News & Commentary

June 14, 2018

On Tuesday, Washington governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order intended to mitigate the fallout from the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Epic Systems. In the order, the governor instructs state agencies to contract only with businesses who can demonstrate that their employees are not required to sign mandatory arbitration clauses or class action waivers. The governor cites the power imbalances between employers and employees and the #MeToo movement as motivations for his directive.

In response to allegations of sexual harassment against Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski that forced him to retire late last year, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed a working group to study the problem of sexual harassment in the judiciary. Yesterday, Congress held a hearing, where some, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley expressed skepticism that the judiciary’s proposed reforms would be effective. Buzzfeed Reporter Zoe Tillman attended the hearing and tweeted several committee members’ notable comments and questions.

In a decision that could have an important impact on the “gig economy” in Britain, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that a plumber was an employee of the large plumbing company for which he worked. The company had argued that the worker was “self-employed,” which meant he was not entitled to sue for unfair dismissal after his termination, and which excluded him from certain rights like parental leave. The court noted that the company exerted control over working conditions and pay such that the plumber could only be appropriately classified as an employee.

Thousands of Las Vegas casino workers will vote today on a new contract with the hotel and casino behemoth Caesars Entertainment Corp. Culinary Local 226, which represents the thousands of bartenders, housekeepers, bellhops, and other unionized workers at 34 Las Vegas hotels, reached the deal earlier this month. The deal quieted fears of a massive city-wide strike by 50,000 workers that threatened to cause chaos for Las Vegas’s tourism industry.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Marco Rubio introduced a bill that would protect the professional licenses and drivers’ licenses of workers who default on their student loans. Last year, the New York Times found that 20 states have laws that allow government agencies to suspend such licenses as a means of forcing debtors to catch up on their payments. The Senators noted, however, that suspension of the licenses prevented debtors from being able to work and pay back their debts.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. bankruptcy judges are becoming more sympathetic to the plight of debtors with enormous amounts of student loan debt. Bankruptcy law distinguishes student debt from other types of debt, making it difficult to get outright cancellations. But courts have become more creative in restructuring the debt to make it more affordable, including by cancelling future tax obligations. Student loan debt has now eclipsed credit card debt as the largest source of consumer debt after mortgages, with $1.4 trillion owed by 45 million people.

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