Today’s News and Commentary — March 29, 2017
Earlier this week, the Second Circuit held that an openly gay employee may pursue a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII. However, he must proceed on the basis of sex stereotyping, and not sexual orientation. LGBT rights advocates hope the Second Circuit will soon hold that Title VII also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and they see the concurrence in this case by Chief Judge Katzmann and Judge Brodie as promising. No federal circuit has yet ruled that discrimination “on the basis of sex” under Title VII applies to sexual orientation, but the EEOC has held that it does since its 2015 opinion in Baldwin v. Foxx. (The EEOC filed an amicus brief on behalf of the gay employee in the Second Circuit case.) In the concurring opinion, Chief Judge Katzmann wrote that the court should address the issue in the future, “when the appropriate occasion presents itself.” Advocates have called it a “big step forward” for Katzmann to at least “find compelling” the EEOC’s arguments for Title VII coverage. The employee is reportedly “considering” asking the full Second Circuit review.
The New York Times announced yesterday that robots are winning the race for American jobs. Examining a new paper by economists at M.I.T. and Boston University, the Times reports that in the study of the manufacturing industry, for every robot per one thousand workers, “up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent.” While earlier, more conceptual papers predicted that robots would enhance the labor market and create better jobs for humans, this study used real-world data and reached a far more pessimistic result. The authors found that blue-collar men without college degrees were particularly vulnerable. The report comes just as Uber announced it would resume testing its self-driving cars in San Fransisco after grounding the fleet on Saturday in response to an accident.
Uber also released its first diversity report on Tuesday, showing the same general underrepresentation of women and non-Asian minorities as other tech industries. Uber has long been under pressure to release such a report, and its workers played a critical role in convincing the company to publish it. The report is also perceived as an attempt for the company to make amends to investors and the public after a former engineer wrote publicly in February about her experiences with sex discrimination at the company. According to the report, only 36% of Uber’s workforce in compromised of women. Also not looking good for Uber: the fact that it openly refers to its Jewish and Latino employees as “Jewbers” and “Los Ubers.”
A state bill to prohibit minimum wage increases by localities in Iowa has passed in the Iowa House and Senate, with the Governor expected to sign it soon. Supporters of the bill cite “certainty, predictability and uniformity by assuring the same minimum wage statewide,” while opponents argue that it neglects low-income workers in the state. Several counties in Iowa had already raised the minimum wage, meaning that some workers’ raises will now be rescinded. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, issued a statement declaring that the bill’s passage “marks the first time anywhere in the U.S. that state lawmakers have actually taken away raises from workers who already received them.”