News & Commentary

May 16, 2018

Thousands of teachers in North Carolina are rallying at the capitol today for the planned “March for Students and Rally for Respect.”  Forty-two school districts—accounting for over half of the state’s public school students—canceled school as up to 20,000 teachers were expected to march in Raleigh.  The North Carolina Association of Educators, which organized the protest, is calling for the Republican-majority legislature to raise teacher pay and school spending to at least the national average and to restore overall funding to pre-recession levels.

Yesterday, Uber announced that it had eliminated forced arbitration agreements for employees, independent contractors, and customers who bring sexual harassment and assault claims against the company.  Uber also announced that it would no longer require confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements for those who choose to settle claims through arbitration.  Lyft followed suit only hours later, announcing that it too would drop forced arbitration clauses from its employment contracts and user agreements.  Critics pointed out that Uber’s mandatory arbitration clause still bars workplace discrimination and pay equity claims, as well as class-action suits.  As previously reported, the California legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit companies from forcing employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements waiving their right to sue for workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

The Economic Policy Institute has released a report analyzing the Uber drivers’ compensation and the size of the gig economy in the United States.  The study finds that the average Uber driver earns $11.77 per hour, substantially less than both the $32.06 average hourly compensation of private sector employees and the $14.99 average hourly wage of service occupation workers.  After subtracting mandatory Uber fees, vehicle expenses, and self-employment taxes, average driver earnings drop to $10.87 per hour.  The report also argues that the “size” of the gig economy measured in terms of total hours worked and aggregate compensation is relatively small as a share of the overall economy.

Fox has reached a $10 million settlement with 18 current and former Fox News employees who filed lawsuits against the company alleging racial and gender discrimination.  The settlements include a class action lawsuit accusing the company of “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination” and two separate actions alleging gender and other forms of discrimination.  Over the past year, the media company has been plagued by several sexual harassment scandals that have resulted in the ousters of chief executive Roger Ailes, newscaster Bill O’Reilly, and multiple other employees.

Meanwhile, two women filed suit against AT&T on behalf of all female non-managerial employees of the company’s mobile stores for discriminating against pregnant women.  The women allege that AT&T’s “no-fault” attendance policy, which assigns demerits for absences and other lapses in attendance regardless of the reason, is inherently discriminatory against pregnant women.  Both women were fired after accumulating too many demerits due to pregnancy and birth-related absences.  The suit contends that AT&T’s policy violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating between pregnant and non-pregnant employees, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious medical conditions.

On Monday, Seattle’s city council voted unanimously to impose a tax of approximately $275 per full-time employee on businesses that earn more than $20 million in annual revenue.  The tax is intended to combat a growing housing crisis, as real estate costs have risen alongside the city’s booming economic conditions.  The approval followed weeks of intense lobbying and debate.  Amazon protested the council’s original $500 per employee proposal by suspending two building expansion projects, while major companies, small business, and trade unions alike warned about the tax’s potential adverse effects on local jobs.  Amazon resumed building after politicians approved the reduced tax rate, but warned that the ordeal had forced the company to “question [its] growth” in Seattle.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reportedly increased the number of workplace investigations, audits, and arrests in an effort to crack down on the employment of unauthorized migrants.  According to data released by ICE on Monday, immigration authorities conducted audits on 2,282 employers between October 2017 and May 2018.  By comparison, ICE initiated 1,360 audits between October 2016, and September 2017.  Over the same period, worksite-related arrests rose from 311 to 1,204.  Derek Benner, Acting Executive Associate Director of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Unit, stated that ICE plans to conduct over 5,000 audits by the end of September and seeks to establish a single Employer Compliance Inspection Center that would allow the agency to conduct as many as 15,000 audits per year.

According to a survey released by the Department of Education, 94 percent of U.S. public school teachers use their own money to purchase classroom supplies.  In the 2014-2015 school year, teachers spent an average of $479 of their own earnings on supplies, significantly more than the $250 federal tax deduction available to them.  The study sheds light on one of the many factors driving teachers’ strikes across the country.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.