Second Circuit clarifies ratios in pregnancy case

dec14_18_459881578A good analysis from the Second Circuit post-Young on a common defense argument – “The defendants perplexingly suggest that these figures show that pregnant employees were not significantly burdened because “only one of 176 COs were affected by this policy.” But under Young, the focus is on how many pregnant employees were denied accommodations in relation to the total number of pregnant employees, not how many were denied accommodations in relation to all employees, pregnant or not. The reason is simple enough; this comparison better reveals whether or not there is a burden on pregnant employees. If an employer has fifty pregnant employees and only five are adversely affected by its policy, it will be more difficult to draw an inference of a significant burden because many pregnant employees are able to or have taken advantage of the accommodation, providing less reason to believe that the policy is motivated by animus against pregnant employees. On the other hand, if an employer has just one pregnant employee and she has been adversely affected, then it has undoubtedly imposed a significant burden on its pregnant employees – it has burdened the only one it has. Contrary to the defendants’ implication, an employer cannot justify pregnancy discrimination by relying upon the fact that pregnant employees constitute an insignificant part of its workforce.” Legg v. Ulster County

Pittsburgh employment lawyer Charles A. Lamberton. Representing employees in discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment and wrongful termination cases for more than 15 years. High end representation for high end cases and clients. Contact us today.

Discrimination at its essence

imagesThe Third Circuit’s recent decision in Hassan v. City of New York, — F.3d —, 2015 WL 5933354 is a welcome reminder that the Court understands the real harm inflicted by discrimination. Discrimination is not, and I repeat not, principally an economic tort. Economic losses often result from discriminatory decisions, but discrimination is more about the dignitary – some would say spiritual – injury inflicted when one is judged or treated differently because of skin color, race, age, gender or religion.

The plaintiffs in Hassan claimed that they were targets of a wide-ranging surveillance program that the New York City Police Department (the “NYPD”) began in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (the “Program”). They alleged that the Program was based on the false and stigmatizing premise that Muslim religious identity “is a permissible proxy for criminality, and that Muslim individuals, businesses, and institutions can therefore be subject to pervasive surveillance not visited upon individuals, businesses, and institutions of any other religious faith or the public at large.” They sued “to affirm the principle that individuals may not be singled out for intrusive investigation and pervasive surveillance that cause them continuing harm simply because they profess a certain faith.” The District Court threw the case out, believing that the Program had not caused any harm. The Third Circuit reversed. Let’s take in some of what the Appellate Court had to say.

“Discrimination itself, by perpetuating archaic and stereotypic notions or by stigmatizing members of the disfavored group as innately inferior and therefore as less worthy participants in the political community, can cause serious non-economic injuries to those persons who are personally denied equal treatment solely because of their membership in a disfavored group. After all, the fundamental concern of discrimination law is to redress the dignitary affront that decisions based on group characteristics represent, not to guarantee specific economic expectancies. *** Our Nation’s history teaches the uncomfortable lesson that those not on discrimination’s receiving end can all too easily gloss over the badge of inferiority inflicted by unequal treatment itself.”

Defense lawyers, neutrals and judges who rely on lost wages alone to measure the harm inflicted by discriminatory decisionmaking would do well to read Hassan and reflect on the “dignitary affront that decisions based on group characteristics represent.”

To politely correct the Third Circuit

Marble courthouse building facade in black and white.The plaintiff in Jones v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Authority, — F.3d — , 2015 WL 4746391 (August 12, 2015) brought a retaliatory discharge claim. The employer asserted that it fired the plaintiff for falsifying time sheets. The plaintiff argued that she was fired for prior protected activities. One of the plaintiff’s arguments was that she had not falsified her time sheets. In other words, she directly challenged the employer’s termination reason and argued that it was objectively false. In a regrettable misstatement of the law, the Third Circuit wrote that “showing that an employer incorrectly found an employee guilty of misconduct is insufficient to prove retaliation….” In fact, however, proof that an employer’s reasons are false is strong circumstantial evidence of retaliation.

The Third Circuit has long held that summary judgment is improper when the plaintiff contradicts the core facts underlying an employer’s termination decision.  Tomasso v. Boeing Co., 445 F.3d 702, 707 (3rd Cir. 2006); Brewer v. Quaker State Oil Ref. Corp., 72 F.3d 326, 331 (3rd Cir. 1995) (reversing summary judgment for employer where employee cited specific examples where employer’s criticisms were erroneous and misplaced).

In Tomasso, the plaintiff pointed to specific falsities, errors and misplaced criticisms in the employer’s articulated reason for the plaintiff’s lay-off. The decisionmaker claimed that the plaintiff lacked interest in performing PVA inspections, but the plaintiff testified that was false. Tomasso, 445 F.3d at 707. The decisionmaker faulted the plaintiff for not attending a training session, but the plaintiff testified that attendance was not mandatory, and that he was having health problems at the time. Id. at 707-708.  The decisionmaker testified that the plaintiff did not engage in PVA transition activities, yet the plaintiff testified he was one of only a few employees who participated in such activities. Id. at 708.

The Third Circuit concluded that the decisionmaker and the plaintiff were telling “radically different” stories and that “[a] fact finder who credited [the plaintiff’s] testimony could conclude that [the decisionmaker] gave him acceptable evaluations for his PVA work and never told him that he needed to improve or increase his PVA work, that [the plaintiff] began to transition his primary supplier to PVAs, and that [the plaintiff] was selected to participate in an important PVA project soon before he was laid off. The fact finder could further conclude that [the plaintiff] never expressed disinterest in PVAs, and that he missed a PVA transition meeting solely for health reasons.” Tomasso, 445 F.3d at 708. The Court determined that the plaintiff’s evidence contradicted the “core facts” underlying the employer’s termination decision, Tomasso, 445 F.3d at 709 and held that summary judgment was improper because “[the plaintiff’s] evidence, if believed, does not merely suggest that the … [decisionmaker] was “wrong or mistaken,” or that [he] innocently misperceived [the plaintiff’s] interest in PVAs.  Rather, one who believed [the plaintiff’s] affidavit could find such weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in [the defendant’s] explanation as to deem it unworthy of credence.” Id. at 708-709.

What is most unsettling about Jones is that the Court made a mistake on a fundamentally settled point of law. The falsity of an employer’s explanation always supports an inference of pretext, particularly when combined with proof of mendacity. Hicks, 509 U.S. at 511 (1993).  See also, Reeves, 530 U.S. at 144 (reversing judgment for employer where clerical employee proved he properly maintained attendance records despite employer’s claim he did not);  Fasold, 409 F.3d at 185-86 (reversing judgment for employer where police employee proved he generated a sufficient number of arrests despite employer’s claim he did not);  Sheridan, 72 FEP Cases at 529 (reversing judgment for employer where employee proved she was on jury duty at time employer claimed she had dispensed free drinks);  Brewer, 72 F.3d at 331 (reversing judgment for employer where employee cited specific examples where employer’s criticisms were erroneous or misplaced).

Judges are human beings and humans make mistakes. But let’s hope we don’t see anymore like this one.

Pittsburgh employment lawyer Charles A. Lamberton. Representing employees in discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment and wrongful termination cases for more than 15 years. High end representation for high end cases and clients. Contact us today.

The broken bargain for LGBT workers

The basic American bargain is that people who work hard and meet their responsibilities should be able to get ahead. This basic bargain is not just an idea—it is embedded in laws that promote equal access to jobs and that protect workers from unfair practices.

For workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), this bargain is broken. Instead of having a fair chance to get ahead, LGBT workers and their families often are held back by bias, fewer workplace benefits, and higher taxes.

Employers who value diversity and who understand that it gives them a competitive advantage can take some steps to ease the burden of unfair treatment of LGBT workers and their families, but they can’t fix the broken bargain on their own. The reason: unequal treatment of LGBT workers under the law.

First, no federal law provides explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, and fewer than half of states have laws that protect workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Second, LGBT workers may do the same job as their coworkers, yet be denied equal access to worker and family benefits—as well as family tax relief.

The combination of job discrimination, fewer benefits and higher taxes leaves many LGBT workers in a vulnerable position that threatens their ability to provide for themselves and their families. If fairness and equality are part of America’s basic workplace bargain, this bargain is clearly broken for LGBT workers.

A portrait of the LGBT workforce

The U.S. workforce includes an estimated 5.4 million LGBT workers:

  • LGBT workers are geographically dispersed. Same-sex couples live in 93% of all U.S counties. As many as 4.3 million LGBT people live in states with no state laws providing employment protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
  • LGBT workers are racially and ethnically diverse. One in three (33%) of LGBT respondents in a 2012 Gallup poll identified as people of color, compared to 27% of non-LGBT individuals. The LGBT workforce, like the overall U.S. workforce, also includes a significant number of immigrants.
  • LGBT workers are raising children in significant numbers. New analyses show that 37% of LGBT adults have had a child, while a recent MAP analysis of three different data sources suggests that between 2.0 and 2.8 million American children are being raised by LGBT parents. This makes family benefits important to LGBT and non-LGBT workers alike.
  • LGBT workers have varying levels of education. Recent polls show that Americans with lower education levels are more likely to identify as LGBT than college graduates and those who have post-graduate degrees. In contrast, census data show a higher probability that individuals in same-sex couples have at least a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that transgender respondents had much higher levels of educational attainment than the population as a whole.
  • LGBT workers experience unemployment at an equal or higher rate than other workers. A 2009 state-level survey in California found that 14% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were unemployed, compared to 10% of heterosexual adults. Among transgender workers, unemployment rates are twice the rate of the population as a whole, with rates for transgender people of color reaching as high as four times the national unemployment rate.
  • LGBT workers are at higher risk of poverty than other workers. Among the hardest-hit by the broken bargain for LGBT workers are those who are parents, together with their children. Married or partnered LGBT individuals raising children are twice as likely to have household incomes near the poverty line compared to married or partnered non-LGBT parents. In addition, transgender people are nearly four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 per year than the population as a whole (15% vs. 4%).

Fixing the broken bargain for LGBT workers

This report organizes the inequities LGBT workers face into two overarching problems:

  1. Job discrimination without legal protection makes it harder for LGBT workers to find and keep a good job; and
  2. LGBT workers receive fewer benefits and pay more taxes, which puts LGBT workers and their families at risk.

Many of the access or equity gaps that affect LGBT workers also disproportionately affect low-income workers broadly, workers with unmarried heterosexual partners, workers of color, and workers who live with and support family members who are not a spouse or legal child, such as an uncle providing care for a nephew.

Fixing the broken bargain will require government and employers to address multiple barriers to equal and fair treatment for LGBT and other workers, as outlined below.

Discrimination without legal protection makes it harder to find and keep a good job

Barrier #1: Bias and Discrimination in Recruitment and Hiring. LGBT workers can put their job prospects at risk if they disclose that they are LGBT while looking for work.

Barrier #2: On-the-Job Inequality and Unfairness. An LGBT employee may be in a workplace that is blatantly hostile, one that condones anti-gay jokes and slurs, and/or one where employers look the other way and allow a discriminatory climate to flourish.

Barrier #3: Wage Gaps and Penalties. In addition to job and workplace discrimination, LGBT employees face wage disparities that make it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families.

Barrier #4: A Lack of Legal Protections. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. Transgender workers facing workplace discrimination may seek federal legal recourse by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but only 16 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression.

Fewer benefits and more taxes put LGBT workers and their families at risk

Barrier #5: Unequal Access to Health Insurance Benefits. Under federal and most state laws, most employers can extend family health benefits to married opposite-sex couples yet deny same-sex couples the same coverage. When employers electively offer family coverage to LGBT workers, most of them have to pay thousands of dollars in extra taxes on the value of the family coverage, although heterosexual workers get the same benefits tax-free. In addition, exclusions in health insurance often deny transgender workers access to both basic healthcare and transition-related care.

Barrier #6: Denial of Family and Medical Leave. Because the federal government does not legally recognize the marriages of same-sex couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), LGBT employees do not have equal access to federally mandated unpaid leave to provide care for same-sex spouses or partners. Only about one-fifth of states provide equal access to unpaid leave for same-sex couples under state leave laws. In addition, employers may deny transgender workers leave for transition-related care.

Barrier #7: Denial of Spousal Retirement Benefits. The same-sex spouses and partners of LGBT workers are systematically denied Social Security benefits designed to protect workers’ families during their retirement years. This may cost a retired same-sex couple up to $14,484 per year and a surviving same-sex spouse or partner up to $28,968 per year. An LGBT employee also may be unable to opt for continuing pension benefits for a same-sex spouse or partner under an employer-provided pension plan.

Barrier #8: Unequal Family Protections When a Worker Dies or is Disabled. When an LGBT worker dies or becomes disabled, the worker’s same-sex spouse—and in some cases, his or her children—will be denied Social Security disability and survivor benefits. A surviving family (spouse and two children) of a worker earning $40,000 could lose as much as $29,520 in annual benefits.

Barrier #9: A Higher Tax Burden for LGBT Families. State marriage and parenting laws, combined with the federal government’s lack of recognition of same-sex couples, mean that LGBT workers pay more taxes because they cannot file using the advantageous “married filing jointly” status. Consider an LGBT family with one working parent who has a taxable income of $60,000 a year and a stay-at-home parent who has no income. The inability to file a federal tax return as a married couple costs the LGBT family $2,902 in additional taxes. When working LGBT parents cannot form legal ties to their children, they also generally cannot claim important child-related deductions and credits such as the child tax credit, the child and dependent care expense credit, and multiple education-related deductions and credits potentially totaling thousands of dollars per year.

Barrier #10: Inability to Sponsor Families for Immigration. An LGBT worker is unable to sponsor a foreign-national spouse or partner or a partner’s children for the purposes of immigration. This means American LGBT workers may need to live abroad to avoid separation from their families, while highly skilled foreign national LGBT workers may decline to come to the United States if it means they must leave their families behind.

Fixing the broken bargain is good for business and America’s prosperity

America’s most successful businesses are opposed to the current inequities for LGBT employees and are taking independent steps to try and fix the broken bargain. Nearly 9 out of 10 Fortune 500 companies (88%) provide nondiscrimination protections for their gay and lesbian employees. Additionally, in a 2013 brief submitted to the Supreme Court, 278 businesses and employers (including Amazon.com, Citigroup, Intel, Marriott, Nike, Pfizer, Twitter, Viacom and the Walt Disney Company) argued that current laws harm business by:

  • Creating complex and difficult compliance burdens by requiring businesses to treat married LGBT employees as single for federal taxes, payroll taxes, and certain workplace benefits—but as married for all other purposes in states that recognize same-sex couples.
  • Requiring employers to implement and enforce discriminatory treatment of employees in their own companies, even when doing so goes against core corporate values and basic business sense.
  • Creating an environment that makes it harder for LGBT workers to perform at their best.
  • Negatively impacting the employer’s ability to compete for and hire top talent.

Recommendations

The report offers detailed recommendations for action by the federal, state and local governments, as well as employers. The following is a summary of these recommendations:

Reducing barriers to finding and keeping good jobs

  • Pass nondiscrimination laws and policies. Federal, state and local governments should pass nondiscrimination laws/ordinances that include explicit protections for LGBT workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Employers can also adopt nondiscrimination policies for their workplaces.
  • Increase wage discrimination protections. The federal government should expand existing legal protections against wage discrimination to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Ensure effective and swift discrimination claims processing. For example, the federal government should address the backlog of discrimination cases before the EEOC, while private employers and unions should institute clear and effective grievance systems.
  • Foster diverse and inclusive workplaces. Government and private employers should put in place policies and procedures that foster welcoming and inclusive workplaces and encourage diversity.
  • Ensure transgender workers can update the gender marker on their identity documents. A physician’s letter, not proof of surgery, should be used as a standard for changing gender on identity documents.
  • Increase data collection on LGBT workers. Federal, state, and local governments should increase data collection and research on LGBT workers including demographics, income, benefits, experiences of discrimination, and more.

Providing equal access to individual and family benefits

  • Recognize the families of LGBT workers. States should allow same-sex couples to marry and ensure their parentage laws allow LGBT parents to be legally recognized as parents. The federal government should recognize married same-sex couples to allow equal access to worker benefits, Social Security, immigration, federal family tax relief and more.
  • Advance equal access to individual and family health insurance benefits. The federal and state governments should amend health insurance laws to ensure coverage parity and nondiscrimination protections for transgender health plan enrollees. State and federal lawmakers also should ensure that LGBT families have health insurance on equal terms with other families, including eliminating unfair taxation of these benefits.
  • Provide equal access to individual and family medical leave. Federal and state medical leave laws should allow transgender workers to take needed individual medical leave—and allow workers to take leave to care for a same-sex partner or spouse.
  • Provide equal access to spousal retirement benefits. The federal government should broaden Social Security’s definition of spouse to allow a same-sex partner to access spousal and survivor benefits. Policymakers also should change federal law to ensure same-sex partners/spouses can access pension survivor benefits and are equally taxed on inherited retirement plans.
  • Provide equitable economic protections when a worker dies or is disabled. A same-sex partner/spouse and his or her children should be able to access Social Security survivor and disability benefits in the same manner as the spouse and children of a non-LGBT worker.
  • Revise the IRS tax code to provide equitable treatment for LGBT workers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should create a designation of “permanent partner,” who would be treated as a spouse for the purposes of the tax code. The IRS also should allow not just legal parents but also those who act as parents to claim a “qualifying child” on their tax filing.
  • Provide pathways to immigration and citizenship for binational LGBT families. Congress should pass legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would add the category “permanent partner” to the list of family members entitled to sponsor a foreign national for U.S. immigration.

To the extent that all levels of government (and more employers) adopt policies that ensure fair and equal treatment for LGBT workers, America will make great strides in its ongoing effort to build a fair and inclusive society where everyone’s contributions are valued equally.

Woman fired because boss gets erection

A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

Nelson, 32, worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker. But in the final months of her employment, he complained that her tight clothing was distracting, once telling her that if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing, according to the opinion.

He also once allegedly remarked about her infrequent sex life by saying, “that’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”

Knight and Nelson – both married with children – started exchanging text messages, mostly about personal matters, such as their families. Knight’s wife, who also worked in the dental office, found out about the messages and demanded Nelson be fired. The Knights consulted with their pastor, who agreed that terminating Nelson was appropriate.

Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month’s severance. He later told Nelson’s husband that he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her.

Nelson filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, arguing she would not have been terminated if she was male. She did not allege sexual harassment because Knight’s conduct may not have risen to that level and didn’t particularly offend her.

Knight argued Nelson was fired not because of her gender, but because her continued employment threatened his marriage. A district judge agreed, dismissing the case before trial, and the high court upheld that ruling.

Mansfield noted that Knight had an all-female workforce and Nelson was replaced by a woman.

He said the decision was in line with state and federal court rulings that found workers can be fired for relationships that cause jealousy and tension within a business owner’s family. One such case from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a business owner’s firing of a valued employee who was seen by his wife as a threat to their marriage. In that case, the fired employee had engaged in flirtatious conduct.

Mansfield said allowing Nelson’s lawsuit would stretch the definition of discrimination to allow anyone fired over a relationship to file a claim arguing they would not have been fired but for their gender.

 

Older worker stereotypes deeply entrenched

Common stereotypes about older workers include unwarranted assumptions that older workers are tired, grumpy, more costly, harder to train, less adaptable, less motivated, less flexible, more resistant to change, and less energetic than younger employees. These stereotypes stem from depictions of older persons in society generally. Employers also may be reluctant to invest in training and other developmental opportunities for older workers based on the perception that they have less time remaining in their careers. While extensive research has shown that these negative age-based stereotypes have little basis in fact, they influence many employment decisions. For instance, as a result of these stereotypes, older persons with the same or similar qualifications typically receive lower ratings in interviews and performance appraisals than younger counterparts (and thus are apt to have more trouble finding or keeping a job or securing a promotion). Older workers also typically are rated as having less potential for development than younger workers, and thus are given fewer training and development opportunities. Age-based stereotypes disadvantage older workers in corporate downsizing situations in particular. Because the main goal of such downsizing is usually to cut costs, age-based stereotypes that older workers are more costly, harder to train, less flexible, or less competent may become much more prominent in the minds of the decision-makers. To make matters worse, once older workers are laid off, they often are again vulnerable to age-based stereotyping as they attempt to find new jobs. As we have previously written, older workers who have been laid off are less likely to obtain reemployment than younger workers, take longer to find new jobs than younger workers, and generally fail to obtain jobs paying the same wages as their previous positions.

 

Think you’re immune to implicit bias? Think again.

It is well known that people don’t always “speak their minds.”‘  Social scientists have long suspected, and now proven, that people don’t always “know their mind” because stereotypes and implicit biases operate below the level of conscious awareness. Researchers at Harvard have developed the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure the way subconscious beliefs and associations differ, often radically, from those that operate on the level of conscious thought.  The links below will take you to the IATs.  They don’t take long, and you might be surprised what you learn.

Select a Test

Age (‘Young – Old’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to distinguish old from young faces. This test often indicates that Americans have automatic preference for young over old.
Religion (‘Religions’ IAT). This IAT requires some familiarity with religious terms from various world religions.
Disability (‘Disabled – Abled’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to recognize symbols representing abled and disabled individuals.
Sexuality (‘Gay – Straight’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to distinguish words and symbols representing gay and straight people. It often reveals an automatic preference for straight relative to gay people.
Weapons (‘Weapons – Harmless Objects’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to recognize White and Black faces, and images of weapons or harmless objects.
Presidents (‘Presidential Popularity’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to recognize photos of Barack Obama and one or more previous presidents.
Skin-tone (‘Light Skin – Dark Skin’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to recognize light and dark-skinned faces. It often reveals an automatic preference for light-skin relative to dark-skin.
Gender – Science. This IAT often reveals a relative link between liberal arts and females and between science and males.
Native American (‘Native – White American’ IAT).This IAT requires the ability to recognize White and Native American faces in either classic or modern dress, and the names of places that are either American or Foreign in origin.
Asian American (‘Asian – European American’ IAT).This IAT requires the ability to recognize White and Asian-American faces, and images of places that are either American or Foreign in origin.
Weight (‘Fat – Thin’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to distinguish faces of people who are obese and people who are thin. It often reveals an automatic preference for thin people relative to fat people.
Arab-Muslim (‘Arab Muslim – Other People’ IAT).This IAT requires the ability to distinguish names that are likely to belong to Arab-Muslims versus people of other nationalities or religions.
Gender – Career. This IAT often reveals a relative link between family and females and between career and males.
Race (‘Black – White’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to distinguish faces of European and African origin. It indicates that most Americans have an automatic preference for white over black.

 

Young women, college and the wage gap

Don’t assume your first pay offer will be the same as what a similar male graduate will get. Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, studies continue to find a pay gap between men and women. Some of the difference – women earn about four-fifths of men’s pay – can be attributed to women choosing lower-paying fields, or women temporarily leaving the workforce to raise children, or women taking more part-time jobs.

But a comprehensive report by the American Association of University Women, released last week, zeroed in on a workforce segment that, theoretically, should be on par: women and men getting their first jobs after college graduation.

The finding: Nearly the same gender gap as for the workforce at large. Young women, on average, are earning 82 percent of what their male peers are earning one year after college graduation.

Again, the choice of major and profession makes a difference. Men are more likely to be in the higher paying engineering and science fields.

But even in comparable business and management positions, women are earning less. Among business majors, for example, the survey found women earning about $38,000, on average, compared to men’s average of $45,000.

So here are the career recommendations for women who are concerned about the gap:

Don’t count on equal pay laws. Be prepared to tackle the pay issue head-on. Women’s advocacy groups say most women aren’t as aggressive about negotiating pay as men.

Don’t blindly accept the first number a prospective employer offers. Know a reasonable, competitive pay amount – that you’ve researched through your campus career office or online pay sources such as salary.com – and don’t be afraid to negotiate before you accept the job.

Studies repeatedly show that if you start out behind your male peer it can make a lifetime pay difference of tens of thousands of dollars. And that can hurt your ability to repay student loans and, eventually, your retirement pay amount.

Results: $500,000 in pregnancy discrimination case

Mr. Lamberton recently obtained a significant recovery for a client in a pregnancy
discrimination case, involving a current cash component and reinstatement offer
with a combined total cash value of more than $500,000.  The employer will also
revamp its written employment policies, and provide training to its managers on
the civil rights laws.