Sometimes, when food choices are not involved, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is actually on the right side of controversies. One instance of that is the series of battles he’s having with the New York City Council on various bills to regulate employers. The Council recently overrode his veto of a bill creating unemployment status as a new protected class, and has pressed a paid-sick-leave bill as well. A third proposal: forbidding employers to consider job applicants’ credit records in hiring. Eight liberal-leaning states have already enacted similar measures but as the Proskauer Rose law firm explains, the NYC proposal goes further:
Unlike the vast majority of laws in effect and in legislation pending across the nation, however, the Proposal does not explicitly enumerate exceptions for managerial positions, or positions with access to bank or credit card information, Social Security numbers, significant amounts of cash, or confidential or proprietary information. Although the Proposal exempts employers required by law to run credit checks on their applicants and employees, its silence as to these other standard exceptions should give New York City employers particular pause should the Proposal become law.
I’ve got a new piece at Reason on the long-running dispute between the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government of Westchester County in suburban NYC. Claiming that Westchester has failed to follow through on promises of attracting more minority homeowners, HUD is suing the county and wielding funding cutoffs to get it to step up a large commitment to subsidized housing, override town zoning rules, and enact an ordinance forbidding private landlords from turning away Section 8 tenants. The WSJ editorialized yesterday on the subject. Further background: ironic that county is being penalized after seeking to cooperate [Gerald McKinstry, Newsday; Joanne Wallenstein, Scarsdale 10583]; former Democratic county legislator backs county executive Rob Astorino on so-called “source of income” legislation [Journal-News]; similar law already in effect in Washington, D.C. [Examiner]; earlier coverage here, here, etc., and my 2009 City Journal account.
P.S. Shortly after our piece, a Second Circuit panel ruled the county out of compliance. ProPublica, the foundation-supported reporting-and-opinion outfit, has been doing a series of reporting-and-opinion pieces taking the plaintiffs’ side, including this latest.
Mark Graber at Concurring Opinions, reviewing James Fleming and Linda McClain, Ordered Liberty, a book which lays out a constitutional analysis consistent with the viewpoint Graber calls “Solid Liberalism”:
Another point where Ordered Liberty threatens but pulls back from challenging core Solid Liberal beliefs occurs during the discussion of Bob Jones v. United States. Ordered Liberty suggests that the Supreme Court in that case correctly ruled that religious organizations can be denied tax exemptions if they teach racism and other abhorrent doctrines. I confess to be troubled by the analysis. I suspect that most Jewish schools at the very least encourage students to date and marry other Jews, that these schools teach the doctrine that Jews are a chosen people, and that a great many other religions engage in similarly illiberal teaching. Given the importance of the welfare state in the lives of most citizens, a point Fleming and McClain make elsewhere in the book, I confess to some discomfort with the constitutional rule they eventually endorse that forbids religious coercion but permits religious groups to be denied state benefits that go to other religious groups with more liberally accepted beliefs. I think based on what the authors suggest elsewhere in the book, a case can be made that Bob Jones ought to be rethought.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been soliciting testimony and public comments on the issue, and is holding a hearing on March 22, Friday of next week. [Peter Kirsanow; Marc DeGirolami, Mirror of Justice; Ed Whelan, Ethics and Public Policy Center]
The Howard University students’ feelings were hurt, it seems [Will Sommer, Washington City Paper via Huffington Post]:
Some of the “hazing” rules sound innocuous, if extensive, like being forbidden from wearing the sorority colors of pink and green or any colors that could be blended into pink and green. In one humorous moment, the lawsuit notes that the pledges, who were called the “sweets,” couldn’t even wear white pearls.
Other hazing allegations are more serious. At one point, the pledges were told not to talk to non-sorority members at Howard, according to the suit. “[Alpha Kappa Alpha members] on campus addressed the sweets by calling them weak bitches,” Compton’s mother wrote in a complaint to the sorority.
After Cofield’s mother, also an Alpha Kappa Alpha sister, complained, the two pledges found themselves ostracized in the sorority for being “snitch-friendly” or “snitch-sympathists.”…
The aspiring sisters say they’re being discriminated against because, as legacies, their mothers were also in the sorority. In other words, they’re being treated differently because of their “familial status”—a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. In addition to monetary damages, the would-be Alpha Kappa Alphas want the court to grant an injunction putting the pledging process on hold.
P.S. In 2008 we covered the “Oprichniki” lawsuit involving Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut (follow-up). And there’s a current controversy over what one alumna calls the “pretty tame” hazing dished out on a voluntary basis during a Bryn Mawr tradition known as Hell Week [Julie Gerstein/The Frisky, Philly.com]
A new Oregon law forbids employers “to advertise a job opening if they won’t consider applicants who are unemployed.” [CNBC] Earlier on efforts to make jobless persons into a new protected class under discrimination laws here, here, etc.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal education spending and other programs, does not currently allow private litigants to sue demanding punitive (as distinct from compensatory) damages, nor do the courts entertain private suits complaining of “disparate impact” under it. Some trial lawyers and advocates of expansive discrimination law have long wanted to change that, and now Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is warning that there are efforts afoot to slip an expansion into law by attaching it to some “must-pass” piece of legislation. An effort by Democratic senators to attach it to the Defense Authorization Act appears to have fallen short, but it may be back as a rider on other bills, with serious courtroom consequences, Bader warns, for schools and colleges and also for doctors and hospitals.
…and how he spends his Unruh Act windfall results in — did you guess? — more legal complications. [Gendy Alimurung, L.A. Weekly via @andrewmgrossman; Nowell's earlier legal battles here and here]
I’m pleased to report that I filed a friend-of-the-court brief, on behalf of the Cato Institute, Dale Carpenter, and myself, arguing that wedding photographers (and other speakers) have a First Amendment right to choose what expression they create, including by choosing not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies. All the signers of the brief support same-sex marriage rights; our objection is not to same-sex marriages, but to compelling photographers and other speakers [to create] works that they don’t want to create.
As Ilya Shapiro explains further at Cato, the litigation before the New Mexico Supreme Court hinges in substantial part on whether the photographers are entitled to claim religious-liberty protection against the discrimination claim, but the Cato amicus brief advances a distinct alternative theory under which they deserve to prevail:
Our brief explains that photography is an art form protected by the First Amendment because clients seek out the photographer’s method of staging, posing, lighting, and editing. Photography is thus a form of expression subject to the First Amendment’s protection, unlike many other wedding-related businesses (e.g., caterers, hotels, limousine drivers).
The amicus brief in Elane Photography v. Willock is here; I’m happy to say I played a bit part in helping to advance it. Earlier on the case here, here, and here; and more from George Will.
Author Russell Nieli came to Cato this week to discuss his new book and I gave a brief commentary. More: John Rosenberg, Discriminations.
Related: Voting on ideological lines, the Sixth Circuit declares void the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, suggesting a constitutionalized “right” to racial preferences. Calling SCOTUS! [Jonathan Adler]