Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

How a Credit Card Can be Sexist

Can a Credit Card be Sexist?

The Apple Card controversy illustrates how a history of bias in credit lending, coupled with discriminatory AI algorithms, hurt women

{T]he New York Department of Financial Services, prompted by Hansson’s tweets, announced it would open an investigation into whether Goldman Sachs discriminates on the basis of sex in the way it sets its credit limits. “Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law,” a spokeswoman for the agency said in a statement Saturday.

 

Apple has deferred to Goldman Sachs for requests for comment. Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for the bank, said in a statement that Apple Card applications are “evaluated independently.” The company evaluates an individual’s income and an individual’s creditworthiness, which “includes factors like personal credit scores, how much personal debt you have, and how that debt is managed.”

 

“We have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender,” Williams said. He added that the company is looking to enable joint family accounts in the future.***

 

The story illustrates how potential biases in credit lending manifest: On the one hand, women have long lacked credit parity with men — women only received legal protection from credit discrimination in the 1970s. But today, with the rise of AI algorithms determining everything from credit lending to hiring to advertising, women face another potential source of discrimination.

 

“These algorithms are trained on data that are a reflection of the world we live in or the world we lived in in the past,” says Meredith Whittaker, a research scientist at New York University and co-founder of the university’s AI Now Institute. “This data irreducibly imprints these histories of discrimination, these patterns of bias.”

 

That discrimination is “intersectional,” Whittaker says, and disproportionately hurts women of color.

***

 

Well into the 20th century, women struggled to get approved for credit cards. As the Smithsonian reports, any woman looking to open a card was subject to discriminatory questions — whether she was married, if she planned to have children. Many banks required single, divorced or widowed women to bring a man along with them to cosign for a card.

 

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act made it illegal for any creditor to take gender, race, religion or national origin into account. But discrepancies still exist today. An analysis from the Federal Reserve found that single women under 40 had lower credit scores than comparable single men, which reflected that single women had “more intensive use of credit” — an outcome, the study author notes, that may reflect economic circumstances, employment and “men and women being potentially treated differently by the credit market and institutions.” As many note, women’s lower credit is also tied to the gender pay gap.

November 27, 2019 in Business, Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Using the Model Rules to Redress Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

Wendy Hess, Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession: The Opportunity to Use Model Rule 8.4(G) to Protect Women From Harassment, 94 Univ. Detroit Mercy L. Rev.579  (2019)  

This Article explores options available to legal professionals in order to become more aware of and address sexual harassment within the profession. The potential avenues of redress for sexual harassment by those in the legal profession vary. The applicable remedy depends on factors such as: jurisdiction, nature of the harassment, context of the harassment (site of conduct, identity of harasser, and identity of target), and relief sought. This Article discusses two primary avenues: antidiscrimination and anti-harassment protections under Title VII and disciplinary proceedings pursuant to attorney ethics rules. In Part I, the Article explores the ways in which Title VII has not adequately protected women from sexual harassment. Part II of the Article explores potential redress from attorney ethics rules, focusing specifically on Model Rule 8.4(g). The Article discusses advantages of state adoption of Rule 8.4(g) and adds a new perspective to the scholarship about Rule 8.4(g) by addressing the potential disadvantage of reliance on anti-discrimination laws to interpret the rule.

November 27, 2019 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Hushing Contracts and the Public Policy Defense to Enforcing Nondisclosure Agreement About Sexual Wrongdoing

David Hoffman & Erik Lampmann, Hushing Contracts, 96 Wash. U. L. Rev.  165 (2019)

The last few years have brought a renewed appreciation of the costs of nondisclosure agreements that suppress information about sexual wrongdoing. Recently passed bills in a number of states, including New York and California, have attempted to deal with such hush contracts. But such legislation is often incomplete, and many courts and commentators continue to ask if victims of harassment can sign enforceable settlements that conceal serious, potentially metastasizing, social harms. In this Article, we argue that employing the public policy doctrine, courts ought to generally refuse to enforce hush agreements, especially those created by organizations. We restate public policy as a defense which should to be concerned with managing externalities, and which expresses a legitimating account of contract law.

November 26, 2019 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding the Outdated but Pervasive Legal Definitions of Sexual Harassment

Brian Soucek & Vicki Schultz, Sexual Harassment by Any Other Name, 2019 U. Chi. Legal F. 229

The New York Times won a Pulitzer and helped ignite the #MeToo movement with its reporting on sexual harassment. But the Times still doesn’t understand what sexual harassment is. In its official definition and the stories it pursues, the Times employs a sexualized conception of sexual harassment that is twenty years out of date in the law. It’s also disconnected from the lived experience of most people and from the findings of social science research. In this, the Times is not alone. Even the two leading enforcers of federal antidiscrimination law — the EEOC and the Department of Justice — still at times issue pronouncements that fail to reflect current Title VII law or even those agencies’ own enforcement priorities.

Lost in these outdated but still pervasive definitions of sexual harassment are the many ways employees are undermined, excluded, sabotaged, ridiculed, or assaulted because of their sex, even if not through words or actions that are “sexual” in nature. “Put-downs” and not simply “come-ons,” these types of sexual harassment are even more pervasive than the overtly sexualized forms. Relegating them to another category or term such as “gender harassment” or “sex-based harassment” treats them as secondary to the sexualized forms, causes society to misunderstand the dynamics at play even in the latter, and skews the focus of workplace training (and subsequent reporting) about sexual harassment. With the #MeToo movement giving unprecedented attention to the problem of sexual harassment, now is the time to better understand that term.

November 26, 2019 in Courts, Equal Employment, Theory, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Woman Challenges UT Lewdness Statute as Unconstitutional, Stemming from Charge from Being Topless in her own Home in front of Step-Children

Utah Woman Charged with Lewdness After Being Topless in Her Own Home

A Utah woman has been charged with lewdness in her own home after her stepchildren walked into the room and saw her bare chest.

 

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah argued this week that the statute under which Tilli Buchanan, 27, was charged is unconstitutional, and they have asked a judge to drop the charges against her and change the state law.

 

Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage and had taken off their shirts that were itchy from the fibers, she told The Salt Lake Tribune.

 

When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she "explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing," her lawyers wrote in court documents, The Associated Press reports.

 

Now the state had charged Buchanan with three charges of lewdness involving a child. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.

 

Though her husband was similarly clad, he was not charged with a crime.

 

The state's lewdness statute criminalizes exposure of "the female breast below the top of the areola" in the presence of a child in a private place "under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm."

 

If convicted, Buchanan faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

 

The charges were filed after the children's mother told that authorities she was "alarmed" by the incident, according the AP.

 

Buchanan's case raises a number of constitutional concerns, says Leah Farrell, an attorney at the ACLU of Utah.

 

To begin with, "the criminalizing of behavior that many people don't consider criminal, and is normal."

 

Most people wouldn't consider, for instance, that they "might be brought into court because of their dealing with their dirty clothes within their house. Anything that really extends the criminal justice system into people's homes in this way is something that we're interested in looking at closer," Farrell says.

 

And then there's the gender issue.

 

"Simply because Miss Buchanan is a woman, she is facing this charge," Farrell says. "Therefore, women throughout Utah are at higher risk of facing a criminal charge simply because of their gender. There are different ideas around what morality is or is not. But the state's reach to criminalize morality based on gender and gender stereotyping is incredibly problematic."

 

Farrell notes that the statute's language requiring women to predict whether going topless is likely to cause "affront or alarm" imposes an additional burden that is not required of men.

November 25, 2019 in Constitutional, Family, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book on Domestic Violence "No Visible Bruises," One of NY Times Top 10 Books of 2019

NYT, The 10 Best Books of 2019

NO VISIBLE BRUISES
What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
By Rachel Louise Snyder

Snyder’s thoroughly reported book covers what the World Health Organization has called “a global health problem of epidemic proportions.” In America alone, more than half of all murdered women are killed by a current or former partner; domestic violence cuts across lines of class, religion and race. Snyder debunks pervasive myths (restraining orders are the answer, abusers never change) and writes movingly about the lives (and deaths) of people on both sides of the equation. She doesn’t give easy answers but presents a wealth of information that is its own form of hope.

Full Review: An Epidemic of Violence We Never Discuss

***As Rachel Louise Snyder argues in her powerful new book, domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Fifty women a month are shot and killed by their partners. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness. And 80 percent of hostage situations involve an abusive partner. Nor is it only a question of physical harm: In some 20 percent of abusive relationships a perpetrator has total control of his victim’s life. (Countries including Britain and France have laws to protect against this kind of abuse, but the United States does not.)

 

A professor of creative writing at American University, Snyder exposes this hidden crisis by combining her own careful analysis with deeply upsetting and thoughtfully told accounts of victims. She rounds out the reporting by interviewing advocates working on the front lines and, even, the abusers themselves.

November 25, 2019 in Books, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Best Law Schools for Women Law Students

The Best Law Schools for Women

Ever since the 2016 election and the legal turmoil that began shortly after President Donald Trump’s swearing in (and has continued to this day), thousands of college graduates — and women in particular — have been inspired to go to law school.

As our readers know, the latest Princeton Review law school rankings are out, and today, we’ll focus on yet another incredibly important ranking during the #MeToo #TimesUp era in America, an era where a woman who’s a law school graduate could become the Democratic nominee for president: The law schools with the greatest resources for women.***

According to Princeton Review, these are the law schools where women stand on equal footing with their male classmates:

  1. Stanford University School of Law
  2. Vermont Law School
  3. University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
  4. New England Law – Boston
  5. University of Toledo College of Law
  6. UC Davis School of Law
  7. Washington University School of Law – St. Louis
  8. Brooklyn Law School
  9. Temple University Beasley School of Law

Law school may be the perfect place for women in America to resist, persist, and prove that the future is female. The law is a powerful tool, and we hope that women who want change will wield it wisely. 

November 25, 2019 in Gender, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

SCOTUS Grants Cert in Military Rape Case Regarding the Statute of Limitations

CNN, Supreme Court to Take Up Military Rape Case

The US Supreme Court on Friday accepted a Justice Department appeal to review the cases of three men in the Air Force whose rape convictions were overturned last year -- including one whose confession the Air Force recorded -- when the top military appeals court found a five-year statute of limitations existed for military sexual assault before 2006.

The Supreme Court arguments will be scheduled for next spring and a ruling is likely by the end of June.
This will be the first time the justices consider a sexual assault issue in the #MeToo era, wading into a years-long controversy over how the military addresses sexual misconduct in its ranks as service branches continue to face scrutiny over their lack of progress countering the problem.***
 
At the heart of the dispute is a ruling made last year by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the military's top appeals court, in a separate alleged rape case called US v. Mangahas.
 
The Mangahas decision prohibited prosecutors from bringing charges for rape that happened before 2006 unless the offense had been reported and charged within five years.
 
The Supreme Court will now interpret whether a five-year statute of limitations or no time limit should exist for the prosecution of military sexual assault for cases between 1986 and 2006.
 

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the federal government’s case against a military court ruling that reversed several military rape convictions for crimes committed more than a decade or two ago.

The controversial decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, based on previous court decisions, placed a 5-year time limit on prosecuting crimes of rape that occurred between 1986 and 2006.

The case, United States v. Briggs, is a consolidation of filings named for Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Briggs who, in 2014, was convicted of raping a staff sergeant in 2005. The case came to light after Briggs called the victim in 2013 to confess — a conversation the victim recorded.

“I will always be sorry for raping you,” he told her, according to court documents.

The recording was key to bringing Briggs to trial and he was prosecuted under the assumption that there was no statute of limitations for pursuing rape cases in the military. He was found guilty, sentenced to five months confinement and dismissed from the service.

Years before the Briggs case, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice held that rape was a crime punishable by death and therefore had no time limit for prosecuting the crime. But in 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, or CAAF, ruled that some rape charges were not punishable by death, and the standard five-year limit for prosecuting most crimes was instated.

In 2006, however, Congress amended Uniformed Code of Military Justice to ensure that the time limit for rape cases was abolished. Briggs’s conviction, as well as others, came after the law was changed.

But in February 2018, the military appeals court affirmed the statute of limitations for cases that occurred in a gray area under the law, from 1986 to 2006.

 
 

November 20, 2019 in Legislation, SCOTUS, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

The History of Constitutional Amendments for Women's Equality, from the 16th to the 19th to ERA

Here is a short piece I wrote for the American Bar Association's public education online magazine:

Tracy Thomas, From the 19th Amendment to ERA: Constitutional Amendments for Women's Equality, ABA Insights (Nov. 2019)

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women’s right to vote was passed by Congress one hundred years ago on June 4, 1919. Many[JD1]  states quickly ratified the amendment, though it would be a close call when the final state, Tennessee, pushed the amendment into law in August 2020. When first proposed, the vote or “suffrage” was just one of many civil and social rights demanded by women. But it became the primary focus of the women’s rights movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, fueled by political allegiances with conservative temperance women and supported by focus on the vote as the primary right of citizenship as embodied in the new Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. 

One year after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, women’s rights leaders resurrected the demands for gender equality in aspects of society by proposing the first Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1921. The ERA would have guaranteed that civil and legal rights cannot be denied “on the basis of sex.” From the beginning, however, the ERA was met with opposition including from women themselves, with conservative women concerned about impact on the family and progressive women concerned about impact on labor and union rights. It would take another fifty years before both national political parties would endorse the ERA, and Congress passed the ERA in 1972 guaranteeing that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The necessary two-thirds of the states, however, failed to ratify the ERA, even after an extension of the deadline. 

A modern movement has renewed efforts to pass the ERA, still believing in the necessity of a constitutional guarantee of the broad legal and social equality of women first advanced 171 years ago. This essay traces the history of the women’s constitutional demands for equality, from its origins in Seneca Falls, the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, the proposed ERA, and modern efforts for a new amendment to secure gender equality.

November 20, 2019 in Constitutional, Gender, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Virginia Makes the ERA a Real Possibility after 50 Years

LA Times, After Nearly 50 Years, the Equal Rights Amendment Finally has a Chance. Thanks Virginia

The blue wave that flipped the Virginia Legislature last week was a victory for Democrats in the commonwealth, who will now be in control for the first time in more than 20 years.

But this milestone could affect more than just Virginia. It’s a potentially historic turning point for women and their equal rights. Because now that Democrats are in charge of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, the Equal Rights Amendment might finally be approved there, which would mean it has been approved by three-fourths of the states — the threshold set for changing the U.S. Constitution.

The decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to explicitly outlaw sex discrimination seemed hopelessly stalled until 2017, when the Nevada Legislature unexpectedly voted to ratify — 45 years after Congress sent the amendment to the states for approval. Then, in 2018, the Illinois Legislature did the same, and suddenly it seemed that the ERA might actually reach the constitutional threshold. But efforts to get a 38th state to approve the amendment this year failed. A ratification bill in Virginia’s House of Delegates by Democrat Jennifer Carroll Foy was squashed by her Republican colleagues, who wouldn’t even let the proposal get out of a subcommittee.

Crazy as it seems, Republicans continue to oppose an amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women even in the 21st century. But their argument has shifted from decrying its threat to traditional gender roles to claiming that the ERA is unnecessary because of past Supreme Court rulings on discrimination. Even if passing the ERA were only a symbolic act, and we think it would be much more than that, then what’s the harm in enshrining it in the country’s most enduring statement of values?

November 20, 2019 in Constitutional, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

On the Constitutionality of the Deadline for Constitutional Amendments like the ERA

Danaya Wright, "Great Variety of Relevant Conditions, Political, Social and Economic": The Constitutionality of Deadlines on Amendment Proposals Under Article V, 28 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 1 (2019)

Within a year or two, the thirty-eighth state is likely to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), setting up an unprecedented constitutional challenge. The ERA was proposed with a seven-year deadline in the resolving clause, establishing the mode of ratification. That was a shift from earlier precedents in which a deadline had been placed in the text of the amendment proposal itself. Article V is annoyingly silent on the issue of congressional deadlines in amendment proposals, and the Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of a deadline that could void an otherwise properly ratified amendment. The practice of placing deadlines on amendment proposals began in 1917 with the Eighteenth Amendment, but has not been consistent since. Deadlines appear to have originated as an effort to torpedo amendments by opponents, but have since become almost pro forma. Some argue deadlines ensure finality and closure;8 others argue they infringe on the power of states to control the ratification process free of unconstitutional limitations imposed by the national legislature.

With the 1992 ratification of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment after 203 years, and state ratifications of the ERA after 35 years,11 the issue of congressional deadlines is both front and center and of potentially enormous consequence. This Article examines the history, theory, and policy of amendment deadlines and argues that they are unconstitutional limitations on state power, inconsistent with the federalism guarantees of the founding. This issue will almost certainly require resolution by the Supreme Court, which needs to give the issue of congressional deadlines its most thoughtful attention.

November 20, 2019 in Constitutional, Legal History, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Leveling Down Gender Equality by Denying Remedies for Equal Protection Violations

Pleased to see that my recent article, Leveling Down Gender Equality, in the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender (2019), was reviewed favorably today in JOTWELL   Chao-Ju Chen, Equality for Whom: The Curious Case of RBG's Equality and Morales-Santana's Nationality.

Sessions v. Morales-Santana is a curious case of gender equality, simultaneously celebrated for refining the Supreme Court’s view on sex-classification while condemned for providing the plaintiff “the mean remedy.”1 Striking down a gender-based distinction in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) by arguing against legislating based on gender stereotypes, it is a landmark success for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the liberal feminist brand of equality jurisprudence. Refusing to grant the plaintiff citizenship by offering a leveling-down remedy, it is a cruel blow to the plaintiff, whose win in the nation’s equality law is a loss in his unequal life. Tracy A. Thomas’ Leveling Down Gender Equality provides a deliberate critique that details the Court’s decision in the historical context of immigration laws and gender equality review, sheds light on the dark sides of celebrity Justice Ginsburg’s gender equality jurisprudence, and proposes a way forward: “leveling up” as the presumption. It is a must-read for anyone who wonders what has happened to Ginsburg’s gender equality jurisprudence and what to do about the Court’s mean remedy.***

The core mission of Leveling Down Gender Equality is to rebut the Court’s remedy presumption that leveling-up (extension) and leveling-down (nullification) are equally valid remedies for a violation of equality and to argue for the presumption of leveling up to protect the right to a meaningful remedy. From Thomas’ point of view, the answer to the curious case of Ginsburg’s equality and Morales-Santana’s nationality lies in the Court’s choice of remedy, rather than in its choice of equality review (anti-classification or anti-subordination). She began her adventure by first explaining the Court’s mean remedy and alternative remedies considered but not adopted in detail (Part I), then argued for the presumption of leveling up (Part II) and reasoned why leveling down should be treated as a rare exception (Part III).

The highlights of Part I lie in its success in locating the mean remedy in the context of Ginsburg’s gender equality jurisprudence and judicial philosophy. Thomas refuted the convenient guess that the mean remedy was a pragmatic strategy to achieve majority, and argued instead that Ginsburg’s choice of eliminating preference for women “fits within her bigger concern about stereotypes, backlash, and denial stemming from protectionism” (P. 190) and was guided by her “deeper jurisprudential concerns about systematic gender norms” (P. 191) and preference for judicial constraint. Comparing what “then-professor Ginsburg” had said to what “Justice Ginsburg” did in Morales-Santana, Thomas showed how Justice Ginsburg, while maintaining then-professor Ginsburg’s preference for the “legislative-like role of the court” in remedial decisions, failed to employ then-professor Ginsburg’s proposed guidelines, which would have supported leveling up. She forcefully demonstrated that Justice Ginsburg “had the precedents for leveling up on her side, yet she adopted the countervailing view in the name of judicial restraint” (P. 193), and criticized Ginsburg’s omission, misreading and non-engagement with gender equality precedents which would have required stronger evidence of legislative intent and evaluations of equitable considerations as well as their implications that extension, rather than nullification, had been a generally preferred choice.***

The second step of Thomas’ mission is to establish the presumption of leveling up and leveling down as the rare exception. Relying on the familiar feminist critique that equality means more than mere formal equal treatment, Thomas argued for equality as equal concern. She contended that leveling down for gender equality is normatively inconsistent with constitutional requirement, because “denying a benefit in order to rectify inequality . . . fails to honor or effectuate the ultimate meaning of the operative constitutional right.” (P. 200.) She cited Palmer v. Thompson as an example to show how closing down all pools to remedy racially segregated swimming pools serves to perpetuate and reinforce, rather than abolish, racial inequality. On top of leaving inequality intact, she argued, leveling down will also discourage legal actions for justice and compromise citizens’ ability to “act as private attorney generals to help enforce the public laws of gender equality.” (P. 201.)

In her arguments against leveling down as a meaningful remedy for plaintiffs, Thomas invoked Ginsburg’s own judicial record to demonstrate how Justice Ginsburg has deviated from her professional past. In United States v. Virginia, Ginsburg made clear that the plaintiff’s rightful position was the targeted goal of equal protection remedy, which demanded to eliminate both the ongoing discrimination and the discriminatory effects of the past. Writing for the majority, Ginsburg rejected the defendant’s choice of remedy to provide a separate military education for women, and emphasized that the key question for the Court was the plaintiff’s denied benefit. Again, should Ginsburg have done what Ginsburg did in Virginia, an extension would have been the remedy for Morales-Santana. Besides, Ginsburg’s decision does not survive the test of valuing equitable concerns relevant to overcoming leveling up (cost or economic impact, harms to third parties, and broader national policy concerns). The legislative history of intent to discriminate against Mexican and Asian people should have been taken into account.***

At the end of the article, Thomas delivered her final blow to the case and concluded that “such a case does not leave a promising legacy for gender equality jurisprudence, but instead takes one giant constitutional step backwards.” (P. 218.) 

November 18, 2019 in Constitutional, Family, Gender, Scholarship, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

New Laws Aim at Closing the Gender Gap by Prohibiting Questions About Salary History

NYT, Don't Ask Me About My Salary History

Massachusetts became the first state to ban employers from posing this question to job candidates back in 2016. Since then, 17 other states and as many local jurisdictions have passed versions of the ban, including New Jersey, whose law will go into effect in January; Illinois, which took effect last month; and Kansas City, Mo., where a ban will go into effect next week.

Why does this matter?

The new laws are designed to protect job seekers — like former me — from receiving starting salaries that are tied to low past salaries. This is mostly aimed at women, and many of the bills directly address equal pay and the gender wage gap. The idea is that if a woman is paid less from the get-go, and then limited by her past salary at each subsequent job, it may be impossible for her to catch up.

“This bill provides a means of narrowing the wage gap by making it less likely for employers to unintentionally perpetuate the gap by basing salary offers for new hires on their previous salary,” New Jersey Assemblywoman Joann Downey said of her state’s bill, which she sponsored. She added that the practice had a disproportionate effect on women.

Is the ban active in my state?

HR Dive, a human resources news and analysis site, keeps a list of state and local governments that have salary history bans on the docket. (You can check the status of your state or locality here.) Salary.com also has a list of state and local bans.

Some states have passed bans that won’t go into effect until 2020 or later. For example, Colorado signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act into law earlier this year, but it won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2021.

Each bill is also a little different. While Alabama’s law doesn’t ban the question outright, it does prohibit employers from refusing to “interview, hire, promote, or employ” any job applicant who declines to answer. In California, not only is the question banned, but employers are also required to answer if an applicant asks about a pay range. Other versions may ban not only employers’ questions about compensation history but also those about benefits like a 401(k).

November 6, 2019 in Equal Employment, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

At the Intersection of Disability and Reproductive Rights

Samuel Bagenstos, Disability and Reproductive Justice, Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 14, 2020, Forthcoming

Since at least the 1960s, public debate over abortion rights has frequently turned to issues of disability. Those who argue for liberalization of abortion laws have often been successful by raising the specter of fetal disability — whether caused by Thalidomide, or rubella, or otherwise. Those who agitate for restricting or banning abortion, by contrast, have often argued that pro-choice advocates devalue the lives of people with disabilities.

In the spring of 2019, disability and abortion rights collided at the Supreme Court. Indiana had adopted a law “barring the knowing provision of sex-, race-, or disability-selective abortions by abortion providers.” The Seventh Circuit invalidated that law. In Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, the Supreme Court denied certiorari (though it summarily reversed the Seventh Circuit’s invalidation of a separate Indiana law regulating the disposal of fetal remains). Justice Thomas concurred in the denial of certiorari, but he filed a lengthy separate opinion arguing that the ban on selective abortions was constitutional. He argued that “this law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”

Just a few months earlier, disability and reproductive rights issues had intersected in a very different way in the debate over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Disability rights advocates drew attention to an opinion then-Judge Kavanaugh had written in a case in which individuals with developmental disabilities challenged a District of Columbia policy that denied them the right to make decisions about their medical care. The case was Doe ex rel. Tarlow v. District of Columbia. The D.C. Circuit reversed a district court decision enjoining that policy. Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion did not say anything specifically about reproductive rights. He treated the case entirely as one about the (lack of a) right of incompetent persons to consent to medical treatment. But the case itself was very much a reproductive rights case. Two of the three plaintiffs had been forced to have abortions without their consent; they sued precisely to challenge the policy that had taken away their power to choose. Although Kavanaugh had a reputation as a strong “pro-life” judge, here he voted to uphold government decisions to require individuals with intellectual disabilities to have abortions. Debate over disability and reproductive rights has typically focused on the issues raised by Justice Thomas’s opinion in Box — whether fetal disability is an acceptable reason for terminating a pregnancy, and what the law should do about it. Those are important questions. But any full assessment of the intersection between disability and reproductive rights must also address the issues raised by then-Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in Doe. Disabled people are frequently denied their own rights to conceive, bear, and parent children, whether through forced sterilization or abortion, the denial of assisted reproduction, or the denial of parental rights once their children are born. Some of these practices — notably forced sterilization — are emblematic of the Eugenics Era. But they are not at all confined to the past. Indeed, the practices that prevent people with disabilities from having and raising children — practices like the law Kavanaugh upheld in Doe — are in many ways the disability analogues of the race-based eugenic practices that Justice Thomas himself decried in his Box opinion.

This essay offers a fuller consideration of the intersection of disability and reproductive rights. It does so by considering the legal and societal treatment of fetuses and children with disabilities alongside the legal and societal treatment of parents with disabilities. And it does so by bringing to bear insights drawn from two distinct social movements: the disability rights movement, and the reproductive justice movement. The piece argues that, taken together, the disability rights and reproductive justice perspectives offer substantial purchase on the questions raised by Justice Thomas in his Box concurrence. Those perspectives suggest that the questions are serious indeed but that Thomas gave the wrong answer to them. They also suggest that any effort to address the intersection of disability and reproductive rights needs to address the questions raised by then-Judge Kavanaugh’s Doe opinion — and that Kavanaugh, too, gave the wrong answer.

November 5, 2019 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book: Gender, Power, Law & Leadership

      Hannah Brenner & Renee Knake, Gender, Power, Law & Leadership (West. 2019) (1st edition)

Women enter the professions in numbers equal to men but comprise only a fraction of leadership roles in politics, the judiciary, law firms, the corporate world, higher education and beyond. Women of color fare even worse. Written in direct response to this glaring inequality, Gender, Power, Law & Leadership offers a new, innovative approach to address and remedy enduring gender disparities.

Essential reading for anyone aspiring to a leadership role, the book exposes readers to intersections of gender, race, class, power and law through both historical and contemporary works. It also explores post-feminism discrimination ignored by the modern legal system, including the glass cliff, shortlisting, emotional taxation, admin burdens, work wife syndrome, gender sidelining, imposter syndrome and other gender-based barriers.

The book is designed for a semester-long course in law school and higher education classrooms. Each of the nine chapters weaves together excerpts of cases and articles designed to facilitate discussion based upon carefully crafted thought questions. Narratives about transformative women leaders appear throughout to educate, inspire, and mentor students. The conclusion offers concrete guidance for readers to apply in their educational and professional lives as they pursue leadership paths, and proposes reforms to create a world of leaders who reflect the public they serve.

Imprint: West Academic Publishing
Series: American Casebook Series
Publication Date: 10/28/2019

November 5, 2019 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Retaliation in the #MeToo Era

Nicole Porter, Relationships and Retaliation in the #MeToo Era, Florida Law Review  (forthcoming)

In this #MeToo era, so much important work is being done (and so many stories are being told and listened to) but very little of the work focuses on retaliation. And none of it focuses on situations where the fear of retaliation is not necessarily job loss (although that certainly happens) but rather, is the fear of harming workplace relationships. This article will use a real-life story of harassment to demonstrate how much workplace relationships matter (especially to women) and how the fear of harming those relationships often affects an employee’s willingness to report harassment. Thus, this article argues for reforms surrounding harassment and retaliation law that recognize this reality. Right now, courts penalize victims of harassment for not reporting harassment soon enough because they feared harming their workplace relationships; or, when they do report, courts penalize them by holding that the relationship-based harm they experienced after reporting wasn’t a real harm worthy of a remedy. The reasoning of these courts is that reasonable employees would not and should not be deterred from reporting harassment because they fear relationship-based harms. And yet, most of the empirical evidence tells us that the opposite is true—that reasonable employees (sometimes men, but especially women) often do avoid reporting because of fear of harming their relationships in the workplace. The law should reflect this reality.

November 5, 2019 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Elusive Goal of Gender Equity in Law School Enrollment

Deborah Jones Merritt & Kyle P. McEntee, Gender Equity in Law School Enrollment: An Elusive Goal, Journal of Legal Education (forthcoming)

Women finally make up more than half of law students nationwide, but that milestone masks significant gender inequities in law school enrollment. Women constitute an even larger percentage of the potential applicant pool: for almost two decades, they have earned more than 57% of all college degrees. As we show in this article, women are less likely than men to apply to law school — or to be admitted if they do apply. Equally troubling, women attend less prestigious law schools than men. The law schools that open the most employment doors for their graduates enroll significantly fewer women than schools with worse job outcomes and weaker access to the legal profession.

We explore here the factors that may contribute to this ongoing gender gap in law school attendance. We also propose several strategies for closing the gap. Enrollment equity alone will not put women on an equal footing with men; a sizable literature probes gender biases that pervade the law school environment. Recognizing and addressing the enrollment gap in legal education, however, is an essential first step toward improving the representation of women throughout the legal profession.

November 1, 2019 in Education, Gender, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Pink Tax: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer

The Pink Tax: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer

The pink tax refers to the extra amount women are charged for certain products or services. Things like dry cleaning, personal care products, and vehicle maintenance. So not only do women make less but they pay more. Women also live longer so they actually need more money for retirement. It’s a load of crap. 

There has been a lot of research on the pink tax that found that overall, women were paying more than men 42% of the time. How much more?  About $1,351 more a year in extra costs. Yup – that’s $1,351 that can’t go into her retirement fund. ***

 

Did you know, tampons and pads are charged sales tax because they are considered “luxury” items. Periods are certainly not a luxury and I’m sure every woman on the planet would agree.***

 

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study comparing the prices of over 800 products. The goal of the study was to estimate the price differences male and female shoppers face when buying the same types of items.

The results: Products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.

  • 7% more for toys and accessories
  • 4% more for children’s clothing
  • 8% more for adult clothing
  • 13% more for personal care products
  • 8% more for senior/home health care products

WBUR, Here and Now, Is Sales Tax on Tampons and Pad Unconstitutional?

Menstrual products like tampons and pads are subject to sales tax in 34 states.

On average, women and people who menstruate spend an estimated $150 million a year just on the sales tax for these items. One in four women struggle to afford period products, according to the nonprofit PERIOD.

Now, there’s a push to outlaw the so-called “tampon tax” across the country.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an activist and co-founder of Period Equity, says she got together with a group of lawyers to make the case that taxing menstrual products is “sex-based discrimination and therefore unconstitutional and therefore illegal.”

“It's not really just a matter now of asking legislators to do the right thing,” she says, “but it's bringing the force of the law to let them know that they must cease this practice.”

In June, California put a pause on the taxation of menstrual products — but only for a two-year period. But Weiss-Wolf is arguing for a permanent solution by mobilizing to get all 50 states to permanently end sales tax on menstrual products.

 

November 1, 2019 in Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Study Finds Corporate Boards with All-Male Directors Suffer More Negative Stock Price Reactions from MeToo Claims than Those with Three or More Women Directors

Mary Brooke Billings, April Klein & Crystal Shi, Investors’ Response to the #MeToo Movement: Does Corporate Culture Matter? 

This paper provides evidence that the #MeToo movement revised investors’ beliefs about the cost of fostering a culture that excludes women, as reflected by the absence of women directors in the board room. In particular, we document an overall negative market reaction tracking the timeline of events associated with the #MeToo movement, beginning with the Harvey Weinstein exposé in October of 2017 in the New York Times. This negative response concentrates in firms that have traditionally excluded women from their boards. In contrast, for companies that embrace the inclusion of women on their boards, this negative effect is moderated. Overall, investors appear to have revised their beliefs about the risks associated with future revelations of misconduct, and also about the value of having women in the board room shaping the culture of the firm.

Excerpt:

Consistent with the view that the potential revelation of sexual misconduct in the workplace injects risk into publicly listed firms, we report an overall average cumulative abnormal return of -4.57%. We also note that 24 of the 37 days recorded significantly negative abnormal returns across all firms and, in fact, we detect significantly negative abnormal returns for each of the final 11 events on the #MeToo event timeline. This supports the notion that as the movement gained momentum, investors revised their beliefs about the potential impact of the movement.


This overall negative reaction to the #MeToo movement is borne out by subsequent responses by firms and Wall Street in general. Over 200 male executives were dismissed or demoted following allegations of sexual misconduct, with many of these men being replaced by women executives (Bach 2018, Carlsen et al. 2018). Attorneys have added “Weinstein Clauses”
and “#MeToo representations” into merger documents, which require target firms to be held financially responsible via “clawback” provisions for revelations of sexual misconduct after the deal is closed (Ahmed 2018, Reints 2018).


Cross-sectionally, we expect variations in market reactions to unfolding #MeToo events to be directly related to the market’s assessment of (1) how likely a firm is to have a past or future allegation of sexual misconduct revealed and (2) how well a firm is equipped to deal with these revelations. We predict and find evidence that variations in abnormal market returns are related to the gender composition of a corporation’s board of directors. Specifically, firms with boards made up exclusively of male directors suffer more negative stock price reactions, while firms with boards that include three or more women experience moderated stock price reactions.

November 1, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)