Our guest bloggers are Jeff Krehely and Crosby Burns, who work on the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress.
Late yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a comprehensive ruling giving transgender individuals sorely-needed federal protections against discrimination in the workplace. According to the ruling, employers who discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of gender identity can now be found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, specifically its prohibition of sex discrimination in employment.
This ruling marks the first time that the EEOC has held that transgender people are protected from discrimination by federal law. Chris Geidner broke the story late last night in Metro Weekly:
?The opinion came in a decision delivered on Monday, April 23, to lawyers for Mia Macy, a transgender woman who claims she was denied employment with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after the agency learned of her transition. It also comes on the heels of a growing number of federal appellate and trial courts deciding that gender-identity discrimination constitutes sex discrimination, whether based on Title VII or the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
The EEOC decision, issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission, will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It also will be binding on all federal agencies and departments.?
The implications of this ruling are far-reaching. Prior to yesterday?s ruling, only 16 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity. Going forth, this precedent-setting decision puts in place comprehensive protections for transgender workers that apply to both private and public employees across the entire United States.
Specifically, thanks to the ruling in this case (brought forward by the Transgender Law Center) transgender people are now protected by federal law and have legal recourse if they are denied a job or fired because they are transgender. Should a transgender person file a complaint with the EEOC and should the EEOC determine that case has merit, the EEOC now has the legal standing to sue the employer for discrimination under Title VII.
This ruling comes at a time when transgender Americans face near-universal discrimination and harassment in the workplace. According to the most comprehensive study on transgender discrimination to-date, 90 percent of transgender individuals have experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took actions to avoid it. This includes 47 percent of transgender individuals who have experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired, or denied an otherwise deserved promotion based solely on their gender identity. What?s more, race multiplies the effect of discrimination, with transgender people of color reporting especially high rates of discrimination on the job.
Unfortunately, workplace discrimination poses a significant threat to the economic livelihood of transgender individuals and their families, who report higher rates of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty than their non-transgender counterparts. Workplace discrimination leaves far too many transgender individuals without a steady income to buy groceries, pay the utility bills, and make ends meet in an already struggling economy. That?s why yesterday?s ruling from the EEOC is so important for transgender workers and their families.
EEOC’s ruling has the potential to substantially impact the legal landscape for transgender workers?not to mention their employers. Companies in jurisdictions where gender identity-discrimination was already illegal prior to this ruling have wisely taken steps to avoid financially painful lawsuits by ensuring discrimination does not go unchecked against their workers, including those who are transgender.
Given yesterday?s decision, companies in all 50 states would also be wise to take similar steps. These steps include adding ?gender identity? to existing company nondiscrimination and anti-harassment workplace policies as well as updating any staff diversity training programs. It is worth mentioning, however, that many companies both big and small already have these policies in place. As detailed in this report from the Center for American Progress, companies adopt these policies in large part because they actually help improve the bottom line (in addition to just being the right thing to do).
Employment is fundamental for people to support themselves and their families. Yesterday?s ruling by the EEOC helps ensure workers are not forced out of a job and into the ranks of the unemployed based solely on their gender identity. To that end, we urge Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the president to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to have corporate policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal policymakers should take advantage of all tools at their disposal to put LGBT people on a level playing field in the workplace. It?s the right thing to do ? both for people and for business.
What Would Jack Do?: The Vatican's crack-down on dissenting nuns is worse than what we've heard.
Hope and Change: French voters' rejection of EU-mandated austerity policies confirms that the Obama administration is on the right track in dealing with the economy.
The Reaction: Is Rob Portman boring enough to be Romney's running mate?
Bob Cesca: The reason deficits hurt growth is that they encourage stupid politicians to cut spending.
Round-up by Infidel753; tips to mbru [at] crooksandliars [dot] com.
A variety of links to articles/interview/speeches on current issues that may be of interest.[...]
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Ben Pershing at The Washington Post takes a look at who might fill out Mitt Romney's ticket:
Coverage of Romney?s selection process has included a host of possibilities: Maybe he?s looking for an ideological counterweight, or reinforcement for his own strengths, or excitement, or a swing-state boost or diversity. You don?t often hear that he?s looking specifically for a member of Congress.Joshua Spivak at The Los Angeles Times also looks at the history of VP selection and possible Romney running mate nominees:
Yet if you believe the latest speculation ? and really, why wouldn?t you? ? there are at least three lawmakers attracting significant buzz to be Romney?s running mate: Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). A handful of governors also have drawn attention: Chris Christie (N.J.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Susana Martinez (N.M.) and Robert McDonnell (Va.).
History alone suggests that the members have an advantage.
In the current race, prominent Republican names are getting a lot of media attention. They are mainly from key swing states and include Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (despite his many protestations that he's not interested).Josh Lederman at The Hill:
Pundits will carefully examine the candidates for political benefits and drawbacks, focusing on whether the running mate can help pick off a swing state and what momentum boost he or she can provide to the ticket. Historically, Republican candidates have not focused on that, instead basing the selection on two more subtle factors. One is that the running mate can serve as an effective attack dog who will strongly criticize the opposing ticket. The other is that the choice be someone who will bridge an intra-party divide ? whether it is ideological, like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; generational, like John McCain and Sarah Palin; or experience, likeGeorge W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Few will mention that the only vice presidential choice in modern history believed to have made an electoral difference was Lyndon Johnson more than half a century ago. Even fewer will mention the fact that the Republican presidential candidates haven't chosen a VP candidate from a swing state in at least 50 years.
Romney called Arizona?s policy a model for other states during a February debate in Mesa, Ariz., putting himself at odds with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the Cuban-American who is the odds-on favorite to be the GOP?s vice presidential nominee this year.Jill Hanauer at The Huffington Post:
Romney?s campaign later clarified that the former Massachusetts governor was only referring to the part of the Arizona law that requires the use of E-Verify to determine eligibility for employment. An aide said Democrats are wrong to cite the line as evidence that Romney has embraced the Arizona law.
In order to gain a better sense of the effect that one of these three candidates might have on Hispanic presidential preference, PNA and PPP tested the complete Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden versus a Republican ticket consisting of Romney-Rubio in Florida, Romney-Sandoval in Nevada and a Romney-Martinez New Mexico among Hispanic voters.Meanwhile, Mark Hosenball at Reuters brings us the latest Romney clean-up effort:
In each state, the presence of the home-state Hispanic Republican has a negligible effect on Hispanic presidential preference.
Before joining Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign last week as a spokesman, Richard Grenell was a prolific - and inflammatory - voice on Twitter, posting biting commentary on subjects ranging from Newt Gingrich's weight to Michelle Obama exercising in the White House.
Since he joined Romney's campaign as foreign affairs spokesman, many of Grenell's most provocative musings on Twitter have been deleted in a cleanup that is the latest reminder of how social media has become a sideshow - and at times more - in the 2012 campaign.
Here’s what the President said at Lorain Community College on April 18, 2012. Investing in a[...]
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The fall-out from allegations that Wal-Mart bribed officials in Mexico began in earnest on Monday, with the company's stock suffering, observers raising the prospect of large fines and even jail time, and lawmakers in Washington announcing the launch of a Congressional investigation into the activities of the world's largest retailer.
In an extensive article published Saturday, The New York Times reported that "bribery played a persistent and significant role in Wal-Mart's rapid growth in Mexico," where subsidiary Wal-Mart de Mexico is now the country's largest private employer, with a workforce of 209,000 people. Futhermore, the article showed that Wal-Mart executives shut down an internal investigation into the matter several years ago, even after the company's own lead investigator stated in a report in late 2005 that "[t]here is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated."
Monday afternoon, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced an investigation into the allegations included in the Times article. In a letter sent to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke, the lawmakers requested a meeting with company officials "who can respond to these allegations" by April 27.
"The New York Times report... raises serious questions about potential violations of United States law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," the letter states. "It also raises significant questions about the actions of top company officials in the United States who reportedly tried to disregard substantial evidence of abuse."
The FCPA, which became law in 1977, "makes it unlawful to bribe foreign government officials to obtain or retain business."
"The allegations that Wal-Mart officials in Mexico may have broken U.S. laws by bribing officials to get their stores built faster raise serious concerns," Rep. Cummings said in a statement to TPM. "But I am even more alarmed by reports that top company executives in the U.S. tried to cover-up these abuses. We need to ensure that US corporations comply fully with the law, and we need to determine the full scope of these alleged abuses."
Shares of Wal-Mart closed down 4.7 percent to $59.54 on Monday, MarketWatch reported. Shares of Wal-Mart de Mexico, 69 percent owned by Wal-Mart, fell 12 percent -- their biggest drop in 10 years.
Meanwhile, speculation started flying about possible legal consequences.
"We could easily see criminal prosecutions," Jacob Frenkel, a former official of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told CNBC. "The fact that it's a U.S. company working through a Mexican subsidiary does not give the U.S. company protection."
Frenkel told the network he wouldn't rule out jail time for Wal-Mart executives, and said the company could end up spending $1 billion in settlements and internal investigations.
Kevin T. Abikoff, chairman of the anti-corruption practice at law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, told The Wall Street Journal that if authorities determine that the company broke the law it "will levy as large a fine as possible in a case like this, because it has repeatedly counseled companies that companies will be looked on with great favor if they do come forward."
Wayne State University Law School Professor Peter Henning, writing for the Times' Dealbook, argued that investigators may take "a more aggressive approach" in the case for two reasons. One, senior management at Wal-Mart de Mexico was involved. Two, Wal-Mart investigators raised questions about $16 million in "contributions" and "donations" to local governments, but the company did not pursue the matter further.
At the same time, Henning wrote, the FCPA's five-year statute of limitations could pose a problem for prosecutors.
"One way the government can try to avoid the statute of limitations is to charge a conspiracy, which only requires that one act in furtherance of the criminal agreement take place within the last five years," Henning wrote.
In a statement released Saturday, Wal-Mart emphasized that the activities alleged in the Times' article took place several years ago, but it did not deny them.
"Many of the alleged activities in The New York Times article are more than six years old," David Tovar, Wal-Mart's vice president of corporate communications, said in the statement. "If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for. We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened."
The company said it began an investigation into FCPA compliance last fall, and has met voluntarily with the Justice Department and the SEC "to self-disclose the ongoing investigation on this matter." The Times, however, reported Saturday that the company only notified the DOJ after learning of the newspaper's reporting in Mexico.
The federal prosecution of a gang of Amish beard cutters who allegedly assaulted other members of their religion demonstrates the Justice Department has overstepped its bounds, according to a conservative law firm that has intervened in the case.
The Center for Individual Rights, a conservative non-profit law firm which has fought against affirmative action programs and defended James O'Keefe, filed an amicus brief in U.S. v. Samuel Mullet et al last week. The center argues that the circumstances of the Mullet case don't meet the requirements of the hate crimes act and should be prohibited by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Mullet, the leader of the breakaway Bergholz Amish clan in Ohio, has been charged alongside eleven co-defendants in a plot to forcibly cut the beards of fellow Amish men for a decision overturning a series of excommunications dealt out by Mullet. All have pleaded not guilty and are challenging the constitutionality of the hate crimes act.
"The fact that it was one group of Amish against another group of Amish just suggests to us that the original design or purpose that Congress may have had in passing this law -- which I think is to truly get at bias that is motivated by animus towards an entire group as opposed to a small group of individuals, which I think is what is involved here -- may not be properly served in this particular prosecution," Center for Individual Rights general counsel Michael E. Rosman told TPM.
Rosman, who decided to get involved in the case after a colleague forwarded along DOJ's announcement of the prosecution, said that an assault like this would have been better handled by the state officials who allowed the feds to take up the Mullet case.
"The mere fact like they don't feel like it or want to see the feds in action is not a particularly strong reason, in my view, to justify the prosecution," Rosman said.
Rosman also argues that the Mullet case shouldn't have raised federal scrutiny because the activity did not have a substantial impact on interstate commerce. The feds had argued they could get involved under the Commerce Clause because the battery-powered hair clippers and sheers used in the attacks came from out of state and because the accused hired drivers to transport them to and from the location of their alleged assaults.
"Congress put in these hooks but it's hard to believe that Congress was really worried about a scissors going across state lines 15 years ago, when what's happening here and what's being addressed by the statute -- in many other cases -- very serious violent crimes," Rosman said. "Congress doesn't have a general police power to regulate violence."
The Center also argued that the prosecution shouldn't go forward under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"By the indictment's own allegations, defendants here were engaged in conduct that they believed were required by their religious leader and his interpretation of scriptures," the filing reads. "And while the government has, of course, a compelling interest in the prevention of serious physical attacks, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] requires that it have a compelling interest in the specific application of the rule to the defendants."
Although the Center for Individual Rights "does not condone any assault, it must be acknowledged that the assaults alleged here did not involve grave bodily injury; thus the government's interest must be deemed less than it would be in such cases," the filing stated.
The Justice Department, meanwhile, has asked a judge to allow it to respond to the Center for Individuals Rights' amicus brief and what they said were "erroneous factual assertions regarding the substance of the indictment."
A jury trial has been scheduled for August 27, 2012.
I am simple, complex, generous, selfish,
unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven.
Born April 24, 1942
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Rupert Murdoch is about to be thrust back into the spotlight.
This week, both Rupert and and his son James are giving evidence to the UK's Leveson Inquiry, an investigation into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. James Murdoch is testifying Tuesday and Rupert Murdoch will testify Wednesday and part of Thursday. This phase of the inquiry will focus on the press' relationship with politicians. The Leveson Inquiry launched in response to News Corporation's phone hacking scandal. Since the scandal broke, dozens of people have been arrested, and News Corp's heir-apparent, James Murdoch, has stepped down as chairman of News International and BSkyB. Here's what to look out for at the inquiry this week.
"I'm expecting it to be fascinating theater," Paul Connew, former editor of the Sunday Mirror and deputy editor of the Daily Mirror and News of the World, told TPM.
While the Murdochs' appearances won't focus explicitly on the unfolding phone-hacking scandal, the inquiry "can't ignore it," Connew said. Unlike a congressional hearing in the U.S., Connew said, British politicians have to be careful what they ask of witnesses, in order to assure fair trials down the line.
That said, it's likely "Rupert will come out fighting," Connew said. "I think he sees this as an opportunity to claw back some of his lost PR ground. There are quite a few politicians in high places, current and past, who might be very nervous about what he might say."
What is it that Murdoch might say? Michael Wolff -- author of The Man Who Owns the News, a biography of Murdoch -- told TPM he might remind the politicians before him of all the times they courted Murdoch and his empire. Wolff isn't sure that's the likely outcome this week, but "Rupert is very unpredictable in these situations. These are the kind of people he likes least in life."
The Leveson Inquiry likely "will try to make this about the dastardly acts of what the Murdoch papers have done," Wolff added. "I wonder if Murdoch might not try to make this about all the ways that they have ultimately facilitated the rise of the Murdoch empire." Wolff assumes, however, that Rupert Murdoch's lawyers have urged him to say as little as possible.
A little background is useful here. Rupert Murdoch's relationship with Britain's political class goes back a long way, said Steve Hewlett, a columnist at The Guardian and host of the BBC Radio 4 Media Show. Margaret Thatcher's election is the first time Murdoch is seen as playing a role in the election, Hewlett told TPM.
"Thatcher was the first person to think Murdoch was a man you had to be on the right side of."
Murdoch's empire then became so powerful and successful, Hewlett said, that "the political class and advisors chose to believe that you need Murdoch to get elected." Murdoch's company was always cozy with the political class in Britain, but the phone hacking scandal was the "straw that broke the camel's back," Hewlett said. And now Murdoch is "absolutely pissed off" about the government's inquiry into UK press practices.
But any questioning at the inquiry of the company's phone hacking practices will have to be dealt with "superficially" and not "forensically," Connew said. And a parliamentary report on phone hacking, slated for a May 1 release, will certainly be critical, but probably muted. Again, Connew said, the idea is to avoid interfering with any potential trials down the line. And Leveson is a judicial inquiry. "It's not intended to replace or carry out the work of the police investigation," Connew said. "Their role is essentially is to decide on the role of regulation of the press. But it is not Leveson that will be recommending prosecution."
Instead, the Inquiry may ask James Murdoch about the culture at News International, News Corp's British subsidiary, and how he was so badly misinformed about the hacking practices, Hewlett said. But James Murdoch's appearance is really a warm-up for his father's testimony.
Only on CNBC's Kudlow Report can you get such priceless discussions that completely ignore the problem of earthquakes and polluted water sources. In the fantasy land known as The Kudlow Report, it's all about the wet dreams of Big Energy including the usual demands for scrapping pesky regulation, as in the already anemic regulation that is supposed to protect people.
Forget if you can that ever so small problem of cities like Youngstown, Ohio purchasing earthquake insurance or the EPA study that linked fracking to water pollution. Clean drinking water is probably overrated anyway, right?
What is missing (again) from this pro-fracking love fest on CNBC is a debate about why it's OK for business to pass on costs of fracking to everyone else. If Big Energy wants to destroy the environment to make a few bucks, why shouldn't they also be responsible for funding the cleanup and after effects of their destructive practices? With the economy still weak and Americans wondering about job security, how is it fair to push these costs onto others rather than asking the always profitable energy industry to foot the bill?