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Workplace Discrimination

A Reply to Sam Bagenstos: Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives Through “Safe Harbor” Rules

A Reply to Sam Bagenstos: Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives Through “Safe Harbor” Rules

Professor Bagenstos suggests that I am somehow in league with “skeptics” of the civil rights laws and am calling for a form of “second-class citizenship” in my previous post urging greater use of the “safe harbor” approach in achieving antidiscrimination objectives. Just to repeat:  I am advocating an EEOC-supervised program in which individuals in certain categories (identified by the agency) who want to work and, despite the best efforts over decades by administrative agencies and advocates, cannot find work, can enroll and seek work with participating employers who are encouraged to take a chance and hire them because they know that during a limited probationary period employment can be terminated for any reason.  This is not an all-purpose panacea and is certainly not intended to foreclose bolstered enforcement efforts of a more traditional type (which I favor). It is intended to break through a kind of employment market logjam, to pursue the achievable good for individuals who chose to enroll and find employment.

A Reply to Sam Estreicher: Second-Class Workplace Citizenship Does Not “Achieve Antidiscrimination Objectives”

A Reply to Sam Estreicher: Second-Class Workplace Citizenship Does Not “Achieve Antidiscrimination Objectives”

For decades, skeptics of civil rights legislation have offered a perverse-effects argument.  That argument starts from the well-founded premise that it is more difficult to enforce prohibitions on discrimination at the hiring stage than at the termination stage.  Although disappointed applicants rarely know why they didn’t get a job, workers discharged after they have been on the job for a while typically find it easier to build a case.  The worker often can point to past performance evaluations, or compare her outputs to those of her coworkers, to show that she was succeeding on the job. And the lore is that juries are inclined to give longtime employees the benefit of the doubt in discriminatory-discharge cases.

Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives Through “Safe Harbor” Rules for Cases of Chronic Hiring Aversion

Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives Through “Safe Harbor” Rules for Cases of Chronic Hiring Aversion

As a general matter, and looking only at hiring barriers, our employment discrimination laws have done a good job encouraging employers to take advantage of available talent from populations they might previously not have previously have drawn from. This encouragement comes both from the “stick” – fear of liability and adverse publicity from administrative investigations and lawsuits -- but also from the “carrot”  of benefiting from a broader pool of talent and having any negative preconceptions dissolved by favorable experience.  In these situations, the laws have served to accelerate desirable market outcomes and, at the same time, enhance the participation in our economy of previously marginalized groups.