News & Commentary

March 14, 2019

Yesterday Democrats in both the House and the Senate reintroduced the Equality Act, a bill that would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  Forty-four business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote to congressional leaders to express their support.  Tomorrow the Supreme Court is expected to again consider whether to grant certiorari in three cases dealing with whether Title VII already protects LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination.  If it takes up Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Court could consider whether Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination covers sexual orientation discrimination.  In R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC, the Court could decide whether the same provision covers gender identity.  In the fall, the Solicitor General urged the Court to consider the sexual orientation cases, to which the government is not a party, before the gender identity one, where the Solicitor General might have to argue for the EEOC’s position.

As we reported last week, the Department of Labor proposed a watered-down version of an Obama-era rule to raise the minimum salary at which white-collar workers lose the right to time-and-a-half pay for overtime.  While the Obama-era rule would have raised the threshold from $23,660 to $47,476, the new rule will bring the threshold to a mere $35,308.  Some states are taking matters into their own hands.  In Maine, Representative Ryan Tipping introduced a bill that would increase the threshold under state wage-and-hour law each October until it hit $55,000 in 2022 and would then index the threshold to inflation.

Yesterday staff members at Gimlet Media, which produces hit podcasts such as Reply All and was recently acquired by Spotify, announced that seventy-five percent of employees in their proposed bargaining unit had signed cards authorizing representation by the Writers Guild of America, East.  The unit consists of reporters, engineers, and producers involved in creating podcast content, but not managers or sales and marketing staff. The union is attempting to include contractors, who they claim have faced particularly unfair treatment.  The staff members requested voluntary recognition of their union.

Employees at Anchor Brewing Company voted 31-16 yesterday to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  The union at Anchor is the first at an American craft brewery.  The workers credited the San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America for playing a key role in their organizing.  Tomorrow employees at Anchor Public Taps, the taproom operated by Anchor across the street from the brewery, will vote on whether to join the ILWU in a separate bargaining unit.

This week David Tamarkin, digital director and editor of the popular Conde Nast food website Epicurious, posted a job description on Twitter for a “full-time freelance position” with extensive duties and no benefits.  Twitter users quickly leapt into action, alleging that the position was misclassified and tagging the New York State Department of Labor, which said it was investigating the issue.  The incident demonstrated how social media can play a role in labor standards enforcement as employers increasingly turn to online platforms to recruit candidates.

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