Employee Rights Short Takes: GOP Private Club Sued For Race Discrimination, Latino Discrimination On The Rise And More

 It’s a political week, so here are a few short takes – admittedly- with a political twist::

GOP Social Club Sued For Racial Discrimination

The National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, an exclusive club known to be the place where the DC Republican “backroom deals” get made, is being sued for race discrimination by its former human resource manager. The plaintiff, Kim Crawford,  alleges that she was repeatedly passed over for raises while “less qualified, less deserving male and white counterparts were given” increases.

Crawford also claims she was fired in July after investigating a racial complaint from the club’s acting executive chef. Race discrimination in employment and retaliation are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more about it read here.

Being A Liberal And Hating Sarah Palin May Be Genetic

I must say this story caught my eye – particularly since we have three generations of Sarah Palin bashers in my immediate family. A new study in the Journal of Politics, as reported in Time,  says that there’s a biological explanation why some people favor big government, oppose the death penalty and can’t stand Sarah Palin – and it’s called the liberal gene.

The DRD4-7R gene affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine has already been linked to a personality type driven to seek out new experiences. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University hypothesized that this predisposition might affect political beliefs.

The researches suspect that the D4 novelty seekers would have more exposure to a wider variety of lifestyles, a wider circle of friends and more exposure to broader  views, attitudes and beliefs. Apparently, all of this does have an effect on D4 inidviduals' political views and the new study bears out their hypothesis  ---  those born with the D4 gene are more liberal. It's all quite interesting. I wonder if we're going to hear about a conservative gene too?

More Latinos Concerned About Discrimination

Nearly two thirds of Latinos in the United States think that discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem” according to a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center. There are 47 million Latinos in the US, which make up 15% of the population and constitute the nation’s largest minority group. According to the study:

Asked to state the most important factor leading to discrimination, a plurality of 36% now cite immigration status, up from a minority of 23% who said the same in 2007. Back then, a plurality of respondents-46%-identified language skills as the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics.

The Pew study was released days before the mid-term elections in which the Latino vote is expected to play an important role, particularly in the Florida gubernatorial race and Nevada Senate contest between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Tea Party Republican Sharon Angle. Anlge has been sharply criticized for ads run in recent weeks which portray Latinos as menacing interlopers. 17% of voters in Nevada are Latinos who are expected to vote in high numbers this Tuesday.

 images: ktnv.images.worldnow   rlv.zcache.com  politicalmuse.com

The Real Reason Why Sarah Palin Is So Bad For Women

Palin's Run For President Is Huge Setback For Women's Rights

I read the other day in the New York Times that Sarah Palin is considering a run for President – and I have been trying to figure out why it makes me so angry -- other than the fact that I have to listen to her most irritating voice and garbled grammar for the many campaign months ahead.

I know it’s because she’s a woman and because she embodies a major setback to so much I have worked for over the past 30 plus years, but I’m struggling with what really makes me feel this visceral negativity. And I'm not the only one.

Is it simply because of where she stands on the issues -- her harmful views on a woman’s right to choose that would take us back to the dark and dangerous days before Roe v Wade?

Is it because she was against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and thought it was ok for a woman with no knowledge that she was a victim of  wage discrimination to be barred from bringing a lawsuit when she first learned about it?

Is it because she touts equal pay for women but takes positions against the Paycheck Fairness Act which would help ensure that women really do get the equal pay they deserve?

Is it because she’s against government programs to help women with issues like affordable child care – concerns which deeply affect working women and for which the US is light years behind other countries?

Is it because she thought it was ok to promote a sexual harasser to her cabinet?

Or is it because she is simply unqualified?

What everyone knows but barely anyone talks about is that Sarah Palin is where she is because she is pretty. As  Todd Purdham noted in his Vanity Fair article about Palin, her beauty queen looks have

captivated people who would never have given someone with Palin’s record a second glance if Palin had looked like Susan Boyle.

Susan Reimer , from the Baltimore Sun put it this way:

Put red high heels and red lipstick on a woman with a cute figure and run her out there and we promise, nobody will notice her mangled syntax or her poor sense of geography.

Unqualified women who get ahead simply because of their looks make it that much harder for intelligent, capable women to get a fair shake. Is it possible that beneath all of the chatter, it’s this harsh reality that makes feminists so upset?

There is no doubt, that for those of us who have long championed equal rights for women, Sarah Palin represents a gigantic step backwards --- and going backwards after the many hard fought struggles to get ahead is always rough. She got where she did simply because of her looks and she rejects policies which would improve the lives of women.

Simply put, for so many women, this major league anti-feminist is just really hard to take.

image: turbo.inquisitr.com

Dan Rather Wins Round In Fraud Case Against CBS

Important Win for Employee in Fraud Case Against Employer

It's not often that employees sue their employers for fraud, but that's what Dan Rather did when he sued CBS in 2007. The news is that  he had a significant victory this week in his case. 

The Lawsuit

As some of you may recall, Rather filed a lawsuit claiming that his career was irreparably damaged because CBS intentionally mishandled a 2004 story about Bush's National Guard service.

The story had to do with Bush's allegedly going AWOL during his National Guard Service in 1972. The story was aired on CBS's Sixty Minutes II  during the 2004 election.

According to Rather's lawsuit, the broadcast reported that:

  • political influence was used to get Bush into the TexANG so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam
  • after being trained as a fighter pilot in 1972, Bush failed to appear for a required physical examination
  • high level political influence was again engaged to avoid military discharge from the military

As Jackson Williams from the Huffing ton Post put it:

[E]vidence (from the Boston Globe and others) strongly suggests that George W. Bush literally bailed on his Guard duty, got a transfer to Alabama, and then disappeared for at least the final 12 months of his military commitment, perhaps up to 17 months. Some have a lost weekend; he had a lost year.

After the story aired, according to the complaint, the broadcast was attacked by conservative political elements supportive of the Bush Administration. 

In turn, CBS announced that it was going to conduct a thorough independent investigation into the story of the broadcast and its production.

Instead, according to Rather:

Its intention was to conduct a biased investigation with controlled timing and predetermined conclusions in order to prevent further information concerning Bush’s TexANG service from being uncovered.

The complaint further alleges that CBS:

1.     planned to and did use Rather as a scapegoat to pacify the White House

2.     coerced Rather into publicly apologizing and taking personal blame for errors which were a )never established and b) not Rather’s fault

3.     breached its employment contract with Rather by terminating him as anchor on the CBS evening news and thereafter giving him few assignments, little staff, little air time, and basically nothing to do 

The Fraud Case

Generally speaking, in cases of fraud, an individual must prove:

  1.  a material representation of a presently existing or past fact,
  2.  made with knowledge of its falsity and
  3.  with the intention that the other party rely on it,
  4.  resulting in reliance by that party
  5.  to his or her detriment

While there is no set way in which fraud claims come up in the employment setting, they are often seen when an employer lures an employee away from a secure position to a new job based on representations which turn out to be false.

They also come up when an employer makes false representations to employees to get them to stay on the job after they announce an intention to leave.

The meat of these cases show that representations were made (either spoken or written) which were known to be false with the purpose of inducing the person to rely on them.

The second part of the proof involves a showing that the person did in fact rely on the false statement(s), and that he or she was damaged as a result.

In Rather’s case, it is claimed that CBS, as well as individually named defendants, made false representations, which they knew to be false at the time they were made, and which they had no intention of fulfilling, including the following:

  • CBS intended to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the broadcast
  • CBS would at all times take all necessary steps to preserve Rather’s reputation
  • CBS intended to fully utilize Rather’s experience
  • If Rather refrained from retained a private investigator to investigate the story underlying the broadcast, CBS would retain one and make the findings available to Rather 
  • CBS was going to extend his contract

All of these representations were false, according to Rather, and made so that Rather would refrain from making public statements concerning the Bush broadcast in order to defend himself and preserve his reputation

As a result,  according to his compliant, his career were irreparably damaged, he was ostracized, and he gave up significant employment opportunities.

(There appears to be an amended complaint which may have more detail but that’s the gist of what’s I could find)

What happened this week is that the fraud claim, which was previously dismissed, was reinstated by the Court of Appeals in New York -- a big victory for Rather and his lawyers. It also, in theory, gives Rather the opportunity to get punitive damages awarded against the defendants.

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Fighting for Employee Rights the American Way

I was both surprised and amused when I read this piece in the New York Times about  the French way of handling labor troubles.

According to what's reported, at least three times in recent weeks workers in France have held their bosses hostage in order to get management  to accede to their demands.

Last week workers at a Caterpillar plant in the French Alps held five of their bosses in a dispute over their severance packages. Pierre Piccarreta, a French union representative, justified the conduct this way :

“There is no violence or sequestration, but simply pressure so they restart negotiations . . . .At a time when the company is making a profit and distributing dividends to shareholders we want to find a favorable outcome for all the workers and know as quickly as possible where we are going.

The same type of hostage taking occurred at two other French plants in recent weeks:

  • Workers at a 3M plant held their boss for more than 24 hours at a plant in Central France.
  • Workers at a Sony plant in southwest France held their boss overnight when they were trying to get better severance packages.

France has  a long history of labor militancy and as reported in the Times has become increasingly restless as the impact of the global economic crisis worsens . The French unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent in February, according to the European Union.

It certainly struck me as an interesting contrast to the way we do things in America.

It's no secret that we are in a hot debate over the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill provides a bypass to the traditional union election process and allows for a certified bargaining unit if a majority of workers sign cards indicating their support for a union.

The bill would also provide stiffer penalties against employers for intimidation and retaliation of union organizers.

Labor suffered a real blow this past week when Senator Arlen Spector backed out of his support for the bill.  Another hurdle came came from Senator Diane Feinstein, a past sponsor of the act. Citing the flailing economy as a reason, her office issued a statement indicating she would seek alternative legislation that was less divisive.

There are many compelling reasons for the bill and it still has lots of support. One example is the excellent editorial by David Freiboth in Friday's Seattle Times who wrote:

The debate over pending labor-law reform, the Employee Free Choice Act, is getting mired in concerns about an employee's role in democratic determinism, thereby missing the larger economic issue that drives the real issue. Scare tactics that highlight problems with union intimidation during organizing campaigns are just that — scare tactics — designed to subvert the essence of the issue.

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Odd Bedfellows Agree on Dumping "Conscience Rule"

It's rare that you see the Society for Human Resource Managers ("SHRM") and the ACLU on the same side of an issue -- but that's what's going on with their opposition to the federal regulation called the "conscience rule."

The "conscience rule,"  enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services, is the most  recent and thankfully one of  the last vestiges of the fundamentalist appeasing Bush Administration.

The regulation prohibits employment discrimination against health care workers who refuse certain services based on "religious beliefs" or  "moral objections"  -- such as providing abortions or birth control.

The final rule, entitled Ensuring That Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law, was published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2008.

The Department of Health and Human Service served notice a couple of weeks ago that it intends to rescind the regulation which went into effect on January 20th, the day President Obama took office.

There were many opponents of  the regulation when it was proposed last fall as reported in a recent article in the New York Times about Obama's plan "to undo the rule," The American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood, for example, said the rule could void state laws requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives and requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. It could also allow drugstore employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives.

According to the  same New York Times  article  several states have filed legal challenges against the December 19th regulation:

Attorney General Richard Blumentahal of Connecticut sued in federal court on behalf of his state and several others. He issued a statement at the end of February  saying that his suit will continue until the rule 'is finally stopped.'

The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians made this announcement when the rule when it went into effect:

Today's regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the guise of 'protecting' the conscience of health care providers, is yet another reminder of the outgoing administration's implicit contempt for women's right to accurate and complete reproductive health information and legal medical procedures.

In addition to concerns for women's health, opponents of the regulation correctly point out that  the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already offers broad protection against discrimination based on religion. Title VII requires that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious practices and beliefs.

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One More Reason Why We Need the Employee Free Choice Act

There a host of good reasons why the Employee Free Choice Act should pass. They are very well articulated in the AFL-CIO website and AFL-CIO Blog. There’s also a wealth of information on TheHuffington Post.

According to those reports:                                                                                    

  1. 60 million people say that they would join unions if they could
  2. An employee who helps to organize a union has 1 in 5 chance of being fired
  3. Three quarters of the public -- nearly 73% -- are in favor of giving employees a fair chance to organize without employer obstruction and interference

There’s also a good reason for the passage of the Act I would like to share as an individual who has been representing employees for over twenty-five years. It may be obvious, but it's not often articulated.

Time and time again I have seen cases where employees were either prevented from or strongly discouraged from organizing a union.  In some of those instances, employees were given handbooks which looked similar in many ways to union contracts as a substitute or an appeasement.

The handbooks contained provisions, employees were told, which would give them similar benefits and protections to what they would have if they formed a union. The handbooks contained provisions for progressive discipline, layoffs by seniority, bumping rights and more.  The employees believed that they were protected and secure.

But when the time for layoffs came, seniority provisions were routinely not followed. Older employees were let go with 25, 30, and 40 years of experience. Women and minorities were fired in disproportionate numbers.

When we sued and attempted to get the provisions of the handbooks enforced we were told: “That’s just a handbook. Those are just 'guidelines’. It’s not a contract so we, the employer are not bound by it and can make choices as we see fit."  Most judges went along with the corporations.  The employees had no protection.

The result in tough economic times is that many employees in their 50’s and 60’s  are let go while the younger, less experienced employees stay on. The older employees lose the only jobs they had ever had with little chance of finding any work and no chance of finding comparable work – too young for social security, not old enough for retirement benefits, no health benefits without income to pay for it – not a good situation for our country.

And it's not safe.  Sometimes the older experienced workers -- those who know what they're doing -- are let go while the young and inexperienced workers are either retained or hired in to replace them. In many plants, it's a dangerous situation both for the workers and the community in which they live. I know of a case pending right now involving a chemical plant which frighteningly presents that precise scenario.

So unions are important for many reasons. But for someone who has represented countless individuals in age discrimination cases, they are particularly important in times of workforce reductions so that rules of fairness and safety instead of subjective attitudes of discrimination serve to control the harsh decisions that must be made.

Image: www.americasolidarity.org

It Takes a Woman

This post was first published in OPEN LEFT.com on September 5, 2009

When I first heard about the Sara Palin announcement, I was incredulous. Like many, I was stumped as to why John McCain would choose a vice presidential running mate who was completely lacking qualifications for the position. The obvious reason, the effort to pick up Hillary Clinton supporters, made no sense. Anyone who supported Hillary did so not only because she was a woman, but certainly because of the causes which she has championed and the positions for which she stands. Sara Palin simply did not fill the bill.

Within minutes of the announcement, I received a call from my eighty-three year old father who has always been a close follower of politics. After the primaries were over my dad was on the fence. He wasn’t sure if he was going to vote for McCain or Obama. This was particularly irritating because he votes in Florida, a state where each vote carries a great deal of weight. And so I was very interested to hear what his reaction to the Palin announcement was.

“He doesn’t deserve to be candidate for President if he could make such a dumb decision. How could he pick someone with no experience when he’s seventy-four years old” (even though McCain is seventy two, not seventy four, I chose not to correct him) Obama’s got my vote.” This brief conversation made my day and I happily relayed it to everyone I know who cared about its significance. If my father thinks like this, so do a lot of older Jewish voters in Florida I thought, and now we have a fighting chance in that important battleground state.

But as the weekend has passed, I realize that I had submerged what was as bothersome to me as Sara Palin’s utter lack of qualifications and that was McCain’s proud pronouncement that “Sara Palin is a feminist.”

I consider myself a feminist. I started volunteering on women’s’ rights issues at the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination in 1972 when we were fighting not only for equal pay for equal work but on issues that many have forgotten, the right for women to get credit and credit cards, and the right to have gender neutral newspaper listings for jobs, not “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs” as they were then classified.  From there  I went on to work for the Office for Civil Rights for the federal government’s Department of Health Education and Welfare where we were enforcing the first Title IX investigations to help ensure equal opportunity to male and female high school and college students . We also took on the challenges of enforcement of some of the first sexual harassment guidelines issued by the government. Because of my dedication to civil rights issues, I went to law school and have been working through the years along with so many others at enforcing the rights of women to be treated equally and fairly in the workplace.

 So let me just say it.  Sara Palin is no feminist.  Just because she has children and works does not make her a feminist. In fact, I think that she sets feminism back fifty years.

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