An Oregon hearing officer recommends $135,000 in damages against Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., who had declined to cater a gay wedding on grounds of religious scruples [Oregonian, earlier]
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has signed into law an expansion of Utah’s anti-discrimination law following what’s being billed as a historic compromise between gay rights advocates and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Unfortunately, as I argue at the Daily Beast, both halves of the compromise are bad news for individual liberty and freedom of association in the workplace. Excerpt:
As I noted at the Cato Institute’s website a while back, these laws “sacrifice the freedom of private actors—as libertarians recognize, every expansion of laws against private discrimination shrinks the freedom of association of the governed.”
That’s the familiar half of the story. What’s new about the Utah Compromise is that it adds completely new restrictions on employers’ rights to keep the workplace focused on work as opposed to religious or moral debate. In particular, it allows employees to sue on a claim that they were fired or otherwise treated poorly for talking about religion or morality in the workplace, at least if they were doing so in a way that was “reasonable” and didn’t interfere with the employer’s “essential” business interests.
When an employee then begins treating customers or co-workers to unasked-for disquisitions about religious or moral matters, it will apparently be the state of Utah—rather than, as now, the folks in human resources—who will have the final say as to whether the topic is “similar” to others on which discussion had previously been allowed, and whether the proselytizing or reproachful comments taken as a whole were “reasonable” or by contrast “harassing or disruptive.”
And I conclude:
It’s not clear whether anyone was at the table speaking up for employers’ rights and interests during the Utah negotiations. It’s a lot easier to reach what’s hailed as a historic compromise if you can do so at the expense of absent third parties, isn’t it?
Missed this one from the fall: a Texas catering business will pay a fine to the U.S. government for having engaged in “citizenship discrimination.” “Culinaire International unlawfully discriminated against employees based on their citizenship status, the Justice Department claimed, because it required non-citizen employees to provide extra proof of their right to work in the United States. Culinaire has agreed to pay the United States $20,460 in civil penalties, receive training in anti-discrimination rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act, revise its work eligibility verification process, and create a $40,000 back pay fund for ‘potential economic victims.'” Employers face stringent penalties if they ask for too few documents, but that doesn’t mean they’re free to ask for any more than the right number. [Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller; Bill Watson (“Trying too hard to follow bad laws? That’s illegal”)] Several related cases, from fifteen years ago, here.
- Senate Republicans make noises about reining in runaway EEOC [Roger Clegg, Senate minority staff report, Human Resource Executive Online]
- Yes, minimum wage increases hurt many low-skilled workers [NBER via Charles Hughes]
- “Women earn less than men even when they set the pay” [Emma Jacobs, FT, via Tyler Cowen]
- Just a typical fast food worker, except for happening to have a high-powered P.R. firm representing him [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Economics21]
- Aaargh: “Federal judge wants to bury summary judgment for many reasons, but especially because it harms employment-discrimination plaintiffs” [CL&P]
- “Ideally, someone from Human Resources will join you to meet with the aggrieved employee and inform her that the tree is staying up.” (Well, not up this far into January, but you know.) [Evil Skippy at Work]
- “But”, sic: “Vermont has some of the most progressive wage-and-hour laws in the country, but low-income workers are still struggling.” [Alana Semuels, National Journal]
- I’m quoted dissenting from the seeming ENDA consensus [Caroline Preston, Al Jazeera America; earlier here and here; related, Mark Lee, Washington Blade last year, “ENDA and the Seduction of Symbolic Gestures”]
- EEOC gears up to fight employer wellness programs under ADA [Stephen Miller/SHRM, ABA Journal, John Holmquist/Michigan Employment Law Connection, Robin Shea/Employment and Labor Insider]
- Evidence still points to disemployment effects for low-skilled workers from minimum wage hikes [David Neumark et al NBER working paper via Ira Stoll, related] What’s the right minimum wage? As the NYT correctly perceived in 1987, $0.00. [David Henderson video, Prager]
- “Judge Calls Out NLRB Pro-Union Partisanship” [Labor Pains; document demands levied by agency against Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Center]
- If you so much as think of declaring me fit for work, my lawyer will make you rue the day [Coyote on employer role in Social Security Disability]
- New Cato research brief, “Labor Market Fluidity and Economic Performance” [Stephen J. Davis and John Haltiwanger]
- Philly councilman wants to reserve city subsidies for unionized hotels [Joel Mathis, Philadelphia mag]
The separatism-minded Spanish region of Catalonia has enacted a law under which “the person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his innocence, reversing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” [El Pais, TheLocal.es] The law includes fines for anti-gay occurrences in the workplace. Advocates defended the shifting of the burden of proof onto the accused to prove innocence as a “positive discrimination measure [that] is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove.” [VilaWeb] (& welcome Andrew Sullivan readers)
“…Hire others in the same protected group.” [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog] Wait a minute. Isn’t that discrimination? And if, as Jon Hyman argues with some show of logic, employers have a strong incentive to follow this advice in replacing a dismissed employee given the way courts currently handle bias complaints, should we be disturbed that the law is itself encouraging discrimination?
- Was California workers’ comp claim against NFL by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer-turned-P.I.-lawyer inconsistent with his mixed martial arts prowess? [Tampa Bay Times, Lakeland Ledger, earlier and more on California workers’ comp and professional football]
- Salt Lake City’s $6,500 stings: “Secret Shopper Hired to Punish Lyft & Uber Actually Prefers Them” [Connor Boyack, Libertas Institute]
- Are libertarians undermining public accommodations law? (If only.) [Stanford Law Review, Samuel Bagenstos and Richard Epstein via Paul Horwitz]
- Why NYC is losing its last bed and breakfasts [Crain’s New York via @vpostrel]
- U.S. continues foolish policy of restricting crude oil and gas exports, time for that to change [David Henderson first and second posts]
- So it seems the New York Times is now committed to the theory that Toyotas show mechanical unintended acceleration;
- OK, the future Kansas politician was at the strip club strictly on attorney business when the police arrived. Was he billing? [Politico]