News & Commentary

November 18, 2021

William Greenlaw

William Greenlaw is a student at Harvard Law School.

The United Auto Workers achieved victory yesterday after ending a month-long strike at John Deere, the farm and construction equipment manufacturer. In a statement, the UAW said, “UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace. We could not be more proud of these UAW members and their families.” The new contract provides at least 10 percent raises, an $8,500 ratification bonus, raises of 5 percent in 2023 and 2025, and “tweaks to how Deere calculates bonuses for workers who meet production targets.” Upon ratification, workers returned to their shifts starting with the late shift Wednesday evening. John C. May, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement, “I’m pleased our highly skilled employees are back to work, building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a new guidance yesterday describing how workplace retaliation tied to coronavirus is prohibited under general anti-retaliation provisions. The EEOC, Department of Labor, and National Labor Relations Board hosted a virtual event with employers to discuss the importance of these anti-retaliation protections. Retaliation includes any negative action in response to protected equal employment opportunity activity, which includes actions such as denying promotions, suspending employees, or making work-related threats. The EEOC provided specific examples of retaliation incidental to the pandemic, including, “Retaliation against a worker who reports sexually harassing comments during a virtual work meeting;” “Retaliation against an Asian American employee who reports someone for accusing Asian people of spreading Covid-19;” and “Retaliation against an employee for requesting telework as a disability accommodation after an office reopens.” Employees nonetheless can still enforce Covid-19 health and safety protocols even after protected activity like an accommodation request.

Enhanced fines for labor law violations remain in the House Democrats’ plans for their tax and spending bill. The fines are estimated to generate $2.76 billion in revenue during a 10-year period. The way the bill would work is by levying new, more severe penalties on conduct already prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act, including child labor and illegal overtime practices. The bill would also add penalties to enterprises who break the laws enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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