Terri Gerstein

  • January 8, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Terri Gerstein, Leadership in Government Fellow, Open Society Foundations

    Last month, Microsoft announced that it will no longer require employees to bring sexual harassment claims to arbitration. This is welcome news, and a step in the right direction. But this move should be a first step. Microsoft now has the opportunity to lead the business community in eliminating these agreements not just for sexual harassment issues, but altogether. Microsoft could also use its considerable leverage to require its subcontractors to do the same. Meanwhile, federal and state government leaders should take their own actions to stop the harmful consequences of the exploding trend of forced arbitration.

  • December 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Terri Gerstein, Leadership in Government Fellow, Open Society Foundations

    *This piece was originally posted on On Labor.

    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.
  • August 15, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Sharon Block, Terri Gerstein and Jim Tierney

    *This piece was originally posted to On Labor

    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.

  • June 1, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Terri Gerstein, Leadership in Government Fellow, Open Society Foundations; Former Labor Bureau Chief, the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

    A sandwich maker in a shop that is part of a national chain. A cub reporter, fresh from college, reporting on news from local courthouses. A woman who travels all over the state to draw blood for insurance company medical exams. What did they have in common? All of them were subject to out-of-control non-compete agreements.

    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.