The Boss, your boss, and LGBT rights

April 12, 2016 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

North Carolina got itself a bit of attention recently when it enacted House Bill 2, which mandates that public restrooms be limited for use based on the individual’s “biological sex.” The effect of this bill was to take away from transgender citizens their ability to choose, based on their individual gender identities, which restroom they will use. There was some fairly prompt backlash. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a Greensboro concert in protest. The NBA is considering relocating its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.  Fist hand with rainbow flag patterned isolate on white

Relevant to the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been pursuing LGBT cases since long before the Boss or the Association ever heard of HB2. The EEOC’s position is that it “interprets and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964′s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.” While Title VII does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the EEOC says that it will pursue adverse employment decisions that are the result of “gender stereotyping.” Consider these actions brought by EEOC: read more…

U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team alleges gender wage discrimination

April 01, 2016 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Five star players of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo) made headlines this week by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender wage discrimination against the U.S. Soccer Federation.  In their charge, the players allege that they should be paid at least as much as (if not more than) the players for the Men’s National Team.  The players filed the charge amid contentious negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, which have already resulted in a separate lawsuit and serious questions about whether the team will be participating in the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. Soccer Stars

In their charge, the players allege that they are paid as little as 38 percent of what the Men’s National Team Players earn.  More specifically, the charge alleges that top-tier Women’s National Team Players earn $72,000 per year to play a minimum of 20 exhibition games (“Friendlies,” with no additional pay for games beyond the 20unlike the men’s team which is paid for each game played) and that they earn $99,000 if they win all 20 Friendlies.  Meanwhile, the men earn $100,000 if they lose all their Friendlies and can earn up to approximately $260,000 if they win.  As for the World Cup, the women’s team earned a total of $2 million last year for their championship performance in Canada while the men’s team was paid a total $9 million despite their failure to advance past the top 16 in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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Age, sex, and sports media

December 21, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Sports reporter Colleen Dominguez is 54 years old and has enjoyed a successful career in sports journalism including a lengthy stint at ESPN. Dominguez recently jumped to Fox Sports 1 and believes her age and gender are the only plausible reasons that FS1 has cut her broadcasting assignments and diminished her career. These are her allegations in a lawsuit filed recently in a California federal court. The complaint tells the story of a veteran, experienced reporter who has paid her dues but is being pushed aside by the men and the new pretty girl on the block. Can a media company make decisions based on the age and gender of its on-air talent?a young woman journalist with a microphone and a cameraman

This is not the first time this has come up in the TV and entertainment industry. In 1993 a Minnesota jury awarded 53-year-old sportscaster Tom Ryther $1.2 million in an age discrimination case. Ryther, a longtime fixture on TV news, was not renewed after his network commissioned a poll that showed he wasn’t having a “positive” effect on viewership. According to Ryther, at the time of his termination, the station manager asked him how it felt to be a failure at age 53.  No doubt that played well with the jury.

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The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and the Queen Bee myth

Kristin Starnes Gray

You’ve seen her splashed across the big screen, small screen, computer screen, and even your tablet screen, but have you ever actually met the fabled Executive Queen Bee? We’re talking about the stereotypical top female executive who stomps on other women on her way to the top, reveling in her success while ignoring or sabotaging the advancement of other women. According to a recent study by researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland’s business school, this Executive Queen Bee is a myth.  Queen Bee

A recent Washington Post article spotlighted this intriguing study noting, “One of the most enduring stereotypes in the American workplace is that of the ‘queen bee’: the executive female who, at best, doesn’t help the women below her get ahead and, at worst, actively hinders them.” Meryl Streep (an outspoken activist for wage equality and women’s rights) famously and stylishly portrayed a fictional Queen Bee in The Devil Wears Prada, which is based on a best-selling novel of the same name. In the film and novel, Streep’s character (Miranda Priestly) alternates between coldly ignoring and hotly abusing her female minions. For example, she demands that one of her female assistants acquire the new, unpublished Harry Potter novel with the underlying threat of immediate termination for failure to complete this seemingly impossible task. Such characters clearly make for excellent box office and book sales, but are these Executive Queen Bees a reality of the modern workplace?

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Jenner, Dolezal, and the transformative debate

June 22, 2015 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

The names Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal have been inexorably intertwined over the last couple weeks by the mainstream media and social pundits, including a debate as to whether these two individuals’ circumstances should even be intertwined because they represent entirely different discussions regarding social justice and identity. Identity Crisis

As most know, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, came out publicly as transgender and her transition has been a fairly high-profile affair. Other than negative reactions from a select faction of people, Jenner has received mainly overwhelming support. Not so for Dolezal, a former head of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter when it was recently revealed she is actually Caucasian but claims to identify as black. Dolezal has received criticism from all-comers regardless of race, age, or political or social affiliation.

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A Word for the EEOC from Bob Kazamakis*

May 04, 2015 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Do I look like someone who would waste my own time?

Robert California, The Office

This post takes us back to “That’s What She Said,” Ford Harrison’s earlier and excellent chronicle of The Office. After Michael Scott’s departure for marital bliss with zany HR manager Holly Flax, Dunder Mifflin floundered about in search for a new captain. For one season, that captain was Robert California, played by James Spader. California was a weirdo – a bottomless pit of self confidence, obsessed with sex, enigmatic, and prone to opaque monologues and odd rhetorical questions like the one above. United States Supreme Court

That quote popped to mind last week when I saw that the Supreme Court had decided Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC. Mach Mining began like most EEOC charges. A female applicant filed a charge with the EEOC claiming that the company, a coal miner (not the kind of business that gets much federal agency love these days, anyway) failed to hire her because she was female. The EEOC investigated and found cause regarding the claimant and a class of similarly situated female applicants. Like other cases involving a cause finding, the EEOC sent Mach a letter to inform the company of the decision and invited it to participate in the EEOC’s informal conciliation process (many of you have likely been through similar situations). So far, so good.

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Pay the lady

February 24, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, and people are still buzzing about her acceptance speech where she exclaimed: “It’s our time to have wageshutterstock_225011584 equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

Arquette will be pleased to know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) vigorously administers the Equal Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for equal work. In fact, an EPA complainant doesn’t even have to file a charge with the EEOC and, unlike with Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act, can proceed straight to court with a lawsuit.

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BFOQ FTW

January 04, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

YOU are a seasoned HR pro.  YOU understand the difference between Internet slang–omg, imho, lmao–and the Title VII defense of BFOQ.  We must discuss the BFOQ exception–bona fide occupational qualification–in the wake of the Abu Dhabi adventures of actress, singer, and ex-Biebs girl Selena Gomez.  ICYMI (see what I did there?), a picture surfaced of Gomez in a mosque taken while she and some pals were vacationing in Abu Dhabi. In the photo, Gomez clearly flashes her (NSFW alert) … ankle. shutterstock_194149595

Context is important. Gomez was a female in a mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Mosque rules prohibit “intimate behavior,” including a female’s failure to wear ankle-length garments. Could a U.S. employer refuse to hire or employ a female because it did business in Arab countries with decisionmakers who were devout Muslims?

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A blooper of historic proportions

September 22, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Downton Abbey recently made headlines with what some are calling “the water bottle seen around the world.” In an uncropped version of a publicity photo, Lord Grantham and Lady Edith are seen standing in front of a stately mantel upon which a bottled water is perched looking hilariously out of place. shutterstock_58173862Turning an amusing blooper into a positive,  the show posted to its Instagram account a photograph of the cast holding water bottles on set along with a link to the website for WaterAid, an international organization dedicated to providing clean water to underserved communities.  The cast and crew decided they wanted to turn some of the attention toward a water issue that truly matters.

The water bottle blooper was particularly noteworthy, given the amount of time and effort that clearly goes into making the show look and feel authentic to viewers. In fact, Sophie McShera (who plays the cook’s assistant, Daisy) revealed that, for the sake of preserving their historic look, there is a no-wash policy when it comes to the costumes, which makes for one smelly cast. According to McShera, there are patches in the costumes’ armpits that are washed separately, but “we do stink.”

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Method to their madness, but what if Freddie the freelancer had stolen Don Draper’s idea?

April 18, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

I watched the opening scene of Mad Men (Season 7, Episode 1) and thought, “Wow, Freddie has really gotten his act together.” His Accutron pitch, so polished, so vivid, so moving. Don Draper himself could not have done better. Turns out Don couldn’t have done better, but only because it was revealed later that Don himself was feeding Freddie pitch ideas to use as a freelancer.

But what if the facts were slightly different? What if Don and Freddie were just two advertising guys eating sausage hoagies over lunch, casually sharing pitch ideas? And then what if Freddie took one of Don’s ideas and turned it into a successful pitch for which Freddie received credit and revenue? Could Don sue Freddie?

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