— General News

Burton and Narendra move for summary judgment in lawsuit challenging the elimination of teacher tenure

Burton and Narendra, together with co-counsel Ann McColl of the North Carolina Association of Educators, yesterday moved for summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s elimination of teacher tenure.

Since 1971, North Carolina’s teachers who earned “career status” have benefited from two basic employments protections: first, the assurance that they could be dismissed or demoted only for one of several statutorily enumerated causes, and second, the right to a hearing in which they could contest the grounds offered for a dismissal or demotion.  In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation purporting to eliminate career status.  The legislation would strip career status protections from teachers who had previously earned them, and would deny probationary teachers the ability to qualify for career status.

Patterson Harkavy represents the North Carolina Association of Educators and six individual plaintiffs.  They allege that the repeal violates the United States Constitution’s Contracts Clause and the North Carolina Constitution’s Law of the Land Clause by impermissibly denying teachers their contractual employments rights.

Categories: General News, News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , ,

Employers Using Lockouts More Frequently

The New York Times reported recently that companies are using lockouts more frequently against their unionized employees to force the employees’ hand in negotiations.  American Crystal Sugar, the nation’s largest sugar beet processor, locked out its 1,300 workers last summer.  That year the company was making record profits, but still demanded that their employees pay for a larger percentage of their health coverage and accept more outsourcing among other demands.  The employees rejected these demands, given the record profits, and the company responded by locking them out.  The company then attracted non-union replacement workers with higher pay and negotiations have not succeeded since.  Many workers believe this is a poorly veiled attempt to break the union, though the company denies this claim.

“This is a sign of increased employer militancy,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. “Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of.  Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action — in the form of lockouts.”

Two decades ago there were 6 times more strikes by unionized employees, but while strikes have sharply declined last year, at least 17 companies used lockouts against their employees.  Hopefully this trend will change and soon; the last thing workers need in a down economy is the threat of a lockout hanging over their heads.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , ,

NLRB Strikes Blow Against Bans on Class Action Arbitrations

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled in favor of both union and non-union private sector employees on a significant issue concerning workplace litigation.  At issue were mandatory arbitration agreements signed upon employment that force employees to bring claims one by one in front of an arbitrator and prohibit employees joining as a group to arbitrate their claims.  The Labor Board concluded that such agreements violate employee rights under the NLRA to engage in concerted activity.  This ruling supports workers’ rights to join together to bring legal claims to arbitration collectively.  More coverage can be found here.

Categories: General News, Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Unemployment Benefits Extended in NC

An executive order was issued on Wednesday by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue that will extend long-term unemployment benefits to 25,000 jobless workers in the state.  The federal government pushed back the deadline for extended unemployment benefits to the end of February, but required states to make the change to their systems of calculations and deadlines as well to be eligible to get the federal funds.  Governor Perdue could have called a special session of the General Assembly to make this change, but chose to go the quicker route and issue an executive order.  The extension provides much needed benefits to unemployed workers.  More coverage here.

Categories: General News, Legislative Action Tags: , , , , ,

Recess Appointments Made to NLRB

President Obama this past week appointed three members to the National Labor Relations Board.  They include Sharon Block, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs with the US Department of Labor; Terence Flynn, who was Chief Counsel to current NLRB Board Member Brian Hayes, and; Richard Griffin, formerly General Counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers.  More information on the new members of the Board may be found here and here.  The members were sworn in on Monday.  President Obama needed to appoint these members by recess appointment in order to keep the NLRB properly functioning.

Categories: General News, Legislative Action Tags: , , , ,

New Report Out on Economy and Young Workers

The public policy research group Dēmos and the non-profit Young Invincibles, published a new report which came out last month.  The report analyzes the economic status of the “Millennial Generation” as compared to previous generations.  ”The analysis reveals the failure of public investment and public policy to provide young people with the means to achieve economic security and sustain the middle class.”  The report can be found here.

Introduction to the Jobs and the Economy section:

“Our nation has experienced profound economic change over the last three decades. Globalization, new technologies, and deliberate public policies shifted our economy from the production of goods to the production of knowledge and services. As millions of unionized factory jobs moved overseas, our nation lost a primary source of middle-class jobs for people without college degrees. Less-educated workers now have few options outside of non-unionized, low-wage service occupations.”

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , ,

Federal Unemployment Benefits Should be Renewed

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) published an excellent paper in October, arguing for a one-year extension of the Federal Unemployment Insurance benefits for unemployed workers.  The paper is entitled “Hanging On By a Thread: Renew Federal Unemployment Insurance to Aid Families, Boost Stalled Economy

The paper states: “Unless Congress reauthorizes the current federal extension programs before the December 31st deadline, millions of workers and their families will be left without their primary means of support to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and cover their other most basic necessities.”

NELP’s paper also argues that extending benefits will help families as well as give the economy a leg up:  “Consistent with the prior research, [Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute] found that the nation’s economy grew by $2 for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance during the latest recession, as unemployed workers spent their benefits in their communities at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers and service providers.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep Congress in session in D.C. until federal unemployment benefits are renewed for the coming year, even if they have to work through the holidays to do so.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , , , ,

Machinists’ Union and Boeing Work to Extend Contract

Last, week, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and Boeing reached a tentative agreement which would extend the Union’s contract for four years and, when ratified, will increase wages, maintain and improve traditional pensions and add new jobs.  The Union and Boeing have been in a troubled relationship recently since Boeing decided to build a new plant for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina where unions are weak.  The National Labor Relations Board filed a suit claiming that Boeing had decided to build the new plant in South Carolina in illegal retaliation against the Union for striking.  That case now looks like it may be dropped if the new contract is ratified by the Boeing employees.   Additional coverage here.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , ,

President Obama Signs Jobs Bill Helping Veterans

President Obama this week signed into law the first portion of his jobs package. The bill, H.R. 674, which had vast bipartisan support, also known as VOW to Hire Heroes Act, creates tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, especially those who have been unemployed for more than six months and those with service connected disabilities.  Though there has been very little action from Congress on the jobs front, this is an encouraging first step.  Hopefully the House and Senate can get their act together and start really helping unemployed workers secure employment, and in doing so jump-start the economy.  More on the bill here.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , , ,

EEOC Sees Increase in Discrimination Claims

In the past year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has seen 7.2 % in discrimination claims being filed with agency.  Coverage here.  The EEOC handles charges under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the Equal Pay Act, and GINA.  EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien stated, “Discrimination continues to be a substantial problem for too many job seekers and workers, and we must continue to build our capacity to enforce the laws that ensure that workplaces are free of unlawful bias.”  Detailed statistics on the charges filed with the EEOC are available on its website.  The numbers show marked increases in charges involving disability discrimination and all types of retaliation.

And, in other interesting EEOC news, the EEOC recently brought a lawsuit against Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, accusing it of discriminating against black job applicants through the way it uses credit histories in its hiring process.  The EEOC alleges that Kaplan’s rejection of job applicants based on their credit history has “disparate impact” on black applicants.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,