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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Does Idaho’s Governor Pay Female Employees So Much Less Than Men?

March 22, 2012/Travis Waldron

The women who work in Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s (R) cabinet make substantially less than their male colleagues, according to a McClatchy analysis of state salary data. Despite chairing the state Agriculture Department, for instance, Director Celia Gould makes less than male directors.
Gould has been with the administration since its first day in 2007 and oversees 259 employees; Commerce Director Jeffrey Sayer, by contrast, joined the administration in October and oversees 53. And yet, Sayer makes nearly $40,000 a year more than Gould, the highest-paid female employee. In fact, across Otter’s administration, the median wage for women is nearly $20,000 less than the median wage for men, McClatchy found:
She is the highest-paid of the women in Otter’s Cabinet but ranks just 16th among all top full-time officials. The median salary for 11 women in the Cabinet is $85,446; the median for the 33 men is $103,002.
“We really do have a glass ceiling in Idaho,” said Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum, the senior Democrat in the Legislature and a member of the budget committee.
While the pay gap between Otter’s male and female employees is substantial — the women make roughly 82 cents for every dollar earned by men — it isn’t as large as the overall pay gap between men and women in America. American women make about 77 percent of what men make, and the gap is even larger for minorities. In 2010, black women made 67.7 percent of all male earnings, while Latino women made just 58.7 percent. That wage gap costs women huge sums of money — a woman with a college degree, for instance, will earn $723,000 less over a 40-year career.
Despite legislative efforts, the gap isn’t closing. President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination, in 2009. Senate Republican, however, blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have updated the Equal Pay Act, closed many of its loopholes, and strengthened incentives to reduce pay discrimination, earlier this year.
This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on March 21, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Judges Orders Millions Paid in NYC Firefighter Bias Case

By Rose Arce, CNN


A U.S. district judge ordered New York City to pay $128 million in to firefighters who allege the city used an entrance exam that deliberately sought to keep African-Americans and Latino Americans off the force. The judge also ordered the FDNY to hire 293 black and Latino applicants.

"It has been in the city's power to prevent or remedy the need for damages proceedings for a decade, and it has not done so," U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garufis said in his ruling on the class action lawsuit. He called it the "consequences of the city's decision to ignore clear violations of federal law."

The federal government had sued the city (United States of America and Vulcan Society Inc. vs. City of New York) over fire department entrance exams they said discriminated against black and Latino applicants. A group of black firefighters alleged the city had intentionally discriminated against them, violating Title VII, the U.S. Constitution and state law.

The lawsuit alleged that the exams had little to do with firefighting and instead focused on cognitive and reading skills. Because of the hereditary nature of the fire department, white candidates were recruited and supported throughout the application process by family or neighborhood contacts and whites consistently passed while minority candidates failed.

"There has been one persistent stain on the Fire Department's record," the lawsuit said. "For decades, black and other minority firefighters have been severely underrepresented in the Department's ranks.

"According to the most recent census data, black residents make up 25.6% of New York City's population; when this case was filed in 2007, black firefighters accounted for only 3.4% of the Department's force. In other words, in a city of over eight million people, and out of a force with 8,998 firefighters, there were only 303 black firefighters.

"This pattern of underrepresentation has remained essentially unchanged since at least the 1960s. While the city's other uniformed services have made rapid progress integrating black members into their ranks, the Fire Department has stagnated and at times retrogressed."

Michael A. Cardozo, New York City's corporation counsel, disputed the decision. "We believe the court's latest opinion is erroneous and, in any event, is the first step in a lengthy process. As the court itself noted, any damages the city ultimately must pay will be reduced by the amount each member of the class earned. When all the proceedings have been completed, the damages, if any, that the city will have to pay will be far less than $128 million," he said.

In court documents, the city said of the judge's finding of bias: "Under the Court's faulty analysis, any rational jury would necessarily find that the City deliberately used facially neutral exams to suppress black employment even as it conducted a targeted multi-million-dollar minority recruitment campaign, enlisted Columbia University to study methods of maximizing FDNY diversity, increased the minority composition of its other uniformed services, engaged an expert with a mandate to design an improved exam, and devised a panoply of other devices to diversify the FDNY's ranks."

The lack of minorities in U.S. fire departments has been the focus of many lawsuits. The last available national figures, from the 2000 census, show 8.4% of the nation's firefighting forces to be black and 8.6% to be Latino. Blacks are 12.2% of the population; Latinos are roughly 16%. However, other big cities have made much faster progress at diversifying their ranks. More than half of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles fire departments members are black or Latino.

Lawyers for the firefighters who sued said the decision would mean payments to black and Latino applicants to the New York Fire Department who were never hired or hired late from the 1999 and 2002 eligibility lists that resulted from exams given those years.

Paul Washington, past president of the Vulcan Society, said: "The Vulcan Society has been fighting for almost 75 years to open the doors of the Fire Department to black firefighters. This is a great victory for those who have been excluded from serving our city because of their race. We hope the FDNY moves quickly to welcome the 293 Black and Latino applicants who are entitled to be hired, and we look forward to serving with them."

CNN's Javier Luque contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wisconsin Legislature Votes To Repeal Employment Discrimination Law

February 28th, 2012 | Ian Millhiser

Wisconsin prohibits employers from discriminating “on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin, ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, military service, use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer’s premises during nonworking hours, or declining to attend a meeting or to participate in any communication about religious matters or political matters,” and it ensures that this law has teeth by allowing victims of discrimination to hold their employers accountable in state court. That’s about to change, however, as the Wisconsin legislature recently voted to strip the state’s workers of their ability to actually enforce this law — leaving anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) as the only obstacle to the law’s total repeal:
The Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating by giving workers more avenues to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.

In November, the state Senate approved (SB 202) rolling back this provision. On Wednesday, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes. The legislation is now in the hands of Gov. Scott Walker (R). His office did not return a request for comment on whether the governor would sign it. . . .

Women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. In Wisconsin, it’s 75 cents, according to [the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health], which also estimates that families in the state “lose more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay.”
Walker, of course, has no power to repeal federal law, so he cannot strip Wisconsin workers of their right to be free from race, gender and other forms of discrimination that are banned by national civil rights laws. Nevertheless, Wisconsin law provides additional protections, such as safeguards for people with criminal convictions, that are not available under federal law.

Moreover, as Amanda Terkel points out, Wisconsin state courts can enable victims of discrimination to receive swifter justice instead of waiting for an increasingly overburdened federal judiciary to act. And this problem is only likely to get worse as Walker’s political allies in the U.S. Senate wage an unprecedented campaign of obstruction against President Obama’s nominees to the federal bench.

It’s tough to imagine something more fundamental to a just society that a guarantee that employers will not discriminate, which is why it is so baffling why Wisconsin lawmakers do not believe that their state should protect against such discrimination.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author’s and not views expressed by Today’s Workplace/Workplace Fairness.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on February 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Ian Millhiser is a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. Ian clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and has worked as an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, as Assistant Director for Communications with the American Constitution Society, and as a Teach For America teacher in the Mississippi Delta. His writings have appeared in a diversity of legal and mainstream publications, including the Guardian, the American Prospect and the Duke Law Journal; and he has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox Business and many radio shows.