Lauren Teukolsky has been elected a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the premier peer-selected organization of labor and employment lawyers in the United States. She joins 32 other labor and employment attorneys from across the country who were selected to the Fellows Class of 2022.
The College was established in 1995 through an initiative of the American Bar Association. According to the College, its purpose is “to promote achievement, advancement, and excellence in the practice of labor and employment law.” Election as a Fellow is “the highest recognition by one’s colleagues of sustained outstanding performance in the profession, exemplifying integrity, dedication and excellence.”
The process of becoming a Fellow is rigorous. Potential Fellows must first be nominated by two current Fellows in good standing. Nominees are then reviewed and evaluated by Circuit Credentials Committees and the Board of Governors. Selected nominees are installed as Fellows at the next Annual Meeting of the College. This year’s installment ceremony will take place in Washington, DC on November 12.
Ms. Teukolsky has practiced employment law for over 20 years. She has dedicated her career to fighting for workers’ rights. You can read more about her experience here.
America’s largest tech companies are some of the most profitable and powerful corporations in the world, with values in the hundreds of billions of dollars and in some cases, trillions. Given such size, America’s tech companies, and more specifically, their stances on labor and employment policies, have significant influence over a broad swath of American workers’ lives and wellbeing at the workplace. With 2022 halfway through, Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to recap some of the most notable labor and employment developments across some of our country’s largest tech companies.
Amazon: 2022 has been a historic year for Amazon workers. In April, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators viewed the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders consider a massive threat to labor standards.
Google: In June, Google agreed to pay $118 million to resolve a California state class action brough on behalf of over 15,000 former employees who accused the company of underpaying women. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, accused Google of paying women less than men for equal or similar work. The former employees alleged that Google slotted female employees into lower “salary bands” than men, put them in lower-paying positions, and failed to promote them- practices which, according to the former employees, violated California’s equal pay act, Unfair Competition Law, and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
After the settlement was reached, the women involved and their attorneys expressed optimism that the settlement’s provisions will ensure more equity for women at Google.
Microsoft: In January, Microsoft’s board announced that the company had selected a law firm to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies. The announcement came after shareholders expressed concern over how Microsoft and one of its founders, Bill Gates, had treated women employees. The review will produce a report with results of any sexual harassment investigations in recent years against the company’s directors and senior executives.
On the labor front, a group of workers at Activision Blizzard, a large video game company currently being acquired by Microsoft, voted in May to unionize, a first for a major North American video game company. Weeks after the deal, in June, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America Union to make it easier for Activision Blizzard’s employees to unionize.
Legislation: The first half of 2022 has seen the passage of landmark federal employment legislation. In March, President Biden signed H.R. 4445 into law, preventing employers from using forced arbitration clauses to protect themselves from lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. The law does so by invalidating forced arbitration clauses in “any dispute or claim that arises or accrues” after the date it was signed into law. H.R. 4445 figures to be a significant development for the tech industry, in light of the male-dominant and sexist culture that pervades Silicon Valley.
Powerful state employment legislation was also passed during the first half of 2022. In Washington, Governor Inslee signed the “Silenced No More” act into law in March. The law bars employers from making nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) a condition of employment or settlements and affects some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Amazon and Microsoft. Washington’s law mirrors California’s own Silenced No More act, which already has prompted Salesforce and its subsidiary, Slack, to extend Silenced No More protections to all of their employees across the country.
If the first half of the year is any indication, 2022 will represent a significant victory for both the labor movement and workers in the tech sector.
Bloomberg Law published an article on June 15, 2022, about the United States Supreme Court's recent ruling in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. The case centered on California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), a state labor law that authorized employees to sue over workplace violations in place of the state, even if they had agreed to resolve their disputes through individual arbitration. In an 8-1 decision, the Court limited PAGA’s reach but left the door open for state courts or lawmakers to restore it.
The article states: “The issue of whether PAGA provides for court adjudication of representative claims when an individual has to go to arbitration will come before California courts before state lawmakers have a chance to amend PAGA, said Lauren Teukolsky, an attorney at Teukolsky Law PC who represents workers.
‘PAGA lives to see another day,’ she said.”
Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg Law’s website.
Last month, the California State Assembly and Senate churned through hundreds of bills in order to meet the “house of origin deadline” – the deadline by which all bills must have passed through their chamber of origin just to have a chance of being signed into law later this year. The bills that passed vary greatly, from bills focused on gun control to bills aimed at enhancing abortion protections. Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to highlight some of the passed bills that will significantly benefit California’s workers, should they be signed into law later this year.
Senate Bill 1162
SB 1162, the Pay Transparency for Pay Equity Act, aims to improve workplace pay transparency and close the gender and race wage gap by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to publicly report their pay data broken down by race, ethnicity, and sex for both direct employees and employees hired through a third-party staffing agency. The bill would also require employers to provide a salary range on all job postings and promotional opportunities available to all current employees. SB 1162 passed the Senate on a 29-9 vote.
Assembly Bill 1949
AB 1949 would amend the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to require employers to grant their employees at least 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave, or time off for the death or funeral of a family member. AB 1949 passed the Assembly on a 59-9 bipartisan vote.
Senate Bill 836
SB 836 would reinstate a provision that protects a person’s immigration status from disclosure in public court proceedings. This protection ended at the beginning of 2022 and stopped employers from using a worker’s immigration status to deter the worker from bringing legal claims against the employer. SB 836 passed the Senate on a 28-0 vote.
All three of the above bills are sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers through litigation, education, and advocacy. For a complete list of all bills being tracked by CELA, click here.
The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) and its men’s and women’s national teams agreed to a historic collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing equal pay between the two teams last week. The CBA runs through 2028 and resolves a dispute stretching back to 2016, when members of the U.S. women’s national team filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that U.S. Soccer paid the women’s team far less than the men’s team, despite the women’s team consistently outperforming the men’s team on the field. The dispute ended in a $24 million settlement that was to be finalized pending the approval of a new CBA.
The most notable provision of the CBA is the FIFA bonus pool sharing arrangement it incorporates. The arrangement, the first of its kind, will require the men’s and women’s teams to pool together their FIFA World Cup prize money and evenly split their earnings after U.S. soccer claims its portion. The bonus pools of prize money that FIFA awards teams for playing in the World Cup differs greatly between the men and women, with the men’s bonus pool dwarfing that of the women. This meant that, prior to the new CBA, the women’s team could earn much less than the men’s team even when they greatly outperformed them, which has frequently been the case.
The CBA also includes identical performance-based bonuses for the men’s and women’s teams and establishes a revenue sharing model in which both teams’ unions will receive the same cuts of commercial revenue and ticket revenue, among other new provisions.
This historic equal pay victory comes as the California Senate voted 27 to 9 to pass SB 1162, a bill aimed at narrowing the wage gap between men and women that would require companies to disclose salary ranges offered for various positions, make internal promotions available to all employees, and make pay data already reported to the state public over time. The bill now moves on to the Assembly.
Teukolsky Law would like to congratulate the women’s national team for their incredible achievements. Hopefully, their brave work and the resulting agreement guaranteeing equal wages will serve as examples for other organizations.
Earlier this month, a draft majority opinion striking down the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public, causing widespread fear and leading to protests across the country. Though the draft decision has not yet been finalized, if Roe is struck down when the Supreme Court releases its final decision this summer, the effect would not only be calamitous for women’s reproductive health, but disastrous for American workers as well.
If Roe is overturned, trigger laws in effect across 13 states would ban the procedure almost immediately in those states. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that an additional 13 states might quickly follow suit and ban abortions as well. Under these circumstances, many workers would quickly suffer the brutal consequences of a post-Roe America.
Overturning Roe would likely force many workers to travel out of state for abortion care. Workers who previously needed only a day or two of leave will likely need several additional days of leave time to travel out of state. The federal government does not require employers to provide any paid leave time to employees, meaning that many workers will not have any paid leave time to seek out-of-state abortion care. Although the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform her job, it seems unlikely that needing to get an abortion would be covered. (Ironically, if a woman suffered serious complications from receiving an unsafe abortion, only then would she qualify for FMLA leave.) And, employers can require employees to provide a doctor’s note certifying the employee’s need to take FMLA leave. In states where abortion will be illegal, it is unclear how a worker would obtain this documentation.
The lack of any federal laws guaranteeing leave time—paid or unpaid—means that many workers will have to choose between losing their jobs and being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. Many of these workers will be forced to have children, frequently without concomitant increases in paid leave or paid childcare, given that the US is the only wealthy nation in the world without a national guaranteed paid parental leave program. It is expected that these circumstances will precipitate a drop in women in the workforce, erasing many of the gender pay gap gains abortion protections helped give rise to over the past several decades.
Even though the effects of a post-Roe workplace appear difficult to overcome, there will still be a role for corporations and employers to play to protect their employees. Employers in states that restrict access to reproductive health could add health benefits specifically to cover out of state abortion costs. Corporations such as Tesla, Citigroup, Yelp, Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks all have policies in place or have offered to cover some expenses for employees seeking abortions not offered in their home states.
Teukolsky Law stands in solidarity with the workers that will be affected should the Court’s draft opinion become the law of the land. For a list of abortion funds and pro-choice groups to donate to, click here.
Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times published articles on April 27, 2022, about tactics Tesla is borrowing from Activision to fight against a race-bias suit. The articles explain how Tesla, the most valuable American car company in the world, is seeking to strengthen its position against racial discrimination claims filed against the corporation by driving a wedge between the two agencies tasked with litigating workplace civil rights cases against it- California’s DFEH, a state regulator, and the EEOC, a federal regulator.
California’s DFEH has earned the reputation as a fervent enforcer of workplace protections, in part due to the state’s more protective employment laws. According to both articles, this reputation has led companies facing large workplace harassment or discrimination suits, such as Activision Blizzard, to attempt to avoid potentially high-dollar state law claims by fighting state regulators and looking for a more favorable deal with the EEOC, a strategy that Tesla appears to have taken as well.
The articles states: “’I can totally see why Tesla would want to take a page from the Activision playbook,’ said Lauren Teukolsky, founder and owner of plaintiffs’ firm Teukolsky Law, who said companies facing multiple lawsuits may look for the best settlement. ‘We now know who the weaker plaintiff is.’”
Click here to view the Bloomberg article and here to view the Los Angeles Times article.
Lauren Teukolsky DISCUSSES EMPLOYMENT SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS IN ARTICLE Published by Advocate Magazine
Lauren Teukolsky’s work was published in the April 2022 issue of Advocate, the largest magazine in the United States for plaintiff’s trial attorneys. In Ms. Teukolsky’s article, she writes about settlement agreements in employment cases, and more specifically, best practices for plaintiffs’ attorneys to follow when working to secure the best settlement agreements for their clients, including:
Ms. Teukolsky’s article discusses each of these recommendations in detail. Negotiating the best settlement agreement for a client can be an incredibly complex matter, but Ms. Teukolsky is highly skilled at securing the most favorable settlement agreements possible for her clients. In addition to her writing for Advocate, Ms. Teukolsky has spoken about settlement issues at legal conferences and received the 2016 California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) award for her work on Carrillo v. Schneider, a wage-and-hour class action against Walmart and others on behalf of warehouse workers in the Inland Empire, which settled for $22.7 million.
If you believe you have been subjected to illegal workplace practices and would like to consult with Ms. Teukolsky, use this page to get in touch.
In a proxy statement ahead of its annual shareholders’ meeting, Google stated that employees who have signed confidentiality agreements can still talk about assault, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation they experience at the workplace. The announcement marks Google’s clearest stance yet on its non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and is another victory for advocacy groups that have been working to eliminate workplace NDAs, which have become increasingly restrictive and prevalent over the past several years.
Google’s statement makes clear that employees are allowed to discuss working conditions and wages with each other, and that any employees who have signed settlement or severance agreements—even those containing NDAs—are still allowed to talk about any sexual assault, discrimination, harassment, or retaliation they experienced.
Though the statement did not constitute a concrete policy change, it offered an explicit promise that Google employees may now hold the company to, should they ever bring claims against the company.
The inclusion of language regarding the company’s concealment clause and NDA policies was prompted by a shareholder proposal that would have required Google to issue a public report studying the impact of NDAs on harassment and discrimination claims. Such a request came on the heels of states such as California and Washington passing “Silenced No More” laws, which have barred employers in each state from using NDAs to stop employees from publicly discussing harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other illegal workplace practices.
If you believe you have been subjected to illegal workplace practices and are being prevented from discussing your experience because of an agreement from your employer, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
To recognize International Transgender Day of Visibility 2022, Legal Aid at Work, a non-profit legal services organization that assists low-income, working families, launched their Transgender and Nonbinary Workers’ Toolkit on March 31. According to Legal Aid at Work, the resource was created in collaboration with community members to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to understand their workplace rights and take action when employers break the law.
The toolkit contains information on transgender and nonbinary people’s rights as job applicants, such as what information they have to disclose during the application process and when. Information covering gender identity harassment and discrimination, gender affirming bathrooms, dress code enforcement, and accommodations for gender dysphoria treatment is also included.
The toolkit comes at an especially fraught time for transgender and nonbinary people. Since the start of the year, state lawmakers across the country have proposed 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans, with about half of the bills specifically targeting transgender people.
Teukolsky Law has a history of successful advocacy on behalf of members of the transgender and nonbinary communities. If you are transgender and/or nonbinary and believe you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or other illegal workplace practices because of your gender expression or gender identity, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
To view Legal Aid at Work’s new toolkit in its entirety, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.