Posts tagged as:

discrimination law

Labor roundup

by Walter Olson on August 28, 2014

  • What’s wrong with the NLRB attack on McDonald’s franchising, cont’d [On Labor, earlier here, etc.]
  • Postal union calls in American Federation of Teachers, other public employee unions to kill Staples postal partnership plan [Huffington Post]
  • U.S. Department of Labor uses coercive hot-goods orders to arm-twist blueberry farmers, judges say no [Jared Meyer, Econ21 and Salem Statesman-Journal]
  • “Watch Closely Obama’s Treatment of Unions” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth] “Obama ‘Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces’ Executive Order Will Punish Firms in Pro-Worker States” [Hans Bader, CEI]
  • Judge: massive document request signals NLRB’s emergence as litigation arm, and co-organizer, of unions [Sean Higgins, Examiner] Wobblies on top: NLRB sides with IWW workers over poster claiming eatery’s food was unsafe [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, earlier]
  • Academic debate on union issues already wildly lopsided, union-backed labor history curriculum unlikely to help [Alex Bolt, Workplace Choice]
  • Turning unionism into a protected-class category in parallel with discrimination law is one of the worst ideas ever [Jon Hyman, earlier here, etc.]

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Robert and Cynthia Gifford offer their Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y. as a wedding venue. New York has now fined them $13,000 for politely declining to host a gay wedding. They’ll also have to train their employees in compliance. [LGBTQ Nation, WNYT, Village Voice] Earlier on cakes and more cakes, flowers, photographers, etc. etc. More on this topic: Scott Shackford, Reason.

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  • “Telling Employee He Is ‘Eligible’ For Bonus Not Enough to Create Contractual Obligation” [Chris Parkin/Daniel Schwartz; Connecticut appeals court]
  • Richard Epstein on Obama’s anti-LGBT-discrimination edict for federal contractors [Hoover "Defining Ideas"]
  • D.C. Circuit panel, Janice Rogers Brown writing, strikes down DC tour guide licensing scheme [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, WaPo, Orin Kerr]
  • “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Public Workers Unions” [Dmitri Mehlhorn/Daily Beast]
  • “James Sherk of Heritage on Members-Only Bargaining” [On Labor]
  • As discrimination law gradually swallows all else: “Rep. Keith Ellison wants to make union organizing a civil right” [MSNBC]
  • NY Senate committee gives approval to “workplace bullying” law. On thin constitutional ice? [Hans Bader/CEI, earlier]

“Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections.” [Samantha Friedman et al., "An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples," SSRN]

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My first appearance at Cato’s Free Thoughts podcast series at Libertarianism.org, this is feature length — an hour, as opposed to a few minutes as is typical with Cato’s daily podcast. (Direct SoundCloud and YouTube links). The description:

Walter Olson joins Aaron and Trevor for a discussion on the evolution of discrimination law in the American legal system. They talk about common carrier obligations, preferential treatment and employee discrimination suits, the disparate impact of anti-discrimination laws —- especially in hiring decisions —- and the role of law schools and academia in perpetuating this cycle.

I wrote about many of these issues at length in The Excuse Factory, and expanded on the law-school angle in my more recent Schools for Misrule. You can follow our tags for more background on discrimination law generally, disabled rights and the ADA, age discrimination law, and many other topics.

P.S. From David Bernstein, Cato Unbound, 2010: “Context Matters: A Better Libertarian Approach to Antidiscrimination Law

A discrimination-law panel in the state of Colorado has confirmed a ruling that Jack Phillips, a baker of wedding cakes, cannot turn away a gay couple’s request based on religious scruples, and further ruled, quoting the Denver Post, that he is “to submit quarterly reports for two years that show how he has worked to change discriminatory practices by altering company policies and training employees. Phillips also must disclose the names of any clients who are turned away.” [Scott Shackford; CBS Denver]

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  • Mayor de Blasio settles firefighter bias suit on terms sympathetic to plaintiffs [City Journal: Dennis Saffran and Seth Barron]
  • One way to dodge some Culture War fights: roll meaning of “public accommodation” back to travel, lodgings, places of public amusement, etc. [Andrew Kloster, Heritage] As original/creative expression goes, florists and cake-bakers sometimes outdo NYT’s Greenhouse [Ann Althouse] From Dixie Chicks to Hobby Lobby, few escape hypocrisy when commerce collides with convictions [Barton Hinkle]
  • Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigating Florida’s popular Bright Futures college scholarship program [Orlando Sentinel]
  • Do EEOC mediators overstate risk of legal action to extract big settlements from employers? [Bloomberg BNA, Merrily Archer on survey] New Colorado expansion of employment liability bad news for large and small employers alike [Archer]
  • “Religious exemptions — a guide for the confused” [Eugene Volokh]
  • Washington Post columnist repeats myth that Lilly Ledbetter “did not know she was being paid less than male counterparts” until after statute of limitations had run; Hans Bader corrects [letter to editor]
  • If helping out local people was one reason your town decided to back public housing, you might have been played for suckers [AP on DoJ suit against Long Island town over local preference]
  • “Will ‘Microaggressions’ Make Their Way Into Employment Discrimination Cases? Have They Already?” [Daniel Schwartz]
  • More phone and pen: Obama executive orders will forbid federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss pay with colleagues, direct DoL to require compensation data from contractors based on sex, race [AP, White House]
  • List of best and worst states for employee lawsuits (from employer’s perspective) includes some surprises, although California’s status as worst isn’t one of them [Insurance Journal] $20K to fend off suit “for harassment and intimidation by her manager — when the manager was her sister” [Coyote; sequel to "Ventura County blues," on which earlier here and here]
  • Wage/hour activists step up pressure for federal enforcement, more detailed pay stubs to combat off-clock work, alleged misclassification [ABA Journal]
  • “A National Minimum Wage Is a Bad Fit for Low-Cost Communities” [Andrew Biggs and Mark Perry, The American] “Immigration, Eugenics, and the Minimum Wage” [Matt Zwolinski, Bleeding Heart Libertarians]
  • Court decision may amount to end run enactment of something like ENDA minus the legislative compromises and exceptions [Tamara Tabo, and thanks for link to "good reasons" for opposition; a second view from Jon Hyman]
  • “DOL (Department of Labor) Persuader Rule Undermines Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Generals Say” [Howard Bloom and Philip Rosen (Jackson Lewis), National Law Review, earlier]

And the curious thing is, they’re from prosecutors. “The prosecutors’ office replaced part-time assistant prosecutors with full-time positions in 2011. Eight of the part-time employees who were replaced sued the city for age, race and/or gender discrimination, The Kansas City Star reported. … The eight former assistant city prosecutors filed their lawsuits individually and alleged different circumstances.” [Claims Journal]

New WSJ op-ed by Eugene Volokh and my colleague Ilya Shapiro, with which I agree 100%: “We support the extension of marriage to same-sex couples. Yet too many who agree with us on that issue think little of subverting the liberties of those who oppose gay marriage. Increasingly, legislative and judicial actions sacrifice individual rights at the altar of antidiscrimination law.” Existing precedent affords a handy if narrow way to reverse New Mexico’s wrong-headed Elane Photography decision: “The Supreme Court’s ruling in Wooley guarantees the right of photographers, writers, actors, painters, actors, and singers to decide which commissions, roles or gigs they take, and which they reject.”

Related on bake-my-cake laws: in the absence of more robust rights to freedom of association, could we at least narrow what’s a public accommodation? [Scott Shackford, Reason; David Link, Independent Gay Forum (on precedent of landlord reluctance to rent to cohabitors] Earlier on photography and cake cases here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.

P.S. Cato podcast with Caleb Brown interviewing Ilya Shapiro on the topic.

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I discussed it yesterday at Cato at Liberty, shortly before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. My Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro’s thoughts are here. For those who want a deeper dive, here’s the Douglas Laycock-drafted letter on the bill in its entirety, and here is the student note he cites making a case for courts’ application of RFRA to private lawsuits. (& welcome visitors: Ramesh Ponnuru, Paul Mirengoff, Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Memeorandum, Hans Bader)

P.S. To clarify, the Arizona bill would have enacted into law as part of the state’s mini-RFRA two broad applications of RFRA that many courts have been unwilling to concede to advocates heretofore. One is its availability as a defense in private litigation, not just in discrimination complaints but across the entire range of legal disputes arising in some way from state (in this case) law. That’s potentially a broad intervention into otherwise available private rights, and the fact that it’s in no way limited to discrimination law is one reason I would foresee that it would wind up having some surprising or unintended consequences along the line. A second broad application which drew fire from some critics would be to make available to businesses and various other nonprofit and associational forms of organization the defenses and other remedies otherwise available to individuals. I noted in this post a few weeks ago a high-profile case in which a panel of the D.C. Circuit, parting company from the Fifth, declined to recognize business coverage under the federal RFRA.

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Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on February 19, 2014

  • No shock there: “Law Profs Oppose ABA Proposal to Eliminate Tenure as Accreditation Requirement” [NLJ via Paul Caron/TaxProf, related]
  • Teresa Wagner hiring suit against U. of Iowa law school on appeal to Eighth Circuit [Daily Iowan, quotes me; Caron; earlier]
  • Scalia: “truly appalling” most students at elite law schools not asked to read Federalist Papers [Chicago Sun-Times] Do “wacky” offerings at such schools necessarily sound so wacky? [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
  • Canada’s first evangelical law school wins approval, backed by civil libertarians, over objections centering on its no-nonmarital-sex pledge [Vancouver Sun, MacLean's, related, earlier]
  • “Self-Interest and Sinecure: Why Law School Can’t be ‘Fixed’ From Within” [David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), via Caron]
  • “Intellectual Diversity and the Legal Academy,” conference by Harvard Federalist Society now online [Harvard JLPP]
  • Tonight (Wed.) at 7:30 I’m scheduled to join Al-Jazeera America’s “The Stream,” hosted by Lisa Fletcher with Wajahat Ali, to discuss the state of law schools, with Profs. Paul Campos (Colorado) and Gillian Hadfield (USC). Tune in!

Turned down by all 150 (or however many) Denver bakers in their quest for a wedding cake, this couple had no choice but to sue. Oh, not really: they had an endless supply of perfectly good alternative options, but they apparently wanted to make a point by suing, as did the ACLU which represented them. [Associated Press; earlier here, here, etc.]

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I’ve got a new post at Cato asking how that could have come to be. Earlier on Elane Photography v. Willock here, here, etc.

Reacting to my Cato post, a couple of readers have responded, in effect: Isn’t the ACLU just a doctrinaire Left-liberal organization these days, rather than a bulwark of civil liberties? To which my answer is: I’d describe it as an organization with lively internal divisions, some factions of which push it in a doctrinaire Left direction, others of which want it to be more of a robust civil liberties organization. (As witness last year’s “Mayors vs. Chick-Fil-A” controversy, in which the ACLU of Illinois took a strong and clear civil libertarian stand while the ACLU of Massachusetts seemed to lean more toward a doctrinaire-Left position.) Some speak ironically of the “civil liberties caucus” that soldiers on thanklessly within the ACLU. I want to encourage that caucus and let it know it is appreciated. (& Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Coyote).

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Interviewed on ENDA

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2013

Caleb Brown interviews me for Cato on the politics and policy of employment discrimination laws. I’ve also done interviews with Voice of America (updated: article with video here, at 1:45; higher-def video here), St. Louis’s KMOX, Mark Reardon show and Bay Area public radio station KQED with Michael Krasny (includes audio link), where I had a chance to promote my much-missed friend Joan Kennedy Taylor’s excellent Cato book on workplace harassment. My Cato post on the subject of Friday is here and reactions here. More press coverage: Naureen Khan, Al Jazeera America (symbolism a poor reason for or against bill); Nick O’Malley, Sydney Morning Herald (my views contrasted with Andrew Sullivan’s), Robin Shea, Employment and Labor Insider, Deseret News (opinion roundup including USA Today’s), Tim Carney/Washington Examiner.

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Why I’d vote against ENDA

by Walter Olson on November 4, 2013

[bumped from original Friday posting due to interest in the issue and many new links] I’ve got a new post on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) just up at Cato. More: Stephen Miller; similar takes on the issue, Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant and Daily Caller, Libertarian Jew, Coyote, David Bernstein.

More, all citing my post: Andrew Sullivan, who is now tepidly in favor of the bill; Peter Weber, The Week; Scott Shackford, Reason; Paul Mirengoff, PowerLine; Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway; Ray Hennessey, Entrepreneur and also at Reuters; Hans Bader, CEI; Jordan Weissman, The Atlantic, Jon Hyman/Ohio Employment Law, and USA Today editorial (contra).

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I’ve got a letter in the WSJ:

In claiming that “Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty” (Houses of Worship, Sept. 20), Mollie Ziegler Hemingway conflates the effects of antidiscrimination law with the effects of recognizing same-sex marriage. Many of the conscience cases she cites involving private businesses arose in jurisdictions that don’t recognize gay marriage, and most would reach the same legal result so long as local antidiscrimination laws remain in place, whether or not the law on marriage has changed….

I go on to note that anti-discrimination law for years now has been obliging some small businesspeople to enter business dealings inconsistent with their private conscience, as when bed and breakfasts are obliged to accommodate unmarried cohabitants, or owners of print or video-duplication shops are obliged to duplicate literature promoting causes they abhor, whether religious or secular. So far as I can tell, we libertarians are the only group that has consistently raised alarms over the years about this coercive effect; most social conservatives have tended to ignore the area until quite recently, and of course the typical position of modern progressives is to see few if any real issues of concern here. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, I should note, says I wrongly assumed that she writes from outside the libertarian tradition; Twitter exchange on that here.

Some recent links on these controversies: Elane Photography (New Mexico) and followup; Oregon cake bakers; Arlington, Va. video-duplication shop, first, second, and third posts. I wrote about the relations between religious liberty, libertarianism, and social conservatism here (more, and yet more on Twitter with columnist Tim Carney). More: Bainbridge, Stephen Miller/Independent Gay Forum.

Latest liberty cake wreck

by Walter Olson on September 5, 2013

In Gresham, Oregon, it’s anti-discrimination law 1, free association 0 as a family business that cited religious beliefs in declining to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and was hit by an enforcement action as a result, shutters its retail shop in favor of baking from home. Oregon does not recognize same-sex marriage, which (as in the parallel New Mexico wedding photographer case) makes clear that the intrusion on individual liberty here arises from anti-discrimination law as applied to so-called public accommodations, not from marriage law. [Shackford, Reason] Related: “Religious liberty depends on right-of-center gay marriage advocates” [Stephen Richer, Daily Caller]

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