Critical data for more than 2,300 federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cases now are available online thanks to a multi-year effort of researchers at Washington University School of Law’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law (CERL). The EEOC Litigation Project, which spans the period between 1997 and 2006, makes readily available detailed information about the EEOC’s enforcement litigation to legal scholars, social scientists, and policy-makers.
Workers pour sweat, blood and even dollars into the firms that employ them, especially in a labor market characterized by employment and retirement insecurity, says Marion Crain, JD, expert on labor and employment law and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Work can shape one’s life in ways that run to the core of identity,” she says. “Work law, however, ignores these realities of interdependence and mutual investment, committing itself to a model of employment as an arm’s length, impersonal cash-for-labor transaction.” Crain suggests looking at other legal models such as marriage law to more accurately respond to the realities of the employment relationship, particularly at termination.
Litigation and legislative reforms have achieved formal rights to equal treatment for women in employment. But women continue to perform disproportionate amounts of caregiving in the home, to suffer economic penalties for childbearing and to face discrimination on account of motherhood in the workplace. “The disconnect between formal equality and the deepening work-family conflict is no accident,” says Deborah Dinner, JD, legal historian and associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
Labor Day may celebrate the historical contributions of the American labor movement, but the future of the movement is in question. “Unions are under siege,” says labor and employment law expert Marion Crain, JD, the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. “In the public sector, governors seeking to slash budgets are de-authorizing state labor laws that govern the organizing and bargaining rights of state employees. In the private sector, both the federal legislation that supports union action and the administrative body that enforces the law are under attack. Union density is on a dramatic downswing.” At the same time, wage inequality has not been higher since the Great Depression.
This summer, the Supreme Court will rule whether to allow the district court certification of the class action gender bias case against Wal-Mart. While much of the attention has focused on the enormous size of the class, the impact of the case is likely to be felt across a range of class action and employment discrimination cases, says Pauline Kim, JD, the Charles Nagel Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis and employment law expert.
Workers who have limited rights and are exposed to significant hazards and injuries might sound like something out of a Victorian novel, but it’s a reality for paid domestic service employees who perform tasks such as cleaning, cooking, childcare and care of the elderly. “Domestic employees face a variety of workplace hazards when working in clients’ homes, including exposure to harmful cleaning chemicals, verbal and physical abuse and injuries caused by lifting and moving clients with limited mobility,” says Peggie Smith, JD, employment law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s move to strip or significantly narrow his state’s public-sector workers’ collective bargaining rights has significant implications for all unionized workers, both in the public and private sector, says Marion Crain, JD, the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis and director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work & Social Capital.
BernsteinNeil Bernstein, an expert in labor law and legal issues relating to striking workers and a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, analyzes the current state of the grocery strike in St. Louis and discusses the overall effectiveness of strikes with Mike Sampson of KWMU’s St. Louis on the Air on Oct. 27. Listen to the program from the KWMU Web site.