Posts Tagged ‘discrimination law’

Post-trial maneuvering in a discrimination verdict

In March a San Francisco jury returned a defense verdict in Ellen Pao’s widely publicized sex discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins. As so often when a lawsuit story sounds over, however, that’s been just the prelude to further wrangling over a possible settlement: Kleiner says Pao has demanded $2.7 million in exchange for not pursuing an appeal, while Kleiner, citing a spurned pre-trial offer that it says triggers the operation of California’s offer-of-settlement law, has asked a court to order Pao to pay nearly $1 million in expert witness fees and other costs. Davey Alba at Wired reports and quotes me on several aspects.

Last week CBS radio quoted me on another high-profile discrimination suit, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores LLC, the headscarf accommodation case:

Just not in frosting

“Printing business has First Amendment and RFRA right to refuse to print gay pride festival T-shirts” [Eugene Volokh] The Lexington Human Rights Commission had ordered employee training for a t-shirt printer that had objected to printing messages it disagreed with, but a Kentucky trial court judge threw out the order citing both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Kentucky’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, here applicable to a corporation as defendant since it was an incorporated business that had been the target of the discrimination complaint. Compare the bake-my-cake cases, which have generally come out the other way. And see in the U.K., “Patrick Stewart backs bakery after ‘gay cake’ court battle”: Independent, Telegraph, Katherine Mangu-Ward/Reason.

Labor and employment roundup

Suing the Ivies over discrimination against Asian-Americans

“A coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups filed a federal discrimination complaint against Harvard University, claiming racial bias in undergraduate admissions.” A chance to find out how serious the university establishment, federal agencies, and the courts are about norms of non-discrimination [Bloomberg, Eugene Volokh on Bill Clinton 1995 comment, Razib Khan/Unz]

Beware the “Utah Compromise”

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?

Whole thing here. [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

Texas caterer nailed for “citizenship discrimination”

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.

Labor and employment roundup

  • 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]