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Archives for July 2014

New Developments Strengthen Protections For Gay Employees

Ann Wittenauer

Only 18 states currently have state statutes that protect employees against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in both public and private sector employment.  Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits several forms of discrimination, does not include a person’s sexual orientation in its protected categories.

On July 21, 2014, however, President Barack Obama signed an executive order making it illegal for federal contractors and subcontractors to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and a recent decision by a federal district court judge may have extended protections for gay employees in the private sector.

In March 2014, District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found that a lawsuit by a gay man against the Library of Congress could proceed through the discovery process.  According to the plaintiff in that case, when his conservative Catholic supervisor discovered that the plaintiff was gay, his supervisor began to assign work to the plaintiff which was beyond his experience and which was too much for a solitary employee to complete.  The supervisor also allegedly began lecturing the plaintiff that he “would be going to Hell” because of his homosexuality.  According to Judge Kollar-Kotelly, the plaintiff alleged that he is “a homosexual male whose sexual orientation is not consistent with the Defendant’s perception of acceptable gender roles,” that his “status as a homosexual male did not conform to the Defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men” and that “his orientation as homosexual had removed him from [his supervisor’s] preconceived definition of male.” Judge Kollar-Kotelly ruled that these allegations stated a claim for relief and that the plaintiff’s lawsuit could proceed.

The United States Supreme Court and other federal appellate and district courts had previously found that terminations or other adverse employment actions based on an employee’s failure to fit sex role stereotypes about how men and women should act or dress are a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII.  Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s decision appears to extend protection for employees who are terminated simply for being gay.



Even Among Lawyers, Women Are Paid Less

Katherine Neff

Sky Analytics, who provides spend management software to corporate legal departments, released its first ever gender study using actual billing records from law firms. The study, along with a National Association of Women Lawyers study on gender biases in the legal profession, highlights the pay disparity between men and women.

According to the studies, female partners in larger law firms bill an average of 10% less per hour for their services than their male counterparts. In smaller firms, the difference is more significant with female partners billing 12% less than males per hour. Even female associates bill $27.00 less per hour on average than their male colleagues, despite being in a junior lawyer position where pay is based upon the number of practice years as opposed to how many hours they bill. Moreover, despite females making up one-third of the lawyers and judges in this country, women make up only 17% of equity partners with ownership stakes at the 200 top-grossing U.S. law firms. Women are also underrepresented in management roles and on powerful decision making committees within firms.

While it may not be surprising that women are still missing from the corner offices of the top U.S. law firms, just like they are in the Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S., considering that lawyers are in the profession of upholding, defending and understanding the laws, one would hope the legal profession would be better at recognizing gender biases.

Currently fifty percent of the equity partners in Freking & Betz are female.

For more information see:

Female Lawyers Still Battle Gender Bias by Jennifer Smith of the Wall Street Journal. Published May 4, 2014.

Study: Gender Disparity in Billing Rates by The National Association of Legal Fee Analysis.

The Sky Analytics Gender Study can be found here.