News & Commentary

January 2, 2018

The new tax plan went into effect yesterday and will allow many pass-through companies to deduct up to 20% of their business income.  The Boston Globe predicts that the change will lead gig workers to form LLCs in order to avail themselves of the deduction.  The New York Times opines that this change will make workers more amenable to being classified as independent contractors rather than employees, with that classification making them ineligible for workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination protections, and unionization rights.  (Notably, this federal innovation was foreshadowed in Kansas in 2012 when the state eliminated all tax on pass-through income.  Kansas lost $200 or $300 million in revenue across three years, and then repealed the tax cut in response to a budget crisis.)

Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman of the Century Foundation argue that just cause discharges must be part of the solution to exploitation in the American workplace.  Just cause is a requirement that employers have a legitimate reason before discharging an employee.  As Marvit and Richman argue, this would empower workers to ask for raises, resist sexual advances, unionize, raise health and safety concerns, and decline shifts that are nominally voluntary, all without fear of being fired in retaliation

Effective yesterday, private-sector employees in New York State are entitled to 8 weeks of leave at 50% of their usual pay to care for a sick relative or new baby.  Domestic workers are included, and that is a boon to all women because it underscores the value of child care, points out Marissa Senteno of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance.  In this sense, the private sector may be doing better by parents than is New York City itself: the city doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave to workers whose contracts are negotiated collectively.  Schoolteachers, to take a poignant example, are majority women.  Those that want to become mothers either “hoard sick days or rely on the good luck that they will give birth at the end of June.”

A court order requiring the military to accept openly transgender recruits took effect yesterday.  This development comes after the Trump Administration decided not to appeal adverse interim rulings from two federal courts of appeal.  In the summer, the administration vowed to ban transgender people from military service.  Four district courts temporarily blocked that ban, citing equal protection concerns, and the Fourth and D.C. Circuits upheld those rulings.  Now, the ban is temporarily blocked while the litigation continues and the Department of Defense studies the impact of allowing transgender servicepeople to serve openly.

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