The Selection Officer for the SSA says one reason he didn’t hire the plaintiff (me) is because she (I) wrote an employment law blog on workplace abuse.
Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du of Nevada this week dismissed a claim in a lawsuit that I filed against the Social Security Administration (SSA), after it rejected me for a job for which I was superbly qualified in the aftermath of the Great Recession (2011).
A novice SSA Selection Officer said one reason he didn’t select me for hire was because he thought my fledgling employment law blog, When the Abuser Goes to Work, was a “red flag” and he was concerned I might one day question his management skills.
A few tibits – 26 applicants (all but one under the age of 40) responded to a ridiculously narrow recruitment for five attorney vacancies. I found out about the vacancies by chance when I saw an announcement on USAJobs for a different job at the Reno office. The SSA repeatedly tried to hire five candidates under the age of 40 but was thwarted when candidates rejected job offers. The ninth selectee was the only other candidate over the age of 40 (a 47-year-old male).
The SSA says the candidates were hired based on “personality” and “cultural fit.”
In 2019, Judge Du dismissed the entire case, calling it futile, and issued her ruling with prejudice (barring me from refiling the case).
The Ninth Circuit
I filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which in 2021 reinstated my claim of systemic age discrimination, finding it “plausible,” and remanded the case back to Judge Du.
Activision Blizzard, Inc., the publisher of popular video games, allegedly tolerated a “frat boy” culture for years.
California’s Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit in 2021 alleging Activision executives knew about and failed to stop pervasive sexual harassment and then retaliated against women who complained.
But that lawsuit was effectively blitzed by an $18 million settlement approved this week by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer.
The settlement between Activision and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires Activision to pay $18 million and to hire a neutral equal opportunity consultant.
Activision, a Santa Monica company that publishes games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, earned about $8.8 billion dollars in 2021. It is ranked #373 on the Fortune 1000 Revenue Rank. The settlement amount, $18 million, is approximately 0.02 percent of the company’s annual earnings.
An $18 million settlement is a mere nuisance to the biggest producer of video games in the world. It is the proverbial slap on the wrist.
For example, a Los Angeles County jury assessed a $58.2 million verdict against entertainment executive Alki David of Hologram USA, Inc. for a sexual abuse of a female production assistant in 2019.
Judge Fischer said any claimant to the EEOC settlement must waive their right to pursue the DFEH lawsuit. So, it’s a bird in the hand kind of thing. Take the money now or take a chance (however small) of getting a higher amount in the future.
The premier civil rights law in the nation makes it unlawful for employers to fail or refuse to hire any individual on on the basis of “such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, amid sit ins and marches, to ensure equal opportunity in employment for minorities.
Democratic President Joseph Biden ignored Title VII when he announced he would choose a Supreme Court candidate who is a black woman, and then picked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Additionally, he ignored the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War and prohibits states from denying to any person “the equal protection of the laws.” The U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education held that race discrimination violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
Judge Jackson, who was appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia less than a year ago, is currently the subject of nomination hearings before the U.S. Senate. Democrats say they have the votes to confirm her nomination.
A Fraction of 6%
Pres. Biden isn’t the first president to pick a justice on the basis of external characteristics.
GOP Pres. Ronald Reagan announced in 1980 that he would pick a woman for the nation’s highest court, and Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice.
However, Pres. Biden drastically narrowed the field of potential nominees to fill the vacancy on the Court created by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.
African American women comprise around six percent of the U.S. population and, of that percentage, only a tiny fraction normally would be considered qualified to serve on the nation’s high court.
A critical parameter is often ignored in management performance reviews – whether the manager treats others with civility and respect.
A large body of research in the past decade has shown that managers who display bias or engage in bullying and emotional harassment are a parasitic drain on the battery of an organization.
An abusive boss creates psychological stress for workers, leading to job dissatisfaction, turnover and a host of counter-productive behaviors (i.e., absenteeism, sabotage, litigation). S/he serves as a model for other employees, who also engage in bullying behaviors.
The American College of Cardiology recently issued a Health Policy Statement in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology proposing that cardiovascular organizations conduct performance reviews that include an “assessment on respect and civility.”
Culture of Respect
The recommendation is the outcome of an on-line survey conducted by the ACC in 2021 that found over one-third of resident doctors and faculty reported experiencing bias, discrimination, bullying and harassment at their main place of work.
The federal judiciary routinely hears (and often dismisses) lawsuits filed by workers who have suffered soul crushing disrespect, humiliation and abuse from an employer.
This is one reason why the recommendations of The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Group matter.
The group this week re-committed to the promotion of an “exemplary workplace” for the 30,000 employees of the federal court system “through engaged leadership and more expansive education in the areas of civility, respect and communication.”
Historically, federal judges have graduated from elite colleges and law schools to high-paid jobs in private law firms representing employers to the bench. There, they are exempt from federal discrimination laws. And they have lifetime tenure and can’t be forced to retire.
The federal judiciary’s workplace was the antithesis of democratic. Federal judges were the equivalent of kings in their chambers, and many young law clerks were treated more like serfs than workers.
After several high profile cases where staff complained of sexual harassment and workplace bullying by federal judges, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2018 appointed the workplace conduct group to improve the environment in which federal employees work.
If federal judges must treat their workers with dignity and respect, perhaps they will expect this of other employers?