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The 100th Woman in Congress

Katherine Neff

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Alma Adams became the 100th woman to serve in Congress.  While this is an important milestone for women, it took nearly 100 years, since 1917, to accomplish it.  And, although women make up approximately 50 percent of the population, women make up less than 20 percent of the members in Congress.
Of the 100 women in Congress, 32 are women of color, a record, including 18 African Americans, nine Latinas, and five Asian American-Pacific Islanders.
After this month’s election, between one and five women could be joining Representative Adams (four races with female candidates are still undecided).
For more information about these milestones, check out USA Today’s On Politics article by Catalina Camia.


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.


Who Says Arbitration Speeds Up Justice?

Katherine Neff

Last week the Wall Street Journal chronicled the 44-year battle Cleveland, Ohio railroad workers had with their former employer Pennsylvania Railroad.  After Pennsylvania Railroad merged with New York Central Railroad to form Penn Central Transportation Corp. in 1968, the 32 workers lost their jobs and seniority.  After initially filing in an Ohio federal district court, the workers were forced to go through arbitration, one case at a time, as a result of the court’s 1979 decision to enforce the arbitration agreement.

The 44-year battle included three arbitration panels, several courts and a review by the federal Surface Transportation Board.  By the time the lawsuit concluded, only two workers were alive.

Finally, after an appeal by Penn Central of the third arbitration panel’s 2009 decision to award $14.2 million, nearly all of which was interest, in August the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the award.

Although the chairman of the arbitration panel that awarded the workers $14.7 million in damages accused all parties involved in the proceedings of bearing some responsibility for the delay, he identified Penn Central, as “rarely miss[ing] an opportunity” to lengthen the dispute.

Although this case is certainly an extreme example of delayed justice, it is important to consider when entering into an arbitration agreement that arbitration may not result in a speedy resolution of your dispute or save you court costs.

View the decision here.



Pay Policy, Public or Private?

Katherine Neff

CNBC reported this week that Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer – a 13 employee social media publishing company – publishes the salaries of his employees within his organization. While Gascoigne believes that publishing the salaries of his employees encourages trust, responsibility and fairness, Chris Charman, director of reward and talent management at professional services company Towers Watson, warns that doing so “carries a lot of risks.”

Perhaps the risks Charman referred to relate to the consequences a company could face if it was not following the Equal Pay Act or the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. For years Lilly Ledbetter did not know that Goodyear paid her significantly less than her male coworkers because Goodyear’s policies prohibited employees from discussing their salaries. A policy of pay transparency would allow for a female employee, like Ledbetter, to know immediately if the company had a discriminatory pay policy. Thus, employers with transparency in pay policies will have a strong incentive to eliminate any discriminatory compensation practices.

Read more about transparent pay policies in the article here.


A Criminal Record May Keep You Jobless

Katherine Neff

During the 130th General Assembly Regular Session 2013-2014, Ohio Representative Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) introduced House Bill 235, which would prohibit an employer from including any questions about the applicant’s criminal convictions in job applications.  However, the proposed bill does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks.  Representative Williams previously proposed similar legislation in the last legislature.  (HB 230)

Read About the Bill and Language of Proposed HB 235

Agencies such as the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have advocated for years against using criminal convictions as a barrier to employment for millions of Americans.  In 2011, NELP released a report entitled 65 Million “Need Not Apply” in which they conducted a survey of online job advertisements and found that both major and small employers “routinely deny people with criminal records any opportunity to establish their job qualifications.”

NELP’s Website and NELP Report: 65 Million “Need Not Apply”

Individuals who suspect they have been denied jobs or promotions, or have been discharged because of their criminal records should review the EEOC guidelines which include the warning that “an employer’s neutral policy (e.g., excluding applicants from employment based on certain criminal conduct) may disproportionately impact some individuals protected under Title VII” as national data often supports the finding that individuals within a certain race or national origin may be disparately impacted by criminal record exclusions.

EEOC Guidelines for Arrests & Convictions

Jim Evans, a human resources consultant, published an article titled “EEOC’s guidance on criminal background checks questioned” detailing the controversy surrounding the guidelines.  Read the article here.