Weekend News & Commentary — October 21-22, 2017

Published October 22nd, 2017 -  - 10.22.174


Jeffrey Mateer, First Assistant Attorney General of Texas and President Trump’s nominee to serve as a federal district judge in the Eastern District of Texas, has admitted to discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in two separate speeches from 2015.  In a speech to the National Religious Liberties Conference, Mateer stated, “Guess what?  I attend a conservative Baptist church. We discriminate, alright.  On the basis of sexual orientation, we discriminate.”  In both speeches, Mateer criticized employer-mandated diversity training programs.  He referred to mandatory diversity training instituted by the federal government as brainwashing, and urged federal employees to ask for religious accommodations for diversity trainings.  He also discussed Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which ruled that closely held for-profit corporations could deny contraceptive coverage to employees based on a religion objection.  Mateer argued that employers could extend the reasoning in Hobby Lobby to legally discriminate against customers and employees based on sexual orientation.  Audio and excerpts from these two speeches are available here.

The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project published a report examining how legal and institutional changes can lead to better economic outcomes for women in the workforce.  The authors identify wage discrimination, limited childcare options, and inflexible scheduling practices as barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace.  The report proposes design principles for paid family leave, fair scheduling practices, and wage equity.  The authors suggest redesigning paid family leave programs to make them longer, available to men and women equally, and more responsive to all the reasons one would need to take leave.  To address inadequate scheduling practices, the authors recommend instituting scheduling policies that require employers to bear the costs of last-minute changes, that mitigate the possibility of overwork, and empower employees to ask for flexible schedules.  Lastly, to combat discriminatory wage practices, the report advocates for a prohibition on a potential employer’s ability to ask about salary history, legislation that would allow employees to discuss their wages with each other without fear of reprisal, and policies that incentivize pay transparency.

The New York Times reported that former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly reached a $32 million settlement with a network contributor in January.  The agreement was not previously made public, and is the largest of the six settlement agreements made by O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox.  The contributor alleged that she was she was repeatedly sexually harassed by O’Reilly.  Despite the large settlement, 21st Century Fox still engaged in contract negotiations with O’Reilly, reaching a deal for a four-year extension at $25 million per year.  Fox knew about the settlement at the time of contract negotiations.  O’Reilly was fired from Fox News after a series of sexual harassment allegations came to light.

The popular meal kit service Blue Apron revealed its plans to lay off 6% of its workforce, or approximately 300 workers in an SEC filing.  The company has been struggling since going public in mid-June.  Blue Apron’s weak IPO has been linked to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, which occurred in early June.  Blue Apron’s stock has gone down nearly 50% since its IPO.  According to sources within the company, salaried workers will be hit hardest by the layoffs, while very few shift workers are expected to be laid off.  The layoffs come after a period of robust hiring before and immediately after going public.

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