News & Commentary

August 15, 2019

Two former Jones Day associates, a married couple, filed suit against the firm alleging various forms of discrimination, retaliation, and interference.  They first allege that the firm’s parental leave policy providing 10 weeks of paid leave to biological parents of any gender who are primary caregivers, but an additional 8 weeks to biological mothers as disability leave, constituted discrimination on the basis of sex.  The policy gives adoptive parents of any gender who are primary caregivers the full 18 weeks.  While the EEOC instructs that employers may give biological mothers an additional 8 weeks compared to fathers if tied to their physical recovery from childbirth, the plaintiffs say that Jones Day automatically provided the 8 weeks to mothers without any inquiry into necessity.  The complaint also contends that Mark Savignac, the male associate, was unlawfully fired after speaking up about the policy.  The couple further alleges that Julia Sheketoff, the female associate, was paid less than she would have been if she were a man.  They explain that a poor review from a partner who treated her less favorably because she was a woman negatively affected her salary.  They also say that the firm edited the picture of Ms. Sheketoff it displayed on its website to lighten her skin and narrow her nose.

As Sejal reported on Tuesday, employees at sports and pop culture news site The Ringer recently sought voluntary recognition of their union.  In response to the union campaign’s public launch, Dave Portnoy, founder of another sports and pop culture news site called Barstool Sports, said he would bust any union that formed at his site and threatened to fire workers that contacted union lawyers.  Portnoy’s statements soon caught the attention of the AFL-CIO, the New York State Department of Labor, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others, who condemned Portnoy and accused him of violating the National Labor Relations Act.  OnLabor’s Professor Benjamin Sachs told Bloomberg Law: “Under any reading of the federal labor law, telling workers that they’re going to be fired if they seek advice or help about a unionization campaign is flatly illegal. In my estimation, even the Trump NLRB would consider that illegal.”

In yesterday’s decision in Cordua Restaurants Inc., the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that employers faced with a collective action suit can lawfully respond to employees opting into the suit by asking them to sign mandatory arbitration agreements with group action waivers.  It also concluded that employers could threaten to discharge employees who refuse to sign such agreements.  Nonetheless, the NLRB reaffirmed precedent holding that employers cannot discipline or discharge employees simply for filing class or collective actions with other employees over issues related to terms and conditions of employment.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute details how CEO compensation has increased by at least 940 percent since 1978.  In 2018, the average CEO pay at the top 350 companies was $17.2 million when measuring stock options at their realized value, or $14 million when measuring stock options at their granted value.  Using those inputs, the ratio of CEO pay to the average worker’s pay in 2018 was 278-to-1 or 221-to-1, compared to 20-to-1 in 1965 and 58-to-1 in 1989.  The report explains that ballooning CEO pay has been a driving force behind rising income inequality and urges policymakers to increase marginal income tax rates for top earners and raise taxes on corporations with high CEO-to-worker pay ratios, among other reforms.

A tenants’ rights attorney in Colorado who supports Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary for president filed an unfair labor practice charge against Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign on Tuesday.  The attorney, who does not work for the Warren campaign, alleges that the campaign’s non-disparagement clause violates the National Labor Relations Act because it could chill discussion by employees about their working conditions.  Bloomberg Law explains that the NLRB will likely take the unique confidentiality needs of a presidential campaign into account.

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