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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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You Can’t Make People Be Nice – But You Can Ask Them to Be Accountable: The Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative

Posted By Guest blogger Jen Rubin, Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We cannot make people be nice, but we can certainly ask people to be accountable for trying to do better. If we make that commitment, we will make our workplaces better. These are the principles underlying the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative (“WE & CI”).


It occurred to me, early on in the WE & CI’s development, that we were simply asking employees and employers to follow the law. But naturally, it is more than that. The WE & CI is
an important step in rejecting the alarming but growing trend of normalizing bad behavior. The WE & CI provides a path to state, in positive and affirmative terms, that we will try to do better and hold ourselves and all employers accountable for our collective efforts to make our workplaces better.


The WE & CI has two simple components: First, pledge to do one’s best as an employer (and as an employee) to commit to better behavior in the workplace by adopting and enforcing certain policies that will naturally result in a more equitable workplace. The adoption of the WE & CI Commitment is an easy first step in this process. Second, commit to having at least half of an employer’s workforce attend National Conflict Resolution Center-developed training that promotes learning about civility in the workplace.


As an employment lawyer, I am frequently asked to advise clients about the legal implications of bad behavior in the workplace. The concept of “bad behavior” in the bullying, boorish and ill-mannered sense generally carries no legal consequences because “actionable” bad behavior must be grounded in a legal violation. In other words, a nasty supervisor who equally bullies people without regard to gender, race, sexual orientation or any other protected category, does not necessarily create legal risk for the employer. (Though, frequently they do create risk because of the natural insensitivity that accompanies those behaviors.) Bad behavior clearly impacts morale and productivity, but being a jerk does not always carry legal implications.


With that said, state and federal law unambiguously prohibit workplace discrimination (of which sexual harassment is only a subset). Here in California, beginning in 2020, employers of at least five or more employees must provide training – including anti-bullying training –to supervisors and non-supervisory employees. This robust training mandate does not create additional legal liability for engaging in offensive behavior nor does it insulate an employer from liability for such behavior.


We hope that accountability, together with formal group introspection and education, will lead to changes that elude legislation. Peer pressure motivates people to change their behavior. If business leaders set an example and make it clear that they will hold themselves and their employees accountable, then real change will transpire. It is our aim to promote full participation in the WE & CI from our regional employers with the  natural outcome of a civil, productive workplace. That workplace will lead to natural equity without legislation. Or, as we might say, a nicer workplace.

 


Jen Rubin is an employment partner with Mintz, and co-Chairs the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative with immediate past president of Lawyers Club Danna Cotman.

 

 

 

Tags:  bullying  civility  discrimination  employment law  equity  harassment  National Conflict Resolution Center  NCRC  respect  risk  training  Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative 

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Reclaim Your Voice: "Equal Pay For Equal Play"

Posted By Daphne Delvaux, Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Equal Pay For Equal Play

Growing up in Europe, I’m expected to love soccer. It’s part of our culture, on par with bread and cheese, a unifying factor in a divided continent. Sadly, I never cared too much about soccer, or any sport that involves fighting over a ball. Just buy your own ball.  Problem solved.  

 

But then I learned the U.S. National Women’s Team (“USNWT”) is playing offense for equal pay. Ladies, you have my attention! Earlier this year, five members of the USNWT filed an equal pay action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges that the women earned $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup, while the men earned $9 million after being eliminated from that same tournament in 2014. The complaint further alleges that both national teams are required to play 20 exhibition games a year; however, a male player who loses all games would make $100,000, while a female player would make $99,000 for winning all “friendlies.” Their concerns are broader than equal pay—other discrepancies include the quality of the stadiums (men always play on grass), and flights to games (women fly coach, men fly business class).

 

We do not know yet how this conflict will end. But to me, they already reached their goal because it’s important for successful women to keep fighting for more. Some say these women may have the most desired jobs in the world. Every day they live their passion. The women have achieved fame and notoriety. Young girls all over the world idolize them. Arguably, they do not desperately “need” more money.

 

“We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo said on NBC’s Today show. 

 

This is a reoccurring theme when women fight for equal pay: They are perceived as being “difficult.” I’ve encountered this not only from others, but from myself, “I shouldn’t be difficult . . . because at least I am no longer scavenging vending machines for forgotten change,” and, “I shouldn’t be difficult . . . because maybe I will be perceived as ungrateful.” We need to get over it.

 

The simple truth is that the men’s soccer team is getting more money and better working conditions. The inherently unfair message in pay discrepancy is simple: “Women are inferior to men.” 

 

This is evidenced by U.S. Soccer Federation’s release in response to the complaint: “While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action.” They clearly dropped the ball here. Even though U.S. Soccer did not even bother to read the allegations and has no idea what the basis of the complaint is, they have already concluded that they are disappointed in these women. It’s like giving a red card without observing any foul play. 

 

The EEOC will now conduct an investigation into the claims. As an employment lawyer, I expect the team to pursue their case in U.S. District Court if the EEOC cannot resolve it.

 

When women speak up at the highest levels of professional sports, it creates a ripple effect. We have the ball, let's kick it and win.

Editor's note: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team starts competing in the Rio Olympics this afternoon. As we cheer them on, let's also recommit ourselves to advancing the status of women in the law and society.

This blog was authored by Daphne Delvaux


Tags:  employment law  equal pay  reclaim your voice  soccer 

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