News & Commentary

March 27, 2015

A jury has dismissed gender bias claims against Silicon Valley venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins. Plaintiff Ellen Pao had brought a suit against Kleiner Perkins alleging that she was not promoted due to her gender, and that she experienced retaliation — culminating in termination — for complaining. Jurors were found to be a vote short on dismissing one retaliation claim, however, and have been sent back to continue deliberation. The New York Times reports.

In the Senate, 61 senators approved a budget amendment that would allow employees to earn paid sick leave. Though budget resolutions are not binding, Lydia DePillis of The Washington Post notes that the rising bipartisan support for paid sick leave is promising. As Depillis writes, “nationwide, paid sick leave is tremendously popular, with large majorities of voters in both parties in favor. The percentage of private sector workers who have access to paid leave has increased since the early 1990s, with the passage of several state laws that require it. But U.S. employers’ paid leave policies — both sick days and parental time off — still lag far behind those in other developed countries.”

A new report from the AARP details the problem of long-term unemployment among the elderly. “Although the general unemployment rate is falling, that can be misleading for people who are 55 and older who are long-term unemployed,” said Gary Koenig, an author of the  report. As the report details, 73 percent of those who told the AARP they were unemployed had been out of work for six months or longer. Read more at The New York Times.

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the extension of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights to same-sex couples in the state.  Following the Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor decision, the Labor Department had implemented a rule extending all FMLA benefits to same-sex unions. Texas, which has a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, has filed a suit against the Labor Department over the rule. Reuters reports.

The European Central Bank’s labor union has issued a letter detailing acute understaffing and a high rate of “employee burnout.” Working conditions at the bank have become so stressful, the union reports, that nearly one-third of its staff are “at risk of burnout.” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Earlier this week, thousands of farm workers in the San Quintín valley of California went on strike, substantially upending supply chains for produce reaching peak season. The strike is discussed at the Los Angeles TimesMother Jones provides more background on the work stoppage, and the dire labor conditions many migrant workers face. The strike organizers hope to soon launch a U.S. campaign encouraging consumers to boycott produce from the region, including tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries.

The Verge reports that Amazon requires even temporary warehouse workers to sign an 18-month non-compete clause.  Though such a clause may be imposed on low-wage workers to protect trade secrets, the clause could also simply be present to deprive employees other opportunities, and thus depress wages.

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