Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Supreme Court to Hear Cases Involving Firings of Gay, Transgender Employees

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear three cases centered on whether federal law against discrimination in employment applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

After hearing Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the high court will decide whether the words “because of … sex,” found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also forbid employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court consolidated Bostock with a similar case, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda.

The high court also will hear arguments in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before ruling on whether Title VII as worded bars discrimination against transgender individuals.

Title VII specifically prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It does not mention lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Americans.

Lower federal courts came to conflicting decisions in Bostock, in which a child welfare worker said he was fired for being gay, and Zarda, in which a sky-diving instructor argued the same.

The Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit decided that Title VII doesn’t prohibit “discharge for homosexuality,” while the New York-based 2nd Circuit ruled for the instructor, saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation “is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.”

In Harris Funeral Homes, a funeral director in Michigan was fired by the family-owned business after disclosing a transition from man to woman, which also involved dressing as a woman.

The Cincinnati-based Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit sided with the employee, concluding: “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

While many liberals see the Supreme Court as poised to restrict LGBT rights, conservatives argue that federal law doesn’t go as far as activists claim.

“There is a reason why, for the past 25 years, activists have tried to legislatively amend federal civil rights law to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’ That reason is simple: because it doesn’t include those categories,” Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson said, adding:

Courts should not do what activists have failed to do: Redefine ‘sex’ to mean ‘sexual orientation and gender identity.’ Doing so not only gets the law wrong, it also has serious negative consequences for women’s equality, safety, and privacy.

The Christian legal aid group Alliance Defending Freedom last fall petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the funeral home case, arguing that only Congress may rewrite a federal statute to allow a male employee who identifies as female to dress in women’s clothing in violation of a company dress code.

Although a federal district judge decided in the employer’s favor, on appeal the 6th Circuit sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the agency’s lawsuit against Harris Funeral Homes, and Alliance Defending Freedom hopes to reverse that outcome at the high court.

“Neither government agencies nor the courts have authority to rewrite federal law by replacing ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’—a change with widespread consequences for everyone,” John Bursch, the organization’s vice president of appellate advocacy, said.

“Businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be—when they create and enforce employment policies,” Bursch said.


UK Chain Spruiks Ultra-Politically Correct ‘Gingerbread Person’

The march to stamp out gender identity is picking up pace across the Western world. In the UK, the politically correct brigade has pushed the issue beyond humans and into the world of baked goods.

According to Britain’s Supermarket Co-op, apparently gingerbread men — who to the best of our knowledge have always appeared rather gender neutral — can leave some of their customers feeling excluded. Hence the chain’s plans to sell a…drum roll please…‘gingerbread person’.

We suspect they may find an eager — if small — market in Tasmania, which this week became the first state to make gender optional on birth certificates.

As PAA reports, Co-op is setting up a competition with customers
to help name their new gender-neutral gingerbread person. The supermarket will make a shortlist of the best contenders and from there will make their final decision.

The actual design of the gingerbread person is yet to be finalised. One possible design of the human-shaped biscuit is a smiling face sporting a grey tunic.

About its look, a Co-op representative said: ‘Inclusion and diversity lie at the heart of Co-ops values and we’re looking to create a character which can be used to celebrate different occasions through the year and will appeal to all our customers.’

So far, they’ve mentioned Christmas and Halloween icing outfits. So just the Western holidays then…where’s the ‘inclusion’ in that?

Looks like they’ve got their work cut out for them designing outfits for any possible occasion ever. Good luck.

Twitter has already seen a flood of responses, a lot of which are calling out the senselessness of this gender-neutral idea.

One shopper has taken the mickey out of the whole competition, arguing ‘the rights of the gingerbread should be taken into account, do we know how it feels about having its current identity unilaterally taken and another imposed without prior consultation?’

Another suggested doing something a little more productive with this new biscuit invention, such as making it ‘100% recyclable’.

Still ridiculous, but certainly more effective than trying to find a name that isn’t offensive to anyone. Good luck with that, as well.


Microsoft staff are openly questioning the value of diversity

Some Microsoft employees are openly questioning whether diversity is important, in a lengthy discussion on an internal online messaging board meant for communicating with CEO Satya Nadella.

Two posts on the board criticizing Microsoft diversity initiatives as “discriminatory hiring” and suggesting that women are less suited for engineering roles have elicited more than 800 comments, both affirming and criticizing the viewpoints, multiple Microsoft employees have told Quartz. The posts were written by a female Microsoft program manager. Quartz reached out to her directly for comment, and isn’t making her name public at this point, pending her response.

“Does Microsoft have any plans to end the current policy that financially incentivizes discriminatory hiring practices? To be clear, I am referring to the fact that senior leadership is awarded more money if they discriminate against Asians and white men,” read the original post by the Microsoft program manager on Yammer, a corporate messaging platform owned by Microsoft. The employee commented consistently throughout the thread, making similar arguments. Quartz reviewed lengthy sections of the internal discussion provided by Microsoft employees.

“I have an ever-increasing file of white male Microsoft employees who have faced outright and overt discrimination because they had the misfortune of being born both white and male. This is unacceptable,” the program manager wrote in a comment later. The Microsoft employees who spoke to Quartz said they weren’t aware of any action by the company in response, despite the comments being reported to Microsoft’s human resources department.

When contacted by Quartz, Microsoft pointed to comments by three company officials in the message-board threads. A member of Microsoft’s employee investigations team responded to the initial post in January, writing that the company does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Another Microsoft staff member, who leads the team that helps the board of directors determine executive pay, explained the diversity-based compensation initiative. “Our board and executive leadership team believe diverse and inclusive teams are good for business and consistent with our mission and inspire-to culture,” she wrote. “Linking compensation to these aspirations is an important demonstration of executive commitment to something we believe strongly in.

“Many women simply aren’t cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that’s not because of ‘the patriarchy…’”
The internal debate over the merits of diversity comes as Microsoft is grappling with an uproar over allegations of sexism and sexual harassment that some staff said the company hasn’t adequately responded to over the years. It is also a powerful glimpse into internal dissent against efforts by the world’s biggest tech companies to increase the number of women and people of color on staff, in the face of criticism that those groups are underrepresented, especially in the leadership ranks.

The Microsoft author echoes former Google employee James Damore, who in 2017 wrote a memo that went internally viral at Google, leaning on pseudoscience to argue that women aren’t cut out for the tech industry. Damore was fired for breaching the company’s code of conduct amid enormous public and internal controversy, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a memo that the firing was due to “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Below is a selection of comments from the Microsoft employee, with the capitalization for emphasis in the original comments by the employee:

“Because women used to be actively prohibited from full-time employment many decades ago, there is now the misguided belief that women SHOULD work, and if women AREN’T working, there’s something wrong…. Many women simply aren’t cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that’s not because of ‘the patriarchy,’ it’s because men and women aren’t identical, and women are much more inclined to gain fulfillment elsewhere.”

“We still lack any empirical evidence that the demographic distribution in tech is rationally and logically detrimental to the success of the business in this industry….We have a plethora of data available that demonstrate women are less likely to be interested in engineering AT ALL than men, and it’s not because of any *ism or *phobia or ‘unconscious bias’- it’s because men and women think very differently from each other, and the specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women. This is an established fact.

However, this established fact makes people very uncomfortable, because it suggests that the gender distribution in engineering might not actually be a problem (and thus women can no longer bleat about being victims of sexism in the workplace), these facts are ignored in favor of meaningless platitudes our SLT [senior leadership team] continues to shove down our throats – e.g. ‘We’re not doing enough’ and ‘we clearly have a long way to go.’”

“We MUST immediately cease the practice of attaching financial incentives and performance metrics to ‘diversity hiring’ – as long as we give more money and higher annual reviews explicitly for NOT hiring/promoting white men and Asians, this will continue to be a serious problem at the company.”

One of the posts was written on January 10 and had more than 625 comments, and the other was written on April 4 and had more than 175 comments, according to Microsoft employees who wished to remain anonymous.

As the controversy around Google’s firing of Damore illustrated, it can be extremely contentious for companies to wade into disciplining employees for their personal views on such issues. They can face intense criticism for retaliating against individual speech because it’s not politically correct—and if the company doesn’t respond, critics can say they’re not supporting an inclusive workplace. The abundance of online forums for employees to express their views is a complicating factor, as is the modern worker’s high level of comfort with sharing their views online.

But the latest Microsoft posts are especially fraught, given Microsoft has recently pledged greater commitment to diversity and inclusion. And compounding that is the fact that the posts appeared in Microsoft’s official “CEO Connection” Yammer channel, the public forum typically used for asking questions for Nadella to answer when he speaks at company-wide meetings.

The latest posts aren’t the only examples of active online opposition to concerns about diversity at Microsoft. In September 2018, a female employee who had just graduated from university and joined Microsoft expressed concern on Yammer about a lack of gender diversity in her department. She posted that, “As a woman in [software development], it really pains me to see the skewed gender ratio around me (I believe azure [sic] compute is less than 20% women).”

The post racked up nearly 1,000 comments, with many male programmers jumping in to take an opposing view. As in the two posts from January and April, not all comments were anti-diversity: Some Microsoft employees argued back against their colleagues.

“Where? How? Proof? Data? If if it is [skewed] let’s fix that. But just saying Microsoft has less female than male engineer [sic] is not a valid point,” a male Microsoft employee responded to a separate employee who defended the original poster.

It’s unclear that Microsoft’s management or human resources staff responded to that discussion, which also took place in the CEO Connection channel. Microsoft employees say that the typical post on the channel has anywhere from two to 12 comments, and that more than 600 is very unusual. Another Microsoft employee said that the Yammer user interface is difficult to manage, and as a result, many in the company avoid using it, so the posts were likely not seen by most of Microsoft’s roughly 135,000 employees.

Data Microsoft employees provided to Quartz about the 2019 posts by the female program manager showed that more than 4,000 employees had viewed each post.

Microsoft employees say that the company’s seeming inaction on this matter directly conflicts with an email sent to all Microsoft employees earlier this month by Nadella promising a more inclusive workplace. Nadella sent that after an email chain, originally reported by Quartz, alleging harassment and discrimination faced by women circulated internally for weeks.

“HR isn’t trying to enforce the inclusive culture that they’re talking about,” one Microsoft employee who read the latest posts by the program manager and responses to them told Quartz. “HR, Satya, all the leadership are sending out emails that they want to have an inclusive culture, but they’re not willing to take any action other than talk about it,” they said. “They allow people to post these damaging, stereotypical things about women and minorities, and they do nothing about it.”


Australia's Prime Minister is an authentic Christian

If you are old enough to remember a budget surplus then you will remember countless interviews with Kevin Rudd outside church. Before and after his election the Labor leader was ever willing to advertise his claimed conservatism by giving Sunday press conferences with spires as a backdrop.

It was smart politics and from what we know of Rudd it was an authentic depiction of his faith, even if it was used to create an entirely fictitious impression of his general political/economic disposition. Most successful politicians draw a character dividend of inferred stability and conservatism by associating themselves with mainstream religion. This is why Scott Morrison’s appearance at his Pentecostal church on the weekend was fascinating. I don’t know his media minders or their religious affiliations but I can guarantee they would have been reluctant and wary about letting cameras in on this event. This “happy clapping” version of Christianity is a growing part of the nation’s religious make-up but it is not the norm.

Morrison’s minders would have worried that pictures of the Prime Minister singing with his arms in the air praising Jesus and eyes closed in devotion would make voters uncomfortable. But they had no choice.

There was an election campaign running over Easter, he leads the nation and goes to church — the minders had to allow cameras in and share this experience with voters. After all, the alternative prime minister, Bill Shorten, was going to be at a more mainstream church and wouldn’t be shunning attention.

Morrison has worn some online abuse and mocking for his overt show of faith. But you get the sense most Australians respect his choice and his authenticity. He didn’t appear contrived or uncomfortable.

Aside from competence and authority, authenticity is the critical ingredient for politicians. And like the others, you can’t fake it. Morrison comes across as a daggy dad because he is one; and he is comfortable enough in his happy-clapper skin to allow the world to see it. Voters are likely to respect him for that.

Yesterday he likened our multicultural society to being greater than the sum of all its parts in the same way that his homemade curries weave culinary magic from a variety of ingredients. He seems relaxed on the campaign trail and the country is getting to know him.

Shorten is a canny campaigner. As I have pointed out before he never misses the right political point in his media appearances. He dodges difficult questions and pivots to his attack points masterfully. But he is having a bad campaign so far, caught out on factual errors, refusing to answer questions and lashing out at the media. He will need to turn it around and get onto the front foot.

Morrison and his team still need to do much more to highlight Labor’s weaknesses and convince voters they have learned from the dysfunction of the past. The electoral degree of difficulty is astronomical. But there is an early sense that he is winning people over as an authentic figure who seems at ease with voters and all the carry-on of campaigning.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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