by Kylie Crawford TenBrook, Best Western International, Inc.
In April, recordings of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks to his half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend assistant* surfaced. Among those remarks were the following:
by Tammy Binford
An April gathering that brought together President Barack Obama, three former presidents, and civil rights leaders marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a game-changing law that still guards against discrimination in the workplace and other aspects of life. The impetus for the Act was the kind of blatant bigotry responsible for mistreatment of racial and religious minorities as well as women. The Civil Rights Act has made strides against flagrant abuse, but concern over a more subtle kind of bias is now coming to light: damage caused by “microaggressions.”
Microaggressions aren’t like old-style, overt racism and other forms of bigotry. Instead, more understated insults—such as praising an African-American employee for being articulate or admiring a Latino’s lack of an accent—are raising questions. These comments and actions are what a recent college graduate quoted in a March New York Times article called “racism 2.0.”
Bullying. We’ve all read the headlines. A child shoots another child who bullied him. A child takes her own life because she was bullied. As a result, schools are teaching kids and parents about recognizing the signs of bullying, reporting troubling behavior, and stopping it before it escalates. But bullying is for kids, and employers don’t need to worry about it, right? Wrong.
Law on bullying
Many states have statutes prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Not all states have such prohibition, and since there is no broad federal prohibition on discrimination by private employers based on either category, that leaves local ordinances to address the issue. A look at what is happening in Texas can offer insight into these trends across the country.
Local ordinances across Texas
About a year ago, a group of private citizens paid for a seven-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments and gained approval for it to be placed on the north end of the Oklahoma Capitol grounds. Not surprisingly, a satanic group then asked Oklahoma’s Capitol Preservation Commission for permission to erect a seven-foot-tall “homage” to the Prince of Darkness, and a Hindu organization applied to have a monkey god statue join the growing list of Oklahoma statehouse religious monuments. Most recently, the Pastafarians—people who follow the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster—have asked how they can apply for a spot for their statue on Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds. I’m serious.
What does this have to do with your workplace? Hopefully nothing. But it serves as a good reminder about the potential curveballs an employer can face when religious issues gain prominence at work.
The I-9 process of verifying an employee’s identity and employment authorization can be, as W.C. Fields put it, “fraught with eminent peril.” Failure to comply with documentation, verification, and discrimination laws can result in stiff fines and penalties. And recent settlement agreements between employers and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicate that the government is paying attention.
The law regarding the rights of transgender employees is evolving, with a clear trend toward the recognition and protection of the rights of transgender individuals. Just five years ago, employers in the United States likely would not have considered whether transgender employees were protected by federal employment laws. At most, employers would have considered whether state or local laws extended protections to transgender employees. However, the global community has been active regarding the protection of transgender employees’ rights in the workplace, and now it seems that the federal government is on track to join that trend.
by Boyd Byers
She didn’t win the crown, but Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, made the most news during the Miss USA pageant this summer. Her bungled response to a question about the gender pay gap went viral and was seen by millions on the Internet. But her response also generated serious discussion about equal pay.
‘Create education better’
by Scott Evans
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions favorable to the gay rights movement. In United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that same-sex married couples are entitled to federal benefits, and by declining to decide a California case, the Court effectively allowed same-sex marriage in the state.
In the Windsor case, the Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and denied more than 1,000 federal benefits to same-sex married couples, was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 may dramatically transform the legal and financial standing of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority’s opinion in the 5-4 decision, with the four liberal-leaning justices―Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan―joining.