The Blog

What Next? 180 Days to Notice Racial Discrimination?

Who other than a group of ultraconservative judges would think that 180 days is enough time to discover pay discrimination, let alone decide whether to take action and how to go about doing so?
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Another piece of Bush Administration handiwork delivered by The Supreme Court has undermined the rights of the underrepresented. Overall, women's salaries are still far below that of their male colleagues, and in Ms. Ledbetters's case, 40 percent less than that of the lowest paid male. What kind of Supreme Court considers such conditions acceptable? Who other than a group of ultraconservative judges paying into the White House favor bank would think for a moment that 180 days is enough time to discover pay discrimination, let alone decide whether to take action and how to go about doing so?

Most people begin their careers as political purists. They don't know how things are done. They've never confronted a clandestine culture systematically excluding minorities from high profile positions and equal pay.

Besides, employees in what I call the "cute and little" phase of their careers mistake helpful people for supportive ones. Not yet a threat to anyone, earnest mentors appear to abound. At this point in their careers, the cute-and-little say things like, "I don't know what Betty Friedan and all those women were shouting about, where I work everyone has my best interests at heart." Or "There's no glass ceiling or discrimination here. People couldn't be nicer."

I wrote The Secret Handshake and It's All Politics as wake-up calls. When you take a job, it's time to open your eyes. Apparently it's also 179 days shy of when you need to file a prophylactic lawsuit to protect yourself from pay discrimination. Most people aren't even out of a probationary period at that time let alone sufficiently connected and accepted to go around asking how much their colleagues are being paid. And then there's the task of finding a good lawyer without a conflict of interest who'll do anything other than patronizingly smile.

What's next? How about 180 days to file suit for racial discrimination or sexual harassment from the first offense no matter how much worse it gets over time?

Apparently Justice Alito and company would argue that new and young employees have only themselves to blame if they don't stand up and say within 180 days, "There appears to be a culture of discrimination here evidenced by unequal pay. " Take a look at the Harvard Business Review case I wrote some years back - The Memo Every Woman Keeps In Her Desk. Soon there won't be time for mulling over a potential memo advising senior management of organizational cultural flaws and illegalities. If this Supreme Court has its way, such memos will need to be sent forthwith, as the 180-day clock will be ticking.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has called for Congress to overturn this absurd, anti-employee ruling. Can they do it? Won't they cave again -- sell us down the river for a lunch with the President? Most of these people can't tie their shoes without checking to see how many big donors they might offend.

How revoltingly protective this country has become of corporations as if they can't protect themselves. The mantra on the Hill now is - "But this might hurt big business." What about the little guy/gal? Being so constantly on the side of Goliaths, well able to take care of themselves, is un-American. And it's shameful.

How about 180 days for employers to decide whether to layoff employees? After that, shouldn't they know what they got themselves into? How about a 180-day statute of limitations on all crimes? Why not? If the police can't find them in that time, what were they doing?

Oh, I have an idea. How about a 180-day term for Supreme Court Justices? What's that you say Judge? You need more time to learn the job? You can't possibly know what's expected or even get the lay of the land in that time, you say? Unfair? What? You'll sue? Sorry, time's up -- next.

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