In an emerging trend, law firms have found themselves the targets of recent lawsuits alleging gender discrimination against female partners. Most recently, Kerrie Campbell, a litigation partner at Chadbourne & Parke’s Washington, D.C. office filed a $100 million proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of all female partners at the firm. She alleges that Chadbourne’s male-dominated culture leads to unequal compensation for women. The lawsuit, filed on August 31, 2016, in federal district court in New York, seeks relief under Title VII, the Federal Equal Pay Act, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has introduced before the New York City Council an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, if enacted, would prohibit employers from requesting or relying upon the salary history of an prospective employee in making starting salary and other pay decisions. In the bill summary, Public Advocate James and her co-sponsors conclude that when employers rely upon historical salary information, “they perpetuate the gender wage gap” and suggest that this legislation would “help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.” New York City’s proposed legislation follows closely on the heels of a wide-reaching pay equity statute recently enacted in Massachusetts that includes a prohibition on employers requesting or requiring applicants to provide their salary history.
Last week, Maryland became the most recent state to expand its equal pay protections, when Governor Larry Hogan signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2016 (“Equal Pay Act”) into law. Maryland joins states like New York and California, which have some of the country’s most expansive equal pay protections. Unlike New York and California, Maryland’s law was signed by a Republican governor, which establishes that equal pay efforts have crossed party lines. The new law introduces two new features into the equal pay fray: gender identity and “work of comparable character.”
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 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.
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 October 21, 2015, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a group of eight bills, referred to as the Women’s Equality Agenda, which expand protections for women in the workplace and elsewhere in New York State. The changes that will affect New York employers include an expansion of the existing State equal pay law, the addition of familial status as a protected category and the express requirement that employers reasonably accommodate pregnancy-related conditions.
Just in time for Women’s History Month, California State Senator and Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Hannah-Beth Jackson, introduced Senate Bill 358 (SB 358), which seeks to narrow the gender pay gap in California. Citing best supporting actress Patricia Arquette’s recent Oscar acceptance speech where she called for, “wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women,” Senator Jackson hopes to turn that rallying cry into concrete legislation in California.
On December 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final rule barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The final rule implements an Executive Order signed by President Obama in July 2014 amending Executive Order 11,246 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases of employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors.