Epic appeals, held in May that workers have a substantive right to act collectively that is not trumped by the FAA or recent Supreme Court precedent, and that the company’s mandatory arbitration provision requiring employees to waive their right to proceed as a group violated the NLRA. If the Court grants cert, it would step into a deep circuit split where the 7th and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are pitted against the Second, Fifth and Eighth Circuits.

The North Carolina Department of Labor announced an agreement with the Labor Department to share information identifying companies found to be misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Per JD Supra, the North Carolina General Assembly had previously considered creating a special enforcement unit to prosecute companies for evading laws, but the legislation did not pass. Prompted by reported abuses in the construction industry, the agreement’s scope applies to a wide range of businesses and will promote coordination, and allow for broad state and federal investigations of employers’ practices.

Fox News’s parent company announced it would be settling a lawsuit brought by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson for $20 million. Carlson’s allegations of sexual harassment led to the ousting of the network’s powerful chairman, Roger Ailes. According to The New York Times, the $20 million payout is one of the biggest-known settlements for a single-plaintiff sexual harassment suit, and in a rare move, the company also issued an apology to Carlson.

With more customers shopping online during the holidays, the scramble for holiday logistics and packing workers is already under way. The Wall Street Journal reports wages are expected to increase between $1.50 and $3 an hour from the non-seasonal hourly rate of $10 to $12 to attract seasonal workers. Additionally, the competition among the growing number of fulfillment centers – facilities that process and fill online orders – for companies like Target, Amazon, and Wal-Mart is heating up. Last year, Amazon, hired 100,000 workers for the holidays in 2015 and expects to recruit even more for the fourth quarter of 2016.

According to The New York Times, a recent Australian study found that although, contrary to popular intuition, women asked for salary increases as much as their male colleagues, men were more likely to actually get one. The study, released this week, found that among men and women who work similar hours, men who asked for a raise received one 20 percent of the time, compared with 16 percent for women. About 70 percent of men and women in the sample admitted to asking for a raise. Although the study did not offer solutions, the data did note that women are more often in part-time positions and may feel less empowered to ask for raises, with 48 percent of men saying they were in jobs where they could negotiate, compared to 33 percent of women. In good news, the study also found that women under 40 did receive raises at similar rates as male colleagues.