Hunter Pyle to speak about Workers’ Rights at Swiss Conference

I will be speaking at two conferences in Lausanne, Switzerland on May 27 and 27, 2016, along with a Gear-and-Gavel_dark-bluecolleague, Todd Jackson, of Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow.  We have been invited by a Swiss attorney and law professor, Bettina Kahil.  Professor Kahil audited our employment law course at Berkeley Law School in 2015.

Our first presentation will cover workers’ privacy rights in the United States, with a focus on workplace privacy.  We will also discuss privacy with respect to email and social media.

For example, California has a very progressive law, Labor Code section 980, which prevents employers from forcing employees to provide them with access to personal social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.)  Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board has been very proactive in recent years in terms of protecting employees who use social media to address the conditions in their workplaces.

The second presentation will address foreign workers working in the United States.  In particular, we will cover the following topics:

In what courts can they sue or be sued?

What is the legal effect of the three most common ways that contracts seek to modify the jurisdiction of courts?

Choice of Law clauses

Choice of Forum clauses

Arbitration Agreements

US courts handle these questions very differently than European courts.  For example, in Europe employees are generally given the right to sue where they work or where they live.  Under US law, courts have enforced contracts that require employees to bring suit in far off locations (including foreign countries).  Such agreements often result in a material hardship to the employees, who must both find attorneys in a foreign country and travel there for court proceedings.

Similarly, under European law, courts may refuse to apply the law of a country where it is “manifestly incompatible with the public policy of the forum.”  In other words, companies cannot avoid the laws that are meant to protect workers by requiring the workers to sue under the laws of another country.  Under US law, it is much more complicated, and depends upon the law of the forum state.

Finally, I am looking forward to discussing the rise of arbitration agreements in the United States, and how this development has harmed employees.  It will be interesting to see whether the same phenomenon is occurring in Europe.