Much of the liberal legacy lives on in areas of our lives that most people don’t see up close or at least not very often. One of these is employment antidiscrimination law. Since the 1960s, federal law has banned workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, and national origin. Subsequent laws have added other categories to this list, notably disability and (older) age. Other federal laws also limit the extent to which an employer can treat you differently from other employees for other reasons, such as pregnancy, illness, or military status. Then there are state laws, which, as is typical, can vary widely.
Carl wanted us to discuss whether employment discrimination laws go far enough and whether they should be expanded to include other categories. Like what? Carl will tell us, but I’ve seen people argue that employers should be forced not to discriminate on the basis of:
- Genetic makeup (from DNA tests)
- Unemployment status.
Some or all of these may sound odd, and maybe they are. But, that’s what they said before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in the 1990s. Liberals might say we need to update our laws as our moral consciences evolves. (Just this year the EEOC ruled that transgendered people are covered by an existing law that bans gender discrimination. ) Conservatives would probably oppose these or any expansion of EEO law. They continue to fight efforts to make sexual orientation a suspect category for EEO and other purposes.
So, there definitely is room to debate whether EEO law should be expanded. Even the current state of the EEO laws have come under fire, from both sides of the red/blue barrier. Liberals complain that the courts have so restricted the evidentiary standard for proving employment discrimination that the laws have been effectively neutered. (The whole Lilly Ledbetter thing) Conservatives have claimed these laws already go too far, at least in the burden they place on employers.
The Basics of Equal Employment Opportunity Law –
You’re asking me? Too soon. By Monday, I’ll have done my reading and preparation. I’ll start us off by explaining a little about these laws and who they cover and how they work. Then, I’ll turn it over to Carl for any comments he might have. Then the usual.
Check here again this weekend, and I’ll try to add a brief summary of my presentation. Or, just read one of the background links.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What’s legal and illegal now in employment discrimination law, at both the federal and California state levels?
- What are the justifications for these laws?
- How are they enforced, and by whom?
- What are some of the criticisms of employment discrimination laws? Are they valid?
- What about Carl’s idea, to expand such laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of other characteristics, such as appearance and genetic information? How, if at all, could that be made to work?
- Wiki entry: U.S. Employment Discrimination Law. Also, EEOC summarizes federal law.
- California law summarized.
- Should it be illegal to fire someone for being unattractive?
- A scathing libertarian critique of the whole idea of EEO law.
- [UPDATE: Forget what the laws say. Most large companies require you to sign a binding arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. You give up your right to sue for employment discrimination the day you’re hired. Any such claim must be arbitrated in a process largely controlled by the company.]