Protecting Workers' Rights in Hard Times
Workplace law is at a difficult crossroads. With high unemployment, violations of labor laws widespread, and unionization at an all-time low, promoting workers' rights poses unprecedented challenges. This seminar will explore, in turn, a variety of pressing issues confronting worker advocates and policymakers. Through analysis of academic and non-academic readings, and candid conversations with attorneys and officials in the trenches, we will evaluate the contours of each problem and consider a variety of solutions that have been attempted or proposed. We will consider statutory and common-law reforms, as well as the quality of enforcement, new regulatory approaches, and private/nonprofit-sector initiatives. Among the topics to be explored are the ¿fissuring¿ of employment relationships through outsourcing, franchising, reliance on independent contractors, and the like; the prevalence of wage theft; the difficulties of redressing more subtle forms of workplace discrimination; the decline of private-sector unionization and the attack on public-sector unions; the precarious legal status of undocumented workers; the regulatory challenges involved in protecting workers' safety and health; and the proliferating contractual bans on workers' ability to pursue class actions and court adjudication. The course format will combine lecture, group discussions and guest presentations. Although there are no formal prerequisites, prior experience and/or coursework in at least one workplace-related field such as employment law, employment discrimination law, or labor law is recommended.