Today marks the twentieth anniversary of “Equal Pay Day,” which the National Committee on Pay Equity launched as a public awareness event in 1996 to symbolize how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. In more than 50 years since enactment of the federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), women have made significant progress in the workplace and now make up roughly half of the American workforce. However, women working full time still earn, on average, 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, and this number has barely moved in over a decade. That said, it is still not clear that employer bias is to blame for the gap that remains. Indeed, the pay gap measures only the difference in average earnings between all men and all women; it is not a proxy for pay bias—i.e., the failure to pay women equal pay for equal work. Eliminating pay bias is important, but focusing heavily on perceived employer bias obscures a much more complex web of factors contributing to the problem of pay differences between men and women.
After agreeing last week on a 2016-17 Executive Budget that includes several key labor and employment provisions, New York State Independent Democratic Caucus Leader Jeffrey Klein declared that “[t]his truly is the Year of the Worker.” The ground breaking bills include an increase of the New York State minimum wage over the next few years to $15 per hour and paid family leave for employees for up to 12 weeks when caring for an infant, family member with a serious health condition or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. The New York City Council was also busy on the employment front last week, passing several changes to the New York City Human Rights Law that impact New York City employers. These recent State and City legislative developments are summarized below.
Earlier this month, the EEOC filed its first lawsuits against employers alleging sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, arguing that Title VII’s protections extend to sexual orientation as a form of gender bias. In the lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the EEOC alleges that a gay male employee was subjected to harassment, including anti-gay epithets, because of his sexual orientation. In the suit against Pallet Companies d/b/a/ IFCO Systems filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the EEOC alleges that a supervisor harassed a lesbian employee because of her sexual orientation, including making numerous comments about her sexual orientation and appearance. The EEOC alleges that the employers violated Title VII, which extends protection to workers who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. In both cases, the EEOC takes the position that sexual orientation discrimination necessarily entails treating employees less favorably because of their sex, thus triggering Title VII’s protections.
Members of the Fair Labor Standards Legislation Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law recently met. The meeting includes employer and employee advocates, as well as government officials. The meeting often highlights not only the present status of regulations, policy and pending litigation but also provides a window into coming trends that may be important for employers. We highlight a few takeaways.
The adage that “there is no rest for the weary” is perhaps an all too familiar one for California employers. Although employers might have already spent the past few months implementing a host of new laws that took effect in early 2016, there has been less fanfare about the upcoming regulatory amendments under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA,” Cal. Govt. Code § 12900, et seq.) that go into effect April 1, 2016.
The President released his 2017 budget this week. Budgets are aspirational documents that Congress rarely implements in full. The current acrimony between Congress and the Administration ensures that the President’s 2017 budget will likely remain aspirational. However, Presidential budgets and their accompanying justifications can shed light on an agency’s priorities.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, prohibits discrimination against employees and potential employees based on their military service and imposes certain obligations on employers with respect to employees returning to their civilian workplace after a period of service in the U.S. military.
The EEOC seeks public comment on its new Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, which will supersede the agency’s last-issued guidance on the topic from 1998. The updated guidance addresses several significant rulings by the Supreme Court and lower courts from the past two decades. The guidance was also informed by public input on retaliation and best practices that the Commission gathered from its June 17, 2015 meeting on “Retaliation in the Workplace: Causes, Remedies, and Strategies for Prevention.” The 30-day input period on the guidance ends on February 24, 2016.
In August 2014, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Programs (“OFCCP”) proposed that federal contractors report compensation information on an Equal Pay report. Amid significant contractor comments that OFCCP coordinate with the EEOC to amend the Employer Information Report (“EEO-1”), EEOC did so on January 29, 2016. The EEOC intends to ask the Office of Management and Budget to approve additional data collection that would require most employers to submit aggregate data on pay ranges and hours worked. The EEOC believes that the additional data “will assist [EEOC and OFCCP] in identifying possible pay discrimination and assist employers in promoting equal pay in their workplaces.” However, questions remain whether this data would yield any meaningful analysis of actual pay differences that would assist either agency in uncovering pay discrimination.
On January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that added “caregiver” to the list of protected classifications under the New York City Human Rights Law. The law, which takes effect on May 4, 2016, seeks to protect employees and applicants from discrimination because of their status or perceived status as a caregiver. Carmelyn Malais, the Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights vowed that “the Commission will vigorously enforce this much-needed protection” for “every parent and family member caring for a loved one.”