Approaches to Incorporating PPS into Labor & Employment

The following are descriptions of various approaches used by the LEAPS Panelists for incorporating PPS in their labor & employment classes. Specific exercises are linked in the menu to the right.

Michael Green:

I incorporate problem-solving in my Labor Law class by conducting a simulation where I have students formed in to three work groups: writers, exam-takers, and independent contractors (those who have not taken advantage of any extra credit points for participating in problem solving exercises) . They are given problems where I role play as a manager/attorney, or union organizer/attorney or NLRB attorney and we work through assigned problems throughout the semester. I commit unfair labor practices in the employee handbook (syllabus) and outside the handbook (during classroom/production meetings) and ask them to resolve them. I convince them to organize in some fashion and eventually we address the election where I make a final captive audience speech. Then we address the election and challenges to the bargaining unit(s) and then deal with post-election issues including any bargaining matters and subsequent unfair labor practices through the end of the course.

I incorporate problem-solving in my Employment Law Class by assigning students into three groups and having each group work through a real world problem among at-will employment, workplace defamation, negligent hiring, public policy torts, and invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress torts where they are assigned a file as an associate in my firm and are asked to present to me in class as the partner of the firm whether we should take the case and what issues we should be concerned about in what I call an LA Law format if you remember how that old television series by that name used to start off each episode. I do similar LA Law-type exercises in my Employment Discrimination class to integrate problem-solving. Finally, in my ADR in the Workplace class, we do a simulation of a labor arbitration where the students are given a file from a hearing and they are asked to advocate for either the employer or the union against other students with me as the arbitrator. When they are not advocating, they are either mediating or negotiating with each other over the same dispute and the results of the mediation/negotiation are compared with my rulings from the arbitration. Another similar exercise, a sexual harassment arbitration along with corresponding negotiation/mediation, is conducted later in the semester.

Ann C. Hodges:

I incorporate problem-solving in my labor and employment Law classes using various problems throughout the semester where the students take roles as attorneys for unions, employers or employees, trial and appellate judges, arbitrators, legislators, administrative law judges, regional directors of the NLRB and representatives of employer, employee and union associations such as the Chamber of Commerce, NELA or the AFL-CIO. In the problems, they may be ask to argue to a decisionmaker, advise a client, make a ruling, present testimony to a legislative body or negotiate an agreement. Some problems are unique to current events such as the Employee Free Choice Act or the NLRB/Boeing controversy while others are more generic. I am also team teaching (for the first time) a “capstone” course which is entirely problem based. The students in that course advise the faculty “clients” and faculty “senior partners” and draft documents with supporting memoranda, such as employer policies, client letters, and agreements. While this is a work in progress, I am willing to share the experience and lessons learned. In my ADR in the Workplace class I use arbitration and mediation simulations in the union and nonunion context, as well as an arbitration brief based on a case file.

David Larson:

Like others on our panel, I break the students into small groups in both my Employment Law and Employment Discrimination Law classes. Sometimes I ask the group to explain how a judge, or sometimes an arbitrator, is likely to resolve a hypothetical problem and why. My experience is that students are most engaged when I present problems based on very recent cases (only days or weeks old). I read the Bloomberg BNA weekly reporters (Human Resources Report and Labor Relations Week) religiously and students are (at least appear…) very interested when I draft a problem based on a case or issue that arose “just last week,” for example. Obviously other topical reporters can be used in the same way. I also ask practicing attorneys to come to my class to discuss the manner in which they approached a specific issue or case. When I choose a textbook, I look closely at the problems the authors have included. I know some of my colleagues have spent significant time and energy drafting their problems and, although we sometimes may be dismissive of the exercises in our textbook, I have found that many of the questions and problems raised in the text can inspire spirited discussions. At times I ask the group to act as advocates – to prepare, and then present to the class, the position that they believe would best serve their client. I then may appoint a neutral and ask the class to mediate that issue. Sometimes I find that a student(s) in a group will be too passive, and on occasion I have the students work only in pairs. Finally, I do require my students to use a variety of communication mediums to resolve specific issues. Understanding that current students will depend upon technology facilitated communication in their careers, I assign pairs or teams of students and ask them to engage in negotiations with each other using email, instant messaging, and video/audio platforms such as Skype. In my ADR and Technology class, we go one step beyond the employment courses and use these mediums to engage in a series of cross-cultural transnational negotiations with University of Hong Kong students (negotiations which can include an employment issue).