Sunday, April 9, 2017
One of the advantages of being around a discipline for a long time is the irony of seeing once “extreme” arguments become accepted. In the first edition of our Employment Discrimination casebook in 1982, we made the (obvious) argument that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was sex discrimination because an employee, say, male, was being adversely treated for actions (sex with a male) that would draw no objection were the employee female.
Fast forward to 2017, and that’s now the law of the land, at least in the Seventh Circuit thanks to Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. And that simple switch-the-sexes comparison was one of the two prongs of the majority opinion (the other being transference to the gender context of Loving v. Virginia’s holding that discrimination on the basis of the race of one’s partner is race discrimination).
While the prevailing side in Hively garnered two other opinions adding additional routes to the same result (including a radical attack on the whole concept of original public meaning in statutory interpretation by Judge Posner), I was most taken with the simple logic of the majority’s “comparative” approach, i.e., if we switch the sexes and the result is not the same, it’s sex discrimination.
Why did it take more than 35 years for this logic to prevail? More to the point, why was that argument viewed as naïve, hopelessly technical for most of Title VII’s history? The obvious answer is that, to quote Holmes, the life of the law is not logic, it’s experience, and even those favoring LGBT rights may have found the straightforward logic too sterile and rarified in a system that favors more nuance in statutory interpretation.
But there’s another perspective from the law’s encounter with logic in this arena that may be of some interest. Judge Sykes, writing for three judges, dissented, largely drawing from “original public meaning” theory. In a passage that captures the essence of his objection, he wrote:
Is it even remotely plausible that in 1964, when Title VII was adopted, a reasonable person competent in the English language would have understood that a law banning employment discrimination "because of sex" also banned discrimination because of sexual orientation? The answer is no, of course not.
I do understand, and agree, that if that question were asked of proponents of Title VII in 1964, they would have said no. So in that sense, the original public meaning of “sex” doesn’t reach sexual orientation.
But how does that analysis fit with the logical argument made by the majority? Are we assuming that the “person competent in the English language” is “reasonable” but not logical? That he or she is incapable of working out the implications of statutory language beyond the most intuitive meaning of the words? Another way to ask the question is whether the reasonable person is presumed to competent in English but not competent in simple logic.
I don’t know if there are good answers to these questions, but I do think they raise even more problems for original public meaning advocates, problems thrust into national attention by Hively.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
As I told my employment discrimination students last Thursday when we talked about sexual orientation and gender identity issues under Title VII, things are moving very fast in the courts on these issues. The Seventh Circuit, en banc, ruled today in Hively v. Ivy Tech, that sexual orientation discrimination was sex discrimination under Title VII. There were two concurrences, one by Judge Flaum and the other by Judge Posner, and a dissent by Judge Sykes.
I'm still digesting the opinion, but the court relied primarily on the two grounds advanced by the plaintiff--but for her sex, her affectional preferences would not have resulted in an adverse employment action, and that adverse employment actions taken because of the protected class of those the employee associates with or is romantically involved with, here sex, violate Title VII. The latter kind of associational claim has long been recognized for race. The court additionally drew support from the observation of the Supreme Court in Oncale that statutes often go beyond the principal evil they were primarily intended to address and the scenario in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, where but for the plaintiff's sex, her behavior would have been applauded. There is more to the analysis, including discussion of Romer v. Evans and the same sex marriage cases.
This en banc decision follows a panel decision issued last summer in which the court had agreed with much of the same reasoning but rejected Hively's claim because the panel felt bound by prior precedent to do so. The Eleventh Circuit recently issued a similar decision in Evans v. Georgia Reg'l Hosp., although it did not analyze the issue in the same depth as the Seventh Circuit had. And a panel at the Second Circuit, in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc., just allowed a gay plaintiff's claim to proceed on a gender stereotyping theory even though it could not reconsider the court’s earlier decision holding that sexual orientation discrimination claims were not cognizable under Title VII. In that case, as Joe noted when the decision came out, Judge Katzmann wrote a concurrence urging the Circuit to find that sexual orientation discrimination violated Title VII.
This marks the first Circuit Court to agree with at least some of the EEOC's arguments on this issue. And given the speed with which these cases are being decided, it seems fairly certain to be headed to the Supreme Court.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Last week's The Economist ran a couple of stories on how "gender budgeting" can help persuade governments to pay more than lip service to women's rights. Below is an excerpt from the summary Making Women Count; an extended-play version is Tax is a Feminist Issue: Why National Budgets Need to Take Gender into Account.
... [S]ome policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government’s heart is through its pocket.
At its simplest, gender budgeting sets out to quantify how policies affect women and men differently. That seemingly trivial step converts exhortation about treating women fairly into the coin of government: costs and benefits, and investments and returns. You don’t have to be a feminist to recognise, as Austria did, that the numbers show how lowering income tax on second earners will encourage women to join the labour force, boosting growth and tax revenues. Or that cuts to programmes designed to reduce domestic violence would be a false economy, because they would cost so much in medical treatment and lost workdays.
Partly because South Korea invested little in social care, women had to choose between having children, which lowers labour-force participation, or remaining childless, which reduces the country’s fertility rate. Gender budgeting showed how, with an ageing population, the country gained from spending on care. Rwanda found that investment in clean water not only curbed disease but also freed up girls, who used to fetch the stuff, to go to school. Ample research confirms that leaving half a country’s people behind is bad for growth. Violence against women; failing to educate girls properly; unequal pay and access to jobs: all take an economic toll.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
While a number of concerns have been raised about the on-demand economy, evidence of discrimination has been especially noted and publically condemned. Airbnb, for instance, came under fire when a Harvard Business School study showed that property owners were less likely to accept those with black-sounding names as renters and non-black hosts were able to charge approximately 12% more than black hosts. Similarly, in an October 2016 working paper conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers looking at taxi-services Uber and Lyft showed that the cancellation rate for those with black-sounding names was more than twice as high as for those with white-sounding names. At the same time, largely in other parts of the country, many condemn not discrimination but the antidiscrimination laws designed to curb it, especially laws aimed at shielding those within the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Debates about discriminatory immigration policies dominate national headlines. 70% of the country is aware of the Black Lives Matter movement. We are, in short, in the midst of an important conversation about discrimination, the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil Rights Movement. Legal theorists and philosophers have taken note, arguing for changes to our current antidiscrimination law regime. But while these theorists have disagreed about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law, they have widely agreed in one crucial respect: namely, that any expansion of antidiscrimination law beyond their preferred scope is problematic on autonomy grounds.
The centrality of “autonomy” in these debates should come as no surprise. Throughout our history of racial conflict, all sides have claimed the ideal of autonomy as an ally to their cause. This is possible because of the concept’s flexibility. “Autonomy” can support a range of positions, depending on the presuppositions it’s packaged with. But when scholars invoke “autonomy” in a way that simply deploys these underlying presuppositions, instead of making these presuppositions explicit, situating them against reasonable rivals, and defending them, they fail to have what scholars at this point in time most crucially need: perspective. These scholars seem to neither notice nor understand why those who take different positions on questions of autonomy, or on specific legal interventions, do so, because the real bases of disagreement – which resides within these presuppositions – remain hidden. As a result, their rejection of certain antidiscrimination law regimes and support of others do little to move the debate about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law forward. Antidiscrimination law scholars are trapped in an ongoing cycle of autonomy assertions and as a result, the important debate about the proper scope of antidiscrimination law remains stalled. We cannot afford this.
My aim in this Essay is one of illumination and aid. I attempt to show why the mere assertion that a certain antidiscrimination law “violates autonomy” hides from view the true basis of disagreement and, in so doing, both fails to engage the relevant arguments while also failing to provide readers any reason to adopt the author’s preferred antidiscrimination law regime. I will do this by illuminating the presuppositions underpinning the two main conceptions of autonomy that are invoked in the antidiscrimination law literature. I then situate these presuppositions alongside rival possibilities. My hope is that this project will aid the development of more fruitful antidiscrimination law scholarship moving forward.
Heather has said that she would love to hear any comments on the essay that readers may have, so check it out.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
My colleague Dallan Flake (ONU) has just posted on SSRN his article When Should Employers Be Liable for Factoring Biased Customer Feedback into Employment Decisions? Here's the abstract:
In today’s customer-centric business environment, firms seek feedback from consumers seemingly at every turn. Firms factor such feedback into a host of decisions, including employment-related decisions such as whom to hire, promote, and fire; how much to pay employees; and what tasks to assign them. Increasingly, researchers are discovering that customer feedback is biased against certain populations, such as women and racial minorities. Sometimes customers explicitly declare their biases, but more often their prejudices are harder to detect — either because they intentionally hide their biases in their ratings or because the customers do not realize their implicit biases have skewed their perceptions, and consequently their ratings, of service exchanges.
When firms rely on tainted customer feedback to make employment decisions, they indirectly discriminate against employees. Although the law makes clear that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on customers’ discriminatory preferences, it has yet to address whether and to what extent employers are liable for factoring biased customer feedback into employment decisions. I argue that employers should not get a free pass to discriminate simply because it is the customers rather than themselves who bear the discriminatory animus; but nor should employers be liable in every instance where customer feedback is shown to be biased.
To strike an appropriate balance, employers should be held to a negligence standard whereby their liability for using tainted feedback depends on whether they knew or reasonably should have known the data was compromised and if so, whether they acted reasonably in response by taking appropriate preventive or corrective measures. A major advantage of this framework is that it works in both the easy and the hard cases by tying employer liability to the ease with which customer bias can be detected. If bias is explicit, the law would hold employers to a heightened duty in terms of both knowledge and response, whereas if bias is implicit, and thus harder to detect, employers would be held to a lower standard.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Paul Harpur's (Queensland) has been working recently on a cross-disciplinary project analysing the regulation of disability assistance animals/service animals in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK, and the U.S. Yesterday, he was interviewed on Australia's Channel 10. Though apparently the segment can't be viewed outside Australia, here's an excerpt from the interview.
What do a bird, a miniature horse, a cat and pig have in common with a guide dog? They’re all legal assistance animals…and it’s causing a headache for authorities.
Aged 11 years old and weighing in at around a kilo, Tiberius is a blue and gold Macaw and is much more than an exotic pet.
He is a lifeline for Alicia, who suffers complications from a chronic pain condition. "[Tiberius's] job is to monitor my heart and pain condition and warn me of incoming attacks."
Tiberius monitors her pulse for changes and Alicia says she can’t live without him. Twice, he has saved her life of an actual heart attack. “I was on the phone saying I’m going to have a heart attack. My service animal has sensed it and warned me. I got laughed at.”
As well as mockery, Alicia has had to contend with outright hostility from people not used to seeing a working disability parrot. “I’ve been escorted out, I’ve been demanded out, I’ve had people swearing at me, spit coming off them.”
While local and state laws prevent non-canines like Tiberius being used as assistance animals, federal laws don’t: and people are starting to cotton on .
When the act was passed in 1992 it used the term “disability assistance animals” and it’s always used the term “animals”. Back in the day 99% of animals were dogs so no one’s really noticed it. But with the growth of animal assisted therapy there is an increase in people wanting to bring other animals into public spaces.
And Federal laws also lack the strict training standard found in state laws. Individuals can train their own animals and associations that have nothing to do with disability can train animals. It’s a mess.
Professor Paul Harpur, who relies on a seeing eye dog, has studied the trend towards non-canines. He worries people are fraudulently claiming their pets as disability assistance animals.
It’s already a big issue in US: with turkeys, ducks, kangaroos and pigs turning up on planes and restaurants as “emotional support animals”. Transport authorities here [in Australia] have had to contend with a miniature horse approved for travel on Melbourne’s trams; as well as an assistance dingo, a “stress rabbit”, plus assistance cats, rats, birds and pigs.
Monday, January 16, 2017
On her blog, Friend of the Court, Sandra Sperino discusses the new Third Circuit decision in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works. In that case, the Third Circuit held that the ADEA permits "subgroup" disparate impact claims--that is, claims that an employer policy creates an unlawful disparate impact against a certain subgroup of a protected class.
Check it out, definitely worth a read.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Paul Caron over at TaxProf Blog posts on Lauren Rivera (Northwestern) & András Tilcsik (Toronto), How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume, Harvard Business Review. The article describes the authors' study of the hiring practices of large U.S. law firms. I've excerpted the take-away from the abstract, but the entire abstract (and article) are well worth reading:
Even though all educational and work-related histories were the same, employers overwhelmingly favored the higher-class man. He had a callback rate more than four times of other applicants and received more invitations to interview than all other applicants in our study combined. But most strikingly, he did significantly better than the higher-class woman, whose resume was identical to his, other than the first name.
. . .
But even though higher-class women were seen as just as good “fits” as higher-class men, attorneys declined to interview these women because they believed they were the least committed of any group (including lower-class women) to working a demanding job. Our survey participants, as well as an additional 20 attorneys we interviewed, described higher-class women as “flight risks,” who might desert the firm for less time-intensive areas of legal practice or might even leave paid employment entirely. Attorneys cited “family” as a primary reason these women would leave....
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Paul Harpur (Queensland) writes to tell us that an Australian disability wage-setting tool has been found discriminatory, and that the Australian government has agreed to pay 9,735 intellectual disabled workers entitlements which may reach $100 million AUD. Here's Paul's analysis:
An Australian government disability wage setting tool used to assess the wages of intellectually disabled workers who were employed in an Australian Disability Enterprise (a form of government subsidized employment) resulted in people with certain disabilities being under paid.
The tool in question, the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool, was used to determine how much each worker should be paid and if they were entitled to wage increases.
It was alleged that the imposition of the condition or requirement that wages be fixed using the tool amounted to indirect disability discrimination within the meaning of s 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
The tool fixed the amount of a wage by an assessment of competency and of productivity. The assessment of competency was made by reference to eight elements. Some of these competencies were irrelevant to the work actually undertaken by workers and the assessment processes relating to other competencies was flawed. The assessment processes used abstract answers in an interview situation with intellectually disabled workers. If workers did not provide a prescribed response they scored zero.
The Australian government accepted that this tool was discriminatory and has agreed to pay back wages for thousands of workers. The government introduced legislation to create a framework to repay wages in the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Act 2015 (Cth) (see also the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014 (Cth) Explanatory Memorandum) and on 16 December 2016 the wage claims and discrimination claims by a class of 9,735 workers was approved by the Federal Court of Australia in Duval-Cowrie v Commonwealth of Australia (2016) FCA 1523. The length and size of these under payments are substantial and are estimated to cost the Australian government $100 million AUD.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Deborah Brake (Pittsburgh) has just posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming Georgetown L.J.) The Shifting Sands of Employment Discrimination: From Unjustified Impact to Disparate Treatment in Pregnancy and Pay. Here's the abstract:
In 2015, the Supreme Court decided its first major pregnancy discrimination case in nearly a quarter century. The Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., made a startling move: despite over four decades of Supreme Court case law roping off disparate treatment and disparate impact into discrete and separate categories, the Court crafted a pregnancy discrimination claim that permits an unjustified impact on pregnant workers to support the inference of discriminatory intent necessary to prevail on a disparate treatment claim. The decision cuts against the grain of established employment discrimination law by blurring the impact/treatment boundary and relaxing the strictness of the similarity required between comparators in order to establish discriminatory intent. This article situates the newly-minted pregnancy discrimination claim in Young against the backdrop of employment discrimination law generally and argues that the Court’s hybrid treatment-by-impact claim is in good company with other outlier cases in which courts blur the boundaries of the impact/treatment line. The article defends the use of unjustified impact to prove pregnancy discrimination as well-designed to reach the kind of implicit bias against pregnant workers that often underlies employer refusals to extend accommodations to pregnant workers. While Young is not likely to prompt an earthquake in employment discrimination doctrine, this article identifies and defends a parallel development in the law governing pay discrimination that similarly incorporates unjustified impact into a disparate treatment framework.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
The suit is brought by former faculty member Patrice Fulcher. Paul Caron has the details over at Tax Prof Blog, via National Jurist (paywalled). The Complaint alleges that Fulcher was steered toward a legal writing position rather than a doctrinal position and paid less than doctrinal colleagues, and that a year after getting tenure she was denied the salary raise that customarily accompanied tenure.
As Caron notes, this is the second time in four years JMLS-Atlanta has been sued for race discrimination. The former suit, by two former faculty members, was settled after the plaintiffs survived a motion dismiss.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Congratulations to Tristin Green (San Francisco) on the publication of her new book Discrimination Laundering: The Rise of Organizational Innocence and the Crisis of Equal Opportunity Law by Cambridge University Press. Here's the publisher's description:
While discrimination in the workplace is often perceived to be undertaken at the hands of individual or ‘rogue’ employees acting against the better interest of their employers, the truth is often the opposite: organizations are inciting discrimination through the work environments they create. Worse, the law increasingly ignores this reality and exacerbates the problem. In this groundbreaking book, Tristin K. Green describes the process of discrimination laundering, showing how judges are changing the law to protect employers, and why. By bringing organizations back into the discussion of discrimination, with real-world stories and extensive social science research, Green shows how organizational and legal efforts to minimize discrimination – usually by policing individuals over broader organizational change – are taking us in the wrong direction, and how the law can do better by creating incentives for organizational efforts that are likely to minimize discrimination, instead of inciting it.
And here's just one of the many strong endorsements:
Tristin Green brilliantly illuminates the origins and effects of disturbing new trends in employment discrimination law that serve to protect high-level officials and their organizations – while leaving those who experience discrimination and lose opportunities more vulnerable. Green is an excellent guide, combining both a readable writing style with technical expertise.
-John Skrentny, University of California, San Diego
Conveniently timed for end-of-year gift-giving and library acquisitions, Tristin's book is available from Cambridge in softback for $34.99 and hardback for $151, and from Amazon in both hard copy forms and in kindle form ($21.49).
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Gary Spitko (Santa Clara) has just published Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations (U. Penn. Press 2016). What impeccable timing, given the current political environment. The book explores how employment discrimination against gay role models (teachers, major league athletes, military service members, etc.) has been used to reinforce social understandings about the inferior nature of gay people. The book also argues that there is a reciprocal relationship between this type of discrimination and the bullying of LGBT youth, and proposes a reform agenda to combat antigay bias in role-model occupations grounded in an understanding of the nature of this reciprocal relationship.
For a 20% discount, enter code "PH41".
Congrats, Gary, and many thanks for your well-timed tome. Would that your message resonated farther north in our executive-branch.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Congratulations to Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) and Malcolm Sargeant (Middlesex U. London) on the publication of their book Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce.Here's the publisher's (Cambridge U. Press) description:
- Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce fills a gap in the literature on discrimination and disadvantage suffered by women at work by focusing on the inadequacies of the current law and the need for a new holistic approach. Each stage of the working life cycle for women is examined with a critical consideration of how the law attempts to address the problems that inhibit women's labour force participation. By using their model of lifetime disadvantage, the authors show how the law adopts an incremental and disjointed approach to resolving the challenges, and argue that a more holistic orientation towards eliminating women's discrimination and disadvantage is required before true gender equality can be achieved. Using the concept of resilience from vulnerability theory, the authors advocate a reconfigured workplace that acknowledges yet transcends gender.
- Proposes a new model of lifetime discrimination suffered by women at work, leading to an holistic solution rather than the current incremental approach.
- Examining how the law approaches each stage of women's working life cycle allows readers to identify the disjointed incremental approach and see its disadvantages.
- Provides a new framework for discussing the issue of disadvantage that women suffer in employment.
Friday, October 7, 2016
The Eleventh Circuit now reads the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) not to let job applicants bring disparate impact claims. Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 15-10602 (11 Cir., Oct. 5, 2016) (en banc). The main reason concerns the text of section 4(a)(2) of the ADEA, which makes it unlawful for any employer
to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age.
29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(2). The court, in a majority opinion by Judge William Pryor, reasoned:
By using “or otherwise” to join the verbs in this section, Congress made “depriv[ing] or tend[ing] to deprive any individual of employment opportunities” a subset of “adversely affect[ing] [the individual’s] status as an employee.” In other words, section 4(a)(2) protects an individual only if he has a “status as an employee.” . . . The phrase “or otherwise” operates as a catchall: the specific items that precede it are meant to be subsumed by what comes after the “or otherwise.”
Op. at 7-9 (citations omitted). The court rejected the dissent’s several textual arguments to the contrary, and then refused to consider legislative history or defer to the EEOC’s interpretation to the contrary, because the statutory text is “clear”. But cf. id. at 43-46 (Rosenbaum, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (pointing to legislative history to support the majority opinion’s reading).
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
While big data offers society many potential benefits, it also comes with serious risks. This Essay focuses on the concern that big data will lead to increased employment discrimination. It develops the novel argument that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should be amended in response to the big data phenomenon in order to protect individuals who are perceived as likely to develop physical or mental impairments in the future. Employers can obtain medical data about employees not only through the traditional means of medical examinations and inquiries, but also through the non-traditional mechanisms of social media, wellness programs, and data brokers. Information about workers’ habits, behaviors, or attributes that is derived from big data can be used to create profiles of undesirable employees. It can also be used to exclude healthy and qualified individuals whom employers regard as vulnerable to future medical problems. The ADA, which now protects only individuals with current or past disabilities and those who are perceived as having existing impairments, can no longer ignore the discrimination threats posed by predictive health data. The Essay analyzes these risks and propose a detailed statutory response to them.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Congratulations to our friend Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) whose book (with Malcolm Sargeant, Middlesex Univ., London), Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Work Force is available to pre-order from Cambridge University Press. It will be out September 30. From the press release:
In many countries, including the United States, women are significantly more likely to fall into poverty in retirement than are men. Understanding why this is so and what can be done about it is the aim of this new book.
"Susan Bisom-Rapp's scholarship tackles some of the most pressing real world challenges facing the modern workplace," said Thomas Jefferson School of Law Dean and President Thomas F. Guernsey. "I am delighted about the publication of her latest book."
Beginning in girlhood and ending in advanced age, "Lifetime Disadvantage, Discrimination and the Gendered Workforce" examines each stage of the lifecycle and considers how law attempts to address the problems that inhibit women's labor force participation. Using their model of lifetime disadvantage, Professor Bisom-Rapp and her British co-author Malcolm Sargeant show how the law adopts a piecemeal and disjointed approach to resolving challenges with adverse effects that cumulate over time.
"The problem unfolds over the working lives of women," said Bisom-Rapp. "Women's experiences with education, stereotyping, characteristics other than gender like race and age, caregiving, glass ceilings, occupational segregation, pay inequality, part-time work, and career breaks over a lifetime make it difficult to amass the resources necessary for a dignified retirement."
In order to achieve true gender equality, Bisom-Rapp and her co-author recommend a more holistic approach. Employing the concept of resiliency from vulnerability theory, the authors advocate changes to workplace law and policy, which acknowledge yet transcend gender, improving conditions for women as well as men.
"One must know the end goal – decent work and dignified retirement – and monitor progress towards it in order effectively address the problem," noted Bisom-Rapp.
The book is the culmination of nearly a decade of collaboration between Professor Bisom-Rapp and Professor Sargeant, who teaches at Middlesex University Business School in London. Beginning with a project that examined the plight of older workers during the global economic crisis, they have been struck by differences in workplace law and protections in their respective countries; the United Kingdom is far more protective.
Equally noticeable, however, are similarities in outcomes, including women's economic disadvantages in retirement. By examining why more protective law in one country coexists with comparable outcomes to the other country, the book reveals lessons for understanding a problem that is global in nature. At a time in which an aging population makes a retirement crisis a distinct possibility, and employment has become increasingly insecure, they recommend a regulatory approach that would enhance work life and retirement for all.
Susan and Malcolm have published a few articles related to these topics in the last few years in the Employee Rights Employment Policy Journal, the Elder Law Journal, and the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal. I can't wait to read more of their work.
September 21, 2016 in Books, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 16, 2016
Congratulations to friend of the blog, Wendy Greene (Samford) whose article, Title VII: What’s Hair (and Other Race-Based Characteristics) Got to Do With It? was cited today by the Eleventh Circuit in EEOC v.Catastrophe Management Solutions. Wendy's article was cited for its discussion of the socially constructed nature of race.
Wendy describes the case:
In this case, CMS, an insurance processing company in Mobile, Alabama, rescinded an African American woman’s job offer to handle phone calls related to customer service support because she refused to cut off her locked hairstyle. Essentially, the employer made "no locks" a condition of employment for the applicant, though she was deemed qualified, interviewed and was offered the job with the hairstyle. And, apparently CMS’ human resources manager considered her hair well-groomed at the time of hire, yet remarked that the applicant’s locks might eventually become “messy.” The HR manager told the applicant she would be unable to hire her if she did not cut off her hair; the applicant refused do so, returned her initial paperwork as requested, and left the premises. The Birmingham office of the EEOC filed a Title VII intentional race discrimination case against CMS. In doing so, the EEOC attempted to overturn over 30 years of legal precedent affirming the legality of natural hairstyle bans (except those involving afros). Largely drawing upon legal scholarship of U.S. employment discrimination and race and law scholars, one of the EEOC's primary arguments centered around the immutability doctrine; the EEOC advanced that a biological notion of race, which treats race as an “immutable” characteristic, should no longer be employed when interpreting Title VII’s prohibitions against race discrimination. Rather, the notion of race should be expanded to include both immutable and mutable characteristics. Thus, a grooming policy prohibiting natural hairstyles, like locks, braids, twists, etc., which are associated with African descendants—in law and society—constitutes unlawful race discrimination.
Ultimately, the 11th Circuit declined to abolish the immutability doctrine in EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions and held that CMS’ “no locks” mandate did not violate Title VII, as the EEOC would be unable to produce evidence that all individuals who adorn locks are Black or that only individuals who adorn locks are Black. Though the court did not rule in the EEOC’s favor, it did engage in a fairly lengthy dialogue about the meaning of race and competing arguments of notable race and law scholars. Aside from the exploration of race, this opinion may be of interest to proceduralists and those interested in the application of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, the (purported) demarcation between disparate treatment and disparate impact theories of liability, and statutory interpretation more generally.
The opinion relied very heavily on legal scholarship for its analysis. In addition to citing Wendy, the opinion cites Ian Haney Lopez, Camille Gear Rich, Sharona Hoffman, Barbara Flagg, Richard Ford, Annelise Riles, Kenji Yoshino, Juan Perea, and Rhonda Magee Andrews in its discussion of what race is. Ultimately the court relied on what it believed Congress thought race was in 1964--a set of immutable physical characteristics--and its prior precedent. But the court's analysis went a bit further, too, considering the legal scholarship. The opinion expressed some concern about including cultural or behavioral practices as part of the identity protected by Title VII because those practices might vary by individual and change over time. The court was very uncomfortable with the idea that courts would have to decide what was an "authentic" part of a racial group's culture and what was not. Despite the court's reluctance to agree with many of the scholars it cited, the fact that the opinion considers this work so carefully is heartening.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
The ex-dean of UC-Berkeley’s law school has accused the university of racial bias in its aggressive response to sexual harassment allegations once they were aired publicly.
In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Oakland, lawyers for Sujit Choudhry argue that Berkeley has a long history of letting sexual harassment slide when white professors were involved. By contrast, the university has made Choudhry a “pariah” on campus, the suit alleges.
“By targeting Professor Choudhry, who is of South Asian descent and a non-U.S. citizen, the university hopes to deflect attention from its failure to meaningfully punish Caucasian faculty and administrators who were found to have committed appalling sexual misconduct,” the complaint says.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Terry Smith (DePaul) has a thoughtful piece at Huffington Post on the dissonance between the sexual harassment claims of some of the women and Fox News and their commentary in the past about discrimination against white men and race more broadly. As he notes, their claims are only recognized as legal harms because harassment was recognized as a form of discrimination in the race context first. He urges them and all of us to have greater empathy for victims of discrimination to make the law more fair.
If you have not been keeping up with the allegations and want to read more about the harassment claim brought by Gretchen Carlson against Roger Ailes, which was settled when Fox News apologized and paid her about half of what it paid Ailes to leave, you might read this and this. If you want to know more about the toxic environment there, read just about any of these articles by Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine. Finally, if you are wondering what "feminist hero Susan Estrich [is] doing representing Roger Ailes," you are not alone.