An Economic Reality: Uniform Regulatory Definition Needed for Who Is an “Employee”

DOLLast month, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that its was withdrawing controversial policies that reflected how its Wage and Hour Division defined the terms “employer” and “employee” when enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). DOL merited the applause its action received from regulated entities, but it is merely one small step in the direction of what franchisors, franchisees, “gig” economy participants, independent contractors, and other businesses desperately need: clear, uniform, and reliable standards that put an end to the “gotcha” game regulators and lawyers have been playing in recent years.

This part will focus here on standards for the term “employee”; a future post will address the need for uniformity in what constitutes an “employer.” Continue reading

Supreme Court’s Presumption-of-Innocence Decision Should Inspire Asset-Forfeiture Reformers

supreme courtIn a US Supreme Court term filled with cases that “only a lawyer could love,” the justices did issue at least one decision in October Term 2016—Nelson v. Colorado—that any TV crime-drama viewer can understand. The decision turned on the bedrock principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. While Justice Ginsburg’s opinion applies directly to a Colorado law, it could prove highly influential in the ongoing debate over civil-asset forfeiture, a controversial law-enforcement practice. Continue reading

Heeding Criticism from Many Corners, ALI Pulls Liability Insurance Restatement Before Membership Vote

white flagEarlier this month in Insurance Liability Project Exemplifies American Law Institute’s Mission Drift, we discussed an especially troubling instance of where the American Law Institute (ALI), a private organization known for its “Restatements” of common law in areas such as torts, products liability, and contracts, was instead revising the law. On Tuesday, May 23, ALI announced at its annual meeting that rather than hold a final vote on the Restatement of Law, Liability Insurance as scheduled, the draft’s Reporters (i.e. authors) “agreed that another year of work” was needed on the project. Continue reading

Insurance Liability Project Exemplifies American Law Institute’s Mission Drift

scales of justiceIn an April 28, 2015 post, Will the American Law Institute “Restate” or Try to Rewrite U.S. Copyright Law?, we questioned whether ALI had strayed from its mission of summarizing and clarifying specific areas of common law. Two years later, concerns over ALI’s drift toward lawmaking have grown. Not only has ALI continued to develop a wayward “Restatement of the Law, Copyright,” it is also taking an ambitious, aspirational approach in addressing other critical areas of common law. With its May 22 annual meeting rapidly approaching, now is the time for ALI’s members and the main consumers of its work—judges—to assess how the organization’s recent penchant for rewrites, rather than Restatements, is tainting its brand. Continue reading

What Does Nullifying FCC’s Broadband Privacy Rules Mean for Consumers?

FCCPresident Trump signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution on April 3, 2017 that nullified the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) privacy rule aimed at Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  As discussed in the WLF Legal Pulse’s reading list for FCC regulators last month, the Commission adopted the rule just before the 2016 election over the opposition of two Commissioners (including one who has since become FCC Chairman).  WLF filed comments last May opposing the proposed rule.  Many media commentators and self-styled consumer advocates proclaimed that the proverbial sky was falling due to the nullification.  Such ideologically-fueled Chicken-Little rhetoric, however, does not reflect reality.

Post-nullification analyses bemoaned ISPs’ collection of consumers’ “personal information” and the ability of these companies to sell such information to expand their businesses.  Nay-sayers’ complaints essentially boiled down to the bromide offered in the Washington Post:  the CRA resolution “wipe[d] away landmark privacy protections for Internet users.” Continue reading

Eye Drops, Water Fountains for Cats, and the Demise of a No-Injury Class Action

cat fountain

In creating the federal judicial branch, the Framers of the US Constitution did not intend that courts would right every possible wrong. Article III authorizes federal courts to resolve “Cases” and “Controversies.” The US Supreme Court has interpreted that power to mean that civil-litigation plaintiffs must prove they suffered an “injury in fact,” which is concrete and particularized, and not speculative. We’ve discussed Article III standing jurisprudence here in numerous contexts, most frequently in consumer class actions targeting food labels or data-security breaches, areas where the ever-amorphous concept of “economic harm” is often alleged. A March 6, 2017 Seventh Circuit decision, Eike v. Allergan, Inc. et al., shot down an especially outlandish attempt to expand standing based on an alleged economic injury. Continue reading

FTC Must Refocus on Harm to Consumers and Competition

FTC_Man_Controlling_Trade

Federal agencies regularly use statistics to demonstrate their relevance and justify their exorbitant budgets. The Justice Department, for instance, boasts about the billions it brought in from False Claims Act lawsuits last year. The Environmental Protection Agency brags about the amount of fines and years in jail resulting from its enforcement actions in 2016. But the public is rarely provided concrete evidence of how those incarcerations and billions in fines, say, actually reduce contracting fraud or improve the environment.

So, too, with the Federal Trade Commission. In recent years, FTC hasn’t missed an opportunity to tout its statistical successes to the public and congressional appropriators. In the process of piling up the number of cases brought and fines extracted trumpeted by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in her resignation press release, however, a critical limitation on FTC’s mission and authority has taken a backseat: the need to prove consumer harm. Continue reading