working women

How Data Can Make Discrimination Lawsuits Matter More

Today, an article reports that there may be a “legal basis for work-life balance”. “Disparate treatment” of employees on the basis of gender is illegal.  But the devil is in the detail.  Is a company that requires employees to work X hours in the office breaking the law if X hours of work impacts men and women differently and those hours can’t otherwise be justified?  

I’m no legal expert but this seems like a losing argument.  An employer can almost always rationalize a profit-motive for a work requirement.  And its probably unreasonable to say that all policies need to impact people (even protected classes of people) equally in order to be valid.  For example, a company that requires a certain amount of travel will probably disproportionately disadvantage pregnant women, older people, and disabled employees compared to others.  And yet, travel might be an intrinsic requirement of a role that’s crucial to a company (e.g. international salespeople).

Fairygodboss’ whole mission is to bring transparency to the workplace by creating a database of company information and employee reviews.  I’ve recently decided to add certain legal information into the mix.  Users will be able to see which companies have been alleged to violate certain equal pay laws.  While allegations are not the same thing as a guilty verdict, I think its still useful information for any prospective or current employee to have.  

I know there are real costs and absurd outcomes in a “lawsuit happy” society.  But there are good outcomes from litigation, too.  And certain things do not change unless lawsuits are filed by people who’ve been wronged.  Sometimes, even lawsuits and the PR/financial/legal headaches they cause for a company don’t change much in a corporate culture because the news holds so little public attention for such a short time.  I hope the addition of this legal information raises a more lasting awareness.

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