Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for August, 2019

Black Women's Equal Pay Day is a powerful reminder of how equal pay isn't

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Equal Pay Day, the day when women had made as much since January 1, 2018, as white men made in 2018, was back on April 2. It is just now—August 22, 2019—Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. That’s because while women overall make 80 to 81 cents for every dollar a white man makes, there are major racial disparities among women.

Asian women have the smallest disparity, making a whopping 85 cents on the dollar, so their equal pay day comes in early March. White women come next, at 77 cents—their equal pay day is just a few days after the overall one, on April 19. For black women, it’s 61 cents, which is why we’re here in late August talking about equal pay, by which we mean how equal the pay isn’t. That gap adds up fast, Jocelyn Frye writes at the Center for American Progress, “amounting to $23,653 less in earnings over an entire year. In the span of a 40-year career, this translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $946,120 between Black women and white men.” Black women face a massive gap no matter how much education they get—and they’re left with higher student loan debt than any other racial group.

When we talk about Equal Pay Day, we’re always talking about apples to apples—people who work full time and year round. And with black women, we’re talking about the group of women that has always worked outside the home at the highest rates, with a complicated and often viciously discriminatory history in which, Frye writes, “Black women frequently encounter a workplace narrative that deemphasizes the importance of their personal caregiving responsibilities or suggests that their caregiving roles should be secondary to their paid work.” Black women have long cared for white children for low wages while their caregiving role for their own children was shoved to the side, and black women remain disproportionately in occupations in which scheduling abuses and unpredictable weekly hours of work make life even more difficult than low wages alone would do.

Since Native American women earn 58 cents for every dollar a white man makes and Latina women earn 53 cents, their equal pay days won’t come until September 23 and November 20.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 22, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

Union Veterans Fight for Texas Catering Workers

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

On Tuesday morning, as union veteran Sam Tijerina drove from Pasadena, Texas, to Dallas, he had a lot on his mind. His thoughts wandered as he passed mile markers and towns—he thought about his young family at home and the life that having a union job has provided them. “A union card has allowed me to live with dignity,” he said.

Tijerina was traveling to one of the largest acts of civil disobedience that the Texas labor movement has waged in years. LSG Sky Chef workers, who are contracted by American Airlines, planned a rally with UNITE HERE to advocate for raising wages. “It was important to be part of the civil disobedience because my fellow veterans are affected by poor wages,” Tijerina said. “There are an estimated 1.3 million veteran workers who earn less than $15 an hour. It is disheartening to know my brothers and sisters have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. One job should be enough.”

More than 600 supporters showed up at the protest, including catering workers, union members from other airports and local supporters like Tijerina. He was one of 58 people who were arrested while blocking traffic during the protest.

Tijerina is an Elevator Constructor (IUEC) from Local 31 and a Marine veteran who served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. The Marines taught him about selfless service and how to lead by example. “I know that it’s not just about me,” Tijerina said. “It’s about fighting for everyone, no matter what their situation is.” This is the same sentiment echoed by Union Veterans Council Executive Director Will Attig at a recent speech to the Texas AFL-CIO convention, shortly before announcing the creation of a Texas chapter of the Union Veterans Council. “Leaders lead from the front and motivate others to take action,” Attig added. “Texas union vets are ready to take action to support the working people of this state.”

Earlier this year, Attig was among a group of union leaders and activists who were arrested at the U.S. Capitol during the government shutdown, when a quarter of 1 million veteran workers faced no pay and job instability. Attig hopes this action will motivate fellow union veterans to get more involved. Attig wants Union Veterans Council members and the labor movement to know that union veterans are a force to be reckoned with.

The Union Veterans Council is working to unify our veterans by giving them the tools and platform to make their voices heard on a local and national level, along with inspiring union veterans to take an action-based role in the labor movement. Tijerina is just one of a growing movement of union veterans across the country who are using their voices to fight and advocate for fellow workers and the issues that matter to their community.

This article was originally published at AFL-CIO on August 22, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The Union Veterans Council brings working-class veterans together to speak out on the issues that impact us most, especially the need for good jobs and a strong, fully funded and staffed VA.

Bernie Sanders’ Labor Plan Could Put a Union in Every Workplace in America

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Image result for Shaun Richman

Bernie Sanders released his Workplace Democracy Plan on Wednesday. His campaign’s labor platform makes the strongest case of any of the candidates so farthat he would be unions’ best ally in the White House in generations.

At a time when the Democrats’ official labor law reform proposal, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, would essentially overturn the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, the race to the left for labor’s support in the primaries demands bolder policies. Bernie Sanders does not disappoint.

The stand-out measures

Where Sanders’ labor platform is most exciting is its proposal for new workers’ rights and forms of union representation that transcend the National Labor Relations Board framework of enterprise-based contract bargaining.

One is a “just cause” legal standard of employment, which would mean that non-managerial workers—whether they are represented by a union or not—could only be fired only for a legitimate, serious, work-performance reason. This has been a causethat In These Times has long championed, and as Moshe Marvit and I explained elsewhere, “would open up new pathways to organizing.” Bernie Sanders is the third candidate (so far) to embrace the reform, after Bill de Blasio and Jay Inslee, but he’s the first leading contender for the nomination to do so. (And in a promising sign of wage boards’ momentum, Beto O’Rourke included them in a plan released just after Sanders’ .)

But the best proposal in Sanders’ platform is what he refers to as “sectoral collective bargaining” but others in the academic and think tank world have been calling “wage boards.” Basically, he proposes to work with trade unions to construct new industrial standards boards—with representatives for the employers, workers and possibly that nebulous concept, “the public”—that can set minimum standards for wages, benefits and hours across entire sectors of the economy thereby taking those issues out of competition. This is essentially the framework of the First New Deal legislation, which the Lochner-era Court overturned, and which the National Labor Relations Act was initially meant to operate alongside of.

Sanders’ wage board proposal was clearly influenced by the Center for American Progress’ David Madland’s and University of Michigan’s Kate Andrias’ dogged research and advocacy for reviving the wage board model. It’s also not insignificant that a revived wage board is how Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 32BJ won a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in New York state, and that SEIU is rather bullish on expanding and exporting the model.

This is possibly the most important labor law reform that a Democratic president (with a Democratic Senate willing to nuke the filibuster) could achieve. It’s that one that could put a union in every workplace in America on day one. Because if unions had the legal reach to improve wages and working conditions across an entire industry, workers would join and support the unions that were fighting for them—particularly if we made it easy for them to make voluntary paycheck contributions—even before they win a collective bargaining election at their specific workplace.

The man with the plan

Sanders also offers a laundry list of good and overdue reforms. His proposed amendments to the outdated and ineffective National Labor Relations Act—like most of the candidates’ plans—improve upon the PRO Act in several ways. It adds card check recognition and the right to a first contract for new unions, which were provisions of the failed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that did not get carried over into the current Democratic bill.

Sanders also proposes to fully restore workers’ right to strike and to engage in solidarity activism. In the case of the latter, that means wiping out more provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act; in the former, it means overturning an obscure 1938 Supreme Court decision, NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co., that allows employers to permanently replace workers who go on strike over economic demands. Employers increasingly took advantage of this decision during the Reagan administration.

Banning permanent replacements was the labor movement’s top legislative priority in the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency. The Cesar Chavez Workplace Fairness Act of 1993was the EFCA of its era, and similarly died of a filibuster in the Senate. Now it is increasingly becoming a consensus position among Democratic candidates.

There are also some policies and procedures of the NLRB that Sanders would change. These may be done through legislative change, or Sanders may be considering executive orders and strict directions to his future Board appointees. One is to protect existing collective bargaining agreements when a unionized employer is merged into a new company. Current NLRB rules on successorship allow an employer to tear up the contract and then bargain a union to impasse over concessions. Sanders used his campaign infrastructure to support workersrepresented by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America at a locomotive plant in Pennsylvania this past February.

Sanders also wants to ban “management’s most important weapon” in anti-union campaigns, mandatory captive audience meetings. The courts have ruled that employers have a First Amendment right to express their anti-union views, and employers use the power of the paycheck to force employees to listen to them. Bernie Sanders says that workers should have the right to walk out on a presentation.

One very attention-grabbing plan responds directly to Joe Biden’s bad-faith argumentsthat a Medicare-for-All system would be unfair to unions who have historically traded higher wages for employer-sponsored health insurance. Sanders’ NLRB would support unions reopening their collective bargaining agreements in order to recoup as much of an employers’ cost savings from taxpayer-funded health care as possible as new wage gains. His platform implies that a unionized employer that does not share financial data and agree to sharing its cost savings would be charged with committing an unfair labor practice.

Finally, like many of the candidates in the crowded Democratic field, Sanders proposes to fix an original sin of the NLRA—its racist exclusion of domestic and farm workers from the protections of the Act.

Sanders also prioritizes legislation that would accelerate and codify badly needed regulatory reforms that got bogged down by right-wing judicial activism and corporate opposition during Obama’s second term. These include the Browning-Ferris joint-employer standard, which curtail corporations’ ability to hide behind franchise relationships to avoid bargaining over working conditions that they dictate in reality. He also calls for an expanded “persuader rule,” which would force employers to disclose the names of their hired gun union-busters and give union organizers equal access to workers during an organizing campaign. A proposal to end the practice of misclassifying workers as “supervisors” and “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying benefits and overtime is lacking somewhat in detail, but let’s just assume that Bernie co-signs whatever Elizabeth Warren proposes.

In the public sector, Sanders’ platform also calls for expanding the union rights of federal workers—including the right to strike and to bargain over wages. Ronald Reagan’s infamous termination of striking air traffic controllers in 1981 was a signal event in corporate America’s assault on unions. Ironically, that strike was sparked by the federal government’s refusal to bargain over wages. The right to bargain and strike—long denied to federal labor unions—would likely make strikes over routine collective bargaining matters less likely. But they would, as Sanders was quick to point out, empower federal workers to use their labor power to put an end to routine government shutdowns.

He also pledges to sign the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which was introduced by Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Senator Maize Hirono (DHawaii) in June and which would extend union rights to all state and local government employees as well.

Never waste a crisis

The turf of U.S. politics shifts beneath our feet like quicksand. This is a moment of great possibilities and existential threats. One of our biggest challenges as a labor movement is that too many of us—leaders, rank-and-filers and leftist critics alike—view things as static, as stuck in a moment in time, whether that be 2009, 1993 or 1978; That real change won’t happen without a crisis.

But we are already in a crisis.

The crisis right now is the threat of fascism, domestic terrorism and ethnic nationalism. These are all problems that have been made possible by the systemic corporate attack on union rights and a yawning gulf of economic inequality. Centrist politicians and shapers of public opinion who have hardly been friends to the working class are slowly waking up to the role that unions play in political education and voter turnout.

So even if Bernie doesn’t win the nomination—if it’s Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand or even Kamala Harris—we still probably have a candidate and a growing portion of the Democratic establishment who recognize that they have to deliver real wins for working families if they don’t want to get turned out of office all over again in 2022 by a racist and demagogic death cult.

As a labor movement, now is the time to demand more. Much more. Let’s take the issue of “just cause,” which is a basic human right enjoyed in much of the world and the lack of it is one of the foundational problems that keeps most workers from pushing back on employers’ unreasonable commands.

Elizabeth Warren hasn’t even put out her full labor platform yet. I fully expect it to be full of robust proposals to restore the legal rights and power of workers with some delightfully wonky detail. If she joins Sanders in endorsing just cause, the issue—which wasn’t on any union’s agenda—could be on the fast track to the Democratic party’s 2020 platform (as long as the candidate isn’t someone who promises that “nothing would fundamentally change”).

Good ideas that are put on any primary candidate’s agenda should remain on labor’sagenda in the years to come. When it comes to ideas for restoring the legal powers of workers, our approach should be “yes, and!” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has the right approach for these times. The union released its own list of labor law demands on the same day as Sanders, and challenged every candidate to release a detailed labor plan “explaining how they will make it possible for all working people to join unions.” The political moment, says Henry, “is no time for minor tweaks to our broken system.”

Let the primary of ideas continue!

This article was originally published at In These times on August 22, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Shaun Richman is an In These Times contributing writer and the Program Director of the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College. His Twitter handle is @Ess_Dog.

Lesotho Plan Has All Elements to End Gender-Based Violence at Work

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

A new worker-centered, precedent-setting program will comprehensively address the rampant gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) denying thousands of women garment workers a safe and dignified workplace in Lesotho.

The program, established by two negotiated and enforceable agreements, will cover 10,000 Lesotho garment workers in five factories that produce jeans and knitwear for the global market. Lesotho-based unions and women’s rights groups, major fashion brands and international worker rights organizations, including the Solidarity Center, negotiated with the factory owner, Nien Hsing Textiles, to mandate education and awareness training for all employees and managers, an independent reporting and monitoring system, and remedies for abusive behavior.

The parties came to the table after the U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium documented how the mostly female workforce at three Nien Hsing textile factories regularly was coerced into sexual activity with supervisors as a condition of gaining or retaining employment or promotions, and were persistently sexually harassed, verbally and physically.

The Lesothoan unions and women’s rights groups, all with proven histories of fighting to advance the rights of workers and women throughout the country, are: the Federation of Women Lawyers in Lesotho (FIDA), the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union, Lesotho (NACTWU), the United Textile Employees (UNITE) and Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust (WLSA)-Lesotho. They will administer the agreement and will serve on the oversight committee.

The Solidarity Center, WRC and Workers United joined these groups to negotiate the two agreements with Levi Strauss, The Children’s Place, Kontoor Brands and Nien Hsing Textiles.

“This is the first initiative in Lesotho that brings together workers, unions, women’s organizations and employers to work towards one common goal of improving the socioeconomic rights of women in the workplace,” said Thusoana Ntlama, FIDA programs coordinator, and Libakiso Matlho, WLSA national director.

Agreements Follow Report Documenting Abuse at Lesotho Factories

Nearly two-thirds of the garment workers WRC interviewed reported “having experienced sexual harassment or abuse” or having knowledge of harassment or abuse suffered by co-workers, according to the report. Women workers from all three factories identified GBVH as a central concern for themselves and other female employees.

“Many supervisors demand sexual favors and bribes from prospective employees,” one worker told WRC investigators. “They promise jobs to the workers who are still on probationary contracts.[…]All of the women in my department have slept with the supervisor. For the women, this is about survival and nothing else.[…]If you say no, you won’t get the job, or your contract will not be renewed.”

All the Elements to Prevent, Eliminate GBVH at Work

While sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence may happen at any workplace, GBVH is rampant in the global garment and textile industryGlobally, some 85% of garment workers are women. They are especially vulnerable to abuse and violence at work because of imbalanced power structures, high poverty and unemployment.

The Lesotho plan “has all the elements needed to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence at work,” says Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau. “First, there’s real accountability. It is binding and enforceable on all parties. And the global brands and the employer have guaranteed their commitment to enforcing and upholding the code of conduct by signing fully executed, binding and enforceable contracts.”

The agreements:

  • Establish an independent organization to investigate issues, fully empowered to determine remedies;
  • Create a clear code of conduct on unacceptable behaviors and a system for reporting abuse—with garment workers as full participants in creating, implementing and monitoring it; and
  • Establish an education and awareness program that goes beyond the typical harassment and gender violence training. It will be comprehensive and get at the root causes of gender discrimination and violence against women.

Importantly, says Bader-Blau, “the program is sustainable because it’s worker designed, with unions working together with women’s rights groups to deliver it.”

And because the freedom to form unions and collectively bargain has proven essential to addressing gender-based violence and harassment at work and in creating the space for workers to shape a future of work that is fair and democratic, it’s especially key that these agreements also protect workers’ rights to freely form unions, says Bader-Blau.

Nien Hsing, which manufactures apparel for global brands in several countries, signed one agreement with trade unions and women’s rights organizations in Lesotho to establish the GBVH program, and has committed to take recommended action when violations of the program’s code of conduct have been established.

The global brands entered into a parallel agreement in which, should Nien Hsing commit a material breach of its agreement with the unions and NGOs, it will take action, including a potential reduction in orders.

In the past, as one worker told WRC, “The [supervisors accused of harassment] are usually rotated to other departments,” arrangements the plan seeks to eradicate.

Putting the Plan into Action

Lesotho-based women’s rights organizations, unions, the Solidarity Center and WRC will jointly design the education and awareness program and curriculum, with input from the newly created independent investigative organization.

They also will carry out the two-day training in which all workers and managers will take part. Workers will be paid regular wages during the training.

And importantly, says Bader-Blau, “Empowered workers with a negotiated stake in the agreements can identify and report violence and harassment. And because they have established the terms with the employer as equals, they can be sure that retaliation for reporting abuse and the impunity of abusers will end. Unlike corporate social responsibility programs, the Lesotho program is a contractual agreement with the employer, the brands and the unions, which means everyone is accountable to the code of conduct–with workers able to enforce it as an equal party.”

The program is partially modeled after the Fair Food Program, a set of binding agreements between leading food brands, like McDonald’s and Whole Foods, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Using the type of independent complaint mechanism that will be established by the Lesotho agreements, the Fair Food Program largely has eliminated what had been rampant sexual harassment and coercion in the tomato fields of Florida.

The agreements also build on the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, in which unions were key participants, and recognizes the fundamental role of collective bargaining in negotiating an agreement that is binding on employers and international brands and in bringing accountability to the global supply chain by ensuring the agreement is implemented and enforced.

Funding for the two-year program will come primarily from the three brands, in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the program will kick off in fall 2019.

This post originally appeared at the Solidarity Center.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Bernie Sanders unveils sweeping workplace democracy plan

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders has released his “workplace democracy plan,” a sweeping set of proposals for strengthening and modernizing U.S. labor laws that would, if enacted, create a major shift in the power balance in American workplaces. Sanders debuted the plan Wednesday as he and other candidates appeared at the Iowa Federation of Labor’s convention.

The reasons for the plan are at the core of Sanders’ candidacy. As its introduction notes, “Declining unionization has fueled rising inequality. Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high, while wages as a percentage of the economy are near an all-time low. The middle class is disappearing, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider”—and some key reasons for this aren’t a mystery. “There are many reasons for the growing inequality in our economy, but one of the most significant reasons for the disappearing middle class is that the rights of workers to join together and bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined.”

Sanders’ plan takes off from that point and has a lot of ways to fix it. Among them:

  • Allow workers to organize unions through a majority sign-up process.
  • Guarantee all workers, including domestic and farm workers, the right to unionize.
  • Prevent companies with new unions from exploiting loopholes to delay a first contract—currently “more than half of workers who vote to form a union don’t have a union contract a year later and 37 percent still do not have a first contract two years after the election” because of employer foot-dragging and weak labor laws.
  • Repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act, which allows states to pass so-called “right to work” laws, which allow workers to get out of paying union dues while getting the benefits of union representation.
  • Crack down on misclassification of workers as independent contractors, denying them minimum wage and overtime protections, workers comp and unemployment benefits, and more; or as supervisors, exempting them from overtime.
  • Keep companies from using franchises or contractors to evade responsibility for their workers. “If a company can decide who to hire and who to fire and how much to pay an employee at a franchise, that company will be considered a joint employer along with the owner of a particular franchise — and both employers must engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Give federal workers the right to strike and all public sector unions the right to negotiate.
  • ”Issue an executive order to prevent companies from receiving federal contracts that outsource jobs overseas, pay workers less than $15 an hour without benefits, refuse to remain neutral in union organizing efforts, pay executives over 150 times more than average workers, hire workers to replace striking workers, or close businesses after workers vote to unionize.”

There’s more, too, including sectoral bargaining in which unions would negotiate a floor for an entire industry in a given area, working with wage boards set up by local governments, as well as a proposal for a careful transition from negotiated health plans to Medicare for All.

Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson notes that Sanders’ plan includes the labor law reform bill he proposed in the Senate in 2018, which was cosponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand. That mention of the Senate, of course, is a reminder of the hill that any pro-worker plan, let alone an ambitious one, has to climb. But some parts could be accomplished without Congress—plus, Democrats need to have big plans both to make the case for what a Democratic government would mean to voters and to be ready for moments of opportunity. Republicans don’t dream small, and neither should we.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 21, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

Protection Against Pregnancy Discrimination in California

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Pregnancy is an exciting and emotional time in a person’s life. It can feel like there is so much to do before the baby arrives; from a healthy delivery to making sure you have enough savings in your bank account. You do not need another thing to worry about, especially your job security.

Fortunately, there are both state and federal laws which protect employees against wrongful discrimination based on their pregnancy status or disability as a result of pregnancy. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important to know your rights and how you and your family are protected under these laws.

What is pregnancy discrimination?

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnancy discrimination is unfavorable treatment towards a woman due to her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.

This type of discrimination is unlawful at any stage of hiring, employment, or termination. It is illegal to deny someone a job, demote or refuse to promote, decrease pay rate, or terminate employment due to a person’s pregnancy status or desire to become pregnant, intention of becoming pregnant, or possibility of pregnancy.

Pregnancy discrimination also includes a variety of actions. As a pregnant employee, you are not just protected from being fired or demoted due to pregnancy, but it is also unlawful for an employer to deny you reasonable accommodations due to pregnancy status, including a time and place to express milk, or deny you time off following the birth of your child.

What are discriminatory employment actions?

 Any discriminatory action against you in the workplace is unlawful. Some of the most common discriminatory employment actions due to an employee’s pregnancy status include:

  • Refusing to hire;
  • Demoting;
  • Laying off;
  • Denying benefits, such as paid time off and health insurance;
  • Assigning lesser or inferior jobs;
  • Terminations/Firing; or
  • Any other term or condition of employment.

What are reasonable accommodations?

Your employer is required to provide you with reasonable accommodations if, with those accommodations, you are still able to adequately perform your job duties. Reasonable accommodations are determined by considering whether this request would cause undue hardship to the employer. If not, it may be a reasonable request.

Some reasonable accommodations in regard to pregnancy may include:

  • Time off to attend doctors’ appointments;
  • Adjusting work schedules to accommodate for severe morning sickness;
  • Allowing the employee to sit during her shift; and
  • Weight restrictions related to lifting heavy objects.

What laws protect me from pregnancy discrimination?

 There are both state and federal laws which protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy.

 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or any other pregnancy-related medical conditions.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal statute which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes pregnancy and limitations as a result of pregnancy.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees up to 12 weeks of leave per year due to the birth of a child, the placement of a child via adoption or foster care, the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or the serious health condition of the employee. While this is unpaid, the employee may not lose their job due to her leave of absence under this federal statute. Employees also enjoy continuation of their health insurance and benefits as if they had never taken a leave from work.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee based upon the individual’s status as a protected class. In California, protected classes of people include:

  • Race, color
  • Ancestry, national origin
  • Religion, creed
  • Age (over 40)
  • Disability, mental and physical
  • Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Military and veteran status

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), however there are a few significant differences. The CFRA also allows employees up to 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period for the same reasons allowable in the FMLA, but the CFRA also provides leave to care for a registered domestic partner who is experiencing a serious medical condition rather than only a spouse, child, or parent.

The California New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) allows employees to take time off to bond with a new child or a child newly placed for adoption or foster care. This Act requires the employer to provide the employee with a guarantee of employment security and reinstatement prior to beginning parental leave.

The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL) specifically protects employees who are experiencing a disability resulting from pregnancy. Typically, the employee’s medical team will recommend how long the leave should be, according to your health condition, medical history, and other personal details, however this law does allow for up to four month of leave per pregnancy.

The California Paid Family Leave (PFL) allows employees time off work to bond with a new child following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of the child. This also includes protections for employees to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member, such as a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. It is important to note that this statute only protects monetary benefits but does not provide job security or protection. However, your job may be protected through other state or federal laws.

This article was originally published by V. James DeSimone Law on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The team of employment attorneys at V. James DeSimone Law have in-depth knowledge and years of experience in this field. To schedule a consultation, you may call us today at (310) 693-5561. If you are pregnant or thinking about being pregnant, protect yourself, your family, and your job by knowing and understanding your rights and protections under both state and federal laws. If you believe you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, it is crucial to contact an experienced employment attorney right away. Learn more at: https://www.vjamesdesimonelaw.com/employment-law/pregnancy-discrimination/

EEOC now gives nonbinary people a way to be counted in workplace

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Image result for casey quinlanThe EEOC quietly acknowledged nonbinary workers in a change to the “Frequently Asked Questions” section on its site.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent federal agency that is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, recently changed its website to address how employers can report workers as nonbinary.

Before the EEOC’s actions last week, employers didn’t have a way to report nonbinary workers in what are known as EEO-1 reports, which are filed with the agency as mandated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967.

More Americans are informing people that their gender is under the nonbinary umbrella, which places a pressing need on employers to recognize their gender, and more states are recognizing this diversity.

According to a Harris Poll done on behalf of GLAAD in 2017, 12% of millennials say they are transgender, agender, genderfluid, or bigender, which is double the percentage of Generation X who said the same. The report said there were growing levels of young people whose genders are outside of the gender binary. More than one third of people in Generation Z say they know someone who uses non-binary pronouns such as they and them.

A few states allow nonbinary people to choose a marker other than “M” or “F” on government identification such as driver’s licenses and ID cards. California, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia allow nonbinary people to have this option such as an “X” designation. Washington, Oregon, and New Jersey allow nonbinary birth certificates.

The EEOC has recognized this need under its Frequently Asked Questions page addressing 2017 and 2018 compensation data. According to the National Law Review, these changes were made on August 15.

Although this guidance for employers is not a long-term solution for nonbinary people, it is an improvement over completely erasing nonbinary people’s genders. It also defies the binary understanding of gender that the Trump administration has embraced from the beginning. The EEOC directs employers to write the nonbinary worker’s gender in the comment box on the Certification Page and to preface it with “Additional Employee Data.” The EEOC provides an example:

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the EEOC was likely responding to employers’ questions about how to account for nonbinary workers.

“There has not been a concern that something bad was going to happen to employers because they didn’t include this data. Employers wanted to know how to provide accurate data to the EEOC so the EEOC said that’s fine. We’re not going to get into the business of defining people’s gender,” she said.

“If you have employees who are nonbinary, you can use the narrative comment section of the form, like you could for anything else that doesn’t fit into the boxes they give you to report a number of nonbinary employees.”

Tobin compared this case of acknowledging nonbinary workers to actions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to undo protections for transgender people. HHS recently rolled out a proposal that would quash guidelines that are part of the ACA which explicitly includes gender identity under sex discrimination. Last year, The New York Times also reported on an HHS memo that classified sex as either male or female and determined at birth.

“It does stand in contrast to the position U.S. Health and Human Services has staked out in its recent health care rule, which is a position contrary to medical science that gender is immutably determined at birth and that there are only two genders,” she said.

“The EEOC is recognizing the reality that employers know who their own workforce is.”

“The EEOC is recognizing the reality that employers know who their own workforce is, and who their employees are because they work with them every day, whereas HHS is simply covering its eyes and saying we don’t see nonbinary people. They don’t exist. That is part of a broader problem in the HHS proposal and its approach to civil rights laws. Denying that gender identity is a core part of human identity, that gender transition is often medically necessary, that our civil rights laws have long been understood to protect transgender people from discrimination.”

Although this may seem like a small tweak, it matters to nonbinary workers to be counted and not forced to choose between two genders when neither accurately describes them.

This action can also be understood in the context of other recent actions from the EEOC. Last week, the Justice Department filed a court brief on behalf of the EEOC to argue that transgender people, and in turn other people affected by sex stereotypes, are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It would essentially overturn Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989). In 2014, the EEOC sued for alleged discrimination against Aimee Stephens, a trans woman who said she was fired because she informed her employer that she was a woman.

Stephens said the termination violated the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC won in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. At the U.S. Supreme Court level, however, the EEOC has to be represented by the Solicitor General, who can say the opposite of what the EEOC has said in the lower courts. Tobin said this rarely happens, but has occurred twice in recent months. Although the general counsel for an agency usually signs these briefs, the EEOC did not. The National Law Journal writes that this may be evidence that the EEOC doesn’t agree with the Justice Department’s argument.

“It’s telling that lawyers for the EEOC weren’t willing to sign their names to the brief … We’ve had many cases in the recent past where Justice Department lawyers were not willing to sign their names to briefs filed on behalf of the administration because of its legal arguments and this may be another such case,” Tobin said. “In this case, it also happens to not reflect the view of commission in the way that day-to-day it’s still interpreting and enforcing the law — at least what is consistent with most of the case law.”

There have been attempts to politicize the EEOC. Members of the commission are usually reconfirmed without much attention but in 2018, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), objected to the reappointment of Chai Feldblum, who is a lesbian. Lee said she had “radical views on marriage.”

These nominations are usually passed by unanimous consent. Feldblum later withdrewher name from the nomination process. In an interview with HRDive in February, she said that Title VII protects sexual orientation and gender identity.

This article was originally published at Think Progress on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Casey Quinlan covers policy issues related to gender and sexuality. Their work has also been published in The Establishment, Bustle, Glamour, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The Atlantic, and In These Times. They studied economic reporting, political reporting, and investigative journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where they graduated with an M.A. in business journalism.

U.S. Steel lays off Michigan workers a week after Trump bragged 'business is thriving'

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Just last week, Donald Trump was bragging about the success of his steel tariffs. This week, U.S. Steel is laying off workers in Michigan—temporarily, but for as long as six months.

“Steel was dead. Your business was dead. Okay? I don’t want to be overly crude. Your business was dead. And I put a little thing called ‘a 25 percent tariff’ on all of the dumped steel all over the country. And now your business is thriving” Trump said, in the same Monaca, Pennsylvania, speech at which he had a coerced audience of workers told they’d lose pay if they didn’t attend. “And I’ll tell you what,” he added later, “Those steel mills—U.S. Steel and all of them, all of them—they’re expanding all over the place. New mills. New expansions. We hadn’t have—we didn’t have a new mill built in 30 years, and now we have many of them going up.”

This is, of course, false. There are not “many” new steel mills going up (and on top of it, there had been at least one built within the last 30 years). U.S. Steel is investing $1 billion in its Mon Valley Works facilities, but there’s no guarantee of new jobs there.

And now U.S. Steel is idling blast furnaces and laying off workers—temporarily, we very much hope—as steel prices have fallen significantly from a 2018 peak shortly after Trump announced his tariffs. The steel tariffs did at least temporarily lead to increased investment and jobs. But of course Trump had to lie about the scale of the improvements and you’re unlikely to see him admitting to the slump that’s hitting now.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

CEO pay is a scandal—or anyway, it should be—this week in the war on workers

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Since 1978, CEO pay has grown 1,007.5% by one measure and a mere 940.3% by another measure, the Economic Policy Institute reports. Average workers? Their pay has gone up just 11.9%. That’s not all, either. The increase in CEO pay has dramatically outstripped the increase for other very high earners, which is positively modest at 339.2%.

The numbers start to seem a little more manageable if you drill down to more recent years, but the inequality is still striking:

CEO compensation has grown 52.6% in the recovery since 2009 using the options-exercised measure and 29.4% using the options-granted measure. In contrast, the typical workers in these large firms saw their annual compensation grow by just 5.3% over the recovery and actually fall by 0.2% between 2017 and 2018.

EPI also finds in the data an indication that no, CEOs aren’t magical unicorns who are worth all that money on their own unique merit: “CEOs of large firms earned 5.4 times that of the average top 0.1% earner in 2017, up from 4.4 times in 2007. This is yet another indicator that CEO pay is more likely based on CEOs’ power to set their own pay, not on a market for talent.”

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

Protecting Yourself When the Heat’s On in the Workplace

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Image result for TJ ScimoneThe dangers of working in excessive heat and humidity often get overlooked. Yet OSHA reported 24 heat-related injuries or fatalities between May and October in 2018.

Employer Responsibilities

OSHA requires employers to provide safe work environments, although there are no specific OSHA standards that apply to heat and humidity in warehouses. Some individual states have created heat illness prevention standards that are more stringent.

Worker Responsibilities

Workplace safety is a team effort, and employees have a role to play, too. Report unsafe conditions to the appropriate person immediately. If the condition persists after you report it, you have the legal right to file an OSHA complaint and/or request an OSHA inspection.

Dangers of Working in Extreme Heat

Working in extreme heat and humidity is not just uncomfortable, but actually dangerous. Your body requires a stable internal temperature, which is regulated by blood circulation and the process of evaporation that cools you when you sweat.

High workplace temperatures keep you from releasing body heat through blood circulation, and if it’s humid, your sweat can’t evaporate because the air is already fairly full of water. This increases your core temperature.

Recognizing and Responding to Heat Illnesses

How do you recognize and respond to the various types of heat illness? There are four main types:

  • Heat Rash: Result of sweat that can’t evaporate. Clusters of tiny, itchy bumps cover affected areas, such as in folds of skin, on the chest, or on the neck. To treat: Keep the rash dry. Use baby or talcum powder to soothe the itching and irritation.

  • Heat Cramps: Painful muscle spasms from strenuous work in excessive heat, without replenishing fluids and body salts. To treat:  Place person in cool environment/shade. Have them sip a sports drink or add one teaspoon of salt to a quart of water and sip. If alert and not disoriented, wet them down and place them in front of fan to induce evaporative cooling. Apply cold compresses to the back of the neck, groin and armpits. Gently, but firmly, massage cramped muscles.

  • Heat Exhaustion: Identified by profuse sweating with cool, moist, and red or pale skin. Dilated pupils, headache, fast but weak pulse, rapid breathing, dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, irritability, irrational actions, thirst, and weakness may occur. Caused by prolonged exposure to excessive heat without consuming sufficient fluids and salts. To treat: Place the person in a cool environment/shade, with legs slightly elevated. Remove or loosen their clothes. Follow the treatments for heat cramps, except muscle massage.

  • Heat Stroke: Medical emergency – call 911 immediately! Core temperature is above 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweating stops entirely. Skin may be red, hot, and dry. Pulse is rapid but strong, pupils are small, and dizziness occurs. Breathing is rapid and shallow, together with nausea, weakness, mental confusion, and extreme irritability. There may be seizures, and loss of consciousness, progressing to shock, brain damage, and death. To treat: Follow the treatment procedures for heat exhaustion while you wait for medical transport or a medical care team to arrive. Do not give the person any drink that contains caffeine or alcohol.

Prevention of Heat Illness

Prevent heat illnesses by following some common sense heat tips to keep yourself cool. Wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting cotton clothing that allows sweat to evaporate. Stay in cooler environments as much as possible.

Drink small amounts frequently, even if you aren’t thirsty. Avoid sweet or alcoholic drinks, which cause your body to lose fluid.

Regularly replenish your salts and minerals. Consult with your doctor about managing the heat if you are on any type of salt restriction or have certain chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Heat illnesses can progress extremely rapidly from one stage to another. While you can monitor yourself for signs and symptoms, many stages of heat illness can cause mental confusion. A buddy system is the best way to ensure that you and your fellow workers aren’t headed for potential life-threatening circumstances. Periodically check in with each other and look for symptoms and take immediate action if you notice one or more symptoms.

About the Author: TJ Scimone founded Slice, Inc. in 2008. His priority has been design, innovation, and safety in cutting tools such as utility knives. The result is a unique line of tools featuring finger-friendly® blades. Safety is a key aspect of the Slice message and the website features a Workplace Safety Blog.

 

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