Author Archive for Erin Chan-AdamsPage 2 of 9

Uber is Under Fire, Again, for Sexual Harassment

Uber, the online transportation company whose app allows its users to hire private drivers, is making headlines again. About a month ago, angry customers began tweeting the #DeleteUber hashtag after Uber decided to suspend surge pricing during a taxi strike at JFK airport in protest of President Trump’s immigration ban. Customers accused Uber of strikebreaking and taking advantage of the immigration ban in order to promote itself.

The #DeleteUber hashtag has again appeared on social media following a claim of sexual harassment by a former employee.  Susan J. Fowler, a former Uber engineer, released an essay reflecting on her two year employment. She described it as “a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story,” recounting a time when a manager propositioned her for sex.

Uber’s Response to Sexual Harassment Allegations

UberFowler claims that she complained to Human Resources about her manager’s request for a sexual relationship. In response, H.R. told Fowler that this was his first offense and that they were not going to reprimand him for his behavior. Instead, they made Fowler feel like she was in the wrong and encouraged her to transfer to a new team or risk getting a bad review from her manager. Feeling like she had no other choice, she ultimately transferred teams. Fowler later discovered the manager had propositioned several female Uber employees for sex and H.R. turned a blind eye to his behavior because he was a “top performer”.

In response to Fowler’s essay, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has hired two attorneys to independently investigate the accusation.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination consisting of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or an authority figure requests sex, sexual favors or a sexual relationship in exchange for either not firing or punishing the employee or in exchange for favors, such as a promotion or raise.

Hostile work environment harassment occurs when there are frequent or pervasive unwanted sexual advances, comments or requests. It can also occur when there is other verbal or physical behavior, like sexual jokes, displaying inappropriate offensive material (such as watching porn on your computer screen in the workplace), or persistent unwanted interactions, such as asking for dates continually.

Other Allegations of Sexual Harassment

According to Fowler’s essay, there were several female employees who complained that the same manager propositioned them for sex and when these women reported the behavior to H.R., they were told it was the manager’s first offense, just like Fowler. Since Fowler’s essay surfaced, another female employee has come out and said her manager groped her breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. Other Uber female engineers have acknowledged that Uber has a systemic problem with sexism. There may be more stories of sexual harassment that have not been publicized due to fear of retaliation or non-disclosure clauses in their employment contracts.

Can Fowler Sue Uber for Sexual Harassment?

While Fowler certainly can sue Uber for sexual harassment, she is unlikely to prevail. Her essay recalls an instance where her superior requested she engage in a sexual relationship with him. The sexual conduct did not appear to be made a term or condition of her employment at Uber. Further, Fowler was neither promised a benefit if she acquiesced, nor threatened harm if she refused. For this reason, a claim of quid pro quo sexual harassment would not be found.

Neither would a court of law find Uber guilty of a hostile work environment. Fowler describes a single incident. One of the key elements of hostile work environment sexual harassment is that the conduct must be both severe and pervasive. In other words, the behavior must last over time, not just be a singular incident. It is important to note that the conduct must be pervasive with regard to a particular employee and continuous over time. Even though Fowler’s manager propositioned other women at Uber for sex, it is unclear whether he made sexual advances to any one employee more than once and over a long period of time. What we do know is Fowler was approached once. Without more evidence of continuous harassment, hostile work environment sexual harassment would not be found.

Abortion: Arkansas Law Hopes to Protect Father’s Rights

A new Arkansas law that will go into effect later this year will allow a husband to sue a doctor in order to stop his wife from getting an abortion. Known as the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, or “Act 45”, it prohibits a particular type of abortion known as “dismemberment abortion.” The law provides no exemption for spousal rape.

Historically, Father’s Rights were to Prevent Abortions

abortionFathers historically have no legal rights with regard to their wife or the mother of their child choosing to have an abortion. If a man’s pregnant partner chooses to have an abortion, the father’s consent is not a legal requirement. A woman can choose to abort the pregnancy despite the father’s objections. In fact, the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth ruled that laws requiring a spouse’s consent to be unconstitutional. The court reasoned that only one partner’s decision on abortion can prevail, and that the balance weighed in the woman’s favor.

Moreover, the Supreme Court concluded in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that the father does not have a legal right to be notified of an abortion. Most women discuss an abortion with their significant other, but those who do not may be in an abusive relationship. Therefore, requiring spousal notification places an undue burden on women who may fear for their safety.

What Kind of Abortion Does the Arkansas Law Stop?

Arkansas Act 45 prohibits a practice known as dilation and evacuation, also known as dismemberment abortion, in which fetal materials are removed from the womb through surgical instruments. It is the safest and most common method of abortion in the second trimester and is used in 95 percent of second-trimester abortions. It occurs after 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

How Will the Arkansas Law Work?

Under the new Arkansas law, a father can sue a doctor to stop an abortion if the wife is in her second trimester and having a dilation and evacuation procedure. This means that the wife is over 12 weeks pregnant. What is controversial about the law is that it allows the father to stop an abortion even if he raped his wife.

Is the Arkansas Law Constitutional?

The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) of Arkansas argues that it is not. They intend to challenge the new state law as soon as practically possible.

The ACLU argues that the law not only bans what’s considered the safest and most common method of second trimester abortions, but it also does not make any exception for victims of spousal rape. This means that a wife’s rapist husband could sue to prevent an abortion.

Under Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court established that it is a woman’s right to have an abortion until approximately 22 weeks of pregnancy or when the fetus is considered viable outside the womb. The new law puts a limitation on the woman’s ability to abort before viability, even though it is a guaranteed right. For this reason, it should not be considered constitutional.

Additional Concerns about the Law

While the Arkansas law affords the father more rights, it also strips away rights that have historically been given to the woman. The ACLU is concerned that with the limitation on dilation and extraction abortions, women may opt to use a procedure that is less safe. Such a procedure can put both the unborn fetus and the woman’s life at risk.

Impeach Trump: Is It Inevitable?

To go from President Obama, who had so few scandals, to President Trump, who has so many, seems almost like we’re living in the Twilight Zone. Every day President Trump seems to be in the news for one reason or another: his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning due to undisclosed ties with Russia, for his senior advisor Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, or for what can only be described as an unprecedented and bizarre hour long press conference where he berated various news outlets. And let’s not forget his insistence that he would’ve won the popular vote for his election had there not been millions of people committing voter fraud, despite no evidence to support his declaration.

While many are upset about President Trump’s presidency, the only way to remove him from office is through a process known as impeachment. Legal experts suspect that Trump’s recent dealings with China may be an impeachable offense.

What is Impeachment?

In laymen terms, impeachment is an accusation of wrongdoing committed by the sitting President. The House of Representatives can vote to impeach, or kick a President out of office, and the Senate tries the case. The text of the Constitution states:

“The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Impeach TrumpHistory of Impeachment

Two U.S. Presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Johnson was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act. President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both were acquitted at trials held by the Senate.

President Nixon Scandal

It may be shocking to learn that President Nixon was never impeached. He resigned before the impeachment process began but likely would have been removed from office for Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power.

A President can be found to obstruct justice if he makes misleading statements or withholds relevant evidence to investigative officials and makes false or misleading public statements in order to mislead the people to believe the President was not involved in any wrongdoing.

Abuse of Power can be found if a President uses his office and title to obtain something. The President has a duty to act faithfully to execute the office of the President and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

What about China?

Trump has been given a 10-year trademark on his name for construction from China, a trademark he had been trying to obtain as a private citizen for a decade prior to becoming the President. The timing is particularly suspect having only obtained the trademark one month after taking the oath of office and one week after a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping where Trump endorsed the One China policy. Did Trump receive a favor from China, and will Beijing use its influence over Trump’s business to control the President?

This business deal with China may violate the Emolument Clause of the Constitution which prohibits the President from accepting a gift or anything of value from a foreign government or entity. In this way, the trademark could be considered unconstitutional and an impeachable offense, specifically an abuse of power. An investigation by the Senate could reveal any number of things. President Trump may have accepted the trademark from China in exchange for endorsing the One China policy after previously placing it in doubt. In the alternative, perhaps he endorsed the One China policy in order to obtain the trademark for his business.

Without a more formal investigation, it is impossible to determine whether Trump will be impeached for violating the Emolument Clause. However, if he withholds evidence or lies about any secret dealings with China and is found to violate the Emolument Clause, he can also be impeached for Obstruction of Justice.

At least at first blush, it certainly seems that Trump received a gift from China. We will have to wait and see whether Congress is willing to investigate, or if they continue to play partisan politics.

End of Obamacare: What Happens When Trump Repeals the ACA?

The GOP has hated what they’ve coined “Obamacare” from the start. Obamacare, also known as the “Affordable Care Act,” certainly has its kinks. For instance, high deductibles for its Bronze plan users make up about 20 percent of its customers. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that it has helped millions of people, most of whom are low-income or working class, who otherwise would not have health insurance. It has done this without raising taxes.

President Trump promised to repeal Obamacare as soon as he was elected. When he finally took office, he again promised to repeal Obamacare. Initially, indications from the GOP were that a repeal would occur within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. The repeal seems to have lost its initial steam.Obamacare

Possible Timeline

The Senate and House of Representatives started the repeal process in earnest. In January, both the House and the Senate passed a budget resolution that set the stage for introducing a bill that would strip major provisions from Obamacare.

In order to repeal Obamacare, the next step is for President Trump to the sign the budget resolution bill while simultaneously introducing a bill to replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but the GOP seems to have faltered at this step. What they initially wanted to happen swiftly is now being pushed back to the end of 2017, primarily because the party is still trying to figure out what to replace Obamacare with.

Even when a replacement for Obamacare is presented and signed by President Trump, there will be delays built into the repeal bill in order to ease the transition. No one knows how long the delay will take, but it’s presumed a delay of two to four years is likely. For this reason, major changes are unlikely to affect Affordable Care Act consumers right away.

Why Delay Repeal?

For one, there are many parts of Obamacare that are popular. Under Obamacare, insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on a preexisting condition, and children stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. These provisions are popular among the majority of Americans.

Moreover, the Affordable Care Act has insured over 20 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have health insurance. Republicans have been bombarded with constituent concerns about the potential loss of coverage. There are stories of everyday Americans who say they would’ve died had it not been for the Affordable Care Act.

How Will Repealing Obamacare Affect Americans?

Under Obamacare, millions of Americans are insured and can’t be turned away despite pre-existing conditions. Senior citizens pay less for Medicare coverage and for their prescription drugs. Many Americans receive free contraceptives, mammograms, colonoscopies and cholesterol tests, Repealing Obamacare could threaten all these advantages.

For instance, “repairing” Obamacare could mean higher premiums and deductibles for those enrolled on Medicare, most of whom are on fixed incomes. Companies with at least 50 employees may no longer be required to provide affordable insurance to their employees who work more than 30 hours a week. This could affect millions of employees who work at least 30 hours per week but less than 40 hours. In addition, companies will no longer have to keep children on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26.

Finally and perhaps most devastating, a repeal on Obamacare would no longer require nearly all Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty. Millions of Americans covered by the Affordable Care Act may be dropped by their insurance carrier with no way of obtaining alternative insurance.

Ethics Rules Violated When White House Endorsed Ivanka Trump’s Products

Less than a month into his Presidency and Donald Trump has more scandals under his belt than President Obama did during his eight years in office. Before taking office, Trump was known for his Trump Organization, a privately owned international conglomerate. The “Trump” brand is comprised of more than 500 business entities of which President Trump is either the sole or principal owner. His daughter, Ivanka, has a clothing line featured in various department stores across the U.S. Until recently, it included Nordstroms.

ethics violationAfter Nordstroms decided to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, President Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway discussed Nordstrom’s decision in a live Fox News interview. Conway took her air time to talk up Ivanka’s line, claiming that she owned many Ivanka Trump pieces and claimed the line was “wonderful.” She then went on to give Ivanka what she described as a “free commercial,” exclaiming, “Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

What Ethics Rule was Violated?

There’s a rule in the Code of Federal Regulations that states a federal employee shall not use his or her office “for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.”

There’s no question that Conway endorsed Ivanka Trump’s brand in her off-the-cuff statement, but the comments were further troubling for another reason. As Trump’s senior and one of his most visible advisors, Conway’s “free commercial” had the appearance of the White House, and by extension the President, telling people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. As part of the Trump Brand, President Trump stands to gain financially if people heed Conway’s advice and start buying Ivanka Trump’s product.

Calls for Ethical Investigation

Public citizens and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics immediately asked for an investigation of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). The OGE is a federal agency whose job it is to help the President and executive branch avoid conflicts of interest. It was created in 1978 following President Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The OGE can investigate and make recommendations based on possible ethics violations, but any sanctions or subsequent punishment is at the discretion of the White House.

It is important to note that an ethics violation of this nature is unprecedented, although former Chief Counsel to Vice President Biden claims this type of violation would have gotten someone fired under the Obama administration.

White House Response

According to a former lawyer and ethics officer at the Federal Election Commission, the typical ethics rule violation will result in a letter of reprimand. Termination is also an option. In extreme but rare cases, a violation could be referred to the Justice Department.

In this case, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that Conway was “counseled” for her comments, but would not elaborate. In an interview on Fox News, Conway said President Trump supported her 100 percent. “In fact, it was a very heartening moment,” Conway said. “All I can say to America’s women is, at some point in your life, you ought to have a boss who treated me the way the president of the United States treated me today.”

Given her comments and the potential Trump’s brand has to gain after Conway’s self-described free commercial, it’s safe to say the President elected not to punish Conway. We should probably question whether she was praised, encouraged or rewarded.

Has President Trump Committed an Ethical Violation?

In addition to the above-referenced federal ethics code, a lesser known section restricts the President and Vice President from using their office to influence or make threats about an employment practice of any private company. In other words, President Trump cannot misuse his authority to bully private companies or influence how they do their business.

During a press conference, Spicer claimed Nordstroms’ decision to discontinue Ivanka Trump’s line was unacceptable because it was an attack on Trump’s daughter. Trump expressed his unhappiness with Nordstroms for treating his daughter so unfairly. The comments taken together can be interpreted as a violation of federal ethics.

Time will tell whether Trump faces any backlash for the White House’s position, or if Conway’s comments will be overshadowed by another scandal in the coming days.