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

Firing HR Directors for Doing Their Job, Totally Legal

Pam Poovey, from "Archer"

If a human resources director conducts an investigation into sexual harassment, can the harasser fire her? Yup. Isn’t it generally illegal to retaliate against people who complain about sexual harassment? Yup. So, what gives? As is often the case in the law, a number of small logical conclusions combined to produce one giant illogical result.

First, the facts of yesterday’s Second Circuit decision, Townsend v. Bejamin Enterprises Inc. A woman worked for a company in which the President and Vice President were married. Mr. Vice President was a sexual harasser (as determined by the jury). Martha Townsend was his victim. She complained to her HR Director. HR Director initiated an investigation. Mrs. President was not happy with this — not surprising since her husband was the one being investigated for propositioning, touching, and sexually assaulting one of their employees. Mrs. President fired the HR Director to stop the investigation. Continue reading

Advice on Landing a Job, If You Happen to be Male/Young/White, etc.

The economy is a wreck, and everyone’s looking for a job. The unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics continue to outpace that of whites.  If you think the disparities are all about education levels, think again. Discrimination complaints at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) are at an all time high. While not every  complaint is valid, it’s a good bet that discrimination in hiring is affecting a large number of job seekers.

A recent  article on LearnVest reveals just how flawed the hiring process is. While the article reads like advice, the real lesson is that hiring decisions are permeated with bias and the opportunity to discriminate. Continue reading

Birth Control Discrimination in the Details Part II: What’s Pregnancy Got to Do With it?

This is a three-part follow up on a piece I wrote for Slate magazine on whether discrimination against people taking prescription birth control is illegal under federal anti-discrimination law.

What does pregnancy have to do with birth control? Clearly, there is some overlap: women take birth control to avoid becoming pregnant, only women can become pregnant, and only women can take prescription birth control. The latter two facts may change at some point in the distant future, but at the moment, they hold true. Continue reading

Birth Control Discrimination in the Details Part I: A Little Foray Into Legislative Intent

This is a three-part follow up on a piece I wrote for Slate magazine on whether discrimination against people taking prescription birth control is illegal under federal anti-discrimination law.

The Slate article I wrote a while back focused on a bill that had just passed the Arizona House (but which has since been scuttled). The bill focused mostly on allowing employers to refuse coverage of prescription birth control. However, my primary problem with the bill, as I stated in the piece, is that “If [a woman’s] employer is seriously opposed to birth control, and wants to discriminate against her for taking it—even though she’s paying for it herself—a provision in the Arizona bill would allow that.”

Continue reading