News & Commentary

May 22, 2018

Ross Evans

Ross Evans is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Workers’ rights took a hit from a split Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Gorsuch that resolved three cases: Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, NLRB v. Murphy Oil, and Ernst & Young, LLP v. MorrisOnLabor’s Maddy Joseph summarized the court’s decision in an extensive analysis yesterday, writing that “[t]he Supreme Court holds . . . that class and collective action bars in arbitration agreements are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and are not incompatible with the NLRA.”  Justice Ginsberg’s spirited dissent, which was joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor, characterized the majority’s decision as “egregiously wrong” and argued that its “inevitable result . . . will be the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.”  OnLabor Senior Contributor Sharon Block and Harvard Labor and Worklife Program fellow Terri Gerstein explain both the implications of the Epic Systems decision and how federal, state, and local lawmakers can mitigate the effects of the decision in a New York Times opinion article.

The International Association of Machinists secured a win yesterday when the NLRB ruled that 178 flight-readiness technicians and inspectors at Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina facility “share a sufficiently distinct community of interest” and thus can be considered their own unit for voting on union representation.  Boeing has said it plans to appeal the ruling, but a secret-ballot vote for the 178 employees to determine whether they want to unionize is scheduled for May 31.  South Carolina, a right-to-work state, boasts the lowest union participation rate in the nation.

After announcing last week that the company would no longer use mandatory-arbitration clauses to prevent employees, contractors, and customers from filing sexual-assault lawsuits, Uber is facing its first such suit.  Ingrid Avendaño, formerly an engineer for Uber, is suing the ride-hailing giant for “years of sexual harassment, race discrimination, and pay inequity,” per The Wall Street Journal.

Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission voted 5-0 to begin processing LGBT discrimination complaints, starting today.  Specifically, the Commission voted to interpret sexual-orientation or gender-identity discrimination as illegal sex discrimination under the state’s 1976 Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

While many in the workforce have long feared that technology would replace their job, many hourly employees are now alleging that technology is actually minimizing the number of working hours for which they receive compensation.  The Wall Street Journal details how employees for companies such as American Airlines and Kroger are bringing lawsuits against their employers for allegedly abusing time-tracking technologies by implementing automated processes that “round” time to the nearest half hour and that automatically deduct time for breaks–regardless of whether breaks were actually taken.


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