Today’s News & Commentary – February 14, 2020
As part of a hearing on protecting federal employees from sexual harassment, a former clerk to the late Appellate Court Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt shared how he “routinely and frequently” sexually harassed her and other female employees. The former clerk, Olivia Warren, worked for Judge Reinhardt in 2017 and in 2018. To the rest of the world, Judge Reinhardt was known to be a prominent liberal judge. Warren tried, to no avail, to report his conduct. A Harvard Law School graduate, she reached out of the school’s administration and to the Office of Judicial Integrity, yet neither channel offered her a confidential way to formally file a complaint. Warren testified so that her experience may usher in better policies regarding sexual harassment in the courts.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a study arguing the that forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts have cost private sector low-wage workers $12.6 billion in wages. Many employers use forced arbitration clauses to prevent employees from bringing cases related to wage theft to court. Even worse, these clauses are often coupled with class action waivers restricting workers’ ability to organize successfully. 55% of all private-sector non-union employees are subject to forced arbitration, a proceeding that favors employers. As a result, according to NELP, these employees – 6 million of them – will never file a claim to recover stolen wages.
The food delivery company DoorDash is one example of an employer that requires workers to sign both forced arbitration clauses and to relinquish their right to a class action lawsuit. Earlier this week federal U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that DoorDash must arbitrate over 5,000 individual disputes with various workers who claim they were falsely misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. By bringing these individual disputes against their employer, DoorDash workers are seeking to challenge the company using the very same tactics it intended to insulate it from labor law violations. It is likely that DoorDash, as other platform-based companies have done so in the past, will settle these claims rather than and pay the $1,900 fee for each of these individual arbitrations proceedings.
Last week U.S. Steel began its third round of layoffs since November. The steelmaker cut an undisclosed amount of workers. Seeking to decrease its annual costs by $200 million because of low steel prices, the company targeted non-union positions specifically this round. These layoffs highlight the importance of labor organization, especially during times of market crisis.
Catering workers who serve American Airlines launched a hunger strike yesterday against the company at its Dallas-Forth Worth Headquarters. The hunger strike, which entailed 24 hours of no food or juice, is an appeal to airlines to end poverty and unaffordable healthcare in the airline catering industry.