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Employment Law Blog

Reforming Labor and Employment Laws to Improve the Economy: Comparing American and French Approaches

This Sunday, May 7, the world will be watching France to see if the wave of populism that led to Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump will now usher in Marine Le Pen as the new French president. Le Pen leads the country's far-right National Front party and is up against the centrist Emmanuel Macron in this Sunday's runoff poll.

No matter who wins, the new French president will inherit a troubled economy. Many feel the best way to shore up France's economic status would be to reform its employment laws, which are among the most employee-friendly in the world.

Activists Challenge Wells Fargo on Many Fronts at Annual Shareholders Meeting

Activists seized on Wells Fargo's annual shareholder meeting this week to press the bank for changes to a wide range of alleged unfair practices. As the country's fourth-largest bank, Wells faces backlash from a scandal involving up to two million accounts opened without customer authorization, as well as related allegations of employment law violations - including firing whistleblowers who refused to participate in fraudulent account openings. Activists mobilizing around the Forgo Wells campaign, among others, have condemned the bank's use of forced arbitration clauses in customers' and employees' contracts, which obstruct many of these issues from coming to light because they prevent employees and consumers from banding together and taking Wells to court.

Fair Play Pay: Compensating College Athletes

It is not news that college athletics are big business. March Madness holds the entire country's rapt attention each year, and the revenues it generates for the NCAA are significant. The broadcast rights are worth more than $1 billion annually as of 2016. And, while the NCAA has indicated that 90% of that money goes to the benefit of the athletes, that may not truly be the case. March Madness is over, but many question whether the NCAA promulgates another form of madness, its amateurism rules that forbid compensation of college athletes.

Jared and Kay Jewelers: When 'Male Camaraderie' Morphs into Toxic Corporate Culture

Sterling Jewelers, Inc., the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, is facing explosive allegations - and a national class action lawsuit - alleging its "boys club" culture discriminated against women and encouraged sexual harassment. Hundreds of women have joined the lawsuit.

Since 2008, Sterling has been involved in arbitration with a plaintiff class of nearly 69,000 current and former employees over alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act. The women say they faced age discrimination, lower pay, and were denied promotions in favor of less experienced male coworkers. They were not allowed to discuss pay issues, and, if they complained, were often subjected to retaliation.

A Hard-Won Victory: Seventh Circuit Finds Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Workers

Those of us in the LGBTQ community will never forget June 26, 2015, the day that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Obergefell represented acceptance of the notion that we and our relationships deserve, as Justice Kennedy stated, "equal dignity in the eyes of the law."

On April 4, the Seventh Circuit issued another momentous decision as it became the first U.S. federal court to broaden the scope of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. This landmark ruling means that LGBT workers now have the same rights under Title VII as women, minorities, and other protected groups. The 8-3 decision in Kimberly Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College represents a significant step forward in the fight for LGBTQ equality in the United States, and offers much broader workplace protections for gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer workers and employees.

Uber and Fox News: When Management Willfully Ignores Harassment Complaints

Even just a passing glance at news headlines over the last few months reveals a troubling pattern: companies turning a blind eye when men who are important to the bottom line are accused of sexual harassment.

Uber Harassment

The year started out with a shocking blog post written by former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler who, having just joined the company, was sexually propositioned by her new supervisor the first day on the job. Fowler reported him to HR - with screen caps of the messages he sent her over the company chat system - but nothing was done. Unsurprisingly, the harassment did not stop.

Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. Apr. 4, 2017) (en banc)

This decision was an instant sensation in the news and social media: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 held to protect employees from discrimination because of sexual orientation (and, presumably, gender identity as well). Digging into the majority and separate opinions, we can trace different possible outcomes when this question inevitably reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Gender Pay Gap Isn't Closing As Fast As You Might Think

Despite the more than 50 years that have passed since the enactment of the federal Equal Pay Act, based on the current rate of change it will take until 2152 - another 135 years - for the pay gap between men and women to be eradicated in the United States. It's a sobering fact to consider on this Equal Pay Day 2017, especially in light of the new Gender Pay Gap Reporting legislation that takes effect later this week in the United Kingdom.

This revelation, recently made in an American Association of University Women report, will come as a surprise to many who have hailed the progress made in diminishing gender pay disparity - and, indeed, progress has been made. U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that in 1964, shortly after the EPA took effect, women across the country earned 59 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts; by 2017, women earned 79 cents to every dollar earned by men. At the state level, New York leads the nation, with women making 89 cents to every dollar earned by men.

Dindinger v. Allsteel, Inc., No. 16-1305 (8th Cir. Apr. 3, 2017)

Three plaintiffs successfully defend a jury verdict totaling $204,000 in a Title VII, Equal Pay Act and Iowa Civil Rights Act case, plus $269,877.67 in attorney's fees. The court casts doubt on the use of a "market forces" defense by employers to justify lower pay for women, yet also holds that if such a defense were valid, the employer presented insufficient evidence to warrant an instruction.

Yet Another Double Standard: Women in Finance Given Harsher Discipline

It seems women working in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as finance, do not just face pay inequity or discrimination and harassment - they also receive harsher, career-limiting discipline far more often than their male counterparts. That is the startling finding from a new study titled "When Harry Fired Sally: The Double Standard in Punishing Misconduct" conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Stanford University, and the University of Minnesota.

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