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  • Business Man Assemble Puzzle Of Gay Flag

    When the Supreme Court recognized last month in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) that the fundamental right to marry applies to same-sex couples, Americans rejoiced. The Court’s opinion reflected the tipping point we have reached as a nation with broad public acceptance of LGBT rights.

    But civil rights activists and allies were quick to point out that there is more work to be done. Pundits observed that in some states, a gay couple could be married in the morning and fired from their jobs for being gay hours later. Indeed, LGBT people in many states still lack protections from discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and education. Sexual orientation discrimination in employment is not explicitly prohibited under federal law. In California, we are lucky to have the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code section 12940 et seq., which has, since 2000, prohibited discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. LGBT people in other states have not been so fortunate.

    LGBT workers are protected from sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII

    Thanks to a landmark decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), however, millions more LGBT workers now have some protections. In a July 15, 2015 decision, the EEOC held that sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on protected categories, including with respect to hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits.

    Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin; it does not explicitly cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a 3-2 decision, the EEOC reasoned that sexual orientation discrimination is nevertheless prohibited by Title VII because it is a subset of sex discrimination. The EEOC determined that an air traffic controller who alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his sexual orientation could pursue his claim of sex discrimination. While the 17-page decision is worth reading in full, the excerpts below capture the EEOC’s reasoning.

  • Woman with spreadsheet behind her

    A fascinating report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in March 2015 examines gender differences in executive compensation. The report, titled “Gender and Dynamic Agency: Theory and Evidence on the Compensation of Top Executives,” used data from Standard & Poor’s ExecuComp database to look at the compensation of 40,704 executives (1,312 of whom were female).

    The key findings of the report are:

    • There is no link between firm performance and the gender of top executives. Thus, the gender pay gap at the executive level cannot be explained by performance differences.
    • 93% of the gender pay gap among top executives is accounted for by the fact that female executives receive a far lower percentage of incentive pay — namely, stock options and stock grants — as a percentage of total compensation.
    • Women’s compensation has “lower pay-performance sensitivity,” meaning that they gain far less from the positive performance of their firms. When a firm’s value increases by $1 million, it leads to a $17,150 increase in firm-specific wealth for male executives and a $1,670 increase for females.
    • In contrast, women suffer more when a firm loses value: “A 1% increase in firm value generates a 13% rise in firm specific wealth for female executives, and a 44% rise for male executives, while a 1% decline in firm value generates a 63% decline in firm specific wealth for female executives and only a 33% decline for male executives.”

    A critical point is that the authors showed that there was no link between . . .

  • California farm worker

    California’s undocumented workers make up nearly 9.4% of our workforce. They are the backbone of many California industries, including agriculture, construction, and hospitality. They are also among our most exploited workers, as some take advantage of their financial vulnerabilities, cultural and geographic isolation, and fear of deportation. As the powerful and poignant PBS documentary Rape in the Fields explored, immigrant women face shockingly high levels of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape at work. Undocumented workers are also subjected to rampant violations of wage and hour laws, including not being paid the minimum wage, not being paid overtime, and not being given proper meal and rest breaks. The median earnings of undocumented workers are about $20,000 per year, as compared to $50,000 per year for U.S.-born workers.

    However, California laws and court cases make clear that undocumented workers deserve protections. Our workplace protection and wage and hour laws apply to everyone, regardless of their status. In addition, our laws have sought to address the reason that many undocuments employees are afraid to come forward: a fear that their employer will get them deported. Employers are expressly prohibited from reporting or threatening to report undocumented workers or their relatives to authorities in retaliation for their asserting their rights under these laws. Employers who retaliate in such a way can lose their business licenses; lawyers making such reports can be disbarred.

    Two new developments are worth discussing.

  • As I argued last week in my blog post on CELA Voice, we’re spending more time telling women how to navigate around bias in the workplace than we are trying to fix it. In the second post of the series, titled Organizations have the power to reduce unconscious bias, I explain how employers can reduce the effects of bias in their workplace. Many mistakenly believe that it would be too hard or take too […]

  • Female programmers defy stereotypes

    We’ve had a surge of self-help articles and books telling women how they should act if they want to advance in the workplace. For example, women are told to “lean in,” “be more confident,” and “ask for a raise, but do it in a way that is ‘feminine’ so you don’t come off as demanding or unlikeable.”

    Sex discrimination has been illegal for fifty years. Rather than telling women how to navigate a biased system, shouldn’t we focus on how to stop the bias in the first place?

    Ramit’s two-part series, published in the CELA Voice Blog, addresses implicit biases, how they hurt women in the workplace, and what employers can do to reduce their effects. . . .

  • Worker wearing a hijab

    Yesterday, the EEOC issued a new publication that discusses employees’ rights with respect to religious grooming and dress in the workplace. The publication, Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities, is written in question-and-answer form and addresses some of the most common issues that come up when workers require religious accommodations with respect to their clothing and grooming. It is meant to guide employees and employers; you do not need to be a lawyer to understand it.

    Here are some of the key points from the EEOC’s publication:…