According to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, employers can no longer use a woman’s prior salary to justify paying her less than her male peer. This new interpretation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 overturns a 1982 ruling that pay history is a legitimate exception to the Equal Pay Act’s requirement that pay differentials be based on a “factor other than sex.” The 9th Circuit holds that the exceptions under the Act should be “limited to legitimate, job-related factors such as a prospective employee’s experience, educational background, ability, or prior job performance.” Some judges hesitated, expressing that they believe the ruling may be disadvantageous for women who use their prior salary as leverage in pay negotiations, that pay based on prior salary encourages hard work, and that prior salary does not necessarily spell gender bias. The case comes from a lawsuit filed by California school employee Aileen Rizo, who found out that her male colleagues were making more than her, even though they were hired after her. She explains: “I couldn’t educate myself out of being paid less, I couldn’t get more experience or be in the job market longer to break that cycle…low wages will follow you wherever you go as long as someone keeps asking you how much you were paid.”
During jury selection, the attorneys on both sides enjoy a limited number of “peremptory” challenges, that is, the ability to dismiss a juror without a stated reason. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, however, points out that this can lead to dismissals of jurors based on race or ethnic bias that go unquestioned. Ensuring a challenge isn’t based on bias is critically important because studies show that the racial makeup of a jury can seriously impact a defendant’s fate. This week, following a line of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, Washington State instituted a new rule that allows attorneys to call out their counterpart if they feel bias was involved in the decision to dismiss a juror. If an attorney is called out for bias, the sitting judge must determine if an “objective observer” would agree that bias was involved. The observer would have to be “aware that implicit, institutional and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination, have resulted in the unfair exclusion of potential jurors in Washington state.” If bias was involved, the judge can deny the juror’s dismissal. The rule will apply to both criminal and civil trials and goes into effect at the end of the month.
Back in 2015, there was some disagreement about whether generically yellow emojis should expand to include a range of skin tones to choose from. While some people believed emojis should represent their users, others feared that diverse emojis could lead to “antagonistic racial sentiment.” However, a recent study conducted at the University of Edinburgh shows that not only are diverse emojis generally used positively on social media, but that “users with darker skin tones were more likely to modify those of their emojis than people with lighter skin tones were,” emphasizing the importance of digital representation. In fact, most people using non-generic emojis also chose to represent their own skin tones. According to researcher Walid Magdy, “The introduction of skin tone choices for emojis has been a success in representing diversity and their extensive use shows that they meet a real demand from users.”