News & Commentary

January 1, 2014

Happy New Year from On Labor!

Just hours before participating in the New Year’s festivities in New York City, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor issued a temporary stay “block[ing] the Obama administration from forcing some religious affiliated groups to provide health insurance coverage of birth control or face penalties as part of the Affordable Care Act,” the New York Times and Washington Post report. The stay, which gives the government until Friday to respond, applies to Catholic-affiliated organizations, and is separate from challenges to be heard by the Supreme Court by secular businesses whose owners have religious objections to the provision. However, with the new year, the bulk of the Affordable Care Act has taken effect, the New York Times reports, leading “[m]illions of Americans [to] begin receiving health insurance coverage.”

The new year also brought a 1% pay raise for federal employees, the first automatic pay raise in more than three years, reports the Washington Post. The pay raise is the result of an executive order issued by President Obama just before Christmas.

In international news, the New York Times reports President Francois Hollande of France emphasized increased employment in his New Year’s Eve address, saying he supports “reward[ing] companies that hire more people with lower taxes and greater flexibility.” Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the government is planning to take legal action against labor unions and officials if they do not end a week long strike, the Wall Street Journal reports. The unions are calling for a $160 per month minimum wage, while the Labor Ministry announced it would raise the industry minimum wage to $95 per month starting in April.

An article in the New York Times Magazine discusses the potential profit incentives for large retailers to increase their work forces and raise wages. The article discusses the research of Zeynep Ton at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, who argues that rather than treating workers as “merely a cost,” companies should recognize that “better-paid, better-trained” workers can be a source of profit.

A post in the New York Times Economix blog suggests that “average weekly work hours will decline again over the next year because fiscal policy is now switching from penalizing part-time work to rewarding it.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog discusses trends in employment-related litigation for 2014. The trends discussed include: declining discrimination class actions, increasing wage-and-hour suits, aggressive action by the EEOC on discrimination claims, suits involving employee use of social media, and whistleblower cases brought under the Dodd-Frank Act.

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