How A Quirk of the Equal Pay Act Causes Some Women to Miss Out

President Obama promised in his 2014 State of the Union address to fight unequal pay between men and women in America. While the statistics are often debated, there is no question that women in the US do often make less than men for the same work. While President Obama has outlined an agenda for addressing this problem, there’s one thing he hasn’t addressed, which has stymied a number of people who come to my office asking for help. A bizarre intersection of two laws has resulted in numerous people, who think they are doing everything right to protect their rights, completely losing their ability to sue under the Equal Pay Act—precisely the law designed to effectuate the equality the President was talking about. Before the President starts up too many task forces, maybe he should consider simply ensuring that people are able to use the laws already on the books. Continue reading

Should Lawyers Unionize?

A recent article in Salon argues that the reason unionization is so low (and, consequently, wages are so low) in the US is that white collar Americans insist on thinking of themselves as management, even when they are in no way in charge of their own work, and therefore don’t think of themselves as in need of a union. This is nowhere more true than in the profession of law. Continue reading

Warrantless Data Used as Evidence in Domestic Court

I wrote earlier about the fear that warrantlessly obtained evidence would be used against US citizens and green card holders in domestic criminal cases (rather than to nab foreign terrorists or intelligence agents, as the government has contended is the only purpose of the warrantless spying program). Of course, it was quickly revealed that such evidence was already being used to convict domestic criminals, but the warrantlessly obtained evidence itself wasn’t being introduced into court, rather it was being, essentially laundered.

Now, in a sort of good-news / bad-news twist, federal prosecutors will end the practice of laundering warrantelessly obtained evidence. Continue reading

Court Rules It’s Legal to Discriminate Against Unpaid Interns

Photo by Adam Fagen

A federal judge in New York just ruled that unpaid interns don’t have the right to be free of sexual harassment or other discrimination at work. Your boss grabs your butt? Too bad, if you’re not getting paid, you’re not really an “employee,” so you can’t sue under our federal or local employment laws. The suit, Wang v. Phoneix Satellite Television, was brought under the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws, and the decision relied in part on federal anti-discrimination law.

In determining that unpaid interns aren’t true “employees” under New York City law, the court engaged in a bit of legal maneuvering. Continue reading

Anti Brony Discrimination, and Other Imaginary Laws

So, a Brony got fired, causing Gawker and Reddit commenters much consternation, and, of course,  counter-consternation from people talking about “protected classes” and “at will” employment and other legalish things. So, what’s the final word? Is it legal to fire a middle-aged dude who loves My Little Ponies? What about Red Sox fans? People who snitch on a bad coworker? Is it legal to fire them all?

Yes. Of course, I’m a lawyer, and it’s my lawyerly duty to say “almost definitely probably yes, like 99% yes, but if you fall into the 1% of exceptions to all the laws I’m talking about here, please don’t sue me.” So, let’s go with, yes*. Continue reading