Could an increase in lawsuits end sexism in tech? Anita Hill thinks so (TWTR, MSFT)

Anita Hill

*Famed lawyer Anita Hill thinks women who face gender discrimination in tech should consider filing class-action lawsuits.

*Twitter and Microsoft both face on-going gender discrimination lawsuits, stemming from 2015.

*Both lawsuits have faced unusual delays. 

Want to end gender discrimination in tech? File a class-action lawsuit. 

That’s the advice given by Anita Hill, the attorney and professor who garnered national attention in 1991 when she accused Clarence Thomas, then a nominee to the US Supreme Court, of sexual harassment.

On Tuesday, in an opinion piece in the The New York Times inspired by the ongoing controversy over a memo opposing corporate diversity efforts that was written by a Google software engineer, Hill wrote that women in tech “can’t afford to wait for the tech industry to police itself — and there are few indications that it will ever do so.”

In a conversation with Business Insider on Thursday, Hill said that while class-actions can be difficult, they are the most efficient way of addressing systemic issues, such as biased hiring and discriminatory promotion processes. When a woman pursues a lawsuit on an individual basis, it’s easier to dismiss her claims. 

“The problem isn’t one individual. It wasn’t just Ellen Pao,” Hill said, referring to the lawsuit filed in 2012 against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers by one of its female partners in which she claimed to have been the victim of gender discrimination; Pao lost her suit. “The problem seems to be an attitude toward women. What I’m proposing is an option that looks at bigger systems and problems that are common throughout the system.”

Twitter and Microsoft 

The recent history of litigation against tech companies is not a story of progress, but delay. 

There are at least two ongoing gender discrimination class-action lawsuits in the tech industry — one against Twitter, and one against Microsoft. Both suits were filed in 2015, but have been drawn out due to disputes over which documents the defendants have to hand over to the plaintiffs. 

The case against Microsoft was brought against the company in 2015 by a former technician, Katherine Moussouris, who alleged that performance reviews and a peer-ranking procedure led to discrimination against women.

“Female technical employees were systematically undervalued compared to their male peers because as a group they received, on average, lower rankings despite equal or better performance,” she charged in the suit.

GettyImages 697905324Microsoft has refuted the claims.

“We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed. The plaintiffs’ allegations are unsubstantiated and we are defending the case in court,” a representative said in a statement. 

The case against Twitter is similar. Tina Huang, a former engineer at the company, alleged that Twitter failed to promote women who were equally or better qualified than their male peers to leadership positions in engineering.

The “company’s promotion system creates a glass ceiling for women that cannot be explained or justified by any reasonable business purpose, because Twitter has no meaningful promotion process for these jobs,” she alleged in the case.

Twitter declined to comment. 

Class-action lawsuits take time, and it’s not uncommon for defendants to resist handing over documents requested by the plaintiffs. However, Jason Lohr, who represents the women suing Twitter, said the two-year time frame is out of the ordinary. 

“Twitter has been fighting tooth and nail to give us anything,” said Lohr, an attorney at Lohr Ripamonti & Segarich.

“Our case is based upon disparate impact, meaning that we claim that the promotion process unfairly favors men over women,” he said. “To support this, we need granular access to Twitter’s employment and promotion statistics. Twitter resisted our efforts to get this information for well over a year.” 

Other barriers

While Hill sees class-action lawsuits as the best way to resolve systemic discrimination, she understands why some women don’t pursue them.

“There still are difficulties. This is not a finger wagging, ‘let’s go blindly into lawsuits, and everything will be alright,'” Hill said. “I want to provide options.” 

Women contemplating such suits face numerous barriers. Many tech employees have clauses in their employment contracts that discourage legal action. Others fear that filing a suit will make it harder for them to find a job in the future, said Anne Shaver, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, which is leading the suit against Microsoft.

ellen paoAnd then there are the cultural barriers. The industry encourages employees to internalize their successes and failures, rather than blaming others for them. That attitude can be the most difficult hurdle to overcome, Shaver said.

“Tech is a sector where women have been extremely reluctant because it’s such a culture of individual merit,” Shaver said. “The value of the class action is that it gives you access to the data of what’s happened across an entire company, and you are able to see those patterns for what’s happening to women compared to men.”

Ironically, Hill said, the tech industry also claims to have a culture of progress. 

When it comes down to all of those things, you have to do a lot of deep thinking about how to change — how to be truly disruptive,” Hill said. “It is, I find, very interesting that we’re talking about a sector that prides itself on disruption, and they haven’t done the deep work to disrupt the traditions that are holding the sector back.” 

SEE ALSO: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg helps bring extended bereavement leave to her late husband’s company

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'Criminal Minds' Season 13 Spoilers: Squad to Use Reid as Bait to Catch Scratch? – Christian Post

Facebook/CriminalMindsScratch is going down in the next season of “Criminal Minds.”

Mr. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman) may finally be put in jail in the upcoming season of “Criminal Minds.”

Adam Rodriguez, who plays Luke Alvez in the CBS series, hinted to TV Guide that the time has come for the Behavioral Analysis Unit to capture the serial killer. In season 11, Scratch managed to escape from prison and has been targeting the BAU members and their families ever since. In the previous installment, he went after Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and his mother, Diana (Jane Lynch). Due to the criminal’s brilliant scheme, he sent Reid to prison and tormented him by abducting his sick mom. Rodriguez said there is a possibility that Scratch could fall for the BAU’s trap this time around.

To capture Scratch, the BAU needs to find a good strategy that will not alert the criminal of their move. Since Reid was his last target, it is probable that the team will use him as bait to lure the serial killer out of his lair. Scratch will not be able to resist Reid. He enjoyed playing with him in season 12. The only question is if Reid will allow himself to be used to take down one of his biggest nightmares. It has been teased that the FBI agent is far from being well. He needs therapy after everything he went through in the hands of the enemy.

Meanwhile, spoilers indicate that the new installment will be the hardest for Chief Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster). It has been revealed that a member or two of the BAU could die from the terrible accident that happened in the last finale. The members had no time to escape the speeding truck. Prentiss’ leadership will be tested as she is expected to encourage her team to continue with life after losing someone dear.

Brewster also previously spoke about how they handle things when co-stars exit the show.

“It’s always hard when someone is gone, whether by choice or not by their choice… but you roll with it. … You can’t not miss the people who are gone,” Brewster said during the San Diego Comic-Con.

When she delved deeper into the subject, Brewster mentioned an earlier moment where she had replaced Thomas Gibson on the show. She added: “The con was the situation in which it happened, which was Thomas Gibson no longer being with the show. That was unfortunate.”

“Criminal Minds” season 13 will premiere on Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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Assumption district attorney to lead state association – Houma Courier

For Ricky Babin, the most rewarding part of being a district attorney is helping crime victims.

“They’re scared. They’re not used to the system,” he said. “You’re the person they depend on, and the stakes are high. You’re not just litigating over money or property.”

Babin represents the 23rd Judicial District, which covers Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes. He was recently elected president of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and will begin his term Tuesday.

Having belonged to the association for more than 20 years and served on the board for about eight, Babin said he’s humbled to have been named president.

“They’ve got a lot of fine district attorneys across the state,” he said. “It’s a lot of responsibility. I’m looking forward to the challenge and doing the best I can.”

Babin earned his law degree in 1992 from LSU, where he was a member of the Louisiana Law Review and the Order of the Coif. He has practiced both civil and criminal law and worked as a defense attorney and prosecutor.

He joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1995, handling drug and sex offenses as well as civil litigation, and was appointed first assistant district attorney in 2002.

Babin was elected district attorney in 2008 and reelected in 2014 without opposition.

He said one of his proudest achievements has been working with the state on recent criminal justice reform packages. Although he understands concerns about the cost of mass incarceration, he said factors such as public safety must be considered.

“We have to decide between the bad guys and people who made a mistake,” he said. “You can’t just open the gates. It’s a thoughtful process. Some people need to be there. We spoke up for the victims and worked out a compromise that had those victims in mind.”

Babin said with his new role, he hopes to establish some consistency with the way cases are handled throughout the state. He also wants to educate the public on the process of prosecuting a case and rehabilitation options offered for some offenders.

Pete Adams, executive director of the District Attorneys Association, said Babin brings experience and perspective to the organization.

“He’s an excellent trial lawyer,” Adams said. “He’s been in the courtroom a lot. He’s a well-rounded DA. Ricky’s very passionate about the institution of prosecution. I think he wants to raise the bar and help us get better at what we do.”

— Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or bridget.mire@dailycomet.com. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.

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