News & Commentary

July 22, 2020

Leigh Thomas

Leigh Thomas is a student at Harvard Law School.

Whole Foods employees filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the company violated federal employment antidiscrimination law when it punished workers for wearing Black Lives Matter masks, apparel, and pins to work. The lawsuit alleges employees were sent home without pay, subjected to “corrective” discipline, and threatened with the loss of their jobs for refusing to remove the items, The New York Times reports. One worker was fired from her job in Cambridge, Massachusetts for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. The suit alleges that Whole Foods did not require employees to remove masks and apparel supporting other causes such as LGBTQ+ rights. The suit comes as companies are under increasing pressure from consumers to allow workers to express support for Black Lives Matter. Starbucks recently reversed course on this issue, following widespread criticism.

Data on job losses fail to paint a full picture of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, POLITICO reports. For millions of Americans who managed to hold onto their jobs during the crisis, widespread wage cuts will have a lasting impact on their incomes. Many employers slashed wages on what was expected to be a temporary basis—but as the virus continues spreading, the cuts could turn permanent. Various estimates put the number of workers experiencing pay cuts between 4 and 7 million. Many more workers have seen paychecks decreased due to cuts in hours and reduction in overtime. Pay cuts are mostly affecting workers in white-collar industries, according to one study analyzing data from the payroll company ADP. Economists say it’s difficult to expect wages to rise at this point, with so much of the economy remaining shuttered and with consumers too concerned about risk to resume regular spending behavior.

A Florida teachers union filed a lawsuit on Monday to block Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s order requiring schools to reopen in August. The Florida Education Association, a union representing more than 140,000 education employees, brought the suit alongside individual teachers and parents of students. The plaintiffs claim that the reopen order violates Florida’s constitutional mandate that public education be “safe” and “secure.” Florida has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases in the past month, setting daily records of new infections and hospitalizations. FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement that the lawsuit is an attempt to provide a “reality check” to the governor.

School reopening continues to be a hot-button political issue on the national stage. POLITICO reports that both parties in Congress agree that the next stimulus package must include multibillion-dollar support for struggling schools in need of resources to safely reopen. But House Democrats say they will not accept any funding measure that ties money to President Trump’s demands that schools reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that GOP lawmakers are “using student safety as a bargaining chip.”

Two former female employees of Fox News have filed a federal lawsuit against the network accusing former anchor Ed Henry of sexual misconduct, harassment, and rape. As NPR reports, the lawsuit also accuses prominent Fox News commentators Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Howard Kurtz of sexual misconduct. The plaintiffs describe Fox News as having a culture of protecting and rewarding perpetrators of sexual harassment. Fox News fired Henry earlier this month following an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct. But NPR reporting found that Fox had previously promoted Henry despite warnings from colleagues back in 2017 that Henry’s greater prominence on Fox was “crushing” for female colleagues. This is not the first time Fox News has dealt with allegations of widespread sexual misconduct—the disgraced departures of founder Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly in 2016 exposed numerous complaints. The plaintiffs here seek compensatory and punitive damages, and to enjoin Fox News’ unlawful conduct, including policies and practices. Charges will be filed with the EEOC simultaneously with the commencement of the suit.

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