News & Commentary

February 5, 2019

Bibeka Shrestha

Bibeka Shrestha is a student at Harvard Law School.

New Jersey on Monday became the fourth state to raise its hourly minimum wage to $15.  Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law, paving the way for the new minimum wage to be phased in over five years.  New Jersey joins California, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia in adopting a minimum wage of $15 per hour.  The current hourly minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.85.  By July, the minimum wage will increase to $10 an hour, with the rate going up by $1 each year until 2024.  The law includes some exceptions, however.  The new minimum wage will not apply to farm workers, who will see their minimum wage increase to $12.50 per hour over five years.  Seasonal workers and those who work for small businesses will have to wait until 2026 to earn a minimum hourly wage of $15.  Meanwhile, tipped workers will see their minimum hourly wage increase from $2.13 to $5.13 by 2024.


The U.S. Department of Labor has backed off from its efforts to acquire detailed information on more than 20,000 Google employees as part of an investigation into Google’s compliance with antidiscrimination and affirmative action obligations.  The DOL sought the information as part of an audit which is not yet complete, but which has provided “compelling evidence” of pay discrimination against Google’s female employees.  In July 2017, an administrative law judge narrowed the scope of the employee data that the DOL could seek as part of its probe, finding that the regulator’s initial demands were overly broad and intruded on employees’ privacy.  The DOL appealed that decision but dropped its challenge last week.  The regulator now plans to complete its compliance review under the terms of the administrative law judge’s July 2017 order and under the agency’s newly issued policy directives on transparency.  Google responded to the DOL’s decision to abandon its appeal by reiterating that the company has already produced hundreds of thousands of documents to the regulator and claiming that it was confident based on its own analysis that the company did not have a gender pay gap.

Teachers in Oakland, Calif. have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike as part of their fight for smaller class sizes, greater student support, and a living wage.  Ninety-five percent of teachers voted in favor of the strike, which is expected to occur in the third week of February. Oakland teachers have worked without a contract since 2017, and some have already participated in sick outs, which were not union-sanctioned. The planned Oakland strike builds on similar protests by teachers across the country, including in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and Los Angeles.  On Monday, charter school teachers in Chicago announced that they, too, would go on strike.  Represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, 175 teachers and paraprofessionals planned to set up picket lines outside the four affected schools on Tuesday, although negotiations were expected to continue.

Five New York City police officers have filed a class-action charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the New York Police Department of discriminating against female police officers who are nursing.  The officers claim the NYPD has refused to provide adequate break time and safe and clean spaces for expressing breast milk, as required by law.  The officers assert violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the state Human Rights Law, and the city Human Rights Law. The officers reported that they were told to pump milk in unsanitary spaces, such as department cars and in a basement locker room with moldy walls and trash on the floor.  They also claim they faced pressure and were ostracized when they took legally protected breaks or were transferred in retaliation for expressing breast milk on the job.

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