Treatment of Transgender Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Treatment of Transgender Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

It’s about damn time. According to a DOJ press release:

Attorney General Holder announced today that the Department of Justice will take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status. Attorney General Holder informed all Department of Justice component heads and United States Attorneys in a memo that the department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex excludes discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender discrimination, reversing a previous Department of Justice position. Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the employment of an individual “because of such individual’s…sex,” among other protected characteristics.

The Washington Post reported the story, saying:

According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a survey of 6,450 transgender people in the United States, transgender people experience twice the rate of unemployment as other Americans and are much more likely to live in poverty. Advocates attribute those facts in part to the difficulty transgender people face in finding a job.

Direct antidiscrimination legislation addressing the prejudice so many LGBTQ people face would be much better than the DOJ’s reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But this is a good start. Read a PDF of the related DOJ memo here.

Employees sue Sony over email leaks

Employees sue Sony over email leaks

Saba Hamedy and Meg James, at the LA Times:

Hackers began releasing sensitive data after the studio’s security breach became public on Nov. 24. The group, calling itself Guardians of Peace, has released data including thousands of pages of emails from studio chiefs, salaries of top executives, and Social Security numbers of 47,000 current and former employees.

Many are warning of the intellectual property fallout of hacks like this. And that could, indeed, lose companies much potential revenue. But the more serious liability here is failure to secure employee information. I anticipate we’ll see many similar class actions unless companies get serious about security.

A court of beginnings

Several excellent writing professors have told me throughout my life that you start by starting. Introductions, caveats and excuses delay your goal and bore or confuse the reader. Don’t tell people what you’re going to do. Do it. But they also advised me always to write with my audience in mind. This is a blog, […]

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The ethics of reporting on the Sony hack

The ethics of reporting on the Sony hack

Emily Yoshida (@emilyyoshida), entertainment editor at The Verge, one of my favorite tech news sites, on the publication’s ongoing and deep contemplation of the ethics of reporting on unethically leaked information:

The contents of the leak are already public; they’re just not in a very user-friendly format until a news outlet decides to amplify a piece of it. Which means, one could argue, that the press is merely drawing lines of best fit through a dataset. It could also mean that the press is essentially finishing what the hackers started.

Tim Cook will lend his name to Alabama LGBTQ bill

Tim Cook will lend his name to Alabama LGBTQ bill

Apple initially expressed corporate reluctance, but Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell later told Pamela Todd, Alabama’s only openly gay lawmaker, that CEO Tim Cook “would be delighted” to have a bill named after him which would protect LGBTQ Alabama state employees from discrimination.

Cook said when he came out publicly in an essay for Bloomberg Businessweek that while he doesn’t usually like to draw attention to himself,

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important.

It may seem like letting someone name a law after you isn’t that profound, but it is. The law will get national and even international attention primarily because of Tim Cook’s name. Without it, the law would have been written about by Alabama press and journalists in surrounding states, and would have been covered by LGBTQ publications.

But this small thing Mr. Cook can do, this simple thing, lends a volume to Pamela Todd’s proposal it may otherwise have lacked. And it’s already worked: I don’t think I’ve ever read a single word about Alabama state law of any kind, despite graduating from law school, becoming a licensed attorney and frequently writing about law in general and LGBTQ legal developments in particular.

Searching Google Scholar

Searching Google Scholar

I’m trying to post fewer links, which means I’ve been posting less frequently in general. I’m working on some articles, but until they’re ready to publish I’ll still share the occasional link.

This one is a great article from the American Bar Association’s Law Technology Today blog about getting the most out of Google Scholar. Legal research platforms are usually very expensive, so Google’s free alternative is a great way to peruse this stuff.

As a law clerk, I have access to LexisNexis for legal research. But I find Google Scholar is a much easier and faster way to begin a research project. Lexis uses some proprietary search syntax, which I learned in law school but despise having to use.

If you have access to Lexis Advance or Westlaw Next, those products bring simpler search syntax to the paid-research world. But if not, use Google Scholar to get a good sense of the landscape and then head to a paid service to make sure the law is still good, and to follow research leads that may not present themselves in Google Scholar.

Serial podcast presents novel collision of law and technology

Serial podcast presents novel collision of law and technology

The incredible true crime podcast Serial presents a novel collision between technology and the law. This time, it’s not that technology plays or should play a particular part in the case itself, but that a podcast has shed light on a cold case that may lead to an unexpected outcome.

The podcast’s producers interviewed Deirdre Enright, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project for Episode 7.

Lindsay Beyerstein reports at the Columbia Journalism Review:

The UVA Innocence Project is poised to ask a court to test an old physical evidence recovery kit (PERK) that was used on Lee’s body to test for possible sexual assault in 1999 but was never tested for DNA.

The DNA is an issue that might never have come up but for the Serial producers’ interview with Professor Enright. It’s the first instance I’ve heard of where a podcast may directly affect the outcome of a legal case. And considering the defendant, Syed, has already been sentenced to life in prison, any change at all to his sentence, let alone total exoneration, would be unexpected and important.

It implicates a power to uncover truth in cold cases heretofore reserved primarily to outfits like Professor Enright’s. What’s even more compelling to me is that Serial mixes the modern technology of podcasting with the very old style of serial storytelling. The whole thing exposes how, increasingly, the law benefits from ancillary developments in journalism and technology. It’ll be fascinating to hear the ultimate outcome when we get there.