Due in large part to how intimately connected we are to our jobs, developments in labor and employment law often affect us in ways that may not be immediately obvious. The law of the workplace is constantly being shaped by decisions at nearly every level of judgment, and the implementation of new policies can be a time consuming challenge for organizations. With that in mind, here we’ll take a look at the most pertinent labor and employment stories from July, focusing on events that may be indicators of wider trends as well as unique stories from InsideCounsel that you may have missed.
4) Littler Mendelson survey shows unhappy workers increasingly likely to file suit against employers
While the recession undoubtedly affected workers, as the United States increasingly distances itself from the events of the financial meltdown, worker disenchantment appears to be paradoxically increasing.
When asked in a recent Littler survey how current economic conditions were impacting lawsuits or claims from disenchanted employees, executive respondents indicated that they’ve seen an increase from 23 percent in 2013 48 percent in 2014.
Barry Hartstein, co-chair of Littler Mendelson’s EEO and Diversity Practice, says “You’ve got two groups of workers that in some respects are aligned in an unusual matter. You have baby boomers, many of whom want to retire, that can’t, and may have a difficult time getting better jobs because of their age. Then you look at our young people, who also have difficulty finding good paying jobs, which may have forced them to move back in with their parents, and deal with student debt. They’re rightly frustrated. Individuals on both sides likely think, ‘it can’t be me, it must be my age, or my ethnicity,’ and those are the sorts of challenges that employers then have to deal with.”
3) Samsung finds child labor in supply chain
Due in large part to the size and reach of its operations, electronics company Samsung recently addressed allegations that some of the supply contractors it uses to manufacture its products were using child labor.
The South Korean electronics company was alerted by nonprofit group known as the China Labor Watch that one its Chinese suppliers used underage labor. The non-profit alleged that the Shinyang Electronics Company, makers or cellphone covers and other parts, was using children who had used fake IDs to get jobs in the factory.
On July 14, the company announced that it would suspend business relations with Shinyang pending an investigation into this matter, putting the issues to bed.
Another example of the vigilance required when running a global organization
2) Obama signs Executive order protecting the rights of LGBT citizens
On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order aimed at protecting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals from discrimination in the workplace. The order applies to federal employees and contractors, but employers that receive federal funding could also be considered part of the order.
The move aligns with the policy evolution of many large organizations, and while it does not affect the private sector specifically, it is an indicator of increasing calls for diversity and tolerance in the workplace.
Denise M. Visconti, office managing shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C., says “Employers have said that they will follow state law and also extend protection to groups beyond what state law requires. Employers would be advised to take a look at their policies about equal employment opportunities or non-discrimination.”
Employers should take a look at these codes of conduct and see if they include sexual identity, gender orientation and expression.
1) EEOC provides guidelines on treatment of pregnant employees
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has had a fairly steadfast tack when it comes to enforcement of its rules; however, on July 15, the commission made the first update to its policies in 30 years, expanding employment protection to expectant mothers. The new guidelines make it clear that the EEOC expects employers to accommodate pregnant women, and that refusing to do so is a violation of federal law.
The new rules are the first changes the commission has made to its policies since 1983, when an update offering guidance on pregnant worker discrimination was published. The new rules will supersede the previous update and offer more explicit rules on how employers will need to accommodate workers.
Critics argue that the solidification of these guidelines is a waste of time, as a Supreme Court case pending for the next session is likely to offer further stipulations on the treatment of pregnant workers, and could nullify the EEOC’s effort.