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July 29, 2020 by Katie Tracy

Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Dangerous Working Conditions

Workers presently have no right to bring a lawsuit against employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) for failing to provide safe and healthy working conditions. If an employer exposes workers to toxic chemicals or fails to guard a dangerous machine, for example, they must rely on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to inspect, find a violation, and issue a citation. This omission in the 1970 statute is especially troubling in the context of COVID-19, as workers across the United States continue to face a massive workplace health crisis without any meaningful support from OSHA or most of its state and territorial counterparts.

OSHA has so far declined to adopt an emergency standard to address COVID-19, despite repeated calls by unions, workers, and advocates to do so. Moreover, rather than enforcing existing standards or holding employers accountable for violating their general duty to provide safe and healthy working conditions, the agency is sitting on the sidelines, watching the crisis unfold.. OSHA's state and territorial counterparts aren't doing much better – California has an existing standard, and only Virginia and Oregon's occupational safety and health programs have taken action to institute an emergency standard. Elsewhere, workers are …

July 28, 2020 by James Goodwin
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Today, a group of 136 law professors from across the United States, including 31 Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars, will send a letter to congressional leaders urging them to “ensure that our courthouse doors remain open to all Americans for injuries they suffer from negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter, spearheaded by CPR Member Scholars Dan Farber and Michael Duff, comes in response to a push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate special interests to include a “federal liability shield” in the next COVID relief bill, which is now being negotiated in Congress. This shield would prevent ordinary Americans from holding corporations accountable in the civil courts when their unreasonably dangerous actions cause people to become sick with the virus.

As the letter explains, the federal liability shield would violate clear principles of federalism by intruding upon the traditional rights …

June 19, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Until this week, laws in a majority of U.S. states permitted some form of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That was no oversight on the part of state legislatures or the U.S. Congress. It was instead the product of virulent right-wing opposition to the recognition of the fundamental rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Not only did they oppose laws to protect against discrimination, they raised untold millions of dollars over the years boasting about it and used anti-gay ballot initiatives as a tool to inflame passions and draw out arch-conservative voters.

On Monday, the law changed – dramatically, sweepingly, historically – when the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that in this respect the 1964 Civil Rights Act's anti-employment discrimination provisions mean exactly what they say. The Court's ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia makes clear that it is illegal …

June 3, 2020 by Michael C. Duff
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For decades, commentators have complained about how long it can take for workers attempting to unionize to simply get an election in which workers make an up-or-down decision on whether to form a union. For many years, employers were able to raise hyper-formalistic legal arguments that took so long to resolve that the employees initially interested in forming a union had often moved on to other employment. In far too many cases, employers also unlawfully coerce workers during the delay, and those workers eventually withdraw their support for the union.

After much internal political wrangling, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enacted a series of new election procedures in 2014 meant to accomplish a simple objective: to get interested employees to a union election first and then (if necessary) address the typical mountain of anti-worker legal challenges. Prior to the changes, many of these challenges were adjudicated …

Dec. 26, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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As 2018 ends and we take stock of the developments in workers’ rights over the first half of the Trump administration, there is little forward progress to report. This administration, acting with minimal to no congressional oversight, has consistently neglected to protect America’s workers, instead rolling back and delaying numerous Obama-era regulations and safeguards, ignoring emerging hazards from climate change and new technologies, and restricting traditional inspection and enforcement in favor of self-reporting and compliance assistance. 

Instead of focusing on the past and the negative, let’s look forward to 2019. If it wants to, the Trump administration has an opportunity to change course next year, and work with the 116th Congress to prioritize America’s workers. In the likely event President Trump and the Republican majority of the Senate continue on the same path, the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives can …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 29, 2020

Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Dangerous Working Conditions

July 28, 2020

CPR Leads Legal Academics in Ensuring Citizen Access to Justice in the Wake of COVID-19

June 19, 2020

Supreme Court Affirms Title VII Protections for LGBTQ+ Community

June 3, 2020

Federal District Court Rebuffs Trump Labor Board for Shirking Rulemaking Requirements

Dec. 26, 2018

2019 Wish List for Workers' Health and Safety