business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reported the other day on a US Supreme Court decision making it harder for many workers to sue their employers for discrimination in pay, insisting in a 5-to-4 decision on a tight time frame to file such cases and saying that employees have 180 days from the time their pay is set to file a formal complaint with a federal agency.

The New York Times reports that “the Supreme Court on Tuesday made it harder for many workers to sue their employers for discrimination in pay, insisting in a 5-to-4 decision on a tight time frame to file such cases. The dissenters said the ruling ignored workplace realities.” According to the story, “The court held on Tuesday that employees may not bring suit under the principal federal anti-discrimination law unless they have filed a formal complaint with a federal agency within 180 days after their pay was set. The timeline applies, according to the decision, even if the effects of the initial discriminatory act were not immediately apparent to the worker and even if they continue to the present day.”

One MNB user responded to this story:

I can recall on my first "real" job interview 25 years ago, being asked what my childbearing plans were (in other words, I had to say I had no intention of having kids, or they wouldn't hire me for fear I might take maternity leave).

I can recall 10 years ago, being told that I was the most qualified person for a promotion, but they were promoting a man instead, since they could "communicate better with him".

In my 25 year career, I have never made as much as the men I work with, who do the same type of work.

On the bright side, I have seen younger women come up quickly through the ranks, and get those promotions, and make the same salary as their male peers. And that makes me proud.

Unfortunately young women today forget what their elders had to go through to achieve this equality, nor do they don't realize how quickly we can lose it.

Looks like they need more women on that court.


Sounds like you might agree with the characterization of the Supreme Court offered by Randy Newman on his acidic new song, “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country…”

We should have commented on this story the other day, but somehow let it slip through the cracks. We’re glad to get another shot at it.

There will be those who will applaud this Supreme Court ruling as pro-business. But they will be wrong, because this is a ruling that merely protects the rights of some businesses to treat their executive suites like old boys’ clubs…which will, in the long run, stifle diversity, creativity and innovation.

Saying that an employee has just 180 days to file a federal complaint seems completely out of touch with reality. (Go figure – another branch of government out of touch with the real world. That would make it three for three.) It can takes months, even years, for employees to figure out that they are being discriminated against, and such discoveries generally happen by accident. Putting such time constraints on these sorts of lawsuits seems to be arbitrary and discriminatory. And, in the end, it will hurt business because it will breed distrust and resentment.

It was just a few weeks ago that we were moderating a panel at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show about how to nurture leadership and develop new managers. We don’t doubt that many companies are serious about doing so, but we wonder how many of these companies also are discriminating against people in their workforces? And if they are, why should anyone take seriously what they say about nurturing leadership?




On the subject of whether the government should allow meatpackers to perform their own screenings for mad cow disease and then display the results on the labels – the Bush administration says no, and we disagree – MNB user Tom Kroupa wrote:

The USDA is full of bureaucrats who used to work in the meat packing industry. Now you know that the fox is guarding the henhouse. Even though they are in the government and are supposed to be working for the public good, they are really working for their own industry. They owe loyalty to their prior company and to the beef industry as a whole. The idea that a private lab would find "false positives" is a PR ruse. The real meaning is, "We don't want the public to find out how bad BSE may be". If they thought there was no problem with testing for BSE in a private lab they would never have objected. As usual with this administration you must look behind the rhetoric. This is the same pattern as the FDA whose regulators used to work in pharmaceutical companies.

Another MNB user wrote:

Until all US beef is tested, I will continue to eat more American Bison. It has less fat, more protein, and no BSE cases that I am aware of. Besides it tastes more like a butcher shop prime beef than some of the stuff the supermarkets try to pass of as beef.

I just hope more people start to eat it on a regular basis so that he price will come down.


Another MNB user wrote:

Great comments in today’s edition regarding private testing for mad cow disease. I wonder if there aren’t also some parallels with the auto industry, in which the Insurance Institute conducts its own testing of automobiles outside the purview of either the NTSB or NHTSA, and subjects these cars to more rigorous testing than the government standards. The results are made public, typically on programs like 60 Minutes or Dateline, with the expected self-satisfaction (and point of differentiation) from those who fare well, while those who don’t fare well correctly (but weakly, I think) point out that their vehicles meet or exceed all applicable government standards (the lowest common denominator). Consumers in America simply don’t vie for the lowest common denominator, and can tell you that I reviewed these results prior to buying my last car.

Seems to me that some sort of combined association of retailers and manufacturers is in order that could engage in more rigorous testing than the minimum government standards, and measure things like food safety, product benefit claims, etc. The outcome would be something like an “FMI seal of approval” (or whatever the association name becomes). Those that miss the standards are relegated to lowest common denominator status, while those that exceed the standards have the potential for a new point of differentiation. Just a thought.





MNB user David Livingston got beaten up pretty good yesterday by other members of the MNB community who felt he was wrong in his assertion that senior executives get to make – and even break – the rules when it comes to who needs to live up to companies’ ethical standards.

Livingston wrote back:

I met with the CEO of a large grocery chain today who is an avid read of the MNB. He enjoys our banter back and forth on controversial subjects. We discussed the Wal-Mart and their lack of accountability when it comes to personnel issues. I think he sided with me but I can't be sure. I think it was when he called you a pinko-commie. Perhaps your views would change if instead of being self employed you were the CEO of a publicly held company who's job is to get the greatest return to shareholders by whatever means possible.

David, we respect your right to hold whatever view of the world you want…but this is the biggest load of crap we’ve ever read.

If we were the CEO of any company, no matter what the size, we hope we would have the strength of character to say that everyone in the company would behave in the most ethical fashion possible, that everyone would be treated as a partner and rewarded for their creativity and innovation, and that we would not just say those things, but live up to those standards. That, in our view, is the definition of leadership. It is what allows great CEOs not just to lead their companies, but to create companies that can lead their industries. And to suggest that an effective CEO needs to cut corners in order to create shareholder returns…well, we would suggest that there are plenty of examples where this is not true.

As for being a “pinko-commie”…well, we don’t care what he thinks we are. As long as he keeps reading. (And we suspect that when he said it, it was with a smile on his face.)
KC's View: