Category Archives: Employment Practices

How noncompete clauses clash with US labor laws

Source: Raymond Hogler, The Conversation, August 23, 2017

Most Americans with jobs work “at-will”: Employers owe their employees nothing in the relationship and vice versa. Either party may terminate the arrangement at any time for a good or bad reason or none at all.

In keeping with that no-strings-attached spirit, employees may move on as they see fit – unless they happen to be among the nearly one in five workers bound by a contract that explicitly forbids getting hired by a competitor. These “noncompete clauses” may make sense for CEOs and other top executives who possess trade secrets but seem nonsensical when they are applied to low-wage workers such as draftsmen in the construction industry.

As a scholar of employment law and policy, I have many concerns about noncompete clauses – such as how they tend to make the relationship between workers and bosses too lopsided, suppress wages and discourage labor market mobility. In addition to tracing their legal and legislative history, I have come up with a way to limit this impediment to worker mobility.

Can You Fire Someone for Attending a Rally of Racists?

Source: Jon Steingart, Daily Labor Report, August 14, 2017

A campaign to publicly identify participants in white supremacist rallies has been met with calls for employers to fire the protesters. That’s the dilemma Top Dogs in Berkeley, Calif., faced after Twitter user @YesYoureRacist shared a photo it said showed one of the hot dog restaurant’s employees at a demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. Participants carried torches and reportedly chanted “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next day, participants showed up carrying Nazi swastikas, Confederate battle flags, and insignia of white supremacist groups…..

The gig economy is nothing new – it was standard practice in the 18th century

Source: Tawny Paul, The Conversation, July 18, 2017

….. While it might seem that long-established ways of working are being disrupted, history shows us that the one person, one career model is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to industrialisation in the 19th century, most people worked multiple jobs to piece together a living. Looking to the past uncovers some of the challenges, benefits and consequences of a gig economy. ….

Lots of Employees Get Misclassified as Contractors. Here’s Why It Matters

Source: David Weil, Harvard Business Review, July 5, 2017

…. The debate over the misclassification of employees — treating them as independent contractors instead of employees — pervades the modern fissured workplace. …. Though its form varies, the impacts of misclassification are almost always the same: the underpayment of wages, absence of benefits, and increased exposure to a variety of risks. And when misclassification is adopted as a business strategy by some companies, it quickly undermines other, more responsible employers who face costs disadvantages arising from compliance with labor standards and responsibilities. ….

Gig Work Doesn’t Have to Be Isolating and Unstable

Source: Carrie M. Lane, Harvard Business Review, May 4, 2017

With the rise of the so-called “gig economy” has come debate about how companies treat the people who “work” for them. Much of this criticism asks whether gig workers are underpaid, overworked, or subject to exploitation and even abuse. More fundamentally, others have asked whether gig work, performed even under the best of circumstances, is something to be celebrated. In short, does gig work equal a good job?

This question is a complicated one. Courts are debating whether gig work is technically a “job” at all. Are Uber drivers, TaskRabbits, and Etsy crafters legally employees, independent contractors, or something in between? As employees, gig workers would be entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, and unemployment insurance. Securing those rights and protections is important, but it’s not clear that these changes alone will turn gig work into a stable, well-respected career…..

Quality Jobs, Quality Education, Better Futures: What We Heard About Precarious Work In the Post-Secondary Sector

Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), June 2017

From the summary:
Precarious work deeply impacts people’s lives, health and well-being, and ultimately, their communities. That’s the number one thing CUPE heard in a series of town halls on precarious work in the post-secondary sector held earlier this year.

In a new report, CUPE outlines the key lessons we heard from our members and our allies. These include important distinctions about what precarious work looks like on campuses today, such as the reality that precarious work is not just about filling temporary vacancies or short-term roles: some temporary employees have been in their positions for years and have even risen to the rank of supervisor or department chair.

Furthermore, our report reveals, more schools are using students for labour without offering adequate wages or protection. In particular, reliance on undergraduates to provide academic and support work is growing.

The growing reliance of post-secondary institutions on precarious work has serious consequences for workers. Precarious workers have higher levels of stress, greater difficulty defending their rights, limited ability to make life choices that many of us take for granted, and lower access to government programs and services. Precarity also makes it harder for workers to be good at their job, as well as making it harder for other workers to do their jobs.

Our report concludes with a list of ways that CUPE National, CUPE locals, CUPE members, and our allies can fight back against precarious work. Strategies include organizing, collective bargaining, and getting involved in politics.

CUPE will continue to make fighting precarious work a priority and to call on universities and colleges to make every post-secondary job a respectable job.

Can universal basic income counter the ill-effects of the gig economy?

Source: Vili Lehdonvirta, The Conversation, April 12, 2017
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Platforms like eBay, Uber, Airbnb, and Freelancer are thriving, growing the digital economy and disrupting existing business. The question is how to ensure that the transformations they entail have a positive impact on society. Here, universal basic income may have a role to play.

Few social policy ideas are as hot today as universal basic income. Social scientists, technologists, and politicians from both ends of the political spectrum see it as a potential solution to the unemployment that automation and artificial intelligence are expected to create.

It has also been floated as a potential solution to the rise of the gig economy, where work is centred around on-demand tasks and short-term projects as opposed to regular full-time employment. This is the kind of employment that platforms like Uber and Freelancer are based on…..

A Modern Union for the Modern Economy

Source: Jeffrey M. Hirsch, Joseph Seiner, University of North Carolina School of Law, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2924833, Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

From the abstract:
Membership in traditional unions has steeply declined over the past two decades. As the White House and Congress are now completely Republican controlled, there promises to be no reversal of this trend in the near future. In the face of this rejection of traditional bargaining efforts, several attempts have been made to create alternative “quasi-union” or “alt-labor” relationships between workers and employers. These arrangements represent a creative approach by workers to have their voices heard in a collective manner, though still falling far short of the traditional protections afforded by employment and labor law statutes.

This Article critiques one such high-profile, quasi-union effort in the technology sector—the Uber Guild. While the Guild does not provide any of the traditional bargaining protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it offers Uber drivers some input over the terms and conditions under which they work. Falling somewhere between employment-at-will and unionization protected under the NLRA, the Uber Guild is a creative attempt to help both workers and the company to better understand how they can improve the working relationship.

This Article navigates the Uber Guild and other nontraditional efforts that promise a collective voice for workers in the face of a precipitous decline in union membership. Closely examining the implications of these existing quasi-union relationships, this Article explores how workers in the technology sector face unique challenges under workplace laws. We argue that these workers are particularly well situated to benefit from a nontraditional union model and explain what that model should look like. While there can be no doubt that a traditional union protected by the NLRA is the optimal bargaining arrangement, we must consider the enormous challenges workers in the technology sector face in obtaining these protections. A modern union is needed for the modern economy.