Civil Rights

Truck driver Vasant Reddy is not living the high life. Reddy, a Muslim, refused to transport a shipment of Miller Lite as part of his duties. He claims he was forced to resign because of adherence to his religious beliefs.

Normally refusing to deliver something would seem to be a pretty big problem if your job is to deliver things. But that’s why we have Title VII. As a religious objector, Reddy should still be able to work at his job, provided that he sincerely holds this religious objection and that making an exception doesn’t impose an undue hardship on Reddy’s employers.

Is delivering beer an essential function of being a truck driver? Let’s get into it (dear Muslim friends, you’ll probably want to skip the comments on this post)…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Race/Religion Baiting Question of the Day: Muslim Truck Driver Objects to Trucking Beer”

The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual Corporate Equality Index, which assesses corporate America’s progress towards equal treatment of the LGBT community.

It’s a pretty great day to be gay and searching for career advice. Gawker has a list up right now on the top ten gay colleges, and the Human Rights Campaign is trying to help you figure out where to work when you’re done with law school.

This year, 97 Biglaw firms (out of 130 who responded to the survey) received a perfect score from the HRC. That’s up from last year and makes the legal field the best industry when it comes to LGBT issues. Banking was next and retail finished third.

Check here to see if your firm made the list.

Granted, you’d expect law firms — what with their expert understanding of “laws,” and such — to be leaders when it comes to gay and lesbian equality. But the legal field was able to achieve this distinction notwithstanding a somewhat controversial rating philosophy that may have prevented other firms from achieving perfect scores…

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From Flickr by Sonja Shield

“New York is a great city to live in if you can afford to get out of it,” wrote American author William Rossa Cole.

The same thing works the other way around too. The wealthier you are, access to the city becomes easier.

Manhattan (the city’s richest and whitest borough) is abundantly better connected to trains and buses than any of the other boroughs. In fact, when the Metropolitan Transit Association cut its buses and train lines, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens felt it the hardest.

That’s when this becomes a civil rights issue. Minorities and other low income groups, who overwhelmingly live in the outer boroughs, are far more affected by transit cuts and increasing highway spending than their largely white counterparts who live in wealthier neighborhoods.

Title III of the Civil Rights Act prohibits state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on grounds of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity, where as Title VI, prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funding. If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency can lose its federal funding.

While the cuts were not made to be discriminatory, in practice they violate both the above titles.

Bet you never thought infrastructure could be racist. Read more on Alt Transport


This one is going to get really weird, really quickly. See if you can spot the civil rights violation.

Issue 1: City council of Alexandria, Virginia, approves a permit for a new barbecue restaurant.
Issue 2: The restaurant will have an open-air, gas grille.

Did you see the potential violation? No? Well, you’re just not thinking like a lawyer — or, at the very least, you’re not thinking like an insane person. The Alexandria Gazette Packet reports:

Del Ray Attorney Ed Ablard is challenging the restaurant as a violation of his civil rights. Because the gas-fueled smoker will release particulate matter into the air, his suit charges, his civil rights will be violated.

Is a white man claiming that a barbecue joint is somehow racist towards white people? No, it’s way more crazy than that…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: White Man Claims BBQ Joint Violates His Civil Rights”

Who knew that zoning law and land use could be so controversial? A proposal to build a Muslim center and mosque just two blocks away from Ground Zero has become a huge issue here in New York — and, in fact, around the country.

Opponents of the project — originally known as Cordoba House, but now more commonly referred to as Park51, a 15-story tower that will contain a mosque, 500-seat auditorium, and swimming pool — had hoped to stop the project by winning landmark status for the building currently on the site. This morning, however, NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against granting protected status to 45-47 Park Place in lower Manhattan, which will be demolished to make way for the $100 million center.

Of course, this controversy is about so much more than granting landmark status to a random downtown building designed by an unknown architect….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Allahu Akbar! Mosque Near Ground Zero Clears a Final Hurdle”

While in journalism school, one of my “assignments” was to hang out at New York’s night court (open until 1 a.m. every night), observe the proceedings, and then write about them. It was less exciting than Judge Harry had led me to believe, but was an interesting night replete with drug addicts, prostitutes, and a cheap-date-loving couple who had stopped in to observe as free post-Chinatown-dinner entertainment.

It also introduced me to a 2006 New York law that requires felons to submit a genetic sample to the state DNA database. When informed of the law, one defendant arraigned on burglary charges resisted giving up his double helixes. “Are you willing to issue a court order to make me do it, sir?” he asked the judge.

“Is my saying it to you not enough?” the judge replied. The defendant said: “If you sign a court order, I’ll do it.” The judge asked for a piece of paper, and the defendant objected, “No, I want an official court order.”

The assistant district attorney then explained, in an annoyed tone, that any paper written and signed by the judge qualifies as a “court order.” The judge issued the order, but the man returned 15 minutes later, still refusing to give the DNA sample. The judge set bail and again reminded the dude that the DNA sample was required by law.

Many states have criminal genetic databases these days. As noted by the Genomics Law Report, the LAPD’s using theirs to catch the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer has resulted in a lot of media attention for these databases, despite the fact that they’ve been around for awhile. That’s because, according to GLR, “the case marks the first time in the United States that a DNA search technique known as familial searching has led to an arrest in a homicide case.” The LAPD nabbed the Grim Sleeper after DNA samples from the murders were found to be genetically similar to those of the Sleeper’s son, who had given up his DNA after a felony weapons charge. (Apparently, criminal genes run in that family.)

The attention being paid to the databases is not all positive, though. The ACLU, which has a problem with the way that California compiles its database, filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jerry Brown last year. It’s now before the Ninth Circuit. What’s the ACLU’s problem with California’s compiling genetic information for felons and suspected felons?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Brave New Genetic Database”

martin luther king.jpgToday we remember the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. Dr. King’s birthday was actually on January 15th, but the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. If you are at work, check in with us from time to time; we are around today (but will be posting less than usual). Feel free to complain in the comments about the evil law firm / partner / client that does not recognize this important holiday.

If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you use today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov. (A number of today’s service projects are aimed at helping the people of Haiti.)

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service [MLKDay.gov]

Human Rights Campaign HRC gay rights Above the Law blog.jpgLet’s give credit where credit is due. The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual Best Places to Work list. It shows that law firms are great when it comes to creating a non-discriminatory environment for gays and lesbians. The ABA Journal reports:

In 2006, the first year law firms were included in the Human Rights Campaign survey, 12 got a perfect rating of 100 percent [on the Corporate Equality Index]. This year an unprecedented 88 law firms got perfect ratings, “eclipsing every other industry represented on the index,” according to a press release. The group evaluated 127 law firms in all; 124 of them were among the nation’s largest 200 law firms.

Our industry deserves a large pat on the back. In a time of massive layoffs, it is great that law firms are still committed to equality when it comes to sexual orientation.

Check out the list of firms that are good for gays here (PDF).

Top Law Firms for Equality – 2010 [Human Rights Campaign]
Law Firms Outshine Other Companies in Ranking by Gay Rights Group [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Which Law Firms Are Down With the Gays?

martin luther king.jpgToday we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. (We are around, but will be posting less than usual.)

If you are at work, be proud. We’re pretty sure that equal opportunities to be productive cogs in the capitalist machine, regardless of race color or creed, were part of Dr. King’s dream.

If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you treat today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov or you can join the incoming president.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service [MLKDay.gov]

Human Rights Campaign HRC gay rights Above the Law blog.jpgThe Human Rights Campaign has some answers. HRC, which is the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, recently released its annual list of Best Places to Work. And law firms were prominently represented:

[T]he Human Rights Campaign Foundation released a report showing that numerous large U.S. law firms are providing important benefits and protections for their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) attorneys and staff. In this year’s report, which is part of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s broader Corporate Equality Index, 30 law firms earned the top rating of 100 percent. 80 law firms earned scores of 80 percent or above.

You can see the list of top firms by clicking here (PDF; scroll down to page 48). Alas, no 100 percent rating for Sullivan & Cromwell, of Charney v. S&C fame — despite their generous gifts of Kiehl’s products at LGBT job fairs.

But our friends at Nixon Peabody earned a perfect score. Will they commission a theme song to celebrate? Like “Everyone Loves Gay People at Nixon Peabody”?

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post, we linked to (and reprinted info from) this page on the HRC website. But an HRC rep has informed us that the page hasn’t been updated from last year, and still reflects scores from the 2007 report.

HRC Corporate Equality Index — 2008 [Human Rights Campaign (PDF)]

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