Law360, Los Angeles (July 12, 2016, 4:56 PM EDT) — Valeant-owned Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. will pay $7.2 million to settle a class action alleging gender discrimination and other claims brought by female sales representatives of the medical cosmetics company, according to a final settlement order signed by a D.C. federal judge Monday. Continue reading
Discrimination in the workplace may be difficult to define but when it occurs, you should be aware and ready to take action. Under no circumstance is employment discrimination okay. It is important to know what qualifies as unfair and what factors you should consider before filing a lawsuit against an employer. Understanding employment discrimination in the workplace is vital when it comes to knowing what you must do if it ever happens to you.
So What Exactly is Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination occurs when a job seeker or an employee is treated unfavorably or unfairly because of his/her race, skin color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, genetic information etc. Workplace discrimination also extends beyond hiring and firing, for example, suggesting preferred candidates in a job ad, denying certain employees benefits or compensation, and discrimination while issuing promotions and lay-offs. There are many more different forms of employment discrimination and laws to protect employees. Listed below are some of the most common cases:
Racial Discrimination – Racial Discrimination takes place when a potential employee, employee or a group of employees are treated differently or unfairly based on their race or because of characteristics associated with race including facial features, hair, or color of their skin. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on race as well as color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Age Discrimination – Age Discrimination comes about when an employee is treated in an unfair manner because of their age, for example, being treated poorly because you are ‘too old’. The Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees who are 40 years old and older. In addition, under the NYHRL, Section 3-a, it states that it is unlawful for any employer to refuse employment or compensation to any person 18 years old and older because of their age.
Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Hostile Workplace Discrimination
- Equal Pay-Gender discrimination includes sexual discrimination and/or sex-based discrimination. This occurs when any employer treats an employee in an unfair way or inequitable manner based merely on gender. This includes equal pay for men and women which is federally protected under the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
- Sexual Orientation-Sexual Orientation discrimination also falls under this category when being homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or trans gendered impacts the way you are treated in the workplace or during the recruiting process. This kind of discrimination is protected under the Civil Rights Act and would be further be protected in a bill that is still awaiting passage by congress called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
- Sex/Hostile Work Environment– Also protected under the Civil Rights Act, Sex/Hostile Work Environment is discrimination based in a sexual hostile environment. The “hostile environment” law also applies to harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age, and disability.
National Origin & Religion Discrimination – Our country is widely mixed with people from different parts around the globe. National Origin discrimination occurs when an employee is ignored and/or treated poorly because of his or her accent, nationality, or ethnicity. Companies are required to fairly accommodate an employee’s religious and cultural beliefs as long as they don’t negatively interfere with the workplace environment. This act of discrimination is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Disability Discrimination- The Disability Discrimination Act focuses on the specific needs of the blind, partially blind, physically or mentally handicapped or people with disabilities. Disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) as a physical or mental impairment that considerably limits a major life activity. Discrimination includes denying employment opportunities to people who are disabled but qualify for the position or not accommodating the known physical/mental limitations of disabled employees
Pregnancy Discrimination-There are laws that protect pregnant women and people with disabilities under the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions. Additional rights are available to women and others under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you feel you may be a victim of employment discrimination, let us help you protect your rights. Call the Law Offices of Valli, Kane & Vagnini today for a free consultation.
Quietly and confidently, IBM has stood up for social change and progress. The company is supportive of same sex unions, especially in famously homophobic areas of the world like North Korea. The powerful corporation was key in instituting racial diversity in its workforce long before it was politically or culturally popular, its Equal Opportunity Policy remaining virtually unchanged since 1953. International Business Machines has been a strong proponent in putting women in places of power. One of the lead designers on the original IBM PC—which, along with the automobile and airplane stands as one of the greatest consumer inventions of the 20th century—was female.
While the company’s reputation as a computing powerhouse has been overshadowed by Microsoft and then Apple in the past twenty years (IBM left the personal computing almost a decade ago), it remains a singular voice in computing, and in progressive social policy.
IBM’s voice got even louder back in April. IBM has been a longtime sponsor of golf’s Masters Tournament, held at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The Club has always admitted IBM executives as members—until IBM hired its first female CEO, Ginni Rometty, in January 2012. Many thought that the Club should admit Rometty as a member, finally divesting itself of its historically male-only policy. The Club refused, garnering a media firestorm and threats to IBM’s sponsorship of the Masters. The Augusta was famously silent in defending its policies—until today.
Women admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club
In an about-face, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and high-octane businesswoman Darla Moore, were admitted as the first two women to be granted membership to the August Club. Strangely enough, the Club has made no decision as of yet to admit Ginni Rometty (IBM continues to sponsor the Masters).
Golf and Social Progress
The Augusta Club’s longstanding sexist policies symbolize one of the ugly truths about golf: it is the United States’ least progressive sport. During Tiger Woods’ peak in the late 1990s, some clubs decided to admit minority members for the first time—a full thirty-five years after Alabama schools were integrated. As much as the PGA touts its progressive policies, golf remains glaringly behind the curve in terms of social progress.
Is It Legal for Golf Clubs to Discriminate?
The Augusta National Golf Club’s policy of not admitting women is, according to U.S. law, legal and legitimate. However, in many segments of our national culture, especially the workplace, discrimination is highly illegal. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to gender, race, sexual orientation, or religious belief, call the Law Offices of Valli, Kane and Vagnini to speak with a trained professional.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed the landscape of human rights across the country. Title VII is the most hotly debated portion of that law in that it forbids discrimination based on five key metrics: race, color, religion, sex and national origin. In spite of the law’s nearly fifty years as a part of United States Code, it still requires active, repeated interpretation to ensure proper enforcement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for making sure that act is enforced. Since Title VII’s inception, the EEOC has never ruled that transgender individuals are covered under the sexual discrimination cause of that Act—until April 2012.
Past EEOC Rulings Regarding Transgender Sexual Discrimination
Has discrimination on the basis of gender alignment always been a Title VII issue? Historically, it has not. In the past, when complaints were filed with the EEOC regarding discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals, the complaint was handled as discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On three past occasions ranging from 1984 to 1986, the EEOC ruled that transgender discrimination did not constitute a Title VII claim. In April 2012, as the EEOC reviewed a complaint by Mia Macy against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the EEOC ruled differently. As a result, transgender complaints are now considered under the purview of Title VII.
What is Gender Discrimination?
Gender discrimination under Title VII occurs when employment opportunities are denied or the terms and conditions of one’s employment are altered due to an individual’s gender. The interpretation of the law, previous to 2012, has excluded transgender individuals. The new interpretation of the law is important to the transgender community and for Title VII law. As an interpretation of an existing law, it may fundamentally modify the legal system’s understanding of gender.
When is Gender Discrimination Appropriate Under the Law?
Are there situations where gender discrimination is deemed legally appropriate? Yes, there are. Gender preferences are permissible when an employer takes an affirmative action hiring policy to rectify past discrimination. In addition, there are narrow cases where gender discrimination is inherent to the working conditions, i.e. male or female modeling, etc.
A Time of Change in Transgender Rights
With this important EEOC ruling regarding transgender discrimination under Title VII, the American legal understanding of transgender rights is in flux. If you would like to find out more about the rights and actions surrounding an act of transgender discrimination, contact Valli, Kane & Vagnini for a free consultation.
The Supreme Court recently rejected the certification of a class of plaintiffs, consisting of all of Wal-Mart’s current and former female employees, in a Title VII gender discrimination suit against the retail giant. The plaintiffs in this case allege that Wal-Mart, the largest employer in America with over one million employees, discriminates generally against women in pay, job promotions, and in administering disciplinary actions.
In this decision, the Supreme Court set forth and clarifies the appropriate standard for seeking class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and specifically, the “commonality” requirement. In order to certify a class, the plaintiffs must prove that there are questions of law or fact common to the class. In the Court’s words, there must be a “common contention” that “must be of such a nature that it is capable of classwide resolution- which means that determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke.”
The plaintiffs can satisfy this burden through one of two main ways, the Court held. First, the plaintiffs can assert that the employer used a “biased testing procedure” to evaluate its employees or applicants; or second, that the “employer operated under… a general policy of discrimination.” In proving a general policy of discrimination, plaintiffs may use anecdotal evidence from enough members of the potential class or expert evidence. The Court cited a case that it decided in 1982 as the basis for these two methods.
In this case, however, the plaintiffs fell short. They argued that rather than there being a policy of blatant discrimination, there was a policy of providing wide latitude to store, district, and regional managers, and this policy led to rampant gender discrimination. The Court concluded that this policy of manager autonomy is insufficient to prove commonality, since there is so much potential variation in the behaviors of each manager. The Court did note, however, that such a policy of autonomy is better-suited to showing disparate impact in proving an individual discrimination claim under Title VII, just not for class certification.
Additionally, the plaintiffs in this case only offered accounts of discrimination from forty potential members of the class, where the total number of potential individuals in the class was 500,000. That would have amounted to each account of discrimination representing 12,500 other potential members of the class, where the Court noted that in previous cases, a one-to-eight ratio was found to be permissible. Moreover, the expert in this case failed to make any compelling causal link to the “culture” at Wal-Mart that allegedly led to discriminatory conduct, and could not, with any specificity, demonstrate the impact of that discriminatory “culture” on management decisions.
With regard to commonality, this decision will likely not have a great impact on victims of gender discrimination in the workplace, or even to class actions alleging the same. The Supreme Court looked at the facts of this case and applied it against a standard that it first articulated in 1982 and determined, unfortunately, that they were not sufficient to sustain a class action in this particular case.
The Court also tackles the issue of whether or not cases in which the plaintiffs seek backpay qualify for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2). The Court, unfortunately, has held that they do not, writing that this rule cannot be used to certify claims for monetary relief where the monetary relief is not incidental to the injunctive or declaratory relief. Individualized relief, including backpay, the Court goes on to write, does not satisfy Rule 23(b)(2).
The Court cites possible issues that could arise with plaintiffs attempting to minimize the importance of monetary damages in order to become eligible for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2), and reasons that some plaintiffs may unwittingly forfeit their right to compensatory damages when the class is certified in this manner. Importantly, the Court looks to the language of Title VII and finds that if Wal-Mart proves that if it took an adverse employment action against an employee for reasons other than discrimination, the court cannot order it to pay backpay. The Court then looks to the Rules Enabling Act, which states that courts should not interpret Rule 23 in any way that would “abridge, enlarge or modify any substantive right,” and concludes that certifying the class under Rule 23(b)(2) would take away Wal-Mart’s right to litigate its statutory defenses to each individual claim. Essentially, defendants such as Wal-Mart get to raise their affirmative defenses for each employee individually, without any courts’ reliance on “Trial by Formula.”
Ultimately, this Supreme Court ruling leaves plaintiffs with the option to certify their class under Rule 23(b)(3), which only imposes a handful more burdens, many of which are easily overcome, and allows plaintiffs to opt-out of the class to pursue their claims individually. On many levels, this finding further hinders the rights of workers and their ability to to effectuate necessary change in the unlawful corporate culture impacting many minorities and women in the workplace on a daily basis.