Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

Workers’ compensation: Poor quality health care and the growing disability problem in the United States

Source: Gary M. Franklin, Thomas M. Wickizer, Norma B. Coe, Deborah Fulton-Kehoe, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, first published online: October 20, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The proportion of working age citizens permanently removed from the workforce has dramatically increased over the past 30 years, straining both Federal and State disability systems designed as a safety net to protect them. Almost one-third of these rapidly emerging disabilities are related to musculoskeletal disorders, and three of the top five diagnoses associated with the longest Years Lived with Disability are back, neck and other musculoskeletal disorders. The failure of Federal and state workers’ compensation systems to provide effective health care to treat non-catastrophic injuries has been largely overlooked as a principal source of permanent disablement and corresponding reduced labor force participation. Innovations in workers’ compensation health care delivery, and in use of evidence-based coverage methods such as prospective utilization review, are effective secondary prevention efforts that, if more widely adopted, could substantially prevent avoidable disability and provide more financial stability for disability safety net programs.

10 U.S. Supreme Court Cases That Matter for State and Local Governments

Source: J.B. Wogan, Governing, October 3, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear cases this term related to religious freedom in state prisons, taxes on railway carriers, traffic stops and more. … The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has identified 10 cases, including Holt’s, that might affect state and local government. …
U.S. Supreme Court Questions Out-of-State Income Taxes
Source: Liz Farmer, Governing, November 12, 2014

The justices heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could cause localities across the country to lose millions in annual tax revenue.

FLSA Tool Kit Supplement: An Overview Of The Non-Enforcement Period

Source: Lucia Cucu, Kay Holley, and Mollie Murphy, National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services, November 2014

The NRCPDS is excited to announce the release an important supplement to the Tool Kit. This new tool is a resource for participant direction program stakeholders in response to delayed enforcement of the rules promulgated by the US Department of Labor (DOL) that will take effect January 1, 2015. Additional tools and resources will continue to be added to it over the coming weeks and months.

Evaluating Workplace Mandates with Flows versus Stocks: An Application to California Paid Family Leave

Source: Mark Curtis, Barry T. Hirsch, Mary Schroeder, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 14-10, August 1, 2014

From the abstract:
Employer mandates and other labor demand/supply shocks typically have small effects on wages and employment. These effects should be more discernible using data on employment transitions and wages among new hires rather than incumbents. The Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) dataset provides county by quarter by demographic group data on the number and earnings of new hires, separations, and recalls (i.e., extended leaves). We use the QWI to examine the labor market effects of California’s paid family leave (CPFL) policy. Implemented in July 2004, it was the first such policy mandated in the U.S. The analysis compares outcomes for young women in California to those for other workers in California and to workers throughout the U.S. Relative earnings for young female new hires were largely unaffected by CPFL. We find strong evidence that separations (of at least three months) and hiring of young women increased substantively. Many young women who separated later returned to the same firm. CPFL appears to have led not only to increased time with children, but also to a decline in job lock, enhanced mobility, and increased worker flows following universal paid family leave.

More on Recent Evidence on the Effects of Minimum Wages in the United States

Source: David Neumark, John Michael Ian S Salas, William Wascher, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20619, October 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A central issue in estimating the employment effects of minimum wages is the appropriate comparison group for states (or other regions) that adopt or increase the minimum wage. In recent research, Dube et al. (2010) and Allegretto et al. (2011) argue that past U.S. research is flawed because it does not restrict comparison areas to those that are geographically proximate and fails to control for changes in low-skill labor markets that are correlated with minimum wage increases. They argue that using “local controls” establishes that higher minimum wages do not reduce employment of less-skilled workers. In Neumark et al. (2014), we present evidence that their methods fail to isolate more reliable identifying information and lead to incorrect conclusions. Moreover, for subsets of treatment groups where the identifying variation they use is supported by the data, the evidence is consistent with past findings of disemployment effects. Allegretto et al. (2013) have challenged our conclusions, continuing the debate regarding some key issues regarding choosing comparison groups for estimating minimum wage effects. We explain these issues and evaluate the evidence. In general, we find little basis for their analyses and conclusions, and argue that the best evidence still points to job loss from minimum wages for very low-skilled workers – in particular, for teens.

Barriers to Freedom of Contract in the Public Sector

Source: Milla Sanes, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Issue Brief, November 2014

From the abstract:
Currently twenty-four states have “right–to-work” laws, which primarily restrict the rights of workers and employers in the private sector from entering into certain kinds of labor contracts. Federal labor law mandates that unions represent all workers at a workplace, whether they are dues-paying members of the union or not. Meanwhile, state “right-to-work” laws prohibit workers and employers from signing contracts that require all covered workers to contribute to the costs of representation regardless of whether or not the workers choose to join the union.

Barriers to Public Sector Workers: Freedom of Contract and Collective Bargaining state-by-state chart

Understanding the Organization, Operation, and Victimization Process of Labor Trafficking in the United States

Source: Colleen Owens, Meredith Dank, Amy Farrell, Justin Breaux, Isela Banuelos, Rebecca Pfeffer, Ryan Heitsmith, Katie Bright, Jack McDevitt, Urban Institute, October 2014

From the abstract:
This study chronicles the experiences of labor trafficking victims from the point of recruitment for work, their forced labor victimization, their attempts to escape and get help, and their efforts to seek justice through civil or criminal cases. The report finds that legal loopholes and lax enforcement enable labor traffickers to commit crimes against workers in major US industries: agriculture, domestic work, hotels, restaurants, and construction. Interview and case file data detail the ubiquity of trafficking, which occurs both in plain sight and behind lock and key. Detailed recommendations propose next steps for policy and practice.

An Assessment of the Fiscal Impact of the Proposed Sonoma County Living Wage Ordinance

Source: Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), September 2014

Sonoma County, California will consider adopting a living wage ordinance that mandates $15 / hour for workers employed by the County, County contractors, and businesses receiving economic development subsidies. This detailed analysis of the proposal by Jeannette Wicks-Lim finds that the costs transmitted to the County from covered businesses will equal less than 0.03 percent of its $1.4 billion annual budget. Raises for 3,800 home care workers who provide essential daily care for low-income elderly and disabled adults add the largest cost increase to the County. Still, including all covered groups, the costs to the County of the measure will equal less than one percent of its total Budget.

Flexibility and Overtime Among Hourly and Salaried Workers – When You Have Little Flexibility, You Have Little To Lose

Source: Lonnie Golden, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper #385, September 30, 2014

From the summary:
Currently low-wage workers who are paid a salary and work overtime do not have the same protections as workers who are at the same earnings level but paid on an hourly basis. Specifically, under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime work protections, all hourly workers must be paid at least “time-and-a-half,” or 1.5 times their regular pay rate, for each hour of work per week beyond 40 hours. Only salaried workers making below $455 per week (equivalent to $23,660 per year) qualify for the same automatic protections. Salaried workers making $455 a week or more only have the right to earn overtime pay if their duties are determined to be nonexempt duties. This means that employees who make as little as $23,660 per year may have no limit on their weekly work hours nor earn any pay for working beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. In this time of stagnant wages despite rising labor productivity, slow economic recovery of household purchasing power, and increasing income inequality, proposals to include low-salary workers in overtime (OT) coverage by lifting the salary threshold to at least $50,000 are timely.

Some of the debate over raising the threshold hinges on the idea that salaried workers newly eligible for overtime pay would become more like hourly workers because their employers would need to track these workers’ hours. Thus, it would be useful to see how similar salaried workers in the targeted pay ranges are to their hourly paid counterparts in terms of work schedule flexibility, frequency of overtime, and levels of work-family conflict and work stress. Specifically, given concerns that extending automatic OT protection to these low-salaried workers would “hurt the very people it is intended to help,” we examine whether salaried workers stand to lose flexibility by gaining OT protections. Using data from the General Social Survey (GSS),1 this report looks at workers in different pay brackets and explores the relationship between pay status (being paid on a salary basis or an hourly basis), work flexibility (being able to vary one’s starting and ending times, to take time off during the work day for personal or family matters, and to refuse requests to work overtime work) and outcomes such as work-family conflict and work stress. From the GSS we use pay brackets that most closely approximate the existing and proposed OT-protection eligibility thresholds…..

Following are the key findings of our analysis:
– There is a notion that salaried workers have more flexibility at work than their hourly counterparts. This is not the case at the pay levels that would be covered by an increase in the OT threshold. In general, salaried workers at the lower (less than $50,000) income levels don’t have noticeably greater levels of work flexibility that they would “lose” if they became more like their hourly counterparts. ….
– Salaried workers at the affected pay levels either report greater work-family conflict and work stress or report greater incidence of the conditions (such as mandatory overtime work) associated with such conflict and stress. Thus in terms of outcomes they have little to lose and in fact something to gain from falling within new OT thresholds. ….
Press release

An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year

Source: Brady Meixell and Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief #385, September 11, 2014

From the summary:
….Millions of Americans struggle to get by on low wages, often without any benefits such as paid sick leave, a pension, or even health insurance. Their difficult lives are made immeasurably harder when they do the work they have been hired to do, but their employers refuse to pay, pay for some hours but not others, or fail to pay overtime premiums when employees’ hours exceed 40 in a week. This failure to pay what workers are legally entitled to can be called wage theft; in essence, it involves employers taking money that belongs to their employees and keeping it for themselves. Amounts that seem small, such as not paying for time spent preparing a work station at the start of a shift, or for cleaning up and closing up at the end of a shift, can add up. When a worker earns only a minimum wage ($290 for a 40-hour week), shaving a mere half hour a day from the paycheck means a loss of more than $1,400 a year, including overtime premiums. That could be nearly 10 percent of a minimum-wage employee’s annual earnings—the difference between paying the rent and utilities or risking eviction and the loss of gas, water, or electric service….It is helpful to understand the variety of employer practices that can be considered wage theft and how devastating wage theft can be for workers living from paycheck to paycheck. Following are a just a sample of cases from state prosecutions and settlements finalized in 2012….
Press release