This week the EEOC ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. There’s other good news too. (More)

I’m sometimes grumpy but never cynical, so I’ll honor BPI’s tradition of Non-Cynical Saturday by focusing on tasty news nuggets. This week offered quite a few, including these morsels….

“Title VII coverage of a sexual orientation claim is the same as any other Title VII case involving allegations of sex discrimination”

On Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that federal agencies cannot discriminate against lesbian, gay, or bisexual applicants or employees. Following the same reasoning as their 2012 decision barring discrimination against transgender applicants or employees, a 3-2 majority of the EEOC held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is already prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex:

When an employee raises a claim of sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination under Title VII, the question is not whether sexual orientation is explicitly listed in Title VII as a prohibited basis for employment actions. It is not. Rather, the question for purposes of Title VII coverage of a sexual orientation claim is the same as any other Title VII case involving allegations of sex discrimination – whether the agency has “relied on sex-based considerations” or “take[n] gender into account” when taking the challenged employment action.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, stereotypes, or norms. “Sexual orientation” as a concept cannot be defined or understood without reference to sex. A man is referred to as “gay” if he is physically and/or emotionally attracted to other men. A woman is referred to as “lesbian” if she is physically and/or emotionally attracted to other women. Someone is referred to as “heterosexual” or “straight” if he or she is physically and/or emotionally attracted to someone of the opposite sex. […] It follows, then, that sexual orientation is inseparable from and inescapably linked to sex and, therefore, that allegations of sexual orientation discrimination involved sex-based considerations.

EEOC rulings do not bind federal courts in Title VII actions involving private employers. But courts do treat EEOC rulings as persuasive precedents, so lesbian, gay, and bisexual applicants and employees can cite this decision in Title VII complaints against private employers … just as transgender employees can cite the 2012 decision in Title VII complaints against private employers.

And if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds these EEOC decisions, LGBTs won’t need Congress to pass new laws to ensure equal employment opportunity. Instead the current Civil Rights Act will cover all sex-based discrimination … including discrimination against LGBTs.


“Mrs. Clinton’s speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence”

Yesterday the New York TimesPaul Krugman reflected on Hillary Clinton’s call to raise the minimum wage:

Mrs. Clinton’s speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.

That “new understanding” is based a 1993 study by David Card and Alan Krueger. They did a follow-up study in 2000, and both studies found that modest minimum wage increases are not job-killers. And while free market ideologues like Diana Furchtgott-Roth pooh-pooh the Card-Krueger studies, the greater weight of the evidence shows a higher minimum wage gives employees more money to spend, boosting demand and employment for other businesses.

Heather Digby Parton highlights another key element of Krugman’s analysis:

I think he’s hit upon something important in political coverage: when a politician takes a different position on policy from earlier positions (or, in [Clinton’s] case, from her husband’s positions) the press assumes that she’s flip-flopped for political reasons. But it’s always possible that she has changed her mind based upon new evidence.

And it’s always possible that Hillary Clinton is not her husband, and she may not have agreed with every law that passed during his administration. Just sayin’.


“European solidarity will not flower under a system which produces such disparate outcomes among countries”

Finally we return to Greece, which this week accepted the Eurozone’s terms for financial relief. Because The Institutions Formerly Known As The Troika now effectively control the Greek government, the Eurozone now own the problem. And former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke says it’s time to ask whether the Eurozone will deliver on their promises:

This week the Greek parliament agreed to European demands for tough new austerity measures and structural reforms, defusing (for the moment, at least) the country’s sovereign debt crisis. Now is a good time to ask: Is Europe holding up its end of the bargain? Specifically, is the euro zone’s leadership delivering the broad-based economic recovery that is needed to give stressed countries like Greece a reasonable chance to meet their growth, employment, and fiscal objectives? Over the longer term, these questions are evidently of far greater consequence for Europe, and for the world, than are questions about whether tiny Greece can meet its fiscal obligations.

Bernanke notes that Germany is doing well … and the rest of the Eurozone is paying for it:

Currently, the unemployment rate in the euro zone ex Germany exceeds 13 percent, compared to less than 5 percent in Germany. Other economic data show similar discrepancies within the euro zone between the “north” (including Germany) and the “south.”

The patterns illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 pose serious medium-term challenges for the euro area. The promise of the euro was both to increase prosperity and to foster closer European integration. But current economic conditions are hardly building public confidence in European economic policymakers or providing an environment conducive to fiscal stabilization and economic reform; and European solidarity will not flower under a system which produces such disparate outcomes among countries.

Bernanke’s column made Paul Krugman cautiously optimistic:

Does all this sound sort of … familiar? Kind of like what other bearded Anglo-Saxon economists have been saying? As I’ve tried to point out for a long time, in this policy debate the supposedly radical types are the ones doing standard, more or less textbook economics, while the respectable voices have subscribed to fantasies ungrounded in either history or theory.

You might think that having one of history’s most celebrated central bankers weigh in on the anti-austerity side of the issue would change perceptions about what’s serious as opposed to Serious. But don’t bet on it.

What it does mean, at least, is that the Serious People of the Eurozone will no longer have the “Greece didn’t carry out our reforms properly” excuse. And now, finally, we can hold the Serious People accountable for their promises.


Good day and good nuts