News & Commentary

June 29, 2020

Randon Herrera

Randon Herrera is a student at Harvard Law School.

This past Wednesday, a group of about 50 Uber drivers staged a protest outside Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s house. According to Forbes, the protesters blasted labor-friendly music and held up a banner reading, “A Thief Lives Here” in front of the $17 million mansion. The Uber drivers were protesting the company’s efforts to avoid complying with California’s AB5, a law requiring gig companies to reclassify their workers as employees. The law has not yet been fully implemented, and Uber hopes to keep it that way. The rideshare company, along with peer companies like Lyft and DoorDash, are spending over $100 million to help sponsor a state ballot measure that would create an exemption for the companies. The protesters demanded that Uber give up its efforts and comply with AB5 so that drivers can be entitled to employee benefits like a minimum wage and paid sick time—benefits that are particularly vital at a time like now.

On Thursday, Maxwell reported on Virginia’s unprecedented move to issue binding workplace health and safety standards to protect workers during the pandemic. Oregon is now following suit, becoming the second state to issue statewide workplace regulations to protect its workers. Oregon Occupational Safety and Health announced plans to enact two emergency rules, one to protect health-care providers, and one for employees in retail, manufacturing, construction, and other similar industries. While these rules will be temporary, the state agency also expressed intentions to develop permanent rules by March of next year. As federal agencies continue to refrain from enacting nationwide worker protections during the pandemic, we can expect more states to follow Virginia and Oregon’s lead.

Meanwhile, in the sports world, though the National Basketball Association is set to restart its season next month, not everyone is on board. The NBA announced a plan earlier this month to restart the season in a contained system in Orlando’s Walt Disney World. However, as coronavirus cases continue to increase rapidly in Florida, anxieties in the NBA community are also rising. ESPN reports that players, team executives, and league officials have all begun raising concerns about the restart. And at least five eligible players have stated that they will not join their teams when play resumes. On the bright side, for those players who do return to play, the NBA has stated that it will allow them to wear social justice statements on their jerseys. The policy, agreed upon by the NBA and the NBA Players Association, will allow players to replace their last names with a social justice statement on the back of their jerseys. The move should not come as much of a surprise given the league has been relatively receptive to player activism in the recent past.

Apparently, the IRS has been sending stimulus checks to the dead. Politico reports that, over the last several months, the IRS has sent over 1 million coronavirus stimulus checks to people who are deceased. The individuals filed 2019 tax returns but have since passed away. The agency reportedly believed it was still required to send them checks but is now reversing its position. It will no longer be sending checks to the dead and is asking the families of the deceased to return the checks. It is unclear how it will process those returns.

And finally, Verizon will be required to pay $675,000 to the Department of Labor after settling claims of race and gender bias during the hiring process. At various times and locations, the company is alleged to have discriminated against Native American, Black, and Asian applicants, as well as male applicants applying for finance analyst positions. While the company admitted no fault, it will implement a corporate-wide compliance program as part of the settlement.

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