Today's News & Commentary – June 26, 2015

Published June 26th, 2015 -  - 06.26.156


The House passed legislation 286 to 138 yesterday to renew aid to workers hurt by international trade, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program is part of a broader trade bill assembled by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to endow President Obama with enhanced power to execute international trade agreements. The measure extends health care, education, retraining assistance, the government’s ability to confront trade partners that “dump” steel and other products in the United States at artificially low prices.

Hotel workers at the Waldorf Astoria in New York have reached a deal with the Chinese insurance firm, Anbang Insurance Group, that bought the hotel for $1.95 billion this year, the New York Times reports. The hotel workers had opposed the new owner’s plans to convert part of the hotel into high-end condominiums, as their jobs were protected by the Waldorf Astoria’s contract with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. The deal will require the owner to pay almost $149 million in severance packages to its employees over the next two years, with one longtime worker walking away with $656,409.68.

Noodles Asian Bistro, Inc., an Asian restaurant in Bartlett, Tennessee, will pay $25,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC. According to the EEOC’s suit, the defendant fired two servers after it decided they were too big to wait tables, thereby violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. “Employers do not have the discretion to determine when a pregnant employee is ‘too big’ to work.  As stated in the EEOC’s Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, employment decisions that adversely affect pregnant women are unlawful, even when an employer relies on stereotypes or unconsciously believes they are acting in the employee’s best interest,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which serves Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.

Last week, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a new statute extending workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation protection to unpaid interns. The new bill covers all employers and will go into effect October 1, 2015.

The House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday about employment discrimination at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Hill reports. The hearing was the fourth at which CFPB employees testified about discrimination and retaliation at the bureau. Present at the hearing was the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, who promised to take action. Representative Maxine Walters, the senior Democrat on the committee, said Republicans were only concerned about using the allegations to weaken the agency, which Republicans have opposed since it was created in 2010.

The Guardian reports that mental health workers and their clients are marching on a job center in London to protest organizational reforms they say frame unemployment as a psychological disorder. The Department for Work and Pensions had announced months before that the job center would be the first to provide therapy to unemployed individuals looking for work. The British Psychological Society and the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies have both expressed concern that claimants might be forced or pressured into accepting interventions, while other critics have questioned whether the programmatic integration would adversely affect jobseekers who seek mental healthcare.

Subway workers in Lisbon walked off the job today for the eighth time this year and the second time in just over a week. ABC reports that the strike has been organized in protest of the government’s decision to privatize the subway system. While the government says the deal will save it roughly 200 million euros and will help Portugal get out of debt, labor groups fear that the change will bring layoffs and fewer benefits for subway workers.

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