Bloomberg Law reported this week on recent and unfolding developments to two significant workplace discrimination cases. First, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lehrburger denied Goldman Sachs’ request to block the pre-trial depositions of former CEO Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn in the case of Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs & Co. This ruling was in favor of a group of women that filed a claim in 2010, who argued that the company made biased compensation decisions and denied them opportunities they had earned. Judge Lehrburger disagreed with the company lawyer’s assertion that neither Cohn nor Blankfein would have any unique knowledge of the policies at issue. When the suit was first filed, Judge Lehrburger ruled that the class action – which included more than 2,000 women – could move forward. However, he subsequently ruled that half of the class members must pursue their claims in arbitration. The outcome of this case will be significant, given that it is one of the biggest gender discrimination cases in Wall Street history.
Second, the D.C. Circuit Court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of a discrimination claim brought by Black former employees against the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) on Monday. CFSA, after losing an estimated $37 million from its budget, eliminated various agency positions. Of the 115 employees let go, 107 were Black; in other words, Black workers comprised 82.8% of the agency’s employees but were 93% of the laid off workers. The laid off workers brought a claim in response that alleges the Agency’s reduction in force had a disparate impact on its Black employees. While Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court argued that the statistical evidence presented was insufficient for the plaintiffs to make out their claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Circuit Court ruled that the evidence was indeed sufficient to state a prima facie case of disparate impact. This ruling helps clear the path for the disparate impact suit, which is taking place in the midst of the Trump Administration’s efforts to make disparate impact Fair Housing Act cases more difficult to wage.
In the city of Detroit, workers from the Four Seasons Rehabilitation and Nursing home walked off the job on Monday over unfair labor practices during the pandemic, according to Detroit News. Represented by the SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the workers have been working without a contract and enough PPE to stay safe. Though they originally agreed to hold off on the strike for 30 days, they are doing so now to negotiate contracts that include better staffing levels, higher wages, and more comprehensive health coverage. Representative Rashida Rlaib, the House member that represents the City of Detroit tweeted the following statement: The intimidation & racially-charged bullying is disgusting & must stop. Workers deserve a contract.
In international labor news, the Washington Post reported on Monday the concerning findings made by The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor on the world’s chocolate manufacturing. According to a report released on Monday, the number of child laborers who harvest cocoa for chocolate production is growing. It found that the prevalence of child labor among agricultural households in the cocoa-growing areas of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s two primary suppliers, increased from 31 percent to 45 percent between 2008 and 2019. In total, the world’s largest chocolate companies currently depend on cocoa that is made with the labor of 1.2 million West African child workers. In September 2001, the world’s largest chocolatiers signed an agreement, called the Harkin-Engel Protocol, to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa supply chain. The study’s findings clearly illustrate that past legislative efforts — led in part by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel — to curb child labor have been unsuccessful.