It’s not a case of déjà vu, though it may feel like it at times to Judge U.W. Clemon, who serves as Of Counsel to Mehri & Skalet. Nearly fifty years after a court ruled in favor of one of Judge Clemon’s first clients – saying that schools in Jefferson County Alabama should integrate – the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled again in favor of desegregation in a case regarding intentional discrimination by a school district in Birmingham.
Back in 1971, Judge Clemon argued Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education. In that case, a black parent sued the school system for being racially segregated. The judge ruled in the parent’s favor, ordering the schools in Jefferson County to integrate, a ruling that has never expired. That case established the precedent for the present day case Judge Clemon became involved in.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that Gardendale, a predominately white city in Jefferson County, Alabama, could separate from its school system, which is more diverse. While the judge ruled that the move was motivated by race and could obstruct efforts to desegregate, she also said the town of Gardendale could move forward with the secession. Judge Clemon represented the black plaintiffs in the case, arguing against resegregation in Jefferson County. He successfully appealed, arguing to a conservative appellate panel that the trial judge should have stopped the discriminatory practices. (Read more about the case in a New York Times Magazine profile)
At the time of the appeal Judge Clemon said “I never envisioned that I would be fighting in 2017 essentially the same battle that I thought I won in 1971…But the battle is just not over.” Judge Clemon’s dedication to fighting against schools segregation and discrimination, as well as his determination to enforce the important victories he fought for over the decades, are a testament to his work as a crusader on these important issues.
Frances McDormand’s win for Best Actress at the 90th Academy Awards may not have been a big surprise, but when she called on the industry to adopt a structural reform known as an “inclusion rider” she surprised many with a new buzzword.
Pamela Coukos, Cyrus’ partner in Working IDEAL, was excited to see this idea and
took to Twitter to highlight the need for new tools like this.She pointed out other types of structural reforms that increase diversity and inclusion – including the Rooney Rule. The tweets even attracted the attention of Reese Witherspoon, who has been a leading voice in Hollywood on issues of diversity and pay equity.
In a Medium post, “Can ‘Inclusion Waivers’ Create More Equal Opportunity in Hollywood?”
Pam and Cyrus commented on a 2014 article about inclusion riders by Dr. Stacy Smith and wrote: “The story of the Rooney Rule has important lessons in thinking about Inclusion Riders. In the face of existing barriers keeping talented African-American and other minority coaching candidates from being hired as head coaches, the League agreed to a simple but powerful new step in its standard operating procedure. This simple reform led to dramatic improvements, and has now been increasingly adopted by corporate America. Notably, Smith includes a Rooney Rule style requirement as an additional key gender equity complement to inclusion riders”.
To read the full story click here.
Working IDEAL, a consulting firm started by Pam and Cyrus, provides non-profits, universities, unions, government entities and businesses advice on inclusive workplaces, breaking down barriers to diversity, inclusion, equity and access, and devising new solutions to drive sustainable change. If you’re interested in learning more, contact WorkingIDEAL here.
CNN recently ran a story on discrimination in the workplace against pregnant women which profiled a familiar face: Whitney Tomlinson, a 30-year-old single mother of two who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against Wal-Mart. Mehri & Skalet, along with A Better Balance and the National Women’s Law Center, represent Tomlinson. She filed her charge in December 2017 after Wal-Mart pushed her onto an unpaid leave of absence when she submitted a doctor’s note describing her lifting restrictions due to her pregnancy. As a result of being forced out, she suffered severe financial hardship during an already vulnerable time.
CNN reports, “Walmart’s human resources told Tomlinson that she was not permitted to return to work until after she gave birth and that she would need to apply for a formal unpaid leave of absence to avoid losing her job in the long run. That news put her in a precarious financial and emotional state during her pregnancy, an already vulnerable time for most women. ‘I had to get help and make do with what I could,’ Tomlinson said of life during her pregnancy. A ‘very stressful, very emotional’ time.”
To read the full story and to watch the video on the U.S. ranking last on paid leave issues, click here.
A federal complaint filed by Mehri & Skalet and Stacey Gray PC alleges insurance industry giant, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), avoided millions in wages, benefits and taxes by misclassifying dentists as independent contractors when they were employees. The lawsuit alleges that MetLife wrongly classified at least 100 dentists — and potentially hundreds of other health professionals — as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and overtime wages, as well as providing pension, health insurance and other benefits to which employees are entitled. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York in February on behalf of Carol McNeeley, a dentist who worked for MetLife as a consultant from 2002 through October 2017.