Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

New Research Shows Bringing Up Past Injustices Against Women Alienates Men, Making Reform More Difficult

Ivona Hideg & Anne Wilson, Research: Bringing up Past Injustices Make Majority Groups Defensive, Harvard Bus. Rev. 

Many organizations and institutions reference past injustices with the intention of making people more sensitive to how historic systems of oppression contribute to present-day inequalities. By drawing on social identity theory, however, we speculated that excessive focus on historical injustices can actually backfire by causing key groups to deny current discrimination and withdraw support for ongoing remediation programs.

 

Social identity theory posits that people derive some of their sense of identity and self-worth from their group memberships (including gender, race, religion, politics, or even sports teams), and are highly motivated to maintain and protect a positive image of their social groups. Just as an individual’s self-image can be shaken by reflecting on their own misdeeds, threats to social identity may arise when contemplating past misconduct by their group. This threat can lead to defensive behavior that diminishes or deflects perceived criticisms. As the historically-advantaged group, social identity theory predicts men will react defensively when presented with evidence of past injustices suffered by women, the disadvantaged group.

 

We tested these ideas through our recent research.***

 

These converging results suggest invoking past discrimination can threaten men’s social identity and undermine their perceptions of current levels of discrimination, consequently lowering their support for policies meant to ameliorate this situation.

 

What might be done to mitigate these negative effects? Must we sidestep these discussions of current groups’ shameful history, sacrificing its capacity to enrich our understanding for fear of triggering defensive backlash? Rather than simply avoiding discussions of the past, we reason that historically-advantaged groups (men, in these studies) might be more open to information about past injustices if there was a way to lessen the threat to their social identity.***

 

This work has important implications for policy-makers and organizations seeking to implement diversity and equity policies. Despite the intuitive appeal of using past injustices to bolster the case for such initiatives, this approach can undermine progress by threatening the social identity of key participants. As the efficacy of diversity and equity programs depends on establishing broad-based support, getting both men and women to view these policies positively should be considered an important pre-condition for success.

February 19, 2020 in Business, Gender, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Third Circuit Upholds Philadelphia Ban on Employers Asking About Salary History Against First Amendment Challenge

Appeals Court Sides with Philly on Salary History Ban

In a decision that could have national implications for the wage equity movement, a federal appeals court Thursday sided with the city of Philadelphia, saying it can ban employers from asking job applicants their salary history.

 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit partly reversed a 2018 lower court decision that said the city could not ban employers from asking about salary history, but could ban them from relying on it to set wages. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sued the city after the law was passed in 2017, claiming it violated the commercial-speech rights of employers.***

 

The 67-page unanimous opinion, representing the three-judge panel, was written by Judge Theodore McKee, who wrote that while the provision does limit employers’ speech, it is “only because that limitation prevents the tentacles of any past wage discrimination from attaching to an employee’s subsequent salary.”***

 

Philadelphia was the first city in the country to pass such a ban, following a statewide ban in Massachusetts. More than a dozen states and municipalities followed suit, including New Jersey.

 

February 6, 2020 in Business, Equal Employment, Legislation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Studying Women's Beliefs as to Whether STEM Leaders Think Women are Bad at Doing Science

Andrew Dustan, Kristine Koutout & Greg Leo, Beliefs About Beliefs About Gender

Do women believe that leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields believe that women are bad at doing science? Such beliefs about beliefs—second order beliefs—could drive women to sort out of STEM fields, leading to the observed gender gap in employment (Beede et al., 2011). Importantly, this belief-driven sorting could occur regardless of leaders’ true beliefs about women’s scientific abilities. When historically persistent beliefs about the differences between men and women—first-order beliefs—cause disparities, they may generate second-order beliefs that perpetuate those disparities even once first-order beliefs change. To facilitate investigating questions of this nature, we develop an incentive-compatible
experimental framework for measuring first- and second-order beliefs about the difference in any quantifiable characteristic between any two populations. We implement this procedure in a lab experiment to elicit beliefs about men’s and women’s performance on a timed math task and choices in an abstract bargaining task.

We find an interesting contrast between first- and second-order beliefs. There is no evidence that men’s and women’s first-order beliefs differ; however, both men and women believe that such differences exist. While a large majority of people believe that most men believe men outscore women on the math task, the majority also believe that most women do not share this belief. In the bargaining task, we again find that people believe that men and women hold different first-order beliefs even though we observe no such differences in the data. In summary, even when men and women have similar first-order
beliefs, second-order beliefs about men and women can vary substantially.

January 29, 2020 in Business, Gender, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Challenging the Idea that Non-Compete Agreements Exacerbate the Innovation Gender Gap

Amy Madi & Lisa Ouellette, "Policy Experiments to Address Gender Inequality Among Innovators" 
Houston Law Review, Forthcoming

In her Frankel Lecture, Professor Orly Lobel has set forth an intriguing hypothesis: that non-compete agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and other legal restrictions on employee exit and voice exacerbate the innovation gender gap. The unequal participation of women in science, technology, and innovation is an issue of increasing concern for many public- and private-sector stakeholders, and those interested in increasing innovation by women would be well advised to consider Lobel’s ideas. But as we emphasize in this Commentary, the underlying causal mechanisms for inequalities among innovators remain highly contested, and policymakers should not overstate the existing evidence for potential interventions out of a desire for rapid progress. Nor should they use this lack of evidence as an excuse for inaction. Rather, we argue that institutions interested in this issue should look for opportunities to rigorously and transparently test the most promising interventions.

January 17, 2020 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Use of Agency Law for Married Women's Business Rights in Historic Nantucket

Mary L. Heen, Agency: Married Women Traders of Nantucket, 1765-1865, 21 Georgetown J. Gender & Law (2019)  


Before the enactment of separate property and contract rights for married women, generations of married women in seaport cities and towns conducted business as merchants, traders and shopkeepers. The first part of this article shows how private law facilitated their business activities through traditional agency law, the use of powers of attorney, trade accounts and family business networks. These arrangements, largely hidden from public view in family papers, letters, and diaries, permitted married women to enter into contracts, to buy and sell property, and to appear in court. Private law, like equity, thus provided a more flexible alternative to the common law of coverture under agreements made within the family itself. On the other hand, public law proved much more restrictive for wives who were not part of a viable or harmonious marriage. In post-revolutionary Massachusetts, for example, the feme sole trader statute and various judicially adopted exceptions to coverture applied only to certain wives abandoned by their husbands.

The second part of the article provides a case study of three generations of married women traders from Nantucket during the whaling era, the oil exploration business of its time. Their stories show how some married women, within the constraints of the law as it developed in Massachusetts without courts of equity, attained a form of autonomy in business or commercial activity at the same time that they fulfilled their family responsibilities. Their stories also uncover tensions underlying the first wave of women’s rights reform efforts in the mid-nineteenth century, including the developing separation between work and home that continues to pose challenges for family law and for men and women today. In a broader sense, this historical study also illuminates the interaction among private law, public law, and evolving social practice as the law both reinforced and shaped family roles during a period of increased commercialization and industrialization.

January 13, 2020 in Business, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Improving Gender Diversity in Corporate Boards with Term Limits

Board Diversity by Term Limits?

Gender diversity in the U.S. corporate world is shockingly low. As The New York Times reported, fewer women run large corporations than CEOs named John. Boardrooms also lack diversity. While 86% of directors participating in PwC’s annual director survey stated they felt that women should comprise between 21% and 50% of the board, only 28% of Russell 3000 boards have more than one-fifth of their board comprised of women. Some U.S. boards do not even try to include women: 76 of the largest 1,500 Russell 3000 companies have not had any female directors in the past decade.

The investor community has made board diversity a recent point of emphasis. State Street, Vanguard, and Blackrock have all voiced their commitment to gender diversity, followed by recent support from proxy advisors. California has ventured even further, passing legislation that mandates specific quotas for women on Californian corporations. New Jersey and Illinois may soon follow suit. Diversity mandates, however, confront substantial legal, economic and societal challenges.

What if companies could advance gender diversity without explicitly regulating diversity at all? Our recent article, Board Diversity by Term Limits? forthcoming in the Alabama Law Review, explores how the use of director term limits can promote gender diversity in boardrooms, avoiding quota controversies altogether. While term limits have often been invoked as a tool to improve director independence and board oversight, they may be also effective in improving diversity. We demonstrate the negative correlation between incumbency and diversity to support our findings. Director turnover in the U.S. remains very low. Firms hesitate to force out incumbents, who typically believe they contribute to the firm in unique and essential ways. Furthermore, although perhaps not averse to the idea of hiring a woman, these leaders will eventually search among potential replacements for people whose skills mirror their own. The cycle self-perpetuates, locking women out of opportunities.

Our article explores this aforementioned connection between term limits and board diversity. Drawing upon quantitative data on director turnover in the S&P 1500 and qualitative data on S&P 500 firms with term limits, our research shows that firms experiencing higher board turnover have more gender diversity. A regression analysis of the S&P 1500 companies over the 2010-2016 period shown in Table 1 below depicts how a decrease in average board tenure correlates significantly with an increase in gender diversity. Conversely, a one-year increase in average board tenure results in a 0.24 percentage point decrease in female board percentage.

December 13, 2019 in Business, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Friday, November 1, 2019

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)

Friday, September 13, 2019

New IL Law Bars Employers from Asking Job Applicants about Pay History

New Law Will Bar Illinois Employers From Asking Job Applicants for Pay History (July 31, 2019)

Illinois companies will no longer be allowed to ask job applicants or their previous employers about salary history under a measure Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Wednesday.

 

Advocates say asking applicants about their salaries at previous jobs helps perpetuate a wage gap between men and women doing the same jobs. Illinois lawmakers passed two previous versions of the legislation, but Pritzker’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, vetoed both. ***

 

The measure Pritzker signed, which takes effect in 60 days, passed with bipartisan support this spring in the House and Senate. Workers will be able to seek up to $10,000 in damages if employers violate the law, and it also protects the right of employees to discuss their salaries and benefits with co-workers.

September 13, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Excluding Gender from Credit Application Automated Calculus Increases Credit Rejection for Women

Stephanie Kelley & Anton Ovchinnikov, "(Anti-Discrimination) Laws, AI and Gender Bias" 

We use state-of-the-art machine learning models trained on publicly available data to show that the data governance practices imposed by the existing anti-discrimination laws, when applied to automated algorithmic (“AI”) decision-making systems, can lead to significantly less favourable outcomes for the minority classes they are supposed to protect. Our study is set in the domain of non-mortgage credit provision, where the US and the EU laws prohibit the use of Gender variables in training credit scoring models; the US law further prohibits the collection of Gender data. We show that excluding Gender as a predictor has little impact on the model accuracy and on outcomes for males (the majority) but leads to a 30-50% increase in credit rejection rates for females (the minority). We further show that rebalancing the data with respect to Gender, prior to training models can significantly reduce the negative impact on females, without harming males, even when Gender is excluded from the credit scoring models. Taken together, our findings provide insight on the value of transparency and accountability, as opposed to prohibition for ethically managing data and AI systems, as societies and legal systems adapt to the fast advances in automated, AI-driven, decision making. Additionally, we hope that performing the analyses in a verifiable, open-access way, as we did, will facilitate future inquiries from other researchers and interested public into this critically-important societal issue.

September 9, 2019 in Business, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Overhauling Employment Practices in the Wake of MeToo

Kerri Lynn Stone, Competing Interests and Best Practices in the Wake of #MeToo, JOTWELL

Reviewing Rachel Arnow-Richman, Of Power and Process: Handling Harassers in an At-Will World, 128 Yale L.J. Forum 85 (2018).
 

One of my favorite pieces published in labor and employment law this year is Rachel Arnow-Richman’s Of Power and Process: Handling Harassers in an At-Will World, which is a not-to-be-missed call for an overhaul of the contracting practices deployed by employers, one designed to shift the calculus that employers use to police sexual harassers of various corporate ranks. This piece examines a rarely thought-about angle of the #Metoo movement and the changes that it has precipitated and is yet to still effect. Professor Arnow-Richman, a scholar in employment law and in contract law, exposes this angle thoughtfully and sets forth a laudable proposal.

Professor Arnow-Richman’s starting point is, appropriately, as she puts it, the “extreme power imbalance in the workplace” that engenders “a world in which high-level decision-makers wield unrestricted control over employees,” while the entity can turn a blind eye to the way in which this unfettered discretion may be abused. (P. 90.) Lower-level employees are not accorded such latitude, and they are typically expeditiously disciplined or otherwise dealt with in the face of their inappropriate behavior. The #MeToo Movement, Professor Arnow-Richman correctly points out, was the force that kicked up a lot of the dust that enabled us to see just how uneven this landscape has been. Specifically, she argues that as society begins to grapple with balancing aggressive policing of workplace harassment with ensuring that accused harassers are accorded fair treatment (rather than summary and automatic dismissal), it needs to address inequities among workers at different ranks in the workplace. Moreover, she notes, misconceived corporate responses have companies punishing sexualized actions, rather than policing sex-based harassment that is not sexual in nature. Having astutely pointed out that “employers are inclined to tolerate sexual harassment and other misconduct by top-level employees but aggressively police ‘inappropriate’ behavior by the rank-and-file” (P. 85), Professor Arnow-Richman then sets out to address this problem.

This piece is both important and timely

 

September 9, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Lawsuit Challenges California's Board Gender Diversity Law as Presumptively Invalid under Equal Protection

Cydney Posner, A First Challenge to California's Board Gender Diversity Law

It was only a matter of time. As reported here on Bloomberg, a conservative activist group has filed a lawsuit,Crest v. Alex Padilla, in California state court on behalf of three California taxpayers seeking to prevent implementation and enforcement of SB 826, California’s Board gender diversity legislation. This appears to be the first litigation filed to challenge the new law. Framed as a “taxpayer suit,” the litigation seeks to enjoin Alex Padilla, the California Secretary of State, from expending taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources to enforce or implement the law, alleging that the law’s mandate is an unconstitutional gender-based quota and violates the California constitution. Even proponents of the law recognized the possibility of legal challenges. ***

 

In the complaint, the plaintiffs contend that the law’s requirement for female representation on corporate boards “employs express gender classifications. As a result, SB 826 is immediately suspect and presumptively invalid” under the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution and subject to “strict scrutiny” in the California courts. The complaint requests entry of a judgment declaring any expenditures of taxpayer funds to implement or enforce SB 826 to be illegal and issuance of an injunction permanently prohibiting the Secretary from expending taxpayer funds to enforce or implement the provisions of the legislation.

 

h/t Stefan Padfield

Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of California Law Mandating Women on Public Company Boards

Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group, has filed the first lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 826 (SB 826), California’s mandatory board diversity law requiring women on public company boards of directors. The lawsuit was filed against the California Secretary of State on behalf of three California taxpayers on August 6, 2019, in the Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks a judgment that any expenditure of taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources to enforce or carry out the provisions of SB 826 is illegal.

 

Plaintiffs argue that the gender classifications used in SB 826 can only be justified by a compelling government interest, which the Secretary of State has failed to establish. The lawsuit cites then-Governor Jerry Brown’s words in his signing message acknowledging that SB 826 has “potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation” and that “serious legal concerns have been raised” to the legislation. The complaint is available here.

For my thoughts and analysis on the permissibility of gender quotas, including corporate boards, see Tracy Thomas, Making the Case for Gender Quotas, discussing my article, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. L. & Gender (online) (Nov. 2017).

September 5, 2019 in Business, Constitutional, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

New Study Shows Men have Responded to MeToo by Avoiding Women in the Workplace

Workplace Study Finds Men Have Responded to MeToo by Being Even Shittier

Instead of using MeToo as a learning opportunity to become more aware of the harassment most women generally face in the world at large and in the workplace specifically, a new study has found that many men have decided to go the opposite route and simply avoid women in the workplace full-stop.

 

The study out of the University of Houston was conducted across a range of industries and surveyed both men and women in 2018 at the height of MeToo and then again in early 2019 after the conversation had died down a bit.

 

The 2019 survey found that 27 percent of men surveyed have gone the Mike Pence route and now avoid one-on-one meetings with woman co-workers, 21 percent said they would now be more reluctant to hire women for roles that require close interaction, and 19 percent are reluctant to hire an “attractive” woman. Those numbers are up from 2018 when only 15 percent of men admitted to discriminating against women they wanted to bone.

 

And while many men said they were more likely to be sexist following reports of sexism because they can no longer tell which behaviors are making co-workers uncomfortable, the study also found that men and women pretty much agree on what constitutes harassment.

September 3, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Study Shows Women and Men are Treated Differently at Work

Harvard Business Review, A Study Used Sensors to Show that Men and Women are Treated Differently at Work

Gender equality remains frustratingly elusive. Women are underrepresented in the C-suitereceive lower salaries, and are less likely to receive a critical first promotion to manager than men. Numerous causes have been suggested, but one argument that persists points to differences in men and women’s behavior.

 

Which raises the question: Do women and men act all that differently? We realized that there’s little to no concrete data on women’s behavior in the office. Previous work has relied on surveys and self-reported assessments — methods of data collecting that are prone to bias. Fortunately, the proliferation of digital communication data and the advancement of sensor technology have enabled us to more precisely measure workplace behavior.

 

We decided to investigate whether gender differences in behavior drive gender differences in outcomes at one of our client organizations, a large multinational firm, where women were underrepresented in upper management. In this company, women made up roughly 35%–40% of the entry-level workforce but a smaller percentage at each subsequent level. Women made up only 20% of people at the two highest seniority levels at this organization.***

 

But as we analyzed our data, we found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership, and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role. We couldn’t see the types of projects they were working on, but we found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.

 

The hypothesis that women lacked access to seniority, in particular, had little support. In email, meeting, and face-to-face data, we found that both men and women were roughly two steps, or social connections, away from senior management (so if John knows Kate and Kate knows a manager, John is two steps from a manager).

 

Some have argued that women lack access to important, informal networks because they don’t reach out to or spend time with “the boys club.” But this didn’t hold up in our data. We found that the amount of direct interaction with management was identical between genders and that women were just as central as men in the workplace’s social network.

 

Our analysis suggests that the difference in promotion rates between men and women in this company was due not to their behavior but to how they were treatedThis indicates that arguments about changing women’s behavior — to “lean-in,” for example — might miss the bigger picture: Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behavior.

July 17, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

In Favor of the New Corporate Gender Quotas in California

Darren Rosenblum, California Dreaming? 99 B.U.L.Rev 1435 (2019)

Over the past few years, California became the setting for shocking tales of sex inequality and abuse in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Decades after women achieved educational parity, men still run the corporate world. In response to these stories exposed by the #MeToo movement, California joined the transnational corporate board quota movement by converting its voluntary quota into a hard one. Will California’s first-mover status overcome constitutional objections and inspire other jurisdictions to act. Or is just utopian dreaming, California-style? This Essay argues that despite its many flaws, the quota may succeed in curbing male over-representation on corporate boards. After contextualizes the quota within the transnational corporate board quota movement, it rejects the U.S. reaction that emphasizes the private sector’s dominion over equality remedies. Despite the U.S. resistance to quotas, comparative experience reveals both that the private sector manages how quota implementation occurs. The Essay concludes that some public intervention — in concert with private efforts — remains necessary.

June 20, 2019 in Business, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Understanding Equal Pay Day and the Related Laws

Today is Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women's earnings finally catch up to men's earnings from the previous year. It takes a few extra months because of the 23 percent gender wage gap that women typically face. However, this is not the day for every woman, as the wage gap varies by race and ethnicity.

Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity  (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages.

The Equal Pay Act bars wage differences between male and female employees for comparable work—except in cases of seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or “any other factor other than sex.” 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provides "that pay discrimination claims on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability 'accrue' whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck, as well as when a discriminatory pay decision or practice is adopted, when a person becomes subject to the decision or practice, or when a person is otherwise affected by the decision or practice."

Most states also have equal pay acts.

US Dep't of Labor, Equal Pay:  

When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy in 1963, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. While women hold nearly half of today's jobs, and their earnings account for a significant portion of the household income that sustains the financial well-being of their families, they are still experiencing a gap in pay compared to men's wages for similar work. Today, women earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men — a gap that results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages. For African-American women and Latinas, the pay gap is even greater.

Women's demand for equal pay goes back to the beginning of the women's rights movements.  Part of the Declaration of Sentiments of women's rights proclaimed at Seneca Falls in 1848 criticized the "scant remuneration" women were paid and demanded equality.  "Equal pay for equal work" was a mantra of the 1894 women's rights convention, continuing the longstanding demand for equal opportunity and equal pay.

Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (en banc) held in Rizo v. Yovino that the use of salary histories violates the equal pay act.

A dated, but still important article: Sara Zeigler, Litigating Equality: The Limits of the Equal Pay Act

This article assesses the effectiveness of legal remedies available under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) in closing the gender gap in pay. Although employers frequently attribute women’s lesser pay to lags in seniority and the life choices made by women, the evidence suggests that the narrow language of the EPA, its omission of the more subtle forms of sex discrimination, and the powerful disincentives for most women to pursue claims under the act have rendered it largely ineffective in curtailing sex discrimination in compensation. Through an examination of recent developments in the area of pay equality, the article demonstrates that the act, as enforced, has produced neither equality nor equity. Arguing that the reality of sex discrimination in pay shapes life choices (rather than the reverse), the article identifies the obstacles to closing the pay gap and strategies for more effective enforcement.

The proposed Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to address some of these limitations.

See Battle to Improve Equal Pay Act Enters its 22nd Year

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D–Conn.) has introduced the bill in every Congress since 1997. But that’s not to say the bill is without momentum; the House voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act for the first time in eight years last week—and passed it by its highest vote total ever.

When DeLauro first proposed the legislation, its stated purpose was to “revise and increase remedies and enforcement on behalf of victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex.” In essence, giving sharper teeth to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that was supposed to enshrine the concept of ‘equal pay for equal work’ in the law.

In the intervening two decades, the bill’s language hasn’t changed dramatically because the problem it targets—the reality of women’s unequal pay for equal work—remains. The gender pay gap was 26% in 1997; it now hovers in the 20% range, according to Census data.

April 2, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Model Rule 8.4 and Ethical Implications of Sexual Harassment for Lawyers

Ashley Badesch, Lady Justice: The Ethical Considerations and Impacts of Gender Bias and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession on Equal Access to Justice for Women, 31 Georgetown J. Law & Ethics 497 (2018) [Westlaw link only]

Over twenty-five years ago, the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a recommendation resolving to take action on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and legal profession. The report, compiled by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, was released in the wake of Anita Hill's testimony during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. These hearings sparked public debate about sexual harassment as a “matter of national concern” for the first time. Failed attempts to adopt an anti-bias amendment to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct punctuated the following two decades of limited progress in reducing issues of gender bias and sexual harassment. Then in August of 2016 advocates for efforts to increase inclusivity and prevent bias and discrimination in the practice of law toward women, minorities, and other groups garnered long-awaited progress with the American Bar Association's August 2016 adoption of Model Rule 8.4(g).
 
Model Rule 8.4(g) makes it professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.” Comment [3] expounds upon *498 the meaning of discrimination and harassment within the rule, indicating that “discrimination includes harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice towards others,” while “harassment includes sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical conduct ... [such as] unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” The rule's comments point to substantive discrimination and harassment law as a guide for applying Rule 8.4(g) in the disciplinary context.
 
States are currently considering whether to adopt 8.4(g) against a backdrop of unprecedented national media attention on sexual harassment in the workplace. In October of 2017, the New York Times broke an explosive story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,igniting the viral “#MeToo” hashtag that took social media by storm. The ensuing flood of accusations against famous and powerful men across industries has brought the issue of sexual harassment under greater national scrutiny than ever before. Initial skepticism as to the significance and staying power of the “#MeToo moment” has been answered with a daily news cycle in which prominent figures are losing their careers and credibility within the media, entertainment industry, and political world as a result of allegations of misconduct. Whether this becomes a true watershed moment in our culture depends upon how the shifting understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and how it should be addressed becomes codified into workplace codes of conduct, corporate governance, and the law.
 

April 2, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Employment Law and Practices

Elizabeth C. Tippett, The Legal Implications of the #MeToo Movement, 103 Minnesota L. Rev. 229 (2018)

This Article examines the implications of the MeToo movement for employment law and employment practices. Employers are likely to face increased liability for harassment, as courts eventually update their standards for what qualifies as “severe or pervasive” harassment, and demand more of employers seeking to establish the Faragher/Ellerth defense. Employers also face greater risks of public scandals, as employees speak out and state legislatures limit the enforceability of non-disclosure agreements.

 

Consequently, employers can be expected to take a more punitive approach to documented instances of harassment. This will not only include termination, but also meaningful intermediate forms of discipline like a demotion or the removal of supervisory responsibilities. To limit their potential liability associated with these more punitive measures, employers are likely to modify standard language in executive employment agreements and privacy policies.

 

Lastly, the Article explores how standard harassment policies may have contributed to the problems exposed by the MeToo movement. The Article advocates for transparent harassment policies that disclose the contextual factors that influence disciplinary decisions. Employers should also draft broader discrimination policies that treat discriminatory and harassing comments by supervisors as a breach of trust. These changes would harmonize employer policies with their underlying litigation risks, and better convey employer expectations in the MeToo era.”

April 2, 2019 in Business, Courts, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Using AI to Overcome Implicit Gender Bias in Employment Decision-Making in the Tech Industry

Kimberly Houser, Can AI Solve the Diversity Problem in the Tech Industry? Mitigating Noise and Bias in Employment Decision-Making, 22 Stanford Tech. L. Rev. (forthcoming)

After the first diversity report was issued in 2014 revealing the dearth of women in the tech industry, companies rushed to hire consultants to provide unconscious bias training to their employees. Unfortunately, recent diversity reports show no significant improvement, and, in fact, women lost ground during some of the years. According to a 2016 Human Capital Institute survey, nearly 80% of leaders were still using gut feeling and personal opinion to make decisions that affected talent-management practices. By incorporating AI into employment decisions, we can mitigate unconscious bias and variability in human decision-making. While some scholars have warned that using artificial intelligence (AI) in decision-making creates discriminatory results, they downplay the reason for such occurrences – humans. The main concerns noted relate to the risk of reproducing bias in an algorithmic outcome (“garbage in, garbage out”) and the inability to detect bias due to the lack of understanding of the reason for the algorithmic outcome (“black box” problem). In this paper, I argue that responsible AI will abate the problems caused by unconscious biases and noise in human decision-making, and in doing so increase the hiring, promotion, and retention of women in the tech industry. The new solutions to the garbage in, garbage out and black box concerns will be explored. The question is not whether AI should be incorporated into decisions impacting employment, but rather why in 2019 are we still relying on faulty human-decision making?

March 15, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Science, Technology, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Defensive Glass Ceilings" as Unlawful Structural Barriers to Women's Equal Employment Opportunities

Anthony Michael Kreis, Defensive Glass Ceilings, 88 GW L. Rev. (forthcoming)

The #MeToo Movement is a grassroots effort mobilized by victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment to end sexual violence and sex-based discrimination against women. Though in its infancy, the movement has been a catalyst for significant legal and cultural reform. It has also claimed the careers of prominent men credibly accused of various sex-based misconduct. Nervous men have reacted in poor form in response, electing to avoid women in the workplace and hedge against allegations of wrongdoing or the appearance of impropriety. The American workplace stands to be more sex-segregated if this trend takes hold as a consequence.

At the same time, women are punished on the job for being too friendly at work or discriminated against because they are perceived as too attractive, mistreatment stemming from men’s fears that they could fall victim to their ow inability to exercise self-control, that women are “overly-sensitive,” or that women might make baseless accusations against them. Too often courts have declined to recognize these invidious employment practices as unlawful sex discrimination because judges fail to see these behaviors as part of a systemic gender policing. Judges, instead, chalk it up to a few bad apples misbehaving. This Article posits that defensive work environments must be viewed as products of structural bias, not individual malevolence.

The goal of this Article is to use the hue and cry of this paradigm-shifting moment as an opportunity to reconsider the law’s prior understanding of sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace. This Article argues that employment practices that create different rules of engagement for the primary benefit of men— erecting defensive glass ceilings— should be understood in the aggregate as a product of ambivalent sexism that creates a structural barrier to women’s employment opportunities in the workplace and are thus unlawful.

March 11, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)