A group of job seekers, backed by the Communications Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday against Facebook and nine employers who they say used the social media site’s demographic targeting features to discriminate against female candidates in job ads, the New York Times reports:
The employers appear to have used Facebook’s targeting technology to exclude women from the users who received their advertisements, which highlighted openings for jobs like truck driver and window installer. The charges were filed on behalf of any women who searched for a job on Facebook during roughly the past year. …
The lawyers involved in the case said they discovered the targeting by supervising a group of workers who performed job searches through their Facebook accounts and clicked on a variety of employment ads. For each ad, the job seekers opened a standard Facebook disclosure explaining why they received it. The disclosure for the problematic ads said the users received them because they were men, often between a certain age and in a certain location.
Over the past week, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sent a series of signals to US employers that it is focusing its energies on rooting out sexual and other forms of harassment in the American workplace. On Thursday, the agency announced that it had filed seven separate lawsuits against employers throughout the country over allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as racial harassment and other forms of abuse.
“As the nation has seen over the past nine months, harassment at work can affect individuals for years in their careers and livelihoods,” EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic said in a press release announcing the lawsuits. “There are many consequences that flow from harassment not being addressed in our nation’s workplaces. These suits filed by the EEOC around the country are a reminder that a federal enforcement action by the EEOC is potentially one of those consequences.” About a quarter of the lawsuits filed by the EEOC in recent years has involved an allegation of harassment, Lipnic added, as do one third of the 80,000 to 90,000 discrimination charges the EEOC receives each year.
The EEOC also recognizes that most instances of harassment never come to its attention. Studies show that more than 80 percent of harassment victims never file a formal complaint, the agency noted in its statement, while nearly three quarters never even raise the issue internally within their organizations. To that end, and in light of the heightened public consciousness of sexual harassment brought about by the #MeToo movement, the agency is also looking to promote changes in American workplace culture to make harassment less common and more likely to be addressed when it does occur.
On June 11, the EEOC reconvened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, a panel of experts including academic scholars, legal practitioners, and representatives of advocacy groups and organized labor, which was established in 2015 to study the problem of harassment (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment) and what employers and the agency itself could do to prevent and respond to it. In her opening remarks at last Monday’s meeting, Lipnic, who co-chairs the task force along with Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum, stressed that harassment had been on the EEOC’s radar for some time, but that the government could not solve the problem alone:
In separate agreements with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Best Buy and CVS have decided to stop using personality tests as part of their recruiting process, Erin Mulvaney reported at the National Law Journal last week. While the details of the agreements are confidential and neither company admitted liability, the EEOC said a former commissioner had raised concerns about the companies’ policies, prompting the agency to scrutinize whether these practices were potentially discriminatory:
The tests came under increasing scrutiny for their potential to weed out people with mental illness or certain racial groups. CVS had previously agreed, for example, to remove certain mental health-related questions from its questionnaire after a probe from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
In recent years, the EEOC launched investigations into personality tests on the grounds of discrimination and has guidelines for these job applicant assessments. Some companies on their own have decided to eliminate or reduce parts of the assessment tests, including Whole Foods Market Inc.
Target reached a $2.8 million settlement with the EEOC in 2015 over its candidate assessment system, which was alleged to discriminate on the basis of race and sex, and ended the practice. The agency has also litigated and won cases regarding such assessments against other companies over the years.
As of this month, US employees of the Estée Lauder Companies can take advantage of an expanded range of family benefits, including 20 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, regardless of their gender or whether they became parents through birth, adoption, or foster placement. Birth mothers are entitled to an additional six to eight weeks of paid maternity leave, while employees seeking to become adoptive parents can request up to $10,000 in aid for adoption fees. Business Insider’s Leanna Garfield passed along more details of the new policy when it was announced late last month:
Both hourly and salaried employees are eligible, as long as they work at least 30 hours per week and have been with the company at least three months. Before the change, Estée Lauder offered 12 weeks of paid parental leave. The company will continue to offer up to $20,000 per year toward fertility treatments, as well as child or elder care at a reduced rate to eligible workers.
In addition, the company is launching a back-to-work transition program for new parents. As part of this six-week program, Estée will give parents flexibility on where and when they work. For example, a new mom could work from home a few days per week if she chooses, or a dad could adjust his schedule in that he comes in earlier and leaves earlier than the usual 9 to 5. And those who qualify for Estée’s new childcare/eldercare program expend a co-pay of $8 an hour.
Estée Lauder is framing this new benefit offering as a recognition of the fact that not all families are formed in the same way and that employees need more individualized options for starting their own. “We don’t want to dictate what their families should look like,” Latricia Parker, Estée Lauder’s Executive Director of Global Benefits, told Business Insider.
Since last year, the #MeToo movement has blown a hole in the shroud of secrecy that has long surrounded the scourge of sexual harassment at companies of all forms, sizes, and industries, both in the US and around the world. Yet just as the public consciousness of this issue is growing, more sexual harassment complaints are being handled behind closed doors than in the past. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and equivalent state agencies received 41 percent fewer complaints in 2017 than they did in 1997, Bloomberg’s Jeff Green points out—not because fewer employees are getting harassed, but rather because companies have become much more likely to handle these matters internally:
Ninety-five percent of companies now have an in-house complaint process, the Society for Human Resource Management said in a January report. Eighty-two percent have an investigation protocol in place. …
At the company level, HR departments don’t always know the extent of their own problems. The same SHRM report found a wide disconnect between what HR sees and what employees are saying. Three out of four non-manager employees who experienced harassment said they did not report it. At the same time, 57 percent of human resource professionals said that unreported sexual harassment occurs “to a small extent.”
Two civil rights groups are suing the Trump administration for documents regarding its decision to halt a rule proposed under the Obama administration that would have required businesses to submit payroll data to the government to identify gender-based and racial pay inequities, The Hill reported on Wednesday:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a lawsuit against the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The 15-page complaint alleges OMB violated the Freedom of Information Act when it failed to respond to five requests the groups sent in September for records on the agency’s decision to shut down the pay data collection rule.
The rule, proposed by former President Barack Obama in 2016, would require organizations with more than 100 employees to submit summary pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year showing what employees of each gender, race, and ethnicity earn. The rationale behind the regulation was that it would help the EEOC identify discriminatory pay practices and discourage companies from engaging in them.
Jannis Tobias Werner/Shutterstock.com
A skydiving instructor who was fired after disclosing to a client that he was gay had a valid discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled on Monday, finding that the protection against sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII was also applicable to sexual orientation. The suit brought by Donald Zarda, who died in a skydiving accident in 2014, had been dismissed last April by a three-judge panel, who cited a previous ruling from 2000 in which the Second Circuit held that Title VII did not apply to LGBT workers, but the court agreed to an en banc rehearing by all 13 judges, who decided 10–3 to reverse the panel’s decision.
In the opinion, written by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, the court reasoned that “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination”:
Because one cannot fully define a person’s sexual orientation without identifying his or her sex, sexual orientation is a function of sex. Indeed sexual orientation is doubly delineated by sex because it is a function of both a person’s sex and the sex of those to whom he or she is attracted. Logically, because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected.
Katzmann advanced several additional arguments to underscore the court’s reasoning here: First, he used a “comparative test” that examined how Zarda’s employer would have responded if he were a woman and had he disclosed, as he did, that he was sexually attracted to men. Because he presumably would not have been fired in that case, his treatment depended on the variable of sex and thus, in the court’s view, constituted sex discrimination. He also pointed to Supreme Court precedent finding that Title VII protects employees from punishment for failing to conform to gender norms or stereotypes. Because homosexuality “represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to gender stereotypes,” Katzmann argued, discrimination on this basis constituted sex stereotyping, which Title VII prohibits.
Lastly, Katzmann deployed what Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern describes as “perhaps the most persuasive theory of the case, the Loving principle”: