Sweden’s advertising ombudsman has ruled the much-shared “Distracted Boyfriend Meme” improperly presents women as “sex objects” and is “a stereotypical picture of men seeing women as interchangeable”. While the industry panel itself has no power to impose a legal ban, its views might prove consequential since the Stockholm city council has enacted a ban on sexist billboards in public spaces. [Catherine Edwards, The Local]
- Women-only co-working space in Washington, D.C. is packed with amenities. But is it legal? [Ally Schweitzer, WAMU]
- Hurry up and cert: Ninth Circuit en banc rules that use of past salary history violates federal Equal Pay Act [Reuters/KFGO; Marcia McCormick, Workplace Prof]
- Justice Ruth Ginsburg talks down idea of passing new laws in response to #MeToo harassment scandals: “We have the legal reforms — we have had them for a long time….The laws are there and the laws are in place; it takes people to step forward and use them.” [Jeffrey Rosen interview, The Atlantic]
- “No Fingerprinting as a Religious Accommodation? Yes, Says Court” [Daniel Schwartz]
- “Equal Pay Day Should Be in January” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato] “Mythbusting Paid Leave Statistics” [same] “Women who have their first child before 25 or after 35 eventually close the salary divide with their husbands,” but new moms between 25-35 don’t [Claire Cain Miller, New York Times] “When factors such as experience, industry and job level were taken into account, women earn 97.8 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers for doing the same work.” [Stephen Miller, SHRM] More: Tyler Cowen;
- “A waiter was fired for being combative, aggressive and something of a bully. His defense? He’s not rude. He’s French and his former bosses are discriminating against his culture and heritage.” [Laura M. Holson, New York Times via Twitter]
“Earlier this month, California Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson and Toni G. Atkins introduced a bill, SB 826, that would require a publicly held corporation with its principal places of business in California to have a minimum number of women directors.” [Keith Paul Bishop, Cal Corporate Law, via Prof. Bainbridge, who asks: “How is this constitutional?”]
- California attorney known for suing bars over “ladies’ nights” sues comedian Iliza Shlesinger over “Girls Night In” show [Gene Maddaus, Variety]
- “Jury Rejects Damages for Victims of SWAT Raid Based on Wet Tea Leaves Cops Said Was Pot” [Jacob Sullum, Radley Balko, earlier here, here, and here]
- Before calling Star-Spangled Banner “ode to slavery,” newly inaugurated St. Paul mayor should have read my NR piece [Tad Vezner, Pioneer Press]
- From Prof. Stephen Presser, ideas on reforming legal education [Law and Liberty]
- Why administration’s appellate nominations tend to be all-of-a-piece while district court nominations are more a mixed bag [Jonathan Adler]
- Some policy questions about last month’s Amtrak 501 wreck outside Seattle [Randal O’Toole, Cato and more]
- Spotted in Senate tax bill: what sounds like an excellent proposal to cut off worker-classification lawsuits [Shu-Yi Oei and Diane M. Ring (who take a very different view of the provision) via Caron/TaxProf]
- Federalist Society convention video on future of federal workplace agencies with Alex Acosta and Nicholas Geale of DoL, Victoria Lipnic of EEOC, Philip Miscimarra of NLRB;
- “‘Mistake’ in Pennsylvania homecare contract would have helped unions in fight over healthcare workers” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner; Cato podcast with David Osborne and Caleb O. Brown]
- Automatically worth reading, Claudia Goldin on gender pay gap [New York Times]
- Public sector unions rule in California politics, and pension-spiking is just one of the results [Steven Greenhut] “California Union Bill Looks to Ban Outsourcing Public Services” [same]
- New report from Dana Berliner, Clark Neily al., “Occupational Licensing Run Wild” [Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project]
The Silicon Valley figure, known for an unsuccessful sex discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins, basks in largely favorable press as well as the praise of figures like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandburg. Naomi Schaefer Riley, however, takes a contrary view [Commentary, I’m quoted] Even as Pao writes pieces in the popular press encouraging techies to turn their discontents into legal claims against their employers, she urges the services of her Project Include on the same employers:
Much of the evidence suggests that sensitivity training does little good. And in some cases, talking to employees about negative stereotyping of women or racial minorities might actually spur employees to think negatively about their colleagues in ways they hadn’t considered before.
Which brings us back to the threat of litigation. Thanks to Pao’s case, companies are not only quivering over multimillion-dollar lawsuits, they are also considering ways to mitigate the possibility. And that means working with people like Pao to provide cover. While they may not be able to, or even care to, control the behavior of individual employees, they’d at least like to avoid the accusation of a “hostile workplace,” which could cost considerably more in court. Working with Pao and her colleagues won’t automatically ensure that lawsuits against them get thrown out, but signing on to Project Include will go a long way toward protecting them.
The EEOC’s 1997 dispute with the Hooters breastaurant chain over its failure to hire male Hooters Girls is among the most glorious in its history [see coverage here and here]. Now the Commission seems eager to bring back old times: it has filed a lawsuit charging that Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., violated sex discrimination law by turning away a qualified male applicant for a bartending job. “Sammy’s subsequently hired at least two females for bartending positions at that location. According to the suit, during 2015 Sammy’s employed 17 females and no males in bartender positions” at the location. [EEOC press release]
I’ve got a new piece at USA Today on the background of why hostile-environment law creates incentives for a company like Google to discipline or fire an employee like James Damore, who wrote a now-famous memo on the the firm’s gender policies.
Now, just as two decades ago, many outsiders look at a firing-over-speech and say it’s just a private firm’s decision. No public policy or First Amendment implications, right?
And it’s true that sometimes an employer’s decision to fire would have been made even with no legal thumb on the scale. The disruption caused by an instance of speech, or co-workers’ or managers’ dislike for it, would have been enough. Other times legal considerations did make the difference. Hard to tell the two cases apart!
So as a way of evading responsibility system-wide it’s kind of brilliant. Those who write laws can blame private actors’ decisions. The private actors in turn can feel as if their hands were tied given the legal reality they might face.
And the piece concludes:
Google is currently being sued on sex discrimination claims, which means lawyerly caution would be at a zenith on whether to let its corporate culture be portrayed in a future courtroom as tolerant of sexist argumentation.
To sum up: don’t assume Google acted unusually. Under current legal incentives, what just happened counts as normal.
Full piece is here. Here’s the text of the memo, and here’s Conor Friedersdorf on how early coverage of the memo misrepresented its contents. The Jonathan Rauch 1997 New Republic piece I quote in my USA Today article is here; it quotes my 1997 book The Excuse Factory. And I also recommend this take by law professor Erica Goldberg at In a Crowded Theater.
New York City has become the latest jurisdiction to ban asking about levels of current and past salary — an obviously rational and business-related inquiry in many cases — in hopes that maybe somehow the result will be to level female applicants’ salary offerings up (and not anyone’s down, of course.) “Nor will employers be able to search public records to discover a candidate’s payment history. (How that is enforced remains to be seen.)” [William D. Cohan, New York Times]
Paid leave and child care policy mandates make women differentially more expensive to employ. And then? Vanessa Brown Calder speaks to Caleb Brown in a Cato podcast, after discussing the issue in an earlier blog post:
Though the United States doesn’t have a federally-mandated paid leave policy, it did enact a federally mandated unpaid leave policy, Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), in 1993. And despite FMLA being an accepted part of the modern legislative fabric, the consequences of the policy are not all stellar. Analysis suggests women hired after the policy are five percent more likely to be employed but eight percent less likely to be promoted.
Though the U.S. hasn’t adopted a paid leave mandate, a few states have. Research on policy outcomes in California show female labor force participation rising after implementation of paid leave (maybe good?) and childbearing-aged female unemployment and unemployment duration rising, too (unambiguously bad). This is probably because the mandate made women universally more expensive in employer’s eyes, whether professional women intend to use benefits or not.
In the end, free benefits are not free. Notes Calder in the podcast: “Over the course of women’s lives, they are actually paying the price for some of these policies, and that’s something that is not part of the current debate.”