Today’s News & Commentary


Published December 21st, 2018 - 12.21.188


Chipotle’s forced arbitration agreements are backfiring spectacularly, reported the Huffington Post. Like the 12,000 drivers pursuing arbitration against Uber, workers are flooding the burrito chain with arbitration cases after the company blocked their claims in court. Chipotle began requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements several years ago, forcing their workers to cede their right to sue collectively over any workplace issue, from wage theft to discrimination. When Epic Systems was decided, Chipotle was facing a collective action lawsuit by over 10,000 workers who claimed they were systematically stiffed minimum wage and overtime, but nearly 3,000 of those workers were expelled from the suit because they signed Chipotle’s forced arbitration clauses. More than 150 of those workers then filed requests for arbitration—but unlike a collective- or class-action lawsuit, those claims must be administered separately, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per case for Chipotle. Chipotle has so far refused to pay its share of the filing fees, $1,100 per arbitration, to prevent the claims from proceeding. But a federal judge ruled against Chipotle, slamming the company’s legal strategy: “Chipotle’s attempts to delay and obfuscate the claims of the Arbitration Plaintiffs in both the courts and in arbitration (the forum to which it required these employees to submit) are unseemly.”

The LA Times Guild, the union representing journalists at the California newspaper, reached a tentative agreement with management on hiring and diversity yesterday. Notably, it includes a stronger version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule for new hires, requiring management to interview at least two qualified candidates from historically underrepresented groups. The agreement also includes anti-discrimination language that would empower the Guild to file a grievance on behalf of employees with discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims. Employees who don’t want to go through civil litigation could instead choose to resolve such disputes through arbitration.

The Century Foundation released a report this week entitled, “The Datafication of Employment: How Surveillance and Capitalism Are Shaping Workers’ Futures without Their Knowledge.” Authors Sam Adler-Bell and Michelle Miller wrote about how the future of work is a future of increasing surveillance and decreasing worker control, functioning as an additional form of surplus value for employers. Responses to this “datafication” of employment should recognize workers’ ownership stake in the data they generate, force algorithmic transparency, and remedy the tendency of machine learning to recreate and sometimes exacerbate social inequalities.

To that end, Upturn released a report this month exploring the impact of hiring algorithms and how predictive hiring tools can be biased by default. While there are potential applications for technology to reduce interpersonal bias, predictive hiring tools can reflect institutional and systemic biases, and merely removing sensitive characteristics is not a solution. The report’s recommendations include that vendors and employers must be dramatically more transparent about the predictive tools they build and use and must allow independent auditing.

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