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Labor and Employment Law

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Adverse Employment Actions in Failure-to-Accommodate Claims: Much Ado About Nothing

Nicole Buonocore Porter

This Article addresses a circuit split in the disability law jurisprudence. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees generally bring two types of claims against their employers—discrimination claims and failure-to-accommodate claims. Succeeding on a discrimination claim requires proving that the employee suffered an adverse employment action. Succeeding on a failure-to-accommodate claim does not. But several courts—including a recent case in the Tenth Circuit—have added this adverse- employment-action requirement into failure-to-accommodate claims. In doing so, these courts have camouflaged important issues about an employer’s obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees. Although I believe that courts that require an adverse employment action in failure-to-accommodates claim do so in error, the main contribution of this Article is to reveal how courts have obscured and confused broader disability-accommodation issues by imposing that requirement.

Chinese Workers vs. Walmart: Brainstorming Solutions to Funding Strategic Labor Litigation in the Wake of China’s 2017 Foreign NGO Law

Audrey Winn

Over the past two years, China’s treatment of labor advocates was full of conflicting norms: Though the Party remained hostile toward labor organizing directed at domestic employers, certain conditions caused state officials to hesitate in violently cracking down on labor organizing directed at Western companies. Against this backdrop, groups like the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Association (WCWA) were leading successful campaigns to fight worker exploitation through organizing and legal remedies. In order to fund litigation against Walmart, the WCWA received litigation funding from nonprofit groups like the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB). However, in January 2017, China passed a new Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Law (FNGO), which requires both foreign and Hong Kong nonprofits, like CLB, to register and submit themselves to greater government control in order to continue working in China. As a result, labor nonprofits like CLB are no longer able to fund litigation for groups like the WCWA. This Note proposes one way that Chinese labor organizations and NGOs could address the funding issues caused by the FNGO Law. Part I will discuss the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), explain the role it plays in the larger Communist Party agenda, and discuss the conditions in China that have created an opportunity for labor groups like the WCWA to form. Part II will discuss how the WCWA had been using strategic litigation prior to the FNGO Law, as well as how the FNGO Law affected the WCWA’s use of strategic litigation. Finally, Part III will suggest third-party litigation funding as a potential solution to this problem.

Finding a Reasonable Approach to the Extension of the Protective Sweep Doctrine in Non-Arrest Situations

Leslie A. O’Brien

Under the Supreme Court’s current protective sweep doctrine, it is constitutional for law enforcement officers to conduct a cursory sweep of a home incident to arrest where they have reasonable suspicion to believe the home may harbor a dangerous third party. The Supreme Court, however, has not clarified whether the protective sweep doctrine applies where there is no arrest. While at least one federal circuit court currently holds the view that protective sweeps are invalid absent an arrest, most circuits have indicated that protective sweeps may be valid even when they are not incident to an arrest. This Note argues that neither side of this circuit split has struck the right balance. By focusing too much attention on the “incident to arrest” language in Maryland v. Buie and not enough attention on the Court’s express concern for officer safety, the decisions refusing to extend the protective sweep doctrine to any non-arrest situations prohibit protective sweeps in cases where they would be reasonable and, thus, constitutional. In contrast, by failing to respect the Court’s repeated affirmations that exceptions to the warrant and probable cause requirements should be limited, and by brushing aside the importance of the arrest in Buie, the decisions extending the protective sweep doctrine to non-arrest situations either sanction unconstitutional searches or provide insufficient guidance to lower courts and the police, leaving Fourth Amendment privacy rights vulnerable. This Note argues that, to strike the right balance between protecting government interests and Fourth Amendment privacy rights, courts must incorporate a proper inquiry into the “need to search” into their reasonableness analysis. Specifically, they should require a compelling need for officers’ initial lawful entry into a home for protective sweeps to be valid. In applying this standard, courts should draw a bright line according to the type of entry involved, extending the protective sweep doctrine to situations where officers have entered a home pursuant to exigent circumstances or a court order, but not where officers have entered a home pursuant to consent. Such an approach will maintain the limited nature of this exception to the warrant and probable cause requirements while allowing officers to protect themselves when the public interest so requires. It will also provide lower courts and officers with clear guidelines on how to apply the law. As an ancillary benefit, this approach will also minimize the risk of pretextual searches.

New Demands, Better Boards: Rethinking Director Compensation in an Era of Heightened Corporate Governance

Katherine M. Brown

Sarbanes-Oxley and the accompanying era of heightened corporate governance dramatically changed the composition, role, and responsibilities of corporate boards. As a result of these changes, many of the justifications for traditional director compensation plans no longer apply. As directors struggle with their new responsibilities as independent corporate monitors, the manner in which they are compensated must reflect these changes. A director compensation plan in which directors receive compensation primarily in the form of cash, coupled with finely tailored equityholding requirements, strikes the right balance of director independence and director accountability. It also facilitates the creation of corporate boards drawn from a more diverse pool of talent.

Tackling Unconscious Bias in Hiring Practices: The Plight of the Rooney Rule

Brian W. Collins

This Note analyzes the National Football League’s (NFL) 2002 decision to implement an innovative—and controversial—policy aimed at increasing the League’s number of minority head coaches. Designated the “Rooney Rule,” the policy mandates that every NFL team interview at least one minority candidate upon the vacancy of a head coaching position or be subjected to a significant monetary fine. Despite ongoing allegations that it promotes tokenism and is a form of reverse discrimination, the Rule has reached uncharted success. While other professional sports with large minority populations (e.g., the National Basketball Association) have succeeded in integrating their head coaching positions over the past twenty years without analogous action, this Note argues that the pre–Rooney Rule NFL hiring process remained relatively static because decisionmakers unwittingly held (and often still hold) archaic biases regarding the intellectual ability of minority candidates to handle the high degree of organizational complexity in football. By deftly traversing the line between “soft” and “hard” variants of affirmative action, the Rule has proven effective because it forces decisionmakers harboring this unconscious bias to expand previously restricted coaching networks and come face-to-face with a candidate they would never have considered otherwise.

Markets and Discrimination

Jacob E. Gersen

Despite decades of scholarship in law and economics, disagreement persists over the extent of employment discrimination in the United States, the correct explanation for such discrimination, and the normative implications of the evidence for law and policy. In part, this is because employment discrimination is an enormously complex phenomenon, and both its history and continued existence are closely linked to politics and ideology. However, some portion of this dispute can also be traced to the incomplete use of empirical evidence. Most economic theories of employment discrimination imply empirical relationships between discrimination and the market structure of particular industries and characteristics of their workforces. Yet empirical work has most typically focused on either specific industries or the economy as a whole, and little systematic evidence about market structure and patterns of actual employment discrimination claims exists. This Article compiles and analyzes an original data set comprised of industry-specific measures of employment discrimination claims, market conditions, and labor force characteristics. In so doing, this Article contributes to an emerging literature that tests the core theoretical positions in the law and economics of discrimination literature, which in turn promises to advance understanding of both the causes of and remedies for employment discrimination.

The Earned Income Tax Credit as an Incentive to Report: Engaging the Informal Economy Through Tax Policy

John J. Infranca

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides financial assistance to low-income workers through a refundable tax credit. The EITC, which has received strong bipartisan support since its introduction in 1975, now represents the nation’s largest anti-poverty program for non-elderly individuals. In this Note, I contend that the EITC’s historical development failed to account for (and prior scholarly analysis of its impact on labor supply decisions have ignored) the important role of informal employment in the lives of the working poor. This Note presents the first analysis of the financial impact of government transfer and tax programs on the decision to report informal income—income that, were it reported, would be otherwise legal. As the Note’s analysis reveals, while drastic changes in both tax and transfer programs may be necessary to provide financial incentives for many households with children to report informal income, more targeted changes to the EITC could pro- vide strong incentives for childless informal workers to report. The Note argues that the benefits to both individuals and society, financial and otherwise, of tax reporting by low-income individuals engaged in informal work merits reconsideration of the EITC’s overall structure and administration. Administrative and policy innovations described in the Note are also necessary to maximize reporting compliance.

Blameless Ignorance? The Ledbetter Act and Limitation Periods for Title VII Pay Discrimination Claims

Jeremy A. Weinberg

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court rejected the argument that a new Title VII violation occurred and a new charge-filing period arose each time an employer issued a paycheck to an employee that reflected some past, uncharged discrimination (the so-called “paycheck accrual rule”). This opinion was effectively reversed when President Obama signed his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The new law amended Title VII such that an unlawful employment act occurs “when an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid, resulting in whole or in part from such a decision or other practice.”

Considering issues of fairness to employees and employers, as well as the societal interest in repose, this Note examines the Ledbetter Act and measures it against two alternatives: (1) application of a discovery rule and (2) use of the doctrine of equitable tolling for fraud. The Note contends that the Ledbetter Act is a flawed way of addressing the problem that victims of pay discrimination face in detecting discrimination
and bringing suit within the limitations period. Concluding that the discovery rule has been foreclosed by Congress and the courts, this Note argues that equitable tolling for cases of fraudulent concealment is a sensible, viable way of giving blamelessly ignorant plaintiffs access to the courts and avoiding the drawbacks of the Ledbetter Act.

Tax Expenditures and Global Labor Mobility

Ruth Mason

Governments often deliver social welfare benefits through “tax expenditures,” which are provisions of the tax code (such as home mortgage deductions) designed to serve social policy objectives. This Article considers the criteria for granting tax expenditures to individuals who work outside the state where they reside. International tax norms currently assign the primary entitlement to tax labor income to the state where the taxpayer works, but they assign the obligation to confer personal tax expenditures exclusively to the state where the taxpayer resides. This Article argues that the disjunction between the entitlement to tax and the obligation to provide tax benefits affects cross-border labor mobility and has important distributive implica- tions for taxpayers and states. In constructing these arguments, this Article introduces the concepts of “labor export neutrality” and “labor residence neutrality” as tools for analyzing government policies that affect global labor mobility. A policy is labor export neutral if it does not distort taxpayers’ decisions about where to work. A policy is labor residence neutral if it does not distort taxpayers’ decisions about where to reside.

Workplace Grievance Procedures: Signaling Fairness but Escalating Commitment

Joshua C. Polster

Over the last fifty years, nonunion employers have increasingly adopted formal
grievance procedures, which allow employees to challenge a company decision or
policy and appeal manager adjudications of the challenge. Employers have
adopted these procedures to minimize liability and ensure employee productivity.
But while these procedures signal that employees are treated fairly, the psychological
theory of escalation of commitment suggests that complaint-and-appeals procedures
exacerbate workplace conflict. This Note presents this unintended
consequence of formal grievance procedures and discusses its implications for
workplace dispute resolution. Part I explains the adoption of formal grievance procedures
as employer efforts to signal that employees are treated fairly. Part II
applies the psychological theory of escalation to grievance procedures, and Part III
argues that escalation undermines the purpose of formal grievance procedures and
proposes mediation as an escalation-reducing alternative.