Missouri bill would make it harder to sue for discrimination

If you don’t like getting sued for discrimination, just make it harder to sue.

That seems to be the theory underlying a bill pending in Missouri House of Representatives that was recently endorsed by the University of Missouri system.

The proposed bill would make it harder to sue by raising the level of proof in lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It also would bar the award of punitive damages against “public entities.”

The University of Missouri Backs the Controversial Measure

The Missouri legislature’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, which held a hearing on the bill last week, appears to be less than interested in opposing views. Committee Chairperson Bill Lant cut off the microphone of Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel, who said the measure would expand discrimination and represents a form of “Jim Crow.”   Lant, a Republican, also refused to allow a committee member to ask questions of Chapel.

Minutes before Chapel was silenced,  the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Marty Oetting, lobbyist for the University of Missouri, told the committee that UM supports the bill, especially the part barring anyone winning a lawsuit from receiving punitive damages from public entities. The university system is currently facing two discrimination lawsuits,

The university claims workers receive sufficient protection under federal law and do not need the enhanced protections of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The driving force behind the bill is Missouri State Sen. Gary Romaine, the owner of a “rent-to-own” furniture business that is currently a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit.  Romaine couched the bill as a way of “reforming Missouri’s legal climate and improving our ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.”

The proposed bill would essentially adopt the current standard of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 for all victims of race and sex discrimination. Workers would have to show that discrimination occurred “because of” discrimination rather than meeting the lesser standard of showing that discrimination was a motivating factor.

Trump’s Short-Sighted Pick for Labor

Note: Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination for Labor Secretary on 2/15/17. He also admitted to hiring an undocumented  housekeeper and his ex-wife appeared on Oprah in 1990 in disguise and  accused him of domestic violence. She later recanted. PGB

For all of his supposed  business acumen, President Donald Trump is doing some really dumb things.

For one thing,Trump  has proposed Andrew (Andy) Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, as the next Secretary of Labor.

CKE operates the “fast food” restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardees and  has been sued multiples times for discrimination, failing to pay overtime and firing workers who protest poverty wages.

And  it is not insignificant that CKE sells burgers with advertising that many of Trump’s middle class voters would rightly consider to be soft-core porn. One controversial ad features Paris Hilton wearing a skin-tight bikini while soaping up a Bentley and crawling all over it before taking a long, lingering bite of a juicy burger. This ad drew the ire of the Parents Television Council and was  banned in New Zealand. According to CNN Money, Puzder was less than sympathetic to the concerns of parents, telling them to “get a life …  there is no nipple in this. There is no nudity, there is no sex acts — it’s a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car.” One suspects that Puzder does not have his finger on the pulse of Trump’s voter base. [Read more…]

The EEOC Veered Sharply Away from Litigation in 2016

In 2016, the EEOC filed 34% fewer lawsuits than it filed in 2015, and there were drastic declines in some areas, notably an 85.7% decline in age discrimination lawsuits.

This is not good news for victims of discrimination in employment. Without the gravity and resources of the EEOC behind them, many individual discrimination victims are puny “Davids” facing international corporate “Goliaths.”

It appears the steep litigation decline – from 174 lawsuits in 2015 to 114 in 2016 –  is the result of the EEOC’s new emphasis on resolving individual complaints through voluntary mediation. However, mediation is a far better deal for employers than workers. For employers, mediation is a form of free dispute resolution that gets the EEOC off their back and eliminates the risk of massive damages and fees in a jury trial. For workers, mediation generally results in a modest financial settlement at best.

Many workers, especially those without counsel, do not fully understand their rights and the employer’s potential liability, or they cannot realistically fight for their rights because they have no money to wage a protracted court battle.

Mediation is a far better deal for discriminatory employers than it is for discrimination victims.

Here are the types and number of lawsuits filed by the EEOC in 2016 compared to 2015 and the percentage increase/decrease.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Two lawsuits in 2016, compared to 14 in 2015 (a decrease of 85.7%).
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act  of 1964 (race, sex, religion, color and national origin): 46 lawsuits in 2016 compared to 83 in 2015 (a decrease of 44.5%).
  • Americans with Disability Act: 36 lawsuits in 2016 compared to 53 in 2015 (a decrease of 32%).
  • Equal Pay Act: Five lawsuits in 2016 compared to 7 in 2015 (a decrease of 28%).
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination  Act  Two lawsuits in 2016 compared to one in 2015 (an increase of 50%).

[Read more…]

The U.S. Department of Labor Takes on Discrimination by High Tech Employers

The U.S. Department of Labor is challenging long-standing and overt discriminatory employment practices in the high-tech industry by threatening to cancel the alleged violators’ federal contracts.

In recent months, the DOL has sued Oracle America, Inc., Google Inc. and the startup, Palantir, for alleged discriminatory conduct. This follows years in which the DOL and the EEOC appeared to have adopted a “hands off” policy with respect to high-tech employers.

The DOL filed a lawsuit on Jan. 17 charging Oracle with allegedly paying white males more than other workers at its Redwood Shores, CA,  headquarters. The DOL reported finding “gross disparities in pay even after controlling for job title, full-time status, exempt status, global career level, job specialty, estimated prior work experience and company tenure.”

The DOL also charged Oracle, which has 45,000 employees across the country, with heavily favoring Asian Indians in hiring and recruitment. The lawsuit alleges that 82 percent of new hires in a professional technical group at Oracle’s headquarters were Asian during a six-month period in 2013,  even though only 75 percent of job applicants were Asian. The DOL noted that Oracle targeted Asian Indians in recruitment efforts that including referral bonuses.

Oracle allegedly discriminated against White, Hispanic, and African-American applicants.

The lawsuit alleges Oracle discriminated against “qualified White, Hispanic, and African-American applicants in favor of Asian applicants, particularly Asian Indians” in 69 job titles at its headquarters. The suit alleges that Oracle discriminated against qualified female employees in technology, support and product development units. [Read more…]