Cincinnati (513) 721-1975 (map)
Dayton (937) 228-3731 (map)
Denver (303) 357-2355 (map)

Retaliation At Al Jazeera

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
Last week, Matthew Luke, a former employee of Al Jazeera America, filed a lawsuit in New York alleging retaliation for complaining of discriminatory conduct on the basis of gender and religion.  According to the lawsuit, Osman Mahmud, senior vice president of broadcast operations and technology, engaged in discriminatory conduct toward female employees, including terminating them without any legitimate reason, taking them off projects and excluding them from meetings, emails and other company communications directly related to their work.  He also allegedly made anti-Semitic comments.  At a December 2014 meeting, high ranking officials within the company discussed the fact that “they had no choice but to accept and deal with Mr. Mahmud’s offensive and discriminatory conduct because he was so well connected within the company.”  In February 2015 Luke began reporting to Mahmud and began receiving direction to remove work from female employees and take them off of email chains.  Luke complained to Diana Lee, executive vice president for human resources.  The company acknowledged that numerous other similar complaints had been made about Mahmud.  Just 10 days later Luke was terminated and told he did not fit into the company’s culture.  After the lawsuit was filed early last week, the company abruptly announced that Lee and Dawn Bridges, executive vice president for communications, were leaving the company.  Sounds like they didn’t fit in either.  For more information read this blog.

No Equal Pay At Farmers

Last week a class-action lawsuit was filed in Northern California on behalf of female attorneys against Farmers Insurance claiming it pays female attorneys significantly less than male attorneys for the same work.  According to the lawsuit, male attorneys are paid more, given higher profile work assignments, and more frequent pay raises and promotions.  Named Plaintiff Lynne Coates says she is being paid less than male attorneys with “decades less” experience.  She says one male attorney with similar experience is being paid nearly twice as much for the same work.  She also says that when she complained to her boss she was demoted to a paralegal position.  Read more here.

Share

Focus On LGBT Rights

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
Historic Settlement Of Transgender Bias Case
Lakeland Eye Clinic earlier this month agreed to settle the first ever Transgender bias lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  According to the lawsuit, Lakeland hired Brandi Branson when she was still presenting as a man.  After a few years of employment, she began dressing as a woman and was harassed and ultimately terminated.  To settle the case, Lakeland agreed to pay $150,000, adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against transgender workers and provide anti-discrimination training to its employees.  Read more here.

Teachers Terminated For Relationship Despite County Ordinance And Church Policy
In Orange County, Florida, two female teachers at Aloma Early Childhood Learning Center, which is run by the Aloma Methodist Church, were terminated after a school administrator discovered they were in a relationship.  According to the two teachers, they were called into the school director’s office and questioned.  They admitted to the relationship.  They were then told they were living in sin, they could no longer work there, and the only way they could keep their jobs was to repent and disavow their lifestyles.  The director tried to talk to the women separately to get them to repent.  Orange County has a human rights ordinance that makes it illegal to terminate employees based on sexual orientation.  In fact, the United Methodist Church has a policy on sexual orientation that calls for equal protection under the law for all gay citizens.  Find more information in this article.

Transgender Employee Ordered To Say His Choice To Act Male Was Not Compliant With Company Policy
Last week Tristan Broussard filed a lawsuit against First Tower Loan, a financial loan company based in Mississippi, alleging he was forced out after the company found out his driver’s license identified him as female.  Broussard was hired in February 2013 as a sales representative.  In March the company noticed while processing his employment papers that he was listed as a female on his driver’s license.  Broussard was questioned about it and told the company he was a transgender male.  Shortly after that, he was asked to sign a document in which he was to promise to dress as a female and stay in rooms with other female employees when traveling on business.  The document also said that his preference to act and dress as a male was not consistent with company policy.  Broussard refused to sign.  This article goes in to greater detail.

Share

National Criticism Leads To Change In Indiana Law

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
It was a contentious few weeks in Indiana following the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Criticism of the law was widespread and immediate.  The concern was that RFRA gave business owners the right to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender citizens.  CEOs of many of Indiana’s largest employers sent a letter to Governor Mike Pence and other lawmakers saying they were “deeply concerned about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state.”  The NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis (where the men’s Final Four was held last week), was among the first to criticize the law and threatened to move future events as well as its headquarters out of the state if it wasn’t revised.  Governor Mike Pence then signed a language fix that forbids using RFRA as a defense for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Support for LGBT rights has increased dramatically in the last 10 years.  As an example, in 2004, according to Gallup, 55 percent of the country was against same-sex marriage while 42 percent were in favor.  Now, those numbers are exactly the opposite.  For more on this topic, read these Huffington Post, NPR, and ABC News posts.

New York City Underpaying Minority Employees
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said last week New York City has been discriminating for decades against black and Hispanic female employees with respect to compensation and should pay $246 million in back wages to make up for it.  In 2013 Local 1180 of the Communications workers of America filed a complaint with the Commission alleging discriminatory practices with respect to pay on behalf of approximately 1,000 employees.  For the most part, the city failed to respond to multiple requests for information relevant to the allegations.  In December 2014 the city was told that if it did not provide information the EEOC would make a determination against it.  That warning was met with silence.  For more read these articles from New York Daily News and New York Post.

Share

Even In A Female-Dominated Industry, Men Earn More

Katherine Neff

Although female nurses outnumber male nurses 10 to 1, males still earn more than females, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.  In 2011, males made up approximately nine percent of registered nurses, according to the Census Bureau.  Despite males not being permitted to nursing programs at some schools until the 1980s, they have earned more overall.  The largest pay disparity was for nurse anesthetists, with men earning $17,290 more than women.  Male senior administrators also earned nearly $7,000 more than females on average.  And in the ambulatory work setting, males earn over $7,600 more than women.

Although the study did not reveal the reasons for the pay disparity, some have suggested that “men have better negotiating skills.”  Others believe the disparity could relate to women, as more senior nurses, choosing better shifts at lower pay.  However, many believe gender discrimination could still be a cause.  Whatever the cause, this study certainly reveals that continued efforts toward pay equality are needed in every job sector, even those dominated by women.

Read more in this blog.

Share

Supreme Court’s “Blind Spot” On Women’s Issues Disappearing?

Jon Allison

Last week the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled in favor of former UPS driver Peggy Young and remanded her case to the lower court allowing her to proceed with her pregnancy discrimination claim.  Young became pregnant in 2006 and was advised by her doctors to request light duty work involving not lifting more than 20 pounds.  UPS routinely offered light duty work to employees who were injured on the job as well as employees who had physical limitations related to a disability.  UPS, however, refused Young’s request for light duty work.  Instead, UPS told her its policy was to treat pregnant women like employees who were injured outside of the workplace and not provide light duty work.  Young was forced to take unpaid leave and ultimately lost her health insurance before giving birth.
Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor and Chief Justice Roberts.  In deciding to allow Young to pursue her case, Justice Breyer wrote “[w]hy, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?”  Justice Alito wrote his own concurring opinion, questioning the rationale for “treating pregnant drivers less favorably than at least some of its nonpregnant drivers who were reassigned to other jobs that they were physically capable of performing.”
This decision is important because it will likely prompt employers to accommodate pregnant employees more readily than in the past.  Employers will now have to grant pregnant employees accommodations if they have previously granted the same accommodations to groups of other employees with similar physical limitations.
While Young had a lot of support, many worried about what Justice Ginsburg has called the Court’s “blind spot” on women’s issues following a number of recent decisions, including rejecting an equal pay lawsuit and holding that corporations could decide when female employees should have access to contraception.
Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy dissented from the majority opinion.
This case has received a lot of coverage.  For more, read articles in Reuters, Time, Politico, and Forbes.

Share