Today’s News & Commentary — November 5, 2019


Published November 5th, 2019 - 11.05.1922


After McDonald’s fired its CEO Steve Easterbrook for a relationship with an employee that violated corporate policy, its top human resources officer, David Fairhurst, has also departed as the fast-food giant faces renewed scrutiny of its record on sexual harassment in its workplaces. It’s unclear if Fairhurst’s departure is related to Easterbrook’s, who received severance of $675,000 as well as $37 million in stock awards. Organizations like the ACLU, Fight for $15, and Time’s Up have accused the company of failing to prevent misconduct, including groping and inappropriate comments from supervisors, as well as illegal retaliation. McDonald’s announced a new anonymous hotline for worker complaints in May, after workers filed 25 lawsuits and EEOC charges alleging sexual harassment.

Bloomberg Law reported that the NLRB will release within the next two weeks a long-awaited review of its ethics process for determining when board members must recuse themselves from cases due to conflicts of interest. In a 2017 case involving Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, the NRLB’s inspector general said that NLRB Member Bill Emanuel (R) should have recused himself from the board’s decision to overturn an Obama era ruling involving one of his former clients, which was still on appeal at the time. NLRB Chairman John Ring (R) subsequently ordered the comprehensive ethics review, which will help decide whether Ring and Emanuel must sit out an upcoming case involving McDonald’s, which their former law firms advised on the Fight for $15 demonstrations at the center of the case. Meanwhile, the NLRB reported a $5.7 million surplus this fiscal year, the second consecutive year the agency has reported a surplus, even though it has repeatedly cited budget constraints as the rationale for staffing cuts and operational changes.

Should professional compensation systems include penalties for sexual misconduct? Law.com reported that some law firms are beginning to consider this question, while such punitive measures are more common in other industries such as banking. Amid public allegations of sexual harassment at major law firms including DLA Piper and Jones Day, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer announced that it will dock up to 20% of the pay of partners who receive warnings about misconduct. While some argue that financial penalties are not an effective deterrent against misbehavior, others believe that enumerating penalties signals how seriously employers are taking problems like sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a deep dive into the New Orleans system of wholly privatized K-12 education, Harper’s Magazine revealed how a handful of large philanthropic organizations are pushing to replicate this model across the country—with potentially profound consequences. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the school district and Louisiana’s education department fired 7,600 unionized teachers and other school employees, primarily black workers who comprised much of the city’s middle class. Unionized workers were replaced, including by Teach for America corp members with only five weeks of classroom training. In this way, author Andrea Gabor argued, Teach for America played a critical role in allowing the city to destroy its teachers union by privatizing schools, with the effect of reducing the number of black teachers in the workforce. In 2003, 71% of New Orleans teachers were black and 78% were women, but by 2014, black teachers comprised a little less than half of the city’s teachers.

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