• April 27, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Catherine Fisk, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law           

    Although it has been widely reported that Uber has agreed to settle class action suits by drivers in California and Massachusetts, it is far from clear that the settlement will be approved or that, even if it is approved, it will resolve the question of the employment status of Uber drivers. And it seems fairly clear that the settlement does not protect some drivers from poor working conditions.

    The two class actions allege that Uber misclassifies its drivers as independent contractors and thereby deprives them of the right to receive tips, minimum wage, overtime, and reimbursement for the expenses they incur (like the cost of the vehicle, insurance, and gas). The settlement agreement stipulates that, in exchange for payments totaling between $84 and $100 million and Uber’s agreement to modify the way it eliminates drivers from its program and to meet regularly with elected representatives of the Uber Driver Association, the plaintiff classes will abandon their claim that they are employees rather than independent contractors.

    Uber has touted the settlement as a major victory in its effort to keep its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. If the settlement is approved, it would be a temporary victory on that issue. Another judge recently rejected a proposed settlement of a similar action brought by Lyft drivers because the judge found the agreement on damages failed adequately to compensate the plaintiffs, but in his order rejecting the settlement the judge said that he would accept a settlement that did not provide that drivers were employees.

    But Uber’s legal troubles over the employment status of its drivers will not end even if Judge Chen accepts the settlement, and there is no assurance that he will. Objections to the proposed settlement have been filed by other lawyers who represent some of the class members and who were apparently not involved in the settlement negotiations. And, of course, drivers who started working for Uber after the period covered by the suit are not among the plaintiffs in the class. Therefore, the settlement agreement will not foreclose them from suing for misclassification.

  • April 27, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    A federal judge in North Carolina on Monday “upheld one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country — a 2013 North Carolina law that eliminated same-day voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; cut back on early voting by a week; barred counting votes cast outside voters’ home precincts; and required voters to show identification at the polls,” laments the Editorial Board at The New York Times.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a speech Tuesday invoked the legacy of Ted Kennedy in calling on the Senate to honor its constitutional duties and act on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, writes Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post.

    The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a bakery found in violation of state civil rights law after refusing to prepare a cake for a same-sex wedding, reports Chris Johnson at The Washington Blade

  • April 26, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Gail M. Deady, Esq., The Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia

    Gavin Grimm is a junior in high school in Gloucester, Virginia. Gavin is a boy but, because he is also transgender, his school district prohibits him from using the boys’ restrooms. He is instead forced to use the girls’ restroom or single-user, gender-neutral restrooms. With the help of the ACLU of Virginia and the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project, Gavin challenged this policy in federal court as discriminatory. In a landmark decision last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with him.

    Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, educational institutions receiving federal education funds are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. There are some exceptions to that general prohibition, such as a regulation allowing schools to designate separate restrooms for male and female students.

    In April 2014, however, the Department of Education issued guidance stating that if schools treat male and female students differently, they must treat transgender students consistently with their gender identity.

    Gavin came out to his family as a transgender boy in the summer of 2014 and began his transition, which meant living all aspects of his life as a boy. That fall, Gavin enrolled in school as a male student with his new legal name: Gavin. Unsure of how his peers would react to his transition, Gavin initially asked to use the nurse’s restroom.

    At first, everything went well. School staff supported Gavin’s transition, and most of his peers accepted him as just another male student. When it became clear to Gavin that he could safely use the boys’ restrooms, he asked for and received school administrators’ permission to do so. Gavin used the boys’ restrooms without any problems for about seven weeks.

  • April 26, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    Illinois State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D) has introduced legislation that would limit solitary confinement in the state to no more than five consecutive days and five total days during a 150 day period, writes the Chicago Tribune.     

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that states should make it easier for formerly-incarcerated individuals to obtain state-issued identification after leaving prison, says the Associated Press

    At The American Prospect, Justin Miller reports that Uber has agreed to pay $84 million to settle two class-action lawsuits from its drivers and consider whether the ride-hailing company’s business model is legal. 

  • April 25, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday restoring voting rights over 200,000 formerly-incarcerated individuals, reports Angela Bronner Helm at The Root.

    At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Angela Morrison blasts the senseless legal challenge to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in United States v. Texas.

    The city of Cleveland will pay $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice two years after the teen was shot to death by a police officer, says Mitch Smith in The New York Times.