Saturday, January 22, 2005

More on religious discrimination

Professor Scott Moss (Marquette) posted the following most interesting comment in reaction to my earlier post about a recent discrimination case involving the "Church of Body Modification."

"A quirky case, but ultimately this highly questionable "religion" now has created some bad law for adherents to more genuine religions.

Though it may not be an explicit basis for the holding, the court's skepticism of the bona fide "religious" nature of the "Church of Body Modification" likely colored its holding on "accommodation duty." Now there's a precedent on the books, applicable to all religions, saying that appearance rules can trump religious commandments. Could the implications could be significant for Orthodox Jews wearing yarmulkes, etc.?"

January 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Ownership Society

In his Second Inaugural Address President Bush talked about the "ownership society."  the President stated:

To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance -- preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society.

By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

Here are two interesting articles on exactly what is the "ownership society"

In Defining the Ownership Society, David Boaz of the Cato Institute argues that:

Widespread ownership of capital assets has many benefits for society: It means that property is better maintained and long-term values are higher, including environmental quality. It means that people have a greater stake in their community and thus become better citizens. It protects people from the arbitrary power of government and gives them more freedom and more confidence as citizens. It produces prosperity because markets can’t work without private property. Private retirement accounts and reduced taxes on investment would encourage more ownership for all Americans.

In How to Undermine an Ownership Society, Robert Kuttner (Business Week Online) notes, however, that:

Look at American history, from the Homestead Acts to agricultural extension services, Federal Housing Authority loans, the GI bill, pension regulation, and public subsidies to health and education. The truth is that America's ownership society is built substantially on social investment and social insurance. It's certainly not built on shifting all risks to the individual. In spite of himself, President Bush has opened a useful debate about what it really takes for America to become a secure society of owners.

January 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Union Organizing Conference at NY Law School

On January 27 and 28, 2005, New York Law School’s Labor & Employment Law Program, Justice Action Center, and Institute for Information Law & Policy will present the Next Wave Organizing Conference to examine how workers organize in the 21st Century and how new tools and techniques can be harnessed to improve organizing.

The Conference will convene students; union and other worker organizers; scholars in labor and employment law, industrial relations, economics, and political science; as well as technologists to discuss the future of worker organizing and organizing, generally. Panelists will address: What societal changes have led to next-wave organizing? Have next-wave organizers targeted new groups of workers, identified new goals for their organizing, and found new sources of leverage? How does technology help organizers, particularly organizers of low-wage workers, to increase their organizations’ leverage and how might they use technology even more effectively? Do next-wave organizations directly affect labor market outcomes, like wages, hours, and working conditions, in the way that traditional unions do? If not, should that be their goal and how can they accomplish that goal?

For a complete list of speakers click here.

January 20, 2005 in Conferences & Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Body piercing, religion and the workplace

An interesting recent case from the 1st Circuit. In Cloutier v. Costco, 390 F3d. 126 (2004), Kimberly Cloutier alleged that:

her employer, Costco Wholesale Corp. (Costco), failed to offer her a reasonable accommodation after she alerted it to a conflict between the "no facial jewelry" provision of its dress code and her religious practice as a member of the Church of Body Modification. She argues that this failure amounts to religious discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), and the corresponding Massachusetts statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4(1A). The district court granted summary judgment for Costco, concluding that Costco reasonably accommodated Cloutier by offering to reinstate her if she either covered her facial piercing with a band-aid or replaced it with a clear retainer. We affirm the grant of summary judgment, but on a different basis. See Estades-Negroni v. Assocs. Corp. of North Am., 377 F.3d 58, 62 (1st Cir. 2004) ("We may affirm . . . on any grounds supported by the record."). We hold that Costco had no duty to accommodate Cloutier because it could not do so without undue hardship.

For some commentary on the case see, Costco Scores Big Win For Dress Codes, by Michael Mitchell.

January 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

EEOC v. Sidley Austin

The EEOC case against Sidley Austin Brown & Wood is back in track.  According to David Hechler (

In a case the big law firms have been watching for years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Sidley Austin Brown & Wood last week, charging that the firm discriminated against 31 partners when it expelled them from its partnership.

Though EEOC lawyers emphasized in an interview that the case is about one law firm, not an industry, a law professor who is an expert on partnerships called it "an important case" that is going to have "profound implications across the world in law firms."

EEOC Action Against Sidley Signals 'New Age'

For more on this case, as well as a discussion of its broader implications see: Leonard Bierman & Rafael GelySo, you Want to Be a Partner at Sidley & Austin?, 40 Houston L. Rev. 969 (2003),

January 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Measuring employees' performance

New report from The Conference Board on increase use of HR measures:

HR Executives Will Be Looking More At People Measures To Meet Company Goals

While few companies make significant use of people measures to meet their strategic targets, a majority say that they will increase their use of these tools, according to a report released today by The Conference Board.

Eighty-four percent of the 104 human resources executives surveyed for the report predict that their use of human capital measures will rise during the next three years. Only 12 percent say they are currently using people measures to a significant degree.

“When determining how best to demonstrate achievement, human resource managers must choose from the hundreds of metrics that are currently available to track every aspect of an HR department’s endeavors to recruit, develop, and retain employees,” says Stephen Gates, Principal Researcher at The Conference Board and author of the report. “What’s imperative for the health of their businesses, however, is that these HR professionals tie these people measures more closely into their efforts to meet their companies’ overall strategic targets.”

January 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Please Take This Survey

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January 18, 2005 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Remembering Martin Luther King

To commemorate the life of Reverend Martin Luther King here are some of his speeches on labor issues:

King03_1 * Negroes are almost entirely a working people. There are pitifully few Negro millionaires, and few Negro employers. Our needs are identical with labor's needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor's demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth. AFL-CIO Convention, December 1961

* At the turn of the century women earned approximately ten cents an hour, and men were fortunate to receive twenty cents an hour. The average work week was sixty to seventy hours. During the thirties, wages were a secondary issue; to have a job at all was the difference between the agony of starvation and a flicker of life. The nation, now so vigorous, reeled and tottered almost to total collapse. The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and above all new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over our nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.  Illinois AFL-CIO Convention, October 1965

* When there is massive unemployment in the black community, it is called a social problem. But when there is massive unemployment in the white community, it is called a Depression.

We look around every day and we see thousands and millions of people making inadequate wages. Not only do they work in our hospitals, they work in our hotels, they work in our laundries, they work in domestic service, they find themselves underemployed. You see, no labor is really menial unless you're not getting adequate wages. People are always talking about menial labor. But if you're getting a good (wage) as I know that through some unions they've brought it up...that isn't menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages.  Local 1199 Salute to Freedom, March 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Labor

January 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)