Fifth Circuit Upholds Ruling Against Claim of Employment Discrimination Based on Transgender Status But Leaves the Door Open to Future Argument of the Issue

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

In an opinion issued yesterday in Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Company, the Fifth Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of summary judgment in favor of Phillips 66 on a claim of employment discrimination based on transgender status. 

The Court of Appeals went beyond merely upholding the lower court’s summary judgment however. In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit expressly rejected the district court’s determination that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on transgender status

The Fifth Circuit pointed to its past precedent holding that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and faulted the district court for not distinguishing this case from that precedent.  Interestingly, this decision leaves some room for the possibility that the Fifth Circuit might someday hold that Title VII does in fact prohibit transgender employment discrimination as long as the case is distinguished from discrimination based on sexual orientation, which the court has already ruled is not prohibited.

Here is the text of the Fifth Circuit opinion.

Here is a link to the Fifth Circuit oral argument.

Here is the text of the original district court opinion.

One Senator Blocks Trump-Nominated Reappointment of EEOC’s only LGBTQ Commissioner

Chai Feldblum, a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Chai Feldblum, a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

GOP senator Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah has used his power in the Senate to block the reappointment of the EEOC’s only LGBTQ commissioner, Chai Feldblum, because her existence is a "threat to marriage."

This is a real blow to American workers, especially those who are disabled. Feldblum, an Obama appointee who was re-nominated by President Trump, has spent most of her time on the Commission championing the rights of the disabled in the workplace.

In her capacity as an EEOC commissioner, she has little to nothing to do with any laws or policies having to do with marriage. So when it comes down to it Senator Lee doesn't like her because she is a lesbian.

Meanwhile, this will leave the EEOC without a quorum in 2019, making it more difficult for the agency to conduct business.

In my opinion, Sen. Lee is abusing his power as a member of the U.S. Senate. To block a Trump-appointee who has a long track record of being a strong advocate for workers in general and the disabled in particular based on nothing more than one’s personal religious preference is misguided and harmful to an extremely important federal agency.

I don't think anyone should be very happy about it.

Read the entire story here.

Women lose $513 billion a year in wages due to gender pay gap

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Women experience $513 billion in lost wages a year because of the stubborn pay gap that persists between them and their male peers, according to a new report from the American Association of University Women.

The consequences of women earning 80 cents on average for every dollar brought home by a man can impact nearly every aspect of their lives, from the ability to pay off college debt to their decisions about having children to how financially stable they are when they ultimately retire.

The wage disparity begins to widen almost immediately, with 20-year-old working women tending to earn 90 cents for every dollar paid to a male peer. But, by the time they turn 54, women are earning 22 cents less on average, according to the AAUW report.

Read the full story here.

How Getting Fired Is More Financially Devastating for Women

Sex Discrimination Has Devastating Economic Consequences

Sex Discrimination Has Devastating Economic Consequences

Getting fired is almost always difficult and disappointing, but research suggests the impacts are far more devastating for women than men.

In fact, while men typically bounce back stronger, earning an average of 1.3% more in their subsequent role, women typically see their salaries decrease by an average of 24%, according to a recent study by Insurance Quotes.

“The salary decrease that we’re seeing in this study is really significant,” says Insurance Quotes media relations associate Bri Godwin. “That’s enough to really change how you live your life.”

Read the rest of the Article at FastCompany.

Women Need to Know They Don't Have to Accept Bullying or Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The recent national turmoil over the Supreme Court candidacy of Judge Kavanaugh and the completely broken way that we have dealt with allegations of sexual assault in this country has had one hopefully positive side effect — the number of women around the country who have felt confident enough to come forward with their own stories.

In the workplace, this issue most often takes the form of workplace harassment or bullying. Recently, writer Jessica Press was caught by surprise while working on an article about workplace bullying. When she posted to social media that she was looking for stories from women about their experiences of being bullied at work, she expected a sprinkling of replies. Instead, as she recounts in her feature article appearing in Redbook magazine’s October issue, she got a deluge:

“My inbox was flooded — overflowing with incoming mail. I’d put out the call to a handful of experts and Facebook groups for women’s stories of workplace bullying. I thought perhaps I’d hear from a dozen women.

Instead, within a week, nearly a hundred stories from around the country and around the world poured in, with a steady stream continuing in the days and weeks that followed. They worked in hospitals, academia, sales, food service — anywhere and everywhere. There were women still living in fear of retaliation. There were those who shared their journeys of deteriorating marriages, depression, anxiety, and PTSD-like symptoms. There were a surprising number who had involved lawyers and were limited in what they could even reveal due to nondisclosure agreements.”

The article contains a number of tips for dealing with workplace bullying and I commend it to your reading. I hope the national turmoil we are currently suffering will lead to real conversation and, ultimately, real change. Hopefully it will serve, if nothing else, to let people know that bullying, sexual harassment and assault occurs much more frequently than many believe.

I also hope that we can make progress in dispelling some of the false beliefs that many still hold about bullying and harassment in the workplace. Here are a few of the worst:

  1. That if bullying/sexual harassment/assault happened then the woman must have done something to put herself in peril.

  2. That it must always take more evidence than a woman’s word that something happened to be equal to a man’s word that it didn’t.

  3. That if sexual harassment/assault really happened the woman would have reported it immediately.

  4. That sexual harassment/assault is, any any time or context, normal male behavior (“boys will be boys”).

These are all 100% FALSE. And yet many people, including well-meaning women I meet in focus groups, will often state some version of one of these falsisms.

The #MeToo movement has helped to expose just how badly this country has been dealing with the treatment of women who suffer bullying/harassment/assault. But if the raging anger of a bunch of old, male senators last week showed us anything it is that this problem will not go away easily or quietly. We still have a long way to go.

Report: Gender Pay Gap Is Actually Getting Worse for Millennial Women

Source: Alpha Stock Images - http://alphastockimages.com/ Creative Commons

Source: Alpha Stock Images - http://alphastockimages.com/ Creative Commons

Women between 25 and 34 years old are are actually slipping backwards when it comes to pay equality with men, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Money.com reports that according to BLS, in that age group millennial women made just under 89 cents on a man’s dollar in 2016, down from a high of 92 cents in 2011. That means the gender gap in median weekly earnings is the widest in seven years.

The dip is surprising, given that millennial women are increasingly highly-educated relative to their male peers. According to the article, part of the explanation could be that in recent years, gender-wage parity had been improving because men’s wages weren’t doing well. Now that the economy is improving, the gap appears to be widening again.