News & Commentary

August 21, 2015

The Obama administration’s regulation guaranteeing overtime and minimum wage protections to nearly 2 million home health care workers was upheld by the D.C. Circuit today, which held that the Labor Department was authorizd to change the wage rules covering domestic workers who help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks such as bathing or taking medicine. Reviewing the regulation under the Chevron two-step framework, the court concluded that the revised regulation fell within the scope of the Department’s rulemaking authority and was a reasonable exercise of that authority. Further, the court held that the regulation was neither arbitrary nor capricious, satisfying the substantive limits on the agency’s regulatory power.

Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing designer and retailer, announced today that it would give roughly one fifth of its employees the option to work four days per week starting in October, Bloomberg reports. Instead of working 8 hour, five day weeks, such employees will have the option of working 10-hour, four day weeks, some working days of which might fall on Saturdays and Sundays. Uniqlo’s new policy falls into a growing trend of tech companies experimenting with shorter workweeks, including Treehouse, an online education company, and, a Latin American search engine. Such policies are supported by some recent evidence that long hours at work reduce profits and productivity.

Netflix is getting negative ratings lately—but not for its video content. Earlier this month, Netflix announced that it would expand its paid family leave policy to give new parents unlimited time off during the first year after the arrival of a new baby; however, the Huffington Post reported just days after the announcement that the new policy had an important limitation: the new family leave policy would apply only to employees in its streaming division, not its DVD-by-mail division. According to Anne Marie Squeo, the company’s spokeswoman, the two sides of the business run differently, highlighting what the Huffington Post described as a “nagging divide” between in-demand tech workers and workers who do not have technical skills. The discrepancy in the treatment of streaming versus DVD workers has not been lost on workers’ advocates; indeed, Netflix’s policy change has earned pointed criticism from organizations such as UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy group, and viewers.

The Economist reports that the number of workers who own shares in the business that employees them has never been higher, and the United States is leading the way, with 32 million Americans owning stock in their companies through pension and profit-sharing plans and share-ownership and share-option schemes. The Economist argues that the growing trend, supported by both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, has bi-partisan appeal, bolstering capitalism by giving workers a stake in their company’s success, while also giving them a piece of the “capitalist pie.” There some evidence that ownership increases productivity and innovation, the benefit of which might be tempered by the fact that ownership tends to correlate with increased risk for employees, who put more eggs in one basket than they would otherwise.

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