Articles Posted in Gender Discrimination

In an April 3rd piece at realclearpolitics.com, “The Invincible Dogma,” popular conservative columnist, Thomas Sowell, built a case that many racial and sexual discrimination lawsuits are unwarranted. According to Sowell, “at the heart of these legal charades [i.e. anti-discrimination cases] is the prevailing dogma that statistical disparities in employment… show discrimination.”

As examples, Sowell discusses “unfounded” lawsuits against Federal Express and the Sears department store chain. Plaintiffs in these cases cited statistical evidence that showed racial/gender imbalances in the workforce of these companies. For instance, Sears’ workforce was overwhelmingly male – and that struck many observers as fishy or aberrant. Sowell’s point is that, imbalances in the workforce (gender imbalances, racial imbalances, etc) are often just statistical noise. In other words, there was no intention of malice or intended discrimination. Sometimes workforces are overwhelmingly male (or white, or what have you) due to sheer chance and random distribution.

Here’s a metaphor to help you understand Sowell’s reasoning. Imagine you flip a quarter five times in a row and get heads every time. You might think that the quarter was “biased towards heads” – and indeed, the coin might be a trick coin. But according to statistics, if you did this exercise 32 times, the likelihood of getting “five heads in a row” is one out of 32 — unusual, but not outrageously so. And if 32 people flip a quarter five times, odds are that at least one person will flip heads five times in a row – even given a fully “fair” coin.

When celebrity “comfort food” chef Paula Deen recently disclosed that she’d been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, the revelation made national headlines and provoked criticism that her rich Southern-style cooking might have been to blame for her illness; now, she’s back in the news with another setback: a sexual harassment lawsuit. Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, face some pretty embarrassing and shocking charges.

Here’s the scoop, according to celebrity gossip site TMZ.com…

Lisa Jackson, the general manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House – Deen’s Savannah, Georgia restaurant – alleges that she suffered serious harassment over the course of six years of employment. Here are the most incendiary charges:

Sexual harassment, child abuse, immoral booking agencies, and eating disorders all can make life as a fashion model quite uncomfortable. As former model Sara Ziff recently told the Wall Street Journal, the industry often treats models as commodities: “like choosing a gallon of milk at the deli.”

After working for big names like Banana Republic and Tommy Hilfiger, the 29-year-old Ziff founded The Model Alliance, a labor group supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as well as by many famous working models. The Alliance marks the second time that fashion models have tried to organize. In 1995, activists founded a group called The Models Guild. That group collapsed due to lack of support from industry professionals.

To end model sexual harassment, wage and hour violations, privacy concerns, and physical turmoil (models often labor without sleeping or eating enough) Ziff and her colleagues drafted the Models’ Bill of Rights. According to a Wall Street Journal report, this Bill of Rights “demands that all jobs and castings involving nudity be subject to informed consent, and that no model under 17 be asked to pose nude or semi-nude.” Ziff also wants to prohibit how and when photographers can access models; and she wants more financial transparency in the industry.

As the Herman Cain sexual harassment story recedes from the headlines, a different flavor of jaw-dropping sexual harassment charge has taken its place and sparked fevered reaction in the media and blogosphere. According to a Boston Globe report, 7-year-old Mark Curran is being investigated for sexual harassment for kicking another boy.

News reports suggest that Mark and another child got into a fight on a school bus on November 22. The other child choked Mark, who responded by kicking or punching him in the groin. Tasha Lynch, the boy’s mother, allegedly encountered a lot of resistance from school officials as she sought to understand what happened during and after the fight.

Lynch reported that Leslie Gant, Mark’s interim school principal, sent home a letter that threatened to put Mark on suspension or transfer him out of the school for endangering the safety of a student and for sexual harassment. Lynch was understandably apoplectic. She voiced her outrage to the Globe: “[Gant] said ‘Mark hit [the other boy] in the testicles. That’s assault. That’s sexual assault.’ I said: ‘The kid choked my son first, and that’s called attempted murder. [Mark] said he couldn’t breathe.'”

Herman Cain, the former Head of the National Restaurant Association and current GOP Presidential hopeful, once sexually harassed two female employees, according to game-changing allegations published in a October 31st article on the website, Politico.

Here is the latest on this politically explosive story.

Allegations

Lanisha Cole has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the producers of the popular game show, The Price Is Right. Cole, one of the longest tenured models in The Price Is Right’s history, has accused the producers of humiliating her, berating her, sexually harassing her, and ultimately wrongfully terminating her, according to a 20 page civil complaint that her lawyers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Cole started working on the game show back in 2003 (during the Bob Barker era). She enjoyed a normal, fun environment at work for more than six years. However, in late 2009, she allegedly began having difficulties with two of the show’s producers, Adam Sandler and Michael Richards (neither man is related to the comedians of the same names). Richards apparently started having a sexual relationship with a different model and began offering her preferential treatment. Richards enacted policies “which never before existed” to curtail Cole’s modeling work.

In a separate incident, the following September, the other producer, Sandler, allegedly burst into Cole’s dressing room despite a “Knock Before Entering” sign and castigated her failing to wear microphone… “Sandler deliberately humiliated Ms. Cole in front of her peers. [She was wearing nothing but] a very sheer thong bikini underwear bottom… [and] all the women in the dressing room, included Ms. Cole, were frozen in shock until Sandler finished his tirade and stormed out of the women’s dressing room.”

The Producer of Superman, Jon Peters, lost a significant sexual harassment lawsuit last week. A jury ordered the hairdresser-cum-studio executive to pay $3 million to his former assistant, Shelly Morita, who waged a five-year legal battle to bring her former boss to justice. Morita will get $822,000 in lost wages on top of $2.5 million in punitive damages.

According to an August 27 article at msnbc.com, “[the] 44-year-old single mother sued Peters and his company, J.P. Organization Inc., in December 2006, alleging he fondled her at his Malibu home and climbed into bed with her in an Australian hotel during the 2005 filming of “Superman Returns.” She claimed that she couldn’t find work in Hollywood after suing Peters because of his pull in the industry.”

A Hollywood Reporter article reported that: “Peters [also allegedly] withheld a $25,000 Christmas bonus until [Morita] signed a confidentiality agreement.”

In a recent post on how workers can deal with sexual harassment, we discussed how people typically react to insensitive, inappropriate, and sometimes outright malevolent workplace comments. We also talked about a school of thought known as nonviolent communication, which emphasizes constructive problem-solving by getting the parties involved to focus on fundamental universal human feelings and needs at the core of conflicts.

In this follow-up post, we will apply Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s conflict resolution theories to a typical workplace harassment problem.

Say your boss makes a comment to the effect of “Those jeans looks so hot on you, I just want to squeeze you all over,” and that makes you feel disgusted. According to Rosenberg, you can use two paths here. First, you can express your own feelings and needs by using a four-part system.

If you or someone you love has recently encountered a workplace violation – like racial discrimination or sexual harassment – you may be bombarded with advice how to rectify the situation and, possibly, hold the wrongdoer accountable. Whether a boss said something lascivious about your workplace attire, or a co-worker forwarded you something ghastly and inappropriate in an email, you want tools and ways of processing this unwanted event that empower you and protect your rights.

One very interesting method for dealing is a process called Nonviolent Communication. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a widely respected psychologist and peace negotiator, who has helped warring Rwandan tribes and Palestinians and Israelis negotiate with one another, developed this model of communication to help people resolve conflicts. Rosenberg claims his methodology helps people in conflict focus on their feelings and needs instead of on guilt, shame, and recrimination. In two blog posts, we will discuss a little bit about how the nonviolent communication approach might be deployed to help victims of harassment.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which a vice president at a telecommunications company encounters his secretary in the break room and makes comment, such as, “Wow, you look smokin’ in that outfit.” What might you do? Here are some typical reactions:

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