Labor / Employment

* Alexander Wang says that he wasn’t running a sweatshop and that the former employee making the allegations was actually mean to all the other indentured servants workers. [Fashionista]

* We’re well into the phase of the Trayvon Martin investigation where people are trying to blame the victim, but until they show me a guy who was killed by a pack of Skittles, I really don’t think we’ve learned anything new. [New York Daily News]

* A sports agent tells all. [Legal Blitz]

* You don’t think your Skype chats at work are private, do you? In fairness, who still thinks anything they do at work is private? If you want to keep your privacy, you best work in disguise. I mean, you don’t really think I’m a large black man who talks about race all the time, do you? [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Defending child pornographers. Somebody has to do it, and I’m so glad it’s not me. [Underdog]

After the jump, we’ve got some video footage of Lat dancing around like heathen as he throws fresh dirt on Dewey’s grave….

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When we last checked in with the support staff at the law firm of Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A., we discovered that more than a dozen of them had been fired because they wore orange shirts to work. Their excuse: they all wore orange on payday so they’d look like a group when they met for happy hour. Management didn’t buy it — they thought that members of the support staff were protesting something, and fired them on the spot.

As one commenter on our last post on this issue intelligently noted, “CHECK YOU PERCEIVED CONCERTED ACTIVITY.” One week later, it’s been revealed that some of the support staff may have been protesting after all. Almost half of them have lawyered up. But what, exactly, were they protesting?

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Which t-shirt will get you fired?

Yesterday in Morning Docket, we mentioned that more than a dozen law firm staffers in Florida had been fired because they wore orange shirts to work, but the tips kept rolling in. We’re going to give you what you want. Better late than never, right?

Given that orange is popping this spring in designers’ color palettes, people really want to know more about this apparent fashion “faux pas.” Because if looking like a walking traffic cone is wrong, then some people don’t want to be right.

But if it means that they’re going to get fired, then they might just reconsider staying on trend this season….

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Yolanda Young probably isn't smiling today.

Litigation against law firms: it’s all the rage right now. Earlier this week, Sara Randazzo of Am Law Daily did a round-up of over a dozen lawsuits in which law firms have been named as defendants.

Such lawsuits come, and such lawsuits go. Let’s look at the “going” side of the ledger. A federal judge just dismissed the high-profile lawsuit filed by Yolanda Young — a pundit, published memoirist (affiliate link), and Georgetown-trained lawyer, as noted on her website bio — against the elite D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling….

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If so, and if you happen to be a “[y]oung attractive hip female,” keep reading….

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We tend to think of the biggest Biglaw firms as “sweatshops,” while we view small firms, midsize or regional firms, or even Am Law 200 firms as “lifestyle” shops. The thought is that the big bad firms that service Wall Street clients will grind you up and spit you out, while somewhat smaller firms will allow you to have a normal life as you pursue your career.

It’s a great story, but it’s not necessarily a true one. Sometimes working at a smaller firm or a regional firm just means the same work with more pressure and less pay. Attorneys at such firms, whether partners or associates, don’t always have the kind of resources that Biglaw attorneys enjoy. There aren’t multiple layers of staffing available to double- or triple-check every document. It’s a lot of stress.

And stress can be just as deleterious to your health when working at a regional firm as it is when you work for a truly huge firm. This week, we’ve been fielding a bunch of reports about an associate who passed away at home after working what some tipsters report as maniac hours at his regional law firm the week before.

It’s a sad story, one that some accuse the law firm of trying to cover up, but it’s another opportunity for us to remind readers to take care of themselves even when work seems overwhelming…

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There’s no Valentine’s Day exemption to the sexual harassment laws.

Labor and employment attorney Steven Palazzolo, commenting on what not to do in the workplace on Valentine’s Day.

When I was a kid, before many of you were born, there were ads during Saturday morning cartoons for a program called “RIF” -– an acronym for “Reading is Fundamental.” Started in 1966 in Washington, D.C., it is supposedly one of the oldest non-profit educational programs in existence. I mentioned RIFs in my last column, and trust me, in the corporate world, RIFs are not altruistic attempts to get at-risk youth to read.

RIF stands for “reduction in force” — i.e., layoffs, terminations, downsizing, etc. A RIF can take various forms. For example, a V-RIF, or “voluntary reduction in force,” is when a company offers early retirement or severance packages to certain employees. These are usually offered as a first attempt to reduce work force numbers, and they are the cleanest way to lower the population. At the other end of the spectrum is the I–RIF, or “involuntary reduction in force.” The term is self-defining.

I stated before that I have witnessed an I-RIF period, and that it was awful. By “awful,” I meant that seeing people let go from their jobs was uncomfortable for me, having come from private practice where such reductions were not (at the time) as publicized as they are today. My company handled the situation with as much grace as could be expected, and I honestly believed our then-CEO when she stated that the dignity of our people was at the forefront of how the reduction would take place….

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I recently participated in a Room for Debate forum for the New York Times on the controversial subject of unpaid internships. Critics of these positions argue that such exploitative arrangements contribute to “constricted social and professional mobility, growing inequality, and an economy whose top tier is becoming less and less diverse” (in the words of Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy).

In my contribution, I offer a measured defense of unpaid internships — of the non-abusive variety, in which the intern receives a valuable learning experience (and doesn’t just do scut work) — and also a defense of the status quo (under which most unpaid internships are technically illegal, but enforcement isn’t super-vigorous). You can read my NYT piece here (or on page 9 of yesterday’s Sunday Review section, if you’re a print person). You can also read a piece by Camille Olson, a labor and employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw, over here (focusing on the legal aspects of unpaid internships, and offering general guidelines to companies considering them).

Speaking of interns, Above the Law is looking for one — a paid intern, for the record. Details appear below, along with general information about our hiring needs, and our policy on guest posts or outside contributions….

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(And: ATL seeks a paid intern.)

This week, Lateral Link Director Scott Hodes gives us some insight into the increase in lateral hirings in the Empire State of the South.

Atlanta has emerged as one of the best lateral associate markets in the country. While 2009 was slow as in most markets, 2010 signaled a comeback, and 2011 confirmed the upward trend.

Corporate and litigation positions represented the largest amount of lateral openings, which is fairly typical in large markets. Corporate positions seemed to peak in the second and third quarters, while litigation was fairly steady throughout the year. There was also a huge boom in intellectual property positions, especially in the last three quarters, followed not too far behind by labor and employment, which remained steady throughout 2011….

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