I’ll confess. I’m excited about today’s post. It’s hard to find something new to do after nearly 10 years of blogging, but I think today’s post is pretty innovative. Unless you read The New York Times “The Conversation” which we’ve tried to
copy emulate here. Except this post (and hopefully others) will be called “The Dialogue”. Somehow different, right?
Today’s post tackles some of the legal issues regarding hiring but does so in a back-and-forth format between a management-side attorney (myself) and an employee-side attorney (Nina Pirrotti). I’d insert a reference to the letters of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr discussing the issues of the day, but then I remembered that ended in a duel, and it’s not exactly what I was foreseeing here. I think Nina and I can exchange some thoughts without trying to kill one another.
Anyways, Nina and I have tried something new below. Nina is a partner at the law firm of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald and Pirrotti, where she represents employees in all types of matters. She’s a past-President of the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association and a frequent presenter on employment law topics. My thanks to her for being brave enough to try this with me. Let me know what you think.
The Dialogue Begins
Dan Schwartz: Welcome to the blog and thanks for engaging in this discussion on employment law. I promise that we here at the blog don’t bite and we pay all of our workers (me) minimum wage. (Ok, that’s a lie. I get nothing for writing the blog, but moving on….)
I know we were planning on talking about some developments in the world of hiring and employment law, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to ask you something about the new Trump Administration. From the perspective of an attorney who typically represents employees, what are one or two things you’re keeping an eye out for?
Nina Pirrotti: Thank you, Dan, for your warm welcome. We plaintiffs’ employment lawyers have been feeling mighty chilly since November 8th and have been bracing ourselves ever since for even more frigid temps ahead. Ironically, I felt the impact of Trump’s election virtually immediately. On November 9th, I flew to Chicago and spoke at the ABA’s annual Labor & Employment conference.
The topic of the panel on which I spoke revolved around laws which prohibit employer retaliation against employees for discussing their wages. The laws are designed to protect female employees who are trying to figure out whether they are being paid less than their male counterparts.
I was all set to talk about the Paycheck Fairness Act which would have expanded the protection provided by those laws and was expected to be one of the first pieces of legislation signed by Hillary Clinton. As you can imagine, my plane ride there was consumed with a furious re-write of my outline! The next day I flew to Dallas to participate in the semi-annual Executive Board meeting for the National Employment Lawyers’ Association where we also had to nimbly adjust our focus to reflect the new (surreal) reality.
I did not thaw out after learning that Trump nominated Andy Puzder, CEO of chain restaurants, including Hardees (which, sadly, is the maker of my all -time favorite breakfast biscuit) to head the Department of Labor. Puzder’s employee track record, which includes opposing overtime and minimum wage laws and underpaying his own workers is abysmal.
I can only hope that the rumors that he might back out of consideration prove to be true. I did feel a glimmer of hope after I learned this week that Trump has tapped EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic as Acting Chair of EEOC. Lipnic, who was nominated by President Obama, has served as EEOC Commissioner since 2010.
I was also mildly heartened by Trump’s expression of (granted, lukewarm) support in his campaign for pay equity laws and paid FMLA leave, both championed by Hillary Clinton and I can only hope that the person who might most positively influence him in that regard (Ivanka) is able to carry the day.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration does seem poised to reverse or suspend the changes to Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules which went into effect on December 1, 2016.
Of course, the most important event that we plaintiffs’ employment lawyers are waiting for is the announcement of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee who would replace the very conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. That person may likely cast the deciding vote on cases that impact the rights of workers in a myriad of ways. Unfortunately for us, the three oldest justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Kennedy and Breyer – are liberal or moderate and Trump may have more than one bite at that proverbial apple during his (hopefully only) four-year stint.
Since your excellent blog has national appeal and one or more of these justices might actually read it, I hereby urge all three of them to eat well, exercise moderately and avoid all high risk activities!