News & Commentary

October 30, 2018

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela, which OnLabor contributor Charlotte Garden previewed at SCOTUSblog last week. In Lamps Plus, the Court will decide whether employees automatically waive their right to class arbitration when employment contracts mandate dispute resolution via private arbitration. Lamps Plus moved to compel individual arbitration after an employee filed a class action following a phishing attack that compromised employees’ personal financial data, even though the arbitration provision did not specifically bar class actions. A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held that the contract’s arbitration agreement did not preclude workers from pursuing their claims as a class in the arbitration proceeding. In Monday’s argument, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated strong reluctance to limit companies’ ability to force individual arbitration, referring to class arbitration as “a poison pill” that is “fundamentally inconsistent with arbitration.” Justice Ginsburg indicated that any ruling would be limited in its effect, as companies would simply make sure to include class waivers in their arbitration agreements going forward.

A group of over 200 engineers at Google are planning a “women’s walk” walkout later this week to protest the company’s protection of employees who had allegedly committed sexual assault, Buzzfeed News reported on Monday. The protest, which is expected to take place on Thursday, comes in light of an investigation by the New York Times revealing that Google had protected three executives following accusations of sexual misconduct. The internet giant gave Android software creator Andy Rubin a reported $90 million exit package and made a public statement praising his legacy in 2014, following an investigation by the company into allegations that Rubin had sexually assaulted another employee.

The U.K.’s Court of Appeal will hear a long-running case over the status of Uber drivers today and Wednesday. The ride-hailing app is contesting a 2017 employment tribunal finding that Uber drivers should be treated as workers rather than as self-employed. This is the latest stage in a battle for basic employment rights led by two U.K. Uber drivers who won an employment tribunal in 2016. The ride-hailing app lost an employment tribunal appeal in November 2017. Workers from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice today to raise issues facing “precarious workers” and to protest Uber’s appeals against drivers’ right to minimum wage and paid vacation time.

In New York City, the Taxi and Limousine Commission announced that it would temporarily waive $1,100 in renewal fees for the city’s 11,286 taxi medallion owners. This amounts to more than $12 million in relief from the de Blasio administration. The move will help to offset the financial hardships medallion owners have faced amid competition from ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. The value of medallions has plunged from $1.3 million in 2013 to as low as $160,000, forcing some medallion owners into bankruptcy. In August, New York City Council voted to place a cap on the number of ride-sharing vehicles in the city in a package of legislation, which prevented the TLC from issuing new licenses to for-hire vehicles (FHVs) for one year and set a minimum wage for FHV drivers.


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