In a study published in 2000, two professors – one from Princeton, the other from Harvard –concluded that blind auditions exponentially increased the probability of female musicians being selected for seats on major symphony orchestras. In blind auditions, musicians play from behind screens, thus removing the distraction of the person, including the person’s race, age or (the focus of the study) gender. The study collected data from eight symphony orchestras over four decades. The problem is, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the data presented a “tangle of contradictory trends” that did not support the unequivocal bottom line presented by the authors. Indeed, “[t]he paper includes multiple warnings about small sample sizes, contradictory results and failures to pass standard tests of statistical significance. But few readers seem to have noticed. What caught everyone’s attention was a big claim in the final paragraph.”

Continue Reading Behind the Blind Selection Screen

Last week, Montgomery County, Maryland became the first jurisdiction in the Mid-Atlantic area to ban discrimination—including in the workplace—based on natural hairstyle. The bill expands the definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race,” which includes “hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Specific hairstyles articulated in the legislation include braids, locs, Afros, curls and twists, which are often associated with African American or Latino individuals.

Continue Reading A new protected class in Montgomery County: Natural Hairstyle

My interest is piqued by laws with unusual twists, like the Emeryville, California ordinance that permits the use of sick leave to care for a family member’s service animal (about which I blogged previously). Here’s another one – Pittsburgh recently passed a pregnancy accommodations ordinance that extends protections to the partners of pregnant employees!

Continue Reading Pregnancy Protections for Partners?

In its latest edition of the Digest of EEO Law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission included an article entitled, “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: An Overview of the Law and Recent Commission Decisions.” Although the article summarizes federal sector decisions, it provides guidance to private employers on the EEOC’s overall position on religious accommodations – and (just in time for Halloween) the conclusions are a little scary!

Continue Reading What Does the EEOC Think About Religious Accommodations? It’s Spooky!

Ah, the perils of “reply all.” We’ve all been there – but did you know that doing so can implicate the National Labor Relations Act? This was the case in Mexican Radio Corp. v. NLRB. In August 2015, a restaurant hired a new general manager. Soon after this hire, employees lodged numerous complaints with the restaurant’s director of operations about the general manager’s alleged demeaning treatment of employees, as well as the restaurant’s unsanitary conditions. Continue Reading Nothing Good Comes From Hitting “Reply All”

By now most everyone has heard about the travails of WeWork arising from the swift downfall of founder Adam Neumann. If you have not heard, you are missing some fascinating stuff.  A Wall Street Journal piece was first to chronicle Neumann’s manic behavior (such as pondering how to become immortal and transporting large amounts of marijuana on a private jet trip, much to the chagrin of the jet’s owner!). In the wake of these disclosures, private equity investment firms that had committed tens of millions to WeWork became skittish, a planned IPO was pulled, and a faction of WeWork board members called for Neumann’s removal as a CEO. Indeed, within roughly a week of the WSJ article, he was forced to vacate his leadership role. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other investment houses now have written down the value of their investments by tens of millions of dollars. Continue Reading Executive Rules of Etiquette for RIFs

So last month, I blogged about my discovery that the Maryland Code does not actually contain all the laws that have been passed, which caused me to wonder how we were supposed to comply with them. And now, I just learned that in D.C., some laws that are passed end up not being implemented after all! Wait – what?! Continue Reading A Halloween Tale: Ghosted by Laws that Are Passed But Not Implemented!

The story in Collins v. Koch Foods, Inc. begins with an office romance. A female HR manager began privately dating the plant manager in 2014. Because neither was a subordinate of the other, their relationship did not violate the original iteration of the company’s anti-fraternization policy. In 2016, the HR manager’s supervisor resigned for – wait for it – having an office romance with a subordinate! The female HR manager applied for the vacated position, at which time the HR manager and plant manager admitted to their relationship. The HR manager was ultimately passed over for the promotion (not by her boyfriend plant manager) and transferred to a different facility so that she and her paramour would not be working together. Continue Reading Female Employee Marries Coworker, Gets Fired; Husband Keeps Job, Gets Raise

As those of you who pay attention to the National Labor Relations Board know (which should be all employers, since the National Labor Relations Act applies to unionized and non-union employers alike), the issue of social media policies is an area particularly fraught with confusion. In many circumstances, the Board has found such policies – or certain provisions in such policies – to unlawfully restrict employees’ rights under the Act to communicate about the terms and conditions of their employment. Thus, we labor practitioners rabidly follow each pronouncement of the Board or its General Counsel on this issue, trying to ascertain the legal parameters of such policies. Continue Reading Wait! What Does the NLRB Think About Social Media Policies?!!!

The Department of Labor issued, on September 24, 2019, its final rule revising the salary requirements for exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s mandate to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The new rule increases the salary required to meet the executive, professional and administrative exemptions to $684 per week (the equivalent of $35,568 per year). The required compensation for highly compensated employees is raised to $107,432. Continue Reading DOL Issues Final Overtime Rule, Increasing Required Salary Level for Exempt Employees