Censorship by the Library of Congress

“I cannot live without books.”

This famous statement by Thomas Jefferson was the theme of a recent National Book Festival held by the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC.

But the dirty secret is that the LOC can live without certain books – books that are not published by a small number of national and international publishers (i.e. corporations) that apparently have the LOC’s stamp of approval.  In other words, the LOC can live without self-published books.

I know this because the LOC has refused to catalog my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, to make it available to policy-makers who are working on issues involving age discrimination. When I asked why earlier this year, I received the following email on May 18, 2015 from Kurt Carroll, Chief, Law Collection Services:

“The format, level of depth, and policy focus did not meet our criteria for addition to our research collection.  I consider this decision closed and do not wish to discuss further.”

Technically, censorship is the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.  In this case, it is not clear whether the LOC bothered to look at my book.   On its face, Carroll’s email is absurd.

Lacks depth? My book delves into law and case law and  is  heavily footnoted. Only a moron would say that it lacks a policy focus. The book is about the lack of equal justice afforded under current American law to older workers who are victims of age discrimination when compared to workers who are victims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. It is also about the devastating impact of the Great Recession on older workers due to epidemic and unaddressed aged discrimination. [Read more…]

Library of Congress v. Free Speech

do-not-enterThe Library of Congress (LOC) has closed its doors to a foundation that was created by current and former employees to assist LOC employees in pursing complaints of racial discrimination.

The issue is interesting because it raises concerns about the right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which would appear to be central to the Library’s mission.

A panel of three judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the LOC by The Cook and Shaw Foundation,  a non-profit group formed by present and past employees to assist LOC employees in filing race discrimination lawsuits.

The Library has a policy in which it recognizes certain employee organizations and gives them meeting space, the right to post materials on bulletin boards, etc.  The Foundation’s request for recognition was denied because “the Foundation’s purpose of helping employees bring and maintain lawsuits against the Library is inconsistent with the Library’s policy that recognized employee organizations be ‘concerned only with welfare, financial assistance, recreational, cultural, or professional activities.’”

The Foundation filed a lawsuit alleging the LOC violated the retaliation clause of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This clause makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employees (or applicants for employment) because they have opposed any practice made an unlawful by the law or because they have made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.

There is a certain logic to the Foundation’s view that helping employees file race discrimination lawsuits relates to their welfare and professional activities.  However, the appeals court ruled that Title VII covers only employees and job applicants and not foundations. The appellate panel said the Foundation failed to identify any particular library employee who was subjected to retaliation in violation of Title VII.

“Perhaps such allegations could have formed the makings of a First Amendment claim by the Foundation. But plaintiffs advanced a Title VII claim,” the panel concludes.

The case is Howard R.l. Cook & Tommy Shaw, et al v. James Billington, #12-5193.