U.S. Judge Dismisses Free Speech/Free Press Claim

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.

I began the blog as a public service in connection with my book, Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace. The blog, syndicated by Newstek, is legally and unquestionably a work of journalism.

The shocking age discrimination I experienced when I applied for the SSA job in Reno, NV, in the waning days of the Great Recession, prompted me to research age discrimination and write my groundbreaking book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.

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.

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Will Judge Jackson’s Impending Appointment Help Or Hurt Civil Rights?

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.

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Unions Say ‘Breeze Airways’ Blows An Ill Wind

The nation’s cadre of mostly female flight attendants is facing a new threat – the idea that their job can be performed by college students at a fraction of the cost

Breeze Airways, a new airline operating out of Salt Lake City, Utah, is partnering with Utah Valley University to hire full-time college students to work as flight attendants while they pursue their degree through on-line classes. The airline offers “tuition reimbursement” and provides housing through the program, which is called Flight Academy.

Breeze was started by David Neeleman, who also founded JetBlue. It began operating with a fleet of 60 planes last month.

Ageist? Racist?

Breeze’s hiring plan is opposed by the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, which notes that 70% of the student population at UVU is under the age of 30 and approximately 78% are Caucasian. CWA alleges Breeze’s hiring plan has a discriminatory impact on minorities and older workers.

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Disruption To Workplace Trumps Worker’s Free Speech Right

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a 9-1-1 dispatcher who repeated a racial slur in a social media post celebrating the 2016 election of GOP President Donald Trump.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, OH, concluded the lower court judge gave too much weight to the dispatcher’s right to free speech and too little to the disruptive impact of her speech on her workplace.

Following a trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff, Danyelle E. Bennett, $6,500 in back pay and $18,750 for humiliation and embarrassment stemming from the incident.

Bennett was fired from her job after 16 years as a Nashville, TN, Metro 9-1-1 dispatcher after making an off-duty social media post from her home to her personal Facebook page. Bennett posted an electoral map showing Trump’s victory at 3 a.m. on election night.

Shortly thereafter, a man she did not know, Mohamed Aboulmaouahib, replied, “Redneck states for Trump, n****z and latinos states vote for hillary.” Bennett responded: “Thank god we have more America loving rednecks … Even n****z and latinos voted for Trump too.”

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Federal Judge Links Hostile Workplace And Retaliation

A federal judge has upheld a claim by accountant of Indian origin that he was subjected to a hostile workplace in retaliation for filing discrimination complaints against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland said a hostile work environment exists under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the workplace is permeated with “discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult” that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive work environment.

He said some of the harassment suffered by accountant Samba Vedula, who joined HHS in 2010, was not particularly severe and/or involved management discretion but “several of the verbal confrontations were insulting and humiliating, and the pervasiveness of these actions was so pronounced” that a jury could find the existence of a hostile workplace environment.

Judge Chuang said Vedula failed to show the harassment was directed at his national origin and sex but did produce sufficient evidence to show the harassment was the result of retaliation for filing complaints about the harassment with the HHS.

The adverse actions taken by HHS supervisors after Vedula’s complaints “constitute materially adverse actions for purposes of the retaliation claim because they would have ‘dissuade[d] a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination,'” writes Judge Chaung.

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