Corporations Point to Age Discrim. in Hiring by Feds

You might think it would be an embarrassment to our nation’s largest employer – the federal government – that corporate America is defending age discrimination in hiring by pointing out the U.S. government engages in the same behavior.

Most recently, the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC), an association of America’s 250 largest corporations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an age discrimination case in which it opposed allowing older job applicants to file disparate impact lawsuits challenging broad-based discriminatory hiring practices.  If they are allowed to do so, the EEAC warns, numerous federal programs “most certainly will be impacted… ”

The EEAC goes on to cite various federal training, education and hiring programs that are closed to older workers, including the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, a residential program open to individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 who perform team-based national and community service, including disaster response and environmental stewardship. Members receive $4,000 for ten months of service, health benefits, $400 a month to pay for childcare and an educational award of $5,730.

Come to think of it, why can’t a 40-year-old join the Corps and dedicate a year of his/her life to community service for the same amount of remuneration?

Last May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a friend-of-the-court brief in which it defended age discrimination in hiring by noting that even the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does it. The Chamber cited the EEOC Attorney Honor Program, which employs in “permanent” positions “third-year law student[s], “full-time graduate law students[s],” and “Judicial Law Clerk[s] whose clerkship must be [their] first significant legal employment following [their] graduation.”  The EEOC states on its web site that graduates of the Honor Program go on to serve as trial attorneys or Administrative Judges in the EEOC’s District Offices. The  EEOC program appears to have a disparate impact upon older workers because the vast majority of  law school students and graduates are under the age of 40.

The  EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). [Read more…]

Worker Entitled to a Fair Investigation (in the UK)

justice-scale-761665_1In the United States, so-called workplace investigations can be little more than pre-trial preparation for employers intent upon building a record to justify dismissing a troublesome worker.

It is refreshing to note a recent  decision by the London-based Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)  finding  a breach of an implied term of trust and confidence where an agency’s Human Resources Dept. interfered in the outcome of an investigation of employee misconduct.

In Ramphal v. Department for Transport,  a manager  was investigating alleged misconduct by an aviation compliance inspector, who allegedly filed a false expense report.  The manager’s initial report concluded that any abuse was not deliberate. After the manager sought advice from HR, he switched his recommendation that the employee receive a written warning for misconduct to a recommendation that the employee  be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.

The EAT said the lower court erred when it failed to determine whether HR had exerted “improper influence” over the manager’s decision to dismiss the worker

The EAT said a worker facing disciplinary charges and a dismissal procedure “is entitled to expect that the decision will be taken by the appropriate officer, without having been lobbied by other parties as to the findings he should make as to culpability.”

According to the  EAT:

“… an investigating officer is entitled to call for advice from human resources; but human resources must be very careful to limit advice essentially to questions of law and procedure and process and to avoid straying into areas of culpability, let alone advising on what was the appropriate sanction….. It was not for Human Resources to advise whether the finding should be one of simple misconduct or gross misconduct”.

In the United States, most workers who do  not belong to unions or receive the protection of an employment contract can be fired for almost any reason – without any cause –  as long as the reason doesn’t break an actual law (i.e. discrimination)  or a narrowly defined public policy (i.e. protection for whistleblowers).  There is no legal requirement that employers treat workers with respect, dignity and fundamental fairness.  Of course, employers who are not fair  risk significant liability if the worker later files a lawsuit alleging a violation of the law, such as a race or sex discrimination lawsuit.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record in the United Kingdom that hears  appeals from Employment Tribunals in England, Scotland and Wales.

Appeals Court Strikes a Blow for Unrepresented Litigants

A federal appeals court recently struck a blow for the unrepresented litigant, who often is  ill-equipped to understand and overcome procedural hurdles that effectively block access  to federal courts.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which is based in Chicago,  reinstated a case that was dismissed by a district judge because the handwritten complaint filed by the plaintiff, who was representing himself, contained “little more than conclusory legal jargon.” Moreover, the judge said, the plaintiff checked a “variety of boxes “with “conclusory statements such as that the Defendant failed to reasonably accommodate the plaintiff’s disabilities.”

The plaintiff, John Tate, was a driver trainee in 2014 for SCR Medical Transportation, which provides non-emergency transportation services for disabled persons and veterans.  His complaint states: “The defendant was aware of my disability. During my employment, I was subjected to sexual harassment. I complained to no avail.” Tate  alleges he was fired in retaliation for his complaint. He alleges discrimination on the basis of disability, sexual harassment and retaliation.

The appeals court said Tate filled out a complaint form supplied by the  court that “does not require, or indeed permit, extensive factual detail, for it provides only six lines for listing ‘the facts supporting the plaintiff’s claim of discrimination.'”  Also, the appeals court said, the judge made a “serious mistake”  by dismissing Tate’s lawsuit prior to the expiration of a 21-day period  during which a plaintiff may file an amended complaint without the court’s approval.

The panel’s decision, written by noted jurist Richard Posner,  states that the lower court judge “should have told the plaintiff what is required to allege disability discrimination.”

Rather than dismissing the case, the judge should have helped the pro se complainant correct the procedural defect in the complaint.

The panel said Tate had no obligation to be more specific with respect to his claim of sexual harassment or retaliation.  The panel agreed,  however, that  the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a plaintiff to allege that s/he is disabled within the meaning of the Act. The panel said Tate should have identified a specific disability.

“Had the judge told the plaintiff before dismissing his suit what was missing from the complaint, or had he dismissed just the complaint and not the suit and informed the plaintiff of a plaintiff’s right to rectify the deficiencies of his complaint in an amended complaint, we might have been spared this appeal, and the district judge a remand,” concluded the panel.

Posner, an expert in the area of law and economics, is one of the most cited legal scholar of the 20th century.

The case is TATE , v. SCR MEDICAL TRANSPORTATION, No. 15–1447 (7th Cir. December 28, 2015).

NPR’s Diversity Problem: Why So Few Women Sources?

The high-tech industry in Silicon Valley isn’t the only American industry with serious diversity problems.

National Public Radio this week reported that male sources outnumber female sources on the network’s two largest weekday newsmagazines by two-to-one.  Sources include on-air personalities and  subject matter experts, Only about 30 percent of all  sources on Morning Edition and All Things Considered were female in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015. There has been no improvement for the past three years.

Women, who comprise 50.45 percent of the U.S. population, are under-represented along all racial classes.

NPRDiversity

Here are the percentage  of male/female sources broken down by race:

  • Asian : Males, 76%; Females 24%.
  • Whites: Males, 70%; Females 30%.
  • Latino: Males, 71%; Females 29%.
  • Blacks: Males 62%; Females 39%.

Women and Latinos are severely under-represented as NPR sources.

The percentage of NPR sources who are Latino remained flat at six percent for each of the three years. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Latinos make up 17.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Here is the breakdown of sources by race from the NPR report:

  • There was a decline in the overall percentage of white sources, from 80 percent in 2013 to 73 percent in 2015.   Whites make up 77.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2014.
  • African-American voices rose from 5 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2015. African-Americans comprise 13.2 percent of the U.S. population.
  • The share of Asian sources rose to eight percent in 2015, compared to five percent in 2013.  Asians comprise 5.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Asians as a group are actually over-represented but Asian women lag the farthest behind in any racial group.

Of course, the U.S. population is not the same as NPR’s listener-ship. NPR listeners are 85 percent white, eight percent Latino and seven percent black.

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for diversity in news and operations, is quoted as stating he is “generally pleased with the direction that this is going,” noting the increases in the share of black on-air sources, as well as the percentage of “subject matter experts” who are people of color. He said he had “hoped for better news on our coverage of women, on our inclusion of women.”

Note: Two protected classes were not surveyed by NPR, age and disability.