EEOC Defers to ‘Lord High Executioner’

GilbertandSullivan

For those of us who care about workplace abuse, these are trying times.

A federal court judge in Hawaii has forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to publically apologize for announcing last June that a settlement was “filed” in a  case involving “vulnerable” Thai farm workers who were exploited by a labor contractor in Hawaii.

The announcement was technically correct but …

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi was miffed that the EEOC failed to state in a press release about a press conference that the settlements were not final until she signed the consent decree. She said she wouldn’t consider approving the $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the EEOC held a press conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval. She said that if the EEOC didn’t comply, she might reject the settlements and reset all claims for trial. Generally, it is pro forma for a judge to sign off on a settlement that is reached by the parties.

Does this remind anyone else of the Gilbert and Sullivan opus:

Behold the Lord High Executioner
A personage of noble rank and title
A dignified and potent officer
Whose functions are particularly vital
Defer, defer
To the Lord High Executioner
Defer, defer
To the noble Lord, to the noble Lord, to the Lord High Executioner!

As required, the EEOC held a press conference and publically apologized on Friday. An EEOC spokesperson explained that the EEOC issued an alert to the media last June that a press conference would be held to announce the settlements. She conceded the alert was “ambiguous” but noted the EEOC did state at the June press conference that the settlement was subject to court approval.

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Judge Says College Athletes Have Rights

Big_Ten_Conference_logo

The failure to compensate big school college athletes has always been about worker fairness and, arguably,  race discrimination.

Now a federal judge has cut through the propaganda by ruling that the National Collegiate Athletic Association violated federal anti-trust law by prohibiting schools and conferences from paying players for the rights to their names, images and likenesses.

It is an important -  albeit partial  -victory for big school basketball and football players.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken  permitted institutions to set a $5,000 cap per year on the money paid to big school football and basketball players and ordered the payments to be placed in trust, payable upon the expiration of the athlete’s athletic eligibility or graduation, whichever comes first.

Wilken said the cap is necessary to address NCAA concerns. “The NCAA’s witnesses stated that their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year,” Wilken wrote.

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others sued the NCAA for violating  antitrust laws by conspiring with the schools and conferences to block student athletes from getting a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games.

“The Court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools,” Wilken wrote.

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Pregnant Workers Entitled to Reasonable Accommodation

PregnantClerk

The EEOC has issued an enforcement guidance that makes it clear that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who experience a medical need for a temporary change at work.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) states that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  However, many employers took the position that it did not require them to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. For example, if a pregnant worker’s job required her to stand for long periods, the employer would fire the worker if she was temporarily unable to do so rather than provide her with a chair.

Pregnant workers were treated like second-class citizens compared to workers who were injured or disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for individuals who are injured or  disabled.

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Google & Free Speech

Google_Mountain_View_campus_dinosaur_skeleton_'Stan'I learned something new in recent weeks.  If your blog is not being searched by Google, it tends to disappear from public view.

A defining feature of the marketplace of ideas today is that free speech is increasingly dependent upon  a handful of search engines, led by Google. And that’s kind of scary.  On May 29, 2014, I wrote an article noting that Google had omitted age from its plan to boost diversity in its workforce.  I’ve written a couple of articles about the fact that Google (like many Silicon Valley companies) appears to engage in blatant age discrimination with impunity.  On the day I wrote the article  my blog received almost a thousand impressions from Google.    This means pages from my site appeared in Google search results almost a thousand times.  A week later, my blog was receiving fewer than 100 Google impressions per day.

The chart showing the decline in Google impressions on my blog since May 29 looks like the flume at a water park when standing at the top or a graph of the economy right after the Great Recession. My Google search traffic ranged from 500 to 1,250 impressions per day for the month preceding May 29; it has been below 100 impressions ever since (with the exception of one day when there were 228 impressions).

The link in the decline in search traffic on my blog may be purely coincidental.  And I realize that Google is basically a mathematical formula, an algorithm.  However, clearly Google can be tweaked.  For example, European courts have recognized an individual’s right to be “forgotten” and require  Google to omit certain information from search engine traffic.  What if  Google was hyper-sensitive and was intentionally omitting my blog from searches?  I wondered whether I have any legal right to demand that Google play fair?

The answer appears to be no.

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