Showing posts with label family responsibility discrimination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family responsibility discrimination. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

ABA President fixes the victim-blaming problem the ABA Journal created for working moms


Yesterday, I was highly critical of the ABA Journal for publishing a column that victim-blamed working moms for their lack of advancement in the legal profession. Then, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo did what she could to fix the injustice created by the journal of the organization she runs.

In her own column—Women's success in legal careers: Lack of advancement is not a 'woman' problem, it’s a 'profession' problem—Refo took apart the notion that female attorneys are to blame for their lack of upward mobility. They have not failed, Refo correct argues, their employers have failed them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The American Bar Association must never again victim-blame working-parent attorneys for the discrimination they suffer


The ABA Journal recently published a column by
Susan Smith Blakely, a career counselor and former law-firm partner, that does a gross injustice to every law-firm working parent. 

Her piece, titled, Are women lawyers paying enough attention to upward mobility?, argues that women lawyers are responsible for the limited opportunities their employers have fostered upon them. By focusing on family instead of firm, she argues that they have chosen their priority and should not complain when career advancement passes them by.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Parental discrimination claims pose big risks for employers


According to workingmother.com, More Parents Than Ever Are Suing Their Employers for Discrimination—and Winning. The article is right — parental discrimination claims (which are really just sex discrimination claims brought by working parents) are very dangerous for employers.

Monday, June 18, 2018

“Incredibles 2” is an incredible movie about working parenthood


Being a working parent is all about sacrifice. Not always being there for the small stuff. It might mean missing your daughter’s first date. Or not helping your son figure out his math homework. Or not experiencing your baby’s first word (or exhibition of superpowers).

For Elastagirl (aka Mrs. Incredible, aka Helen Parr) it means all of these things.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Parental status discrimination is NOT a thing. But should it be?


I received some great feedback on LinkedIn on last week’s post on New York’s new paid family leave law.

That law grants paid leave for the same general reasons one can take unpaid leave under the FMLA. What it does not do, though, is create a new protected class.

Indeed, discrimination based on one’s status as a parent is, in and of itself, NOT illegal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ohio appellate decision sends working moms back to the 1950s


Employee claims her supervisor advised her not to apply for an open position because, “she is a single mother with kids and if [she] had to take time off work, it would jam [us] up for getting someone to cover the scheduling.”

Employee sues for gender discrimination. She wins in a landslide, right?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beware eldercare-discrimination claims



One of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog, almost nine years ago to the day, discussed the EEOC’s then-new Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. One of the key issues noted by the EEOC in that document, and three years later in its follow-up document, Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, was eldercare discrimination:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Leave policies should apply equally across genders … but must they?


The New York Times reports that CNN has settled an EEOC charge brought by a former correspondent, who claimed that the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers.

At the time Mr. Levs’s daughter was born, in October 2013, CNN offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers and the same amount to parents of either gender who adopted children or relied on surrogates. By contrast, the company offered two weeks of paid leave to biological fathers.

Mr. Levs, whose daughter was born five weeks prematurely, already had two young children. He said he felt he needed to spend more time at home sharing in caregiving responsibilities with his wife. He filed his charge when the company refused to grant him more paid time off.

Optically, there is a lot of appeal in a male employee claiming discrimination when a female employee receives more paid leave after the birth of a child. On its face, it certainly looks discriminatory. But, is such a policy really sex discrimination?

There is one key difference between women and men when they welcome a new-born child. Women give birth; men don’t. A women is not medically ready to return to work the day following childbirth; a man is. Indeed, current medical guidelines suggest that women take six weeks off from work following a vaginal delivery, and eight following a C-section. Adoptions also provide different challenges to a couple, including adjusting to new family member without the buffer of a nine-month pregnancy.

While employers should offer equal leave allotments to men and women, before we jump the legal gun we need to consider that there might be an explanation other than discrimination that justifies different treatment between the sexes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gender equality is dead; long live gender equality!


http://flic.kr/p/dLGTi8
I rarely write about active cases I’m handling. In fact, I can only think of one other time that I was mad enough to do so. Today marks time number two. Each involves a galling lack of professional courtesy.

I’m currently in the middle of a contentious piece of litigation in western Pennsylvania. The witnesses, however, are scattered all of the country, including two in Dallas, who I had to go to court to defeat a motion to compel their attendance in PA for their depositions. On Friday, I received a phone call from plaintiff’s counsel (who is in his mid to upper 70s), in which he told me he intended to take their depositions in Dallas this coming Wednesday and Thursday. I responded that even if they could be available on such short notice (they can’t be), I’m unavailable because my wife is traveling those two days for her job and one of us needs to be home with the kids.

His response floored me. He says, “You’re a lawyer. It’s unprofessional for you to plan your schedule around your wife. She should be at home taking care of the kids.”

We don’t live in an Ozzie & Harriet world anymore. Long gone are the days when a wife would be waiting at home to greet her husband with a pair of slipper and a martini while she put dinner on the table. Women work. My wife (who, by the way, gave up her career for 6 years to stay at home with our children) has restarted her career. Her job requires her to travel, which means we share a travel calendar. To make sure that our kids are never abandoned, we clear all travel with the other’s out-of-town schedule before making our own business arrangements.

Readers, please don’t carry this attitude into your business. There is only one unhappy ending to telling one of your employees that his wife, or she, belongs at home with the children. It starts with law- and ends with -suit. Women have the right to work, and neither they, nor their spouses, should be punished for exercising that right, regardless of their chosen profession.

As for which one of us in my tale was acting unprofessionally, I leave that decision up to you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The one question I would ask President Obama during the debates



Four years ago, Dan Schwartz, on his Connecticut Employment Law Blog, answered the following question: What One Question Regarding Labor & Employment Law Would You Ask the Candidates During the Debates?

With this election cycle's debates on the horizon, Dan has put out a challenge for his fellow employment law bloggers to answer the same question this year. Today through Thursday, I'll be providing the one question I would ask each of the two Presidential and two Vice-Presidential candidates. On Friday, I'll recap the best from my blogging brethren.

First up, President Obama:
Four years ago, you campaigned on a promise to help working families. You promised to expand the FMLA to cover smaller employers, and promised that employers would be required to provide paid sick days to all employees. Yet, four years later, your track record on these issues is spotty at best. The only accomplishment to which you can point in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. What can you say to working families to earn their trust that the next four years will be different?
Tomorrow, my question for Mitt Romney.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let’s try not to over-react to the breastfeeding discrimination case


Last month, I wrote that employers denying lactation rights to employees was not problem that needed remedial legislation. Wouldn’t you know it, news broke last week of a federal judge in Houston who dismissed a sex discrimination case—EEOC v. Houston Funding [pdf]—in which the employee alleged that she was fired because she asked to pump breast milk at work.

Here’s the court’s entire analysis dismissing the lawsuit:

The commission says that the company fired her because she wanted to pump breast milk. Discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition is illegal….

Even if the company’s claim that she was fired for abandonment is meant to hide the real reason — she wanted to pump breast milk — lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

She gave birth on December 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant, and her pregnancy-related conditions had ended. Firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination.

Before I put on my employer-advocate hat, let me go on record and say that the last I checked, women are the only gender that can naturally produce milk, and therefore denying a woman the right to lactate is sex discrimination.

This decision has people angry. As of this morning, the case’s online docket reflects that 12 private non-parties have emailed the judge calling her ruling “shameful” and “absurd” (among other similar pejoratives).

Before people over-react and scream from the rooftops for remedial legislation to clarify that lactation discrimination equates to sex discrimination, one case does not make a rule. In fact, it is much more likely that one case is merely an aberration. I stand by my conviction that 1) Title VII’s prohibitions against sex and pregnancy discrimination adequately cover the rights of working moms to lactate; and 2) we do not need any additional legislation (on top of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) to further to protect this right (EEOC v. Houston Funding notwithstanding).

For additional analysis of this case, I suggest checking out the thoughts of some of my fellow bloggers from last week:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The word of the day is “systemic”


The EEOC has published its draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2012 – 2016. A quick Ctrl-F for the word “systemic” reveals 16 different hits in this relatively short document.

“Systemic” cases, according to the EEOC, are those that “address a pattern, practice or policy of alleged discrimination and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic area.” The identification, investigation, and litigation of this category of cases remains a “top priority” of the agency. When the EEOC publishes the final version of its strategic plan, expect to see a target percentage of systemic cases in the agency’s litigation pipeline.

What does this mean for employers? It means that company-wide policies that have the potential affect certain groups more than others very much remain on the EEOC’s enforcement radar. What are some of these issues for employers to heed:

Keep an eye on these issues, because you can bet the EEOC will be (at least for the foreseeable future).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Federal court takes EEOC to task for its work-life-balance agenda


In a 64-page opinion, a New York federal court issued a scathing indictment of the EEOC’s sue-first-ask-questions-later litigation tactics. In EEOC v. Bloomberg L.P., the agency accused the financial news giant of engaging in a pattern and practice of discriminating against pregnant women and mothers. The court strongly disagreed:

“J’accuse!” is not enough in court. Evidence is required.

The court also lobbed a grenade against those who pursue a work-life-balance agenda in the name of sex discrimination:

At bottom, the EEOC’s theory of this case is about so-called “work-life balance.” Absent evidence of a pattern of discriminatory conduct—i.e., a pattern that women or mothers were discriminated against because of their pregnancy as compared with others who worked similar schedules—the EEOC’s pattern or practice claim does not demonstrate a policy of discrimination at Bloomberg. It amounts to a judgment that Bloomberg, as a company policy, does not provide its employee mothers with a sufficient work-life balance…. The law does not mandate “work-life balance.” It does not require companies to ignore employees’ work-family tradeoffs—and they are tradeoffs—when deciding about employee pay and promotions. It does not require that companies treat pregnant women and mothers better or more leniently than others. All of these things may be desirable, they may make business sense, and they may be “forward-thinking.” But they are not required by law. The law simply requires fair treatment of all employees. It requires holding employees to the same standards.

In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences. But those consequences occur for anyone who takes significant time away from Bloomberg, not just for pregnant women and mothers…. Bloomberg’s standard operating procedure was to treat pregnant employees who took leave similarly to any employee who took significant time away from work for whatever reason. The law does not create liability for making that business decision.

In other words, family responsibility discrimination is only unlawful if it treats genders differently. It is not unlawfully discriminatory for a company to discriminate against those who chose family over their jobs, so long as men and women suffer the same consequences. The failure to provide what makes business-sense (promoting a family-friendly work environment) does not, in an of itself, equate to sex discrimination (despite what the EEOC may tell you).


Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ADA’s associational disability provision does not shield poor-performing employees from termination


Eugene Stansberry, who sued his former employer for disability discrimination, is not disabled. His wife, however, is, suffering from Polyarteritis Nodosa, a rare and debilitating autoimmune disorder. Stansberry sued Air Wisconsin Airlines under the ADA’s “associational discrimination” provision. He claimed that his employer terminated him because of unfounded fears that he would be distracted at work on account of his wife’s disability. The 6th Circuit, in its first reported decision on this seldom-litigated provision of the ADA, affirmed the dismissal of Stansberry’s case.

Section 12112(b)(4) of the ADA prohibits employers from “excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association.”

More informally, this provision prohibits three types of discrimination against employees associated with, or related to, someone with a disability:

  1. Discrimination based on expense: where an employee suffers an adverse employment action because of an association with a disabled individual covered under the employer’s health plan, which is costly to the employer.
  2. Discrimination based on disability by association: where the employer fears that the employee may contract the disability of the person he or she is associated with (e.g., HIV), or the employee is genetically predisposed to develop a disability that his or her relatives have.
  3. Discrimination based on distraction: where the employee is inattentive at work because of the disability of someone with whom he or she is associated.

Stansberry pursued his claim under the distraction theory. The 6th Circuit, however, concluded that because an employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation to nondisabled workers under the ADA’s associational disability provision, the distraction theory does not shield a poor-performing employee from termination.

The court drew an important distinction between an employment decision based on actual poor performance, and one based on a mere fear that the disability of one with whom the employee has a close relation or association might cause poor performance. The ADA protects the latter, but not the former:

Importantly, while Stansberry’s poor performance at work was likely due to his wife’s illness, that is irrelevant under this provision of the Act. Stansberry was not entitled to a reasonable accommodation on account of his wife’s disability. Therefore, because his discharge was based on actually performing his job unsatisfactorily, and not fears that his wife’s disability might prevent him from performing adequately, Air Wisconsin’s conduct is not prohibited by this section of the Act. While Stansberry’s situation is very unfortunate, he has not offered anything to show that his wife’s disability was in any way connected to Air Wisconsin’s decision to discharge him. The only connection is that it possibly caused his performance to slip. Therefore, Air Wisconsin’s decision to terminate Stansberry does not run afoul of the Act.

As this case illustrates, the best defense against a distraction-based associational disability claim is the employee’s actual poor performance. For this reason, careful and consistent documentation is key to an employer’s ability to successfully defend against such a claim.


Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quarter-billion dollar verdict in sex discrimination suit highlights risks of family responsibility discrimination


In October 2009, Working Mother magazine named Novartis Pharmaceuticals one of its 100 best companies for working families, lauding its flexible work schedules, job-sharing, telecommuting, and customizable child-care offerings. According to a federal jury in Manhattan, all was not what it seemed at Novartis. That jury found that Novartis had discriminated against women over pay and promotions. The cost to Novartis: $3.3 million in compensatory damages to the 12 name plaintiffs, and another $250 million in punitive damages to a class of 5,600 female sales reps and entry-level managers. The allegation that perhaps led the jury to award more than a quarter-billion dollars was this gem from a Novartis manager explaining his preference against hiring young women: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.” That statement has not only cost Novartis a whopping 2.6% of its annual revenue, but also its reputation as a great workplace for working moms.

One of the very first posts I wrote on this blog (almost three years ago to the day) discussed a $2.1 million verdict handed down by a Cuyahoga County jury against Kohl’s. In that case, the plaintiff claimed discrimination because of her parenting role for her two young children. Witnesses testified at trial that as she was being passed over for promotion after promotion, managers asked questions like: “You’re not going to get pregnant again, are you?” and “Did you get your tubes tied?” Following the trial, the Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted one juror’s explanation for the multi-million dollar verdict: “I think she was very poorly treated because she was pregnant, because she wanted to have a family.”

Ashby Jones, writing at the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, quotes Mike Delikat, the chair of Orrick’s employment law practice, who thinks that this verdict is the beginning of a dark age for employers:

“It should clearly cause the employer community to sit up and look at its potential exposure in this area,” said Delikat. “You’re going to see more class-actions filed, and more individual claims of gender and race discrimination. It could be a bonanza.”

Delikat said that the Novartis ruling was a “game changer,” in that it provided a new arrow for plaintiffs lawyers to tuck into their quivers. “How many employers are going to be willing to take a case now that we have a case like this on the books?” he asked. “The case is going to encourage even more defendants to settle—and pay a lot more than they used to.”

While I’m not ready to go as far as Mr. Delikat, there is real danger that lurks for employers in these types of cases. People think that women are entitled to have a career and a family, and juries continue to punish employers that prioritize the former over the latter. If employers have not been paying attention to family responsibility discrimination, they better be now.

For more coverage of this story, I recommend the perspectives of my fellow bloggers: Delaware Employment Law Blog, HR Lawyer’s Blog, Maryland Employment Law Developments, San Antonio Employment Law Blog, UndercoverLawyer, LawMemo Employment Law Blog, and Jottings By An Employer’s Lawyer.

For more on issues and trends in family responsibility discrimination, I recommend a few of my earlier posts:


Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Caregiver discrimination, three years later


It’s been nearly three years since the EEOC published its Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. According to a recent report published by the Center for WorkLife Law, employers that have not yet paid attention to this issue should start. The Center for WorkLife Law’s Family Responsibility Discrimination 2010 Litigation Update [pdf] paints a grim picture for employers that ignore caregiver issues or have to defend their employment practices in court. Here are the highlights:
Key Case Trends.
  1. New Supervisor Syndrome—new supervisors canceling flexible work arrangements, changing shifts, or imposing new productivity requirements, with the intent of pushing family caregivers out.
  2. Second Child Bias—mothers report little discrimination until they have their second child, at which point they report preemptive personnel actions based on assumptions about their commitment to their growing families over their jobs.
  3. The Elder Care Effect—employers acting preemptively against employees who have to care for aging parents, again because of assumptions about the employee’s work commitment.
Types of Cases Filed
  • pregnancy and maternity leave—67%
  • elder care—9.6%
  • care for sick children—7%
  • care for sick spouses—4%
  • time off for newborn care by fathers or adoptive parents—3%
  • association with a family member who has a disability—2.4%
Number of Cases Filed
  • The number of cases filed nationwide has increased from 13 in 1983 to 269 in 2008, with a 400% increase from decade to decade (1989 – 1998 as compared to 1999 – 2008).
  • Ohio has the 4th highest number of caregiver discrimination cases filed.
  • 88% of the cases are filed by females.
Success Rates
  • Overall, employees win 50.4% of the time.
  • But, in the Midwest, employees win 48.9% of the time.
  • And, in Ohio, employees only win 46% of the time.
  • The national average verdict or settlement is $578,316.
The conclusion of the Center for WorkLife Law:
This report is a warning siren for employers. The increase in family responsibilities discrimination cases indicates that employers do not yet understand their legal risks in this area. Blatantly discriminatory comments made by supervisors show a lack of recognition of employers’ obligations to treat caregivers equally, which in turn suggests a lack of direction from management and a lack of training.
Given Ohio high number of filed cases and the risk of a large damage award or settlement, this report is a warning that Ohio’s businesses should take seriously. What can companies do?
  1. Ensure coverage of caregiver and family responsibity discrimination in EEO, harassment, and other policies.
  2. Train supervisors and managers on how to recognize and avoid this breed of discrimination.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proposed law would grant working moms breastfeeding rights


Last year, I wrote that even though Ohio has one of the country’s most liberal breastfeeding laws, it likely does not protect a mom’s workplace lactation rights. Moreover, few courts have protected breastfeeding and expressing breast milk under current workplace sex discrimination laws.

A potential new federal law could change all that. Identical bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would require employers to accommodate working moms’ breastfeeding needs at work. The Breastfeeding Promotion Act [PDF] would make three significant changes to existing laws:

  • Amend Title VII to include lactation (breastfeeding or the expression of milk) in the definition of sex discrimination.

  • Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to require that employers provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth”, and make “reasonable efforts to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion” for an employee to express breast milk.

  • Amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide a tax credit for employers that provide an appropriate workplace environment for employed moms to breastfeed or express milk.

It’s difficult to say how much traction the BPA has, but this bill is definitely one that warrants watching.

[Hat tip: World of Work]


Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EEOC releases “Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities”


It’s been almost two years since the EEOC released its Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. Since that time, buzz words such “work-life balance,” “family-friendly,” and “family responsibilities” have been put to use in companies all across America, and juries have continued to punish businesses that punish employees who prioritize their families over their work.

To help employers navigate these dangerous waters, today the EEOC published its Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. While these “Best Practices” are couched in terms of discrimination against caregivers, the tips offered by the EEOC, while not groundbreaking, are universally applicable to any employment practice. Some of the more important tips are:
  • Develop, disseminate, and enforce a strong EEO policy that provides examples of illegal conduct and identifies a contact person for questions or complaints.
  • Ensure that managers at all levels are aware of, and comply with, the organization’s policies.
  • Respond to complaints of discrimination efficiently and effectively.
  • Protect against retaliation.
  • Focus on qualifications, not characteristics.
  • Develop specific, job-related qualification standards for each position that reflect the duties, functions, and competencies of the position.
  • Identify and remove barriers to re-entry for individuals who have taken leaves of absence from the workforce.
  • Ensure that employment decisions are well-documented and transparent (to the extent feasible).
  • Monitor compensation practices and performance appraisal systems for patterns of potential discrimination.
  • Reassign job duties that employees are unable to perform because of pregnancy or other caregiving responsibilities.
  • Provide reasonable personal or sick leave.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A few predictions for 2009


Since I ended 2008 with a look back at the top stories of the past year, I thought I’d start 2009 with a look forward at what to expect in the new year.

1. Sexual Orientation will Become a Protected Class.

Under current federal and Ohio law, it is not illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. President Obama will seek to change this omission. One need only look to Change.gov, President Obama’s administration’s website, to glean that he will target the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

The Obama-Biden Transition Project does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other basis of discrimination prohibited by law.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the litany of classes protected from discrimination in employment by Title VII. Note that in the 6th Circuit, discrimination on the basis of real or perceived gender identity is already illegal as sex discrimination. Eliminating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should pass with ease. The facet of the ENDA that focus of gender identity is much more controversial, but at least in Ohio, is largely unnecessary in light of Smith v. Salem. Nevertheless, the ENDA should become law this year.

2. Family Responsibility Issues Will Receive Special Attention from President Obama.

In September, Governor Strickland and Senator Sherrod Brown persuaded union leaders to remove the Ohio Healthy Families Act from November’s ballot. If passed, it would have required all businesses with 25 or more employees to grant all employees seven paid sick days per year, with a prorated amount for part-time employees. The same measure will be introduced on a national level in this Congress, it will pass, and President Obama will sign it into law.

President Obama also favors making certain key changes to the FMLA. He will seek to loosen the definition of “employer” from 50 or more employees to 25 or more employees. He will also seek to expand the categories of covered leave to include elder care, children’s school activities, domestic violence, and sexual assault. It is a safe bet that some of these FMLA amendments will become law at some point in the next four years, if not this year.

3. Employment Litigation Will be Hot in 2009.

2009 will test my theory that the strength of the economy is inversely proportional to the number of lawsuits filed against employers. By all accounts, the economy will continue to slump well into 2009. As more employees lose their jobs, whether by layoff, plant closures, or good old fashioned terminations, they will look to the OCRC/EEOC and the courts for help. I expect age discrimination, WARN Act, and wage and hour claims to fuel this litigation boom.

4. The Employee Free Choice Act will Face an Uphill Battle.

A Senate filibuster blocked the EFCA on its last consideration. As the Democrats will not reach the magic super-majority of 60 Senators necessary to block a Republican filibuster, this controversial law will face stiff opposition. Despite all of the doom and gloom prognostications, I do not believe that the EFCA will become law in its current form. The only way it would ever defeat a Republican filibuster is if it was presented in a compromised, watered-down form.

Nevertheless, it is not too early for businesses to start planning for the possibility of card-check union recognition. The best defense against a labor union is a combination of positive employee relations, an open door for employees to air grievances, and a fair, even-handed management. If the EFCA becomes law, it will too late to fight a union once the cards are signed. The only way to combat an organizing drive, especially one that you do not know about, is to proactively make your work environment one that employees will not want to unionize.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Governor’s gaffe and family responsibilities


I’m a huge fan of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. We share a common passion – Philadelphia sports teams. Although, I’ve never been involved in beaning Jimmy Johnson with a snowball.

Earlier this week at the National Governors Conference, he made a huge gaffe when a microphone picked up the following comment about President-elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano:

Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.

On cnn.com, Campbell Brown correctly points out that if a man had been Obama’s choice, family responsibilities would never have been raised by anyone as an issue.

Gov. Rendell’s off-the-cuff comment runs in stark opposition to President-elect Obama’s own goals. The following comes from the President-elect's website, as one of the key policy points for his administration:

Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will commit the government to enforcing recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.

For employers, Gov. Rendell’s comment illustrates that we still have a long way to go to eliminate unconscious biases that form the maternal wall. To combat these biases, decisionmakers need to ensure that all employment decisions are based on ability and performance, free from preconceptions about an employee’s outside responsibilities.