Today's News & Commentary — August 10, 2015
Hillary Clinton, Politico reports, has a plan to overhaul how students pay for college – the New College Compact. Under the Compact, students could attend four-year public colleges without having to take out loans and community college tuition-free. If Clinton, or her ideas, succeed, it would drastically change the indebtedness of a new generation of American workers. Currently, Americans bear $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. A senior campaign official subbed the plan a “bold transformation of how we would do higher education financing in our country.” Clinton is slated to discuss the plan in further details today and tomorrow at campaign stops in New Hampshire.
Now for a fix of litigation news. In a case of first impression before the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House Inc., a three-judge panel held that wage-and-hour claimants cannot privately agree with their employers to dismiss litigation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) without judicial review, reports Reuters Legal.
The FLSA, enacted during the New-Deal era of protective employment policy, guarantees the federal minimum wage and overtime pay at one and a half times the rate of pay. As of Friday, in the Second Circuit, courts are still the arbiters of that guarantee. “The burdens (of seeking court approval) must be balanced against the FLSA’s primary remedial purpose: to prevent abuses by unscrupulous employers, and remedy the disparate bargaining power between employers and employees,” wrote Circuit Judge Judge Rosemary Pooler. Abdul Hassan, counsel for the appellant-employer, plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The extra work the decision places on the already overburdened federal judiciary, and the delays and costs imposed upon plaintiffs and defendants, raise serious concerns legal also.”
Reuters Legal also reports that the U.S. District of Massachusetts recently found, in Ronnie Jones et al v. City of Boston et al., that Boston is not illegally discriminating against Black police officers by testing hair samples for cocaine despite a strong statistical disparity between Black and White officers. According to the presiding judge, Douglas Woodlock, Black officers are four times more likely to fail the test than white officers. Plaintiffs attributed that disparity to the inherent unreliability of the test. They argued that the test is not indicative of actual drug use because it cannot distinguish between actual drug consumption and environmental exposure.
Woodlock, however, found the test to be generally liable and correlated to legitimate work-related behavior. He also concluded that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that there was an alternative method that could accomplish the same, paramount purpose: to ensure a drug-free police force.