Committee Slowdown • Focus on Alabama Judges • Will Kennedy Go?

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By Patricio Chile

Sluggish Activity as Midterms Approach

The closer the November elections get, the more likely activity will slow down on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sources tell Tyrone Richardson. The panel is likely to spend much of its remaining time this year trying to move Trump administration nominations, but that could be tough on a sharply divided committee where every vote counts.

Seven of the HELP Committee’s 11 Democrats are up for re-election, while one Republican seat will open up with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s retirement. Several other panel members may be drafted to hit the campaign trail for their colleagues—especially in battleground states. Read Tyrone’s story here.

Close Look at Alabama Judges

Companies sued by their workers in federal court in northern Alabama may want to think about preparing early for the discovery phase if the case ends up before Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala. She was the least likely of the judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to dismiss employment cases in their early stages.

But what about the rest of the court’s judges? When and how often do federal judges in Northern Alabama toss employment lawsuits out of court without review by a jury? How does their handling of job-related lawsuits compare with the judges’ pre-trial dismissal rulings in all lawsuits? Patrick Dorrian drew upon Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics to detail the numbers.

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

If it’s the end of spring, it’s time for U.S. Supreme Court watchers to debate which of the justices might soon put in their two weeks, Madison Alder reports. The focus in the last few years: Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81.

As the longest-serving justice of the current court, Kennedy’s retirement would be a loss of institutional knowledge, including in employee benefits cases, Supreme Court watchers say. Kennedy has participated in many high profile cases before the court since the passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in 1974. Madison’s story is here.

Other Stories We’re Watching
  • Employers looking to tackle the workplace “motherhood penalty”—decreased wages after taking family leave—might want to explore comprehensive paid leave options, including benefits for child care and elder care, sources tell Genevieve Douglas. She has the story here.
  • Businesses in Rhode Island are disappointed with the final version of a regulation for the state’s paid sick and safe leave law because regulators didn’t take into account suggestions for improvement. The regulation provides clarity for the state’s Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act. Aaron Nicodemus will have the story later today.
  • Dentons employment partner Laura Gibson is set to take the helm of the Texas bar’s board of directors and said she plans to continue working to increase diversity and inclusion for all lawyers. Gayle Cinquegrani has this and other news about lawyers who handle workplace matters later today in Workflows.
  • Duluth, Minn., is the latest U.S. city to enact a paid sick leave law, joining the likes of Seattle, St. Paul, Minn., and Austin, Texas. The Duluth ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and allow employees to accrue an hour of leave for every 50 hours worked. Kodichi Nwankwo has the story.
  • Recent college graduates who are underemployed average $10,000 a year less in pay than their fully employed counterparts, a recent study finds. Martin Berman-Gorvine explores this, recruiters under pressure, and cyberthreats in his HR Buzz column later today.
  • A group of 178 technicians at the Boeing facility in North Charleston, S.C., will vote today on whether to join the Machinists union. The union expects the result to be announced by late this afternoon. Check back for the story.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is set to sign a law today that’s designed to slash the state’s $17.1 billion public pension funding deficit by almost $3.4 billion. The law calls for a combination of higher taxes and increased contributions from public workers. David Brandolph will have the story later today.
  • Contract negotiations continue today in Las Vegas, where 50,000 hospitality workers are threatening to strike if a new deal isn’t hammered out before the current contract expires at midnight. UNITE HERE represents workers, who staff 34 casinos on the Vegas Strip and in the downtown area. Watch for updates throughout the week.
  • High-dollar settlements with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission often grab the headlines, like the more than half a million dollars that Hawaii tour operators agreed to pay to settle sexual harassment claims. Catch up on other settlements and new lawsuits with our EEOC Roundup.
  • The Supreme Court justices meet in private conference today to decide which appeals to review or deny. One case up for consideration asks the justices to decide whether federal law bars Los Angeles from requiring businesses to agree to labor provisions before they can operate at LAX Airport. Orders from the conference will be issued June 4.
  • The Employment and Training Administration releases its weekly unemployment claims report at 8:30 a.m.
In the Courts

The New York City Administration for Children’s Services will have to defend against a former case manager’s claim that she was harassed because of her lupus and orthopedic injuries. For this story and more, check out our daily Latest Cases roundup.

Around the Web
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received more than 5,000 tips reporting fraud and abuse in the H-1B skilled guestworker visa program through an email helpline set up last year, Newsweek reports.
  • Younger workers tend to pursue high-skilled engineering and developer roles while older workers seek managerial and information technology roles, Indeed.com reports.
  • A Chick-fil-A restaurant owner in Sacramento, Calif., has decided to raise wages from $12 to 13 an hour to $17 to 18 as competition for even unskilled labor is rising, the Washington Post examines.
  • New Jersey’s oldest nuclear power plant has notified the state that it will lay off 84 workers as it prepares to shut down, NJ.com reports.
Quote of the Day

“I think we’ve been overly focused on the board and not recognized that you have to have a pipeline for women coming onto the board.”
—Robert Walker, managing director and head of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa on State Street Corp.’s asset stewardship team

In Case You Missed It

Starbucks Bias Training: The coffee chain’s nationwide bias training this week is “a first step” in its response to the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store in April. Gayle Cinquegrani discussed the training with WCBS radio in New York City. Listen to her interview here.

Walmart Offers Workers College Tuition: The retail giant is offering both full- and part-time employees money toward their college tuition. The employee retention strategy comes on top of a raise of Walmart’s starting wage to $11 hourly earlier this year.

Air Ambulance Ruling: Air Evac EMS Inc. can’t proceed with a lawsuit accusing Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield of violating federal and state laws by limiting insurance refunds for air ambulance emergency services.

Medical Leave Case Going to Trial: Former software sales director Sean Manion deserves a trial on his claim that cloud services company Demandware eliminated his job after he took protected leave for emergency medical problems.

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