“It’s Time to Cancel the Word Rigor,” read a recent headline in the respected Chronicle of Higher Education. The article detailed growing concerns about hidden bias within what many see as conventional teaching practices. Here, “rigor” was taken to task for throwing roadblocks up for some students more than others, even as its exact meaning remains vague. Webster’s Dictionary defines rigor as “severity, strictness or austerity,” which educators often translate into difficult courses and large amounts of work, rationalized in the interest of excellence and high standards.
While there is nothing wrong with challenging coursework, per se, this interpretation of rigor often becomes a recipe for failure for otherwise intelligent and hardworking students. Such failures can result when rigor is used to incentivize or stratify students, as in gateway or “weed out” courses with prescribed grading targets, or situations where faculty overuse tests as motivation. Rigor discussions I have witnessed rarely consider instructional quality, teaching effectiveness, or principles of learning. Instead faculty complain about poor student attention, comprehension, or commitment. As the Chronicle explains, “all credit or blame falls on individual students, when often it is the academic system that creates the constructs, and it’s the system we should be questioning when it erects barriers for students to surmount or make them feel that they don’t belong.” Continue reading “The Problem with Rigor”
Thirty five years ago this week the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act was born. The PDA was passed in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
It outlawed workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including both state and local governments, reports a story in Ms online.
“Essentially, the PDA was meant to promote equal opportunity and prevent discrimination in the workplace by mandating that pregnant women be treated the same as other employees in regards to hiring, firing, training, promotions, disability leave and all other aspects of employment. However, pregnancy discrimination claims have risen 35 percent over the last decade, and the PDA’s power to protect women has proven woefully limited.
“The specific wording of the PDA is such that being fired for pregnancy is a clear violation, but it becomes vague about other protections. For example, the act says that employers must provide accommodations for pregnant women the same way that they would for those with temporary disabilities. But if they don’t accommodate employees with temporary disabilities, they may not be required to offer reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Also, many workplaces only accommodate injuries that happen on the job, and pregnancy hardly ever qualifies.
“Although the PDA meant well, it has sadly fallen short of providing pregnant women the protections they need. Because of this, many states have passed their own pregnant worker protection laws, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, Maryland and Illinois. Even city governments are stepping up, the New York City Council having recently passed a bill to provide pregnant workers with specific accommodations such as water breaks and exemptions from heavy lifting. Philadelphia City Council members have introduced a bill mirroring it. Unfortunately federal attempts have been less successful: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in Congress last May but has been stalled in a House subcommittee since July. Continue reading “Pregnancy discrimination continues”
Fifteen percent of U.S. working women say they have at some point felt passed over for a promotion or opportunity at work because of their gender, while 85% say they have never felt that way, according to a Gallup report released today.
“These perceptions are similar by age, educational attainment, and employment in a professional or non-professional job.
“Republican women and conservative women are slightly less likely than all other groups of women to feel they
have been passed over for a promotion due to their gender. They are also less likely to have felt gender discrimination in obtaining raises. Liberal women are the only group to perceive more gender discrimination in both promotions and raises than their demographic or socioeconomic counterparts. Together, these findings reveal that there may be some political or ideological issues at play in perceptions of gender fairness in the workplace.
“Thirteen percent of U.S. working women say they feel they have been denied a raise due to their gender. But again, the vast majority of working women do not see this as an issue.
“These data, from Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 7-11, 2013, highlight workplace gender issues that have been feverishly debated recently — especially in the media. However, the data reveal that most women do not perceive that they have been a victim of gender bias at work when it comes to promotions and raises in particular.
“When Gallup asked working men the same questions, they were much less likely to say they felt they were denied a promotion or raise because of their gender. Eight percent of working men feel their gender has prevented them from getting a promotion and 4% believe they have been denied a raise for the same reason. Thus, this phenomenon is something that disproportionately affects women. Continue reading “This week in workplace discrimination”
Last week’s settlement between the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and a California school district may have been issued at the K-12 level, but the newly clear message that federal laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity applies to colleges too, experts say.
Inside Higher Ed reports that “The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education jointly determined that California’s Arcadia School District violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination, by barring a transgender student from sex-specific facilities and activities. All schools and colleges receiving federal funds are obligated to comply with Title IX or risk losing that funding.
“In a 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter, OCR said schools must work to prevent gender nonconformity discrimination — when, for example, a student who is assigned a male sex at birth but does not act as a stereotypical boy (maybe by using female pronouns, or wearing dresses) is bullied.
“But this resolution agreement takes that a step further by covering gender identity discrimination — when the same student described above is barred from using the female restroom. She is not being excluded because she doesn’t act like a stereotypical boy and is therefore nonconforming, but because she has a transgender gender identity; her identity doesn’t match the sex she was assigned at birth. Continue reading “Major ruling for transgender students”
Fat-shaming — the process of insulting, ostracizing, or otherwise stigmatizing people who appear overweight — actually does far more harm than good, according to new research reported by ThinkProgress.
“In fact, overweight people who face weight discrimination are likely to eat more, exercise less, and have a higher chance of ending up obese.
“Researchers at the Florida State University College of Medicine conducted an experiment where they tracked a nationally representative population of Americans between 2006 and 2010. The findings were striking. Americans who were overweight in 2006 — but not obese — and stigmatized for it were two and half times more likely to end up obese four years later than those who hadn’t been fat-shamed. Furthermore, those who were obese at the beginning of the study were three times more likely to still be obese in 2010 if they faced weight discrimination.
“There is robust evidence that internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing and stigmatizing experiences are associated with more frequent binge eating,” wrote the researchers. They also believe the stress caused by overweight Americans’ public and personal humiliation elevates hormones that promote weight-gain — a trend that has been witnessed in other demographics with high stress levels, too. Continue reading “Fat shaming’s effects”
Transgender victims of workplace discrimination are for the first time finding restitution in a pair of decisions handed down from the federal government finding anti-trans job bias at two institutions — one a federal contractor, the other an arm of the U.S. government.
The two decisions ––reported today in the Washingon Blade––are the result of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is charged with enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, finding last year in a historic, unanimous decision transgender workplace discrimination amounts to gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“One of the decisions is the culmination of litigation in that very case, known as Macy v. Holder, was initiated by the Transgender Law Center after the plaintiff was told she wouldn’t receive a job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’s crime laboratory in Walnut Creek, Calif., after she announced she would transition from male to female.
“On July 8, the Department of Justice — to which the case was remanded after the EEOC made its decision last year — issued a final decision finding Macy indeed faced discrimination when she applied for the position and awarding her relief.
“[T]his office finds that the ATF discriminated against complainant based on her transgender status, and thus her sex, when it stopped complainant’s further participation in the hiring process for the NIBIN Ballistics Forensics Technician Laboratory position,” the decision states. Continue reading “More transgender legal victories”
This month, Merck was hit with a $100 million sex discrimination suit alleging that the company engaged in systemic gender bias, reports Fortune. “The complaint could be used in a law school as a way to teach virtually every gender-based claim that could possibly be brought against an employer.
“The case includes many allegations of discrimination against female and pregnant employees, and staffers who chose to take family-medical leave. The suit also claims that Merck engaged in discriminatory promotional and payroll practices. And the case also includes less tangible “Boys’ Club” allegations, which have become increasingly common in gender bias cases.
“In particular, the complaint against Merck alleges that “male junior employees have opportunities to socialize with male senior management to the exclusion of women. Female employees are excluded from these events, and thus excluded from opportunities to develop relationships with senior management that provide opportunities for advancement within Merck due to the company’s ‘tap-on-the shoulder’ promotion policies …”
“But Merck is far from alone. In a 2011 paper, Holland & Hart’s John M. Husband and Bradford J. Williams list private employers who have settled class actions in the tens — or even hundreds — of millions of dollars, noting that it “reads like a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies.” Many, but not all, involve sex discrimination. Continue reading “The boys at Merck”
France may have taken a big step forward with parliament’s decision to legalize gay marriage, but according to the results of a European Union survey, discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is still widespread in Europe.
Released Friday, the online survey of more than 93,000 LGBT people in 27 EU members states and Croatia found nearly half the respondents said that in the previous year they had “felt personally discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of sexual orientation. Continue reading “No holding hands in Europe”
In America’s increasingly expensive health care system, the costs of not having adequate insurance coverage are both financial and physical,reports the Center for American Progress. Without coverage, many people must choose between struggling to pay exorbitant medical bills or going without the care they need.
“Similar to millions of other Americans, many transgender people lack health insurance coverage. But even when they are able to find coverage, the promise of more secure access to care and protection from unaffordable medical bills often rings hollow. This is because the majority of U.S. health insurance plans deny coverage for medical procedures and treatments seen as specific to transgender people.
“This brief provides an overview of insurance discrimination against transgender people; the impact of the Affordable Care Act on insurance discrimination; and how some state insurance regulators are taking action to stop gender-identity discrimination in insurance.
“Currently, most private insurance plans, as well as many state Medicaid programs, incorporate plan language that specifically targets transgender people by excluding, for example:
- “All services related to sexual reassignment”
- “Sex transformations”
- “Any treatment or procedure designed to alter an individual’s physical characteristics to those of the opposite sex”
- “Care, services or treatment for … gender dysphoria or sexual reassignment or change … including medications, implants, hormone therapy, surgery, medical or psychiatric treatment”
If you think you might need to use a public restroom while you’re out and about, you might want to make sure you have your birth certificate handy, reports the Arizona Daily Star.
“A House panel will consider legislation today to make it a crime to enter a public restroom designated for one gender or the other if you are “not legally classified” on your birth certificate as a member of that sex. The measure, SB 1432, also would apply to showers, baths, dressing rooms or locker rooms marked “men” or “women.” Continue reading “Here come the Arizona bathroom police”
“Vice President Joe Biden said transgender discrimination is ‘the civil rights issue of our time’ during a visit to a Florida,” as reported in The Huffington Post. Biden was meeting with volunteers at an Obama for America office in Sarasota, Fla., when he singled out one woman “who he thought had beautiful eyes,” reads the pool report. The woman said something to Biden that was inaudible to the pool reporter, but Biden responded to her by saying it was the ‘civil rights issue of our time.’” The statement is circulating widely on internet news feeds. For more, see “Joe Biden: Transgender Discrimination is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.”
Biden’s statement is important at a moment when LGBT issues like marriage equality seem to be getting more attention. As The Huffington Post‘s Jennifer Bebdery continues “The vice president has been a steadfast ally to the LGBT community. He told gay rights advocates in August that they are “freeing the soul of the American people.” Most notably, however, he got out in front of President Barack Obama in May Continue reading “Biden on transgender civil rights”