Labor Day and the Problem with Government by Fiat

The  dysfunction of American government is on parade this Labor Day, as Republican President Donald Trump reverses labor advances instituted by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump, ostensibly to eliminate job-killing regulations, has overturned a bevy of Obama-era policies that represented a step forward for women and minority workers. Many of these rules were promulgated by Obama in the form of an executive order, which lacks the imprimatur of Congress and the assurance of permanence. Obama said he was forced to act unilaterally because Republicans wouldn’t cooperate with him.

Government by fiat causes cynicism, wastes government resources and leads to the suffering of vulnerable people

Continue reading “Labor Day and the Problem with Government by Fiat”

Sen. Blumenthal v. Pres. Trump: Is Trump a Bully?

A sad series of tweets and counter-tweets this week have led to cries of bullying in our nation’s capitol.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, was quoted on television as calling for a law to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has impaneled a grand jury and may be expanding his initial investigation into Russian interference in the election.  This prompted Trump to accuse Blumenthal of being “a phony Vietnam con artist.”

Blumenthal is a man of integrity with a record of distinguished public service… but he isn’t perfect. Some years ago, in the heat of politics, Blumenthal exaggerated his military experience. Blumenthal let voters in Connecticut believe that he had served in Vietnam. He was forced to call a press conference in 2010 and admit that while he served as a member of the Marines Corps Reserves from 1970-1976 he had never served overseas.  Blumenthal was emotional at the press conference and reportedly cried.

Trump, who got five draft deferments and never served in the military, has astutely observed that the Vietnam War flap is an acute embarrassment to Blumenthal. So Trump brings it up every time Blumenthal has the temerity to criticize Trump’s administration.  On Monday, he tweeted: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

A few months ago,  Blumenthal objected to Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and Trump tweeted that Blumenthal had “cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness” at the 2010 press conference. The reference to “baby” appeared to be an attempt to demean Blumenthal’s manhood. In a gross overstatement, Trump also accused “‘Richie” of devising “one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history.”

Blumenthal has vowed that Trump’s bullying won’t intimidate him ( though one worries it may deter some of Blumenthal’s less courageous and equally imperfect colleagues). And if anyone can stand up to Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal is up for the task.   “It’s not about me… Our national security and rule of law is at risk. And that’s where our focus should be. It is not about me,” he told The Hill.

Is Trump bullying Blumenthal? Not in the traditional sense of the word. Bullying is associated with a power differential. A bully has more power than his or her victim and uses that power to repeatedly harm the victim.  Blumenthal is not a 99-pound weakling.  Blumenthal is a powerful Democrat whose intent is clear – he knows the Special Prosecutor could severely damage Trump’s presidency. And Trump poses no threat to Blumenthal, who was elected to a second term in the Senate by Connecticut voters last year with the largest vote margin in the history of statewide elections in the state. Continue reading “Sen. Blumenthal v. Pres. Trump: Is Trump a Bully?”

Psst. That advice you got to combat workplace bullying may not work

 Much of the advice given by co-workers , friends and family to targets of workplace bullying  doesn’t help or makes things worse.

This is the upshot of an article in this month’s issue of The Journal of Applied Communication Research by Stacy Tye-Williams, a communications study professor at Iowa State University, and Kathy Krone, a professor of organizational communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The researchers surveyed 48 targets of workplace bullying about the effectiveness of the advice they’ were given to address the bullying.  The top suggestions include: quit the job or get out of the situation, ignore the bullying, fight or stand up to the bully, or report the bullying.

The researchers say there is a  “strong possibility” that direct confrontation of a bully will result in retaliation and the target will be labelled as a problem employee.

Many targets of workplace bullying “are treated as if they are overly emotional or behaving as if they are responsible for single-handedly stopping the bullying.” This attitude “helps sustain an orientation toward organizational life that privileges rationality over emotionality and individual expression over community.”Moreover, urging  individual targets to ‘remain calm’ and ‘stay rational’ overestimates the difference a single individual can make, downplays the significance of strong emotional responses to bullying, and constrains the ability to think and act with greater freedom.”

Another problem, according to the researchers, is that targets of past workplace bullying often tell targets who are currently experiencing the problem to use strategies that proved ineffective for the original target.

The researchers say there is a need for good strategies to successfully combat workplace bullying. “We don’t have a lot of success stories out there,” said Tye-Williams.

The study defines workplace bullying as repeated verbal and nonverbal acts over a period of time intended to inflict humiliation harm.

The United States continues to be among the only developed countries in the world that ignores the plague of workplace bullying, which is a form of workplace violence that causes potentially serious mental and physical harm to workers. An estimated one out of every three or four workers experiences workplace bullying.

This blog has noted that employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace free of harassment and violence.  The author advocates adoption of  a uniform federal workplace bullying law, such as extending the anti-harassment provision of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to all workers and not hose who suffer discrimination.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s Critical to Job Satisfaction

A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found the largest percentage of employees (65 percent) felt respectful treatment of all employees at all levels was a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

Only 38 percent of the 600 employees polled in the annual survey said they were “very satisfied” that all employees are treated respectfully.

It is the third consecutive year that the annual SHRM survey has reported that respectful treatment of workers is critical to job satisfaction. The survey found that workers differ in how they perceive the importance of respect, and how much respect they actually feel:

  • Female employees were more likely (72%) to report that respect is a very important contributor to job satisfaction than male employees (57 percent).
  • Millennials were more likely  (45 percent)  to be very satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded when compared with Generation Xers (31 percent). It is interesting that no figure was provided in the SHRM survey for the percentage of Baby Boomers who are satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded – which may say something about the degree of respect accorded to Boomers.
  • Individual contributors were less likely (31 percent) to be very satisfied with the level of respect shown to all employees compared with executives (52 percent).

Continue reading “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s Critical to Job Satisfaction”

More Self-Inflicted Wounds? Fox Hit With Race Discrimination Lawsuits

It was humming along, the major cable news network in America, raking in billions in profits.

Now Fox News  has lost (forced out) its visionary chief executive officer, Roger Ailes, and its top star,  Bill OReilly, both accused of sexual harassing female subordinates for decades.  Fox  paid  Ailes and OReilly tens of millions in severance to leave, not to mention millions in damages to their alleged victims.

And now Fox is reeling from a second wave of discrimination complaints – this time involving race discrimination. A Fox News spokesperson has denied the claims and said the network will “vigorously defend these cases.”

Two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, filed a race discrimination lawsuit   in New York state court on March 28 alleging  that Fox Controller Judith Slater, who was fired by Fox on Feb. 28, subjected “dark-skinned employees” to racial animus.

Eleven past and present Fox workers joined the lawsuit Tuesday, complaining that they were  humiliated, paid less than white coworkers and passed over for promotions. Continue reading “More Self-Inflicted Wounds? Fox Hit With Race Discrimination Lawsuits”

Missouri bill would make it harder to sue for discrimination

If you don’t like getting sued for discrimination, just make it harder to sue.

That seems to be the theory underlying a bill pending in Missouri House of Representatives that was recently endorsed by the University of Missouri system.

The proposed bill would make it harder to sue by raising the level of proof in lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It also would bar the award of punitive damages against “public entities.”

The University of Missouri Backs the Controversial Measure

The Missouri legislature’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, which held a hearing on the bill last week, appears to be less than interested in opposing views. Committee Chairperson Bill Lant cut off the microphone of Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel, who said the measure would expand discrimination and represents a form of “Jim Crow.”   Lant, a Republican, also refused to allow a committee member to ask questions of Chapel.

Minutes before Chapel was silenced,  the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Marty Oetting, lobbyist for the University of Missouri, told the committee that UM supports the bill, especially the part barring anyone winning a lawsuit from receiving punitive damages from public entities. The university system is currently facing two discrimination lawsuits,

The university claims workers receive sufficient protection under federal law and do not need the enhanced protections of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The driving force behind the bill is Missouri State Sen. Gary Romaine, the owner of a “rent-to-own” furniture business that is currently a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit.  Romaine couched the bill as a way of “reforming Missouri’s legal climate and improving our ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.”

The proposed bill would essentially adopt the current standard of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 for all victims of race and sex discrimination. Workers would have to show that discrimination occurred “because of” discrimination rather than meeting the lesser standard of showing that discrimination was a motivating factor.

Twitter To Tackle Abusive Tweets

Twitter is wading into waters that many employers continue to avoid –  the problem of abuse and harassment on its platform.

Twitter’s vice-president of engineering, Ed Ho, stated in a  blog post  Tuesday that Twitter’s primary focus in the weeks ahead will be “making Twitter a safer place.”

Specifically,  Twitter plans to:

  • Identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts.
  • Establish a “safe search” protocol that removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts.
  • Collapse potentially abusive or low-quality tweets so the most relevant conversations are brought forward. Users will still have the option to  see the “less relevant” Tweets.

If Twitter can address the problem of abusive conduct on its massive international social media platform, shouldn’t employers address the problem in their workplaces?

Twitter already has expanded its Mute tool, which lets people  block  keywords, phrases and  conversations they do not want to see.  Last year, Twitter updated its block button so users could avoid tweets from blocked users altogether.

“We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices.We won’t tolerate it, and we’re launching new efforts to stop it,” writes Ho.

 

Fox News: The Cost of Sexual Harassment

Fox News has gone from being the stolid and leading voice of conservatism in the United States to a network wracked with turmoil.

This week, it was announced that Fox  is losing it’s leading on-air female personality, Megyn Kelly, 46, who is moving to NBC. Her 9 p.m. show, “Kelly File,” was the second-highest rated in cable news. Kelly reportedly eschewed an offer from Fox for more than $20 million per year to extend her contract and stay.

Fox’s turmoil began last Fall when its parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $20 million to former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson to settle a sexual harassment suit filed against Roger Ailes, 76, who led the Fox News network for 20 years. Since then, more than 20 former and current female employees at Fox News, including Kelly, came forward to complain about sexual harassment by Ailes dating back to the 1960s.

Whether or not sexual harassment spurred Kelly’s departure, it played a role in destabilizing the network and made Fox appear vulnerable to other networks in search of top talent.

Clearly, 21st Century Fox was the major loser in this debacle.

At the end of the day, 21st Century Fox’s losses will be staggering. Continue reading “Fox News: The Cost of Sexual Harassment”

Bloomberg Articles on Age Discrimination in Employment

I am excited to be quoted in a series of excellent articles addressing the problem of age discrimination in employment published today by Bloomberg’s Daily Labor Report.

The main article, by Patrick Dorrian, J.D., is Talkin’ ‘Bout All Generations: Workplace Age Diversity Lacking. It touches upon themes that I have explored  in my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace,  and in this blog and my other blog devoted exclusively to age discrimination. These themes include actions by the Obama administration and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez that have encouraged age discrimination in hiring, both in the federal government (our nations largest employer) and nationwide.

A second article, Many Wrinkles in Age Diversity, addresses how age discrimination uniquely and negatively effects women both when they are in the workplace and later, when they are living in poverty or near poverty on Social Security.

It is encouraging to see a national media outlook address these real problems that have affected millions of older Americans for years – problems that have been unaddressed even by supposed advocates for this population group.

Ultimately, nothing will or can change until Americans become aware of the prevalence and consequences of irrational and harmful age discrimination in employment which, by the way, they subsidize through their tax dollars in higher social welfare costs.

Thumbs up to Bloomberg!

Federal Courts Protect Big Law Firms From Competition

justice-scale-761665_1The sad reality is that most victims of illegal employment discrimination have no realistic means of redress.

This is because our court system is absurdly antiquated and has not changed appreciably since it declared itself the place where the buck stops in Marbury v. Madison (1803).

Victims of employment discrimination who are poor or middle class often can’t find an attorney who will take their case because the cost is too high in light of the potential damages. And they can’t effectively represent themselves because federal and state courts have adopted obscure and unnecessary rules and procedures that seem to be designed to keep them out.

There is virtually no public acknowledgement of this problem because apparently it is too complicated or un-glamorous for mainstream media.

I would like to applaud the heroic efforts of an organization that is trying to change this sorry state of affairs – the National Association for the Advancement of Multijurisdictional Practice (NAAMJP) of Los Angeles, CA.  The NAAMJP  has filed lawsuits in several jurisdictions challenging parochial bar admissions rules.

NAAMJP wants to ensure that, once licensed, a lawyer in good standing can practice in any state.

Repealing anti-competitive and  anti-consumer bar admission rules would increase competition among legal service providers and lower costs for consumers. 

The real reason for requiring licensed lawyers to take another state’s bar exam is to discourage them from practicing in that state. In other words, the state bar association is misusing the law to prevent competition. The defenders of the status quo are large and powerful law firms in the state who lobby the legislature and contribute to political campaigns. They are abetted by federal district court judges who want to maintain complete control over their fiefdoms.

According to the NAAMJP, lawyers in the European Union and Canada do not face the kind of  geographical licensing restrictions that are imposed upon U.S.  lawyers (and consumers).

Nevada, for example, requires out-of-state lawyers to take the entire bar exam (a two-day test) as if they had just graduated from law school. This protects a handful of large and complacent Nevada law firms from competition (particularly from California) and enables the state court system to exact high fees for each case filed by an out-of-state attorney or firm. All of this drives up the cost and availability of legal services in Nevada. This is a form of institutionalized corruption that is completely indefensible and yet continues year after year.

Lawyers from around the country regularly contact me for advice about workplace bullying and age discrimination but I cannot represent clients in Nevada because I am licensed in Pennsylvania. Who benefits?  Attorneys in Nevada who know far less about this area of the law than I do.

For anyone who is interested,  The ABA Journal has a story this month about the challenges faced by the NAAMJP  in federal courts, which thus far have shown themselves to be intent upon maintaining the current anti-consumer practices.

The NAAMJP contends that barriers to admission erected by state bar associations violate, among other things, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of association and speech.