We are experiencing a watershed moment in relation to sexual harassment: boldface names fall daily, and women are speaking up as never before. This is one of those moments when norms change, presenting a tremendous opportunity. Proposals that seemed unrealistic last year could now be taken seriously in the political sphere.
In the Guardian last weekend, Sharon Block and I outlined an agenda for bringing sexual harassment to light sooner, punishing it appropriately, and above all, preventing it in the first place. In the interest of furthering the conversation, this post elaborates on those ideas, and also aggregates several noteworthy articles proposing thoughtful reforms.
Fighting the dangers of tobacco, seeking redress for homeowners during the mortgage crisis, and most recently standing up against the Muslim ban – state attorneys general have long been at the forefront of efforts to protect the well-being of the people of their states. In recent months, progressive state attorneys general have emerged as some of the nation’s foremost champions of civil rights and of humane, sensible policy in the face of declining protection at the federal level. As income inequality grows and too many American workers struggle to get a fair deal in our economy, the role of state attorneys general in enforcing statutes that protect workers’ economic interests has taken on new importance. To build on the energy and expertise of these public servants, under the auspices of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, we recently hosted attorneys from the offices of 11 state attorneys general last week to discuss strategies and best practices for enforcing labor laws.
Use of non-compete agreements is growing, with a recent report indicating that nearly one in five employees are currently subject to these constraints. These agreements restrict future employment, prohibiting an employee from taking a new job with a competitor of their current employer. Generally, they contain time and geographic limitations, preventing the employee from working for a competitor for, say, two years and within a 75-mile radius.
Historically, non-competes have been used in relation to high-level employees, with special skills or knowledge of confidential information or trade secrets. Think secret formula.
But more and more rank-and-file workers are constrained by non-competes. Think no secret formula, no highly-classified customer list, no special skills at all. Workers agree to this for a simple reason: they need a job. The expanding use of non-competes constrains workers’ job mobility and ability to improve their lives; it also thwarts workers’ ability to bargain for better wages or conditions. If the boss knows you cannot go anywhere else, there is no need to give you a raise.