Wall Street litigation leads to important workplace reforms

Bank of America agreed on Friday to pay $39 million to women who worked in its Merrill Lynch brokerage operation, another costly settlement of a discrimination case filed by its employees.The agreement, filed Friday evening in a federal court in Brooklyn, was the second by the nation’s largest bank over 10 days. Last week, Merrill Lynch told a federal judge in Chicago that it would pay $160 million to settle an eight-year-old racial discrimination suit filed on behalf of 700 black brokers.With the new agreement, Merrill will have paid out nearly half a billion dollars to settle employee discrimination claims over the last 15 years.The case settled on Friday was originally brought by women who had worked in the brokerage division of Bank of America, but it was amended to include women who were brokers at Merrill Lynch after the bank bought Merrill. The money is expected to be divided among as many as 4,800 current and former employees of the two brokerage operations.Merrill, which has about 15,000 brokers worldwide, also agreed to change its policies to give women a better chance of succeeding. The firm will bring in an applied organizational psychologist to study some of its policies, particularly how teams of brokers...

A 20% premium wage just for being male

The Equal Pay Act has been law for 50 years, but women are still way behind men in earnings.April 9 is the date when U.S. working women finally catch up to the amount men earned by last December 31. That's because the gender pay gap between women and men for full time year round workers is 20 cents on the dollar, and it's not closing. In fact, it's getting wider. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, at current rates it will take another 45 years for women to catch up.There are a number of causes for the pay gap, including job segregation ( "men's jobs" - like plumbing, pay more than "women's jobs" - like teaching). And more women take time out to care for kids and aging parents. But as many women know, plain old sex discrimination plays a big part. Lilly Ledbetter found out the hard way after 19 years at Goodyear, when she learned she had been underpaid all along compared to men doing the same job. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court - where she lost. The conservatives on the Supreme Court said she should have complained earlier, even though she didn't know...

Raise the Minimum Wage

A few remarks from a Nobel-prize winning economist on raising the minimum wage -[The President has called for] a rise in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9, with subsequent increases in line with inflation. The question we need to ask is: Would this be good policy? And the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a clear yes.Why “surprisingly”? Well, Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook — mine included — lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems.But that’s not what’s on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.First of all, the current level of the minimum wage is very low by any reasonable standard. For about four decades, increases in the minimum wage have consistently fallen behind inflation, so that in real terms the minimum wage is substantially lower than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, worker productivity has doubled. Isn’t...