Tag Archives: people

Former Hobby Lobby Employee Claims She Was Fired for Having a Kid

Former Hobby Lobby Employee Claims She Was Fired for Having a Kid

By Mary Emily O’Hara

July 30, 2014 | 2:00 pm

“When the Hobby Lobby store in Flowood, Mississippi, hired Felicia Allen in August 2010, she was excited about joining the company. But, within a short span of months, she suddenly found herself out of a job.

“When I first got hired I was feeling very sick, which I thought was because I have migraines,” Allen told VICE News. “I went to the doctor’s office and found out I was pregnant.”

Allen said she asked the store manager if the pregnancy would affect her job and was told that she would simply have to take medical leave. Yet when that time came the following January, the store manager informed Allen that her employment would have to be terminated.

Allen was shocked. She said that her fellow employees and friends outside the company told her about anti-discrimination laws against firing a woman for being pregnant. But the manager told her that she could reapply and get her job back soon after giving birth.

“I tried to come back to work two weeks after I had my child,” said Allen. “I got documentation showing that my doctor said I could go back to work. Who goes back to work that fast? I wanted to keep my job.”

When Allen reapplied, the manager snubbed her. With a newborn and two other children, Allen couldn’t afford to be out of a job. She consulted a lawyer and sued the company in early 2012 for violating federal discrimination law.

‘You caused me to lose my job because I had a child, and then you go and say you prefer that someone have a child.’

Allen’s lawsuit was thrown out, however. Nick Norris, one of her lawyers, told VICE News that Hobby Lobby makes its employees sign a binding arbitration agreement upon hire. Allen’s signature on this dense arbitration document took away her right to sue for just about anything.

Louis Watson, Norris’s partner, told VICE News that he didn’t know Allen had signed an arbitration agreement until it emerged in discovery after she had filed the suit. When the case was dismissed, he and Norris told Allen that they didn’t recommend bothering with arbitration.

“I’m in my tenth year of practice right now, and we just don’t pursue arbitration anymore,” Norris said. According to Norris, arbitration is designed to almost always work in favor of the company. He said that arbitrators are typically corporate defense lawyers who want to keep their clients happy. Those who rule in favor of employees are essentially blacklisted.

Allen told VICE News that she never realized arbitration was an option; she absorbed only that the suit was dismissed.

The Arbitration Fairness Act, introduced in the Senate last year, would end the forfeiture of a person’s right to sue. The bill asserts that the original 1925 Federal Arbitration Act was intended to settle disputes between two companies of similar size and power, and was never intended to apply to employment disputes or “supersede all other federal laws protecting consumers, workers, and small businesses.”

Under the proposed act, a company couldn’t pressure a worker to sign away their right to sue the day they are hired. It wouldn’t ban arbitration between companies and employees, but would give the employee the choice to agree to arbitration rather than be forced to commit to it because they want a job.

A January New York Times article detailed how unfair arbitration clauses were a key reason it took so long for American Apparel founder Dov Charney to be ousted from the company. Despite allegations of sexual harassment dating back at least ten years, heavily restrictive clauses prevented employees from being able to sue, talk to the media, or say anything negative about the company or the founder. American Apparel even made its models agree to arbitration, which is almost unheard of.

Hobby Lobby, a nationwide craft store chain with more than 5,000 employees, is best known for its recent Supreme Court victory. After a long battle, the court ruled in June that Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” corporations can cite religious beliefs that would exempt them from having to cover certain birth control drugs, like Plan B, through employee insurance plans.

But according to Allen’s story, which broke in an RH Reality Check investigative report on Tuesday, the company famous for its devotion to pro-life family values doesn’t seem to care much about pregnant employees. Allen said that when she tried to sue, the corporate office stepped in and lied, telling lawyers that she had refused maternity leave and wasn’t fired at all.

“I felt like she wanted to get rid of me,” Allen said of the Flowood manager. In November, Allen’s doctor advised that she take a week off during the busiest season of the year because the stress of work was causing her blood pressure to spike. Despite her impending birth, she said, the Hobby Lobby manager resented this. When she eventually filed for medical leave, she was informed that she was ineligible and lost her job.

Hobby Lobby’s lawyers and public relations firm did not respond to requests for comment.

The irony of Allen’s story is that throughout its highly publicized Supreme Court case, Hobby Lobby portrayed itself as an unusually friendly employer. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court case, “the Greens seek to honor God by ‘operating their company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.’ ”

“The Greens strive to apply the Christian teachings on respect and fairness to their employees, increasing the pay of Hobby Lobby’s full- and part-time hourly workers for four years in a row,” reads the Becket Fund description online. “Full-time hourly workers now start at 90 percent above the federal minimum wage.”

Allen works at Xerox now, but said that when Hobby Lobby was all over the news this spring she was surprised at the way the company was repeatedly described as having “Christian values.”

“I don’t think it’s a good company to work for — from the experience I had in Jackson, anyway,” Allen said.

“I think they’re contradicting themselves and being hypocritical. You caused me to lose my job because I had a child, and then you go and say you prefer that someone have a child,” she added. “It was totally opposite when it came to me.”

Follow Mary Emily O’Hara on Twitter: @MaryEmilyOHara


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If you look at …

If you look at the world and say “Yes, there are enough homes for people, yes, there is enough food for people, but if we give it away for free they won’t have earned it and the economy will collapse.” Then you have chosen money (a constructed medium of exchange) over living beings who only want to continue living in peace and safety.

And I have no qualms telling you, that is the wrong choice, and you have been brainwashed by this destructive, exploitative system.

– Markus Bones

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June 11, 2014 · 1:15 am

Facebook Likes Predict Sexual Orientation, Religion, & More

Facebook Likes Predict Sexual Orientation, Religion, & More

Today at 11:44 am by Sarah Downey

“A new study takes the saying “what you like says a lot about you” to a whole new level. Researchers from Cambridge University analyzed 58,000 Facebook profiles and found that a person’s Facebook Likes, which are public by default, are highly accurate in predicting personal, sometimes sensitive details about him or her.

Simply analyzing a person’s Facebook Likes was 88% accurate in predicting whether a man is gay or straight, 95% accurate in predicting whether a person is Caucasian or African American, and 85% accurate in determining whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican.

The researchers concluded that Facebook Likes, these “relatively basic digital records of human behavior,” “can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private.”

Most Likes that serve as predictors of other attributes, including whether a person is in a relationship or a substance abuser, aren’t obvious–it’s not as if single people Like pages called “I like being single” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Instead, Likes that have seemingly no connection to certain personality traits are surprisingly linked. The researchers gave a few good examples:

The best predictors of high intelligence include “Thunderstorms,” “The Colbert Report,” “Science,” and “Curly Fries,” whereas low intelligence was indicated by “Sephora,” “I Love Being A Mom,” “Harley Davidson,” and “Lady Antebellum.” Good predictors of male homosexuality included “No H8 Campaign,” “Mac Cosmetics,” and “Wicked The Musical,” whereas strong predictors of male heterosexuality included “Wu-Tang Clan,” “Shaq,” and “Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps.”

7.4 million websites have Facebook Like buttons on them (not to mention the buttons all over Facebook itself), and that number is growing. Users can Like almost anything: photos, comments, musicians, brands, celebrities, and pages. As we’ve written about extensively, social buttons like Facebook’s Like button aren’t just for sharing: they’re trackers. Unless you’re using a tool like DoNotTrackMe to block them, they know which sites you visit and what you do on a website, even if you never click them. The mere fact that they’re present on a page means they’re tracking you.

This study illustrates how the little things you do online add up to create a highly detailed picture of who you are. You may not think that a Like here and there says anything about you, but they all add up–especially with Facebook’s new Graph Search that displays all your Likes with a single search…and those searches can be incriminating, embarrassing, or even dangerous (“Men in Iran who are interested in other men,” for example). Plus the long list of people with whom Facebook shares data includes advertisers, app developers, law enforcement, and other companies.

Even if you’re trying to be discreet by leaving personal information out of your profile, others can figure it out through your public Likes. If researchers with a limited budget can learn this much about a person through their Facebook Likes, imagine how big companies, advertisers, or governments could use–or misuse–that data. Are you the type of person who takes risks? Maybe an insurance company will hike up your rates. Are you politically conservative? Maybe a potential employer will pass on hiring you because of it. Are you someone who loves coffee? Maybe online retailers will charge you more for it than someone else (Google filed a patent for price discrimination based on online social data).

Your past Facebook Likes are listed chronologically in your Activity Log.

The only solution Facebook offers is using your Facebook Activity Log to un-like things one by one, but for many users with hundreds or thousands of Likes, this process will take hours. Be wary of third-party apps that say they’ll let you delete all your Likes at once; search for reviews to learn more about whether they’re legitimate. We advise you to rethink every Like you click, knowing that all of them can come back to bite you.”

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March 12, 2013 · 6:42 pm

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered…”

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February 18, 2013 · 2:51 pm

Social Science Palooza II


Published: March 17, 2011

“The nice thing about being human is that you never need to feel lonely. Human beings are engaged every second in all sorts of silent conversations — with the living and the dead, the near and the far.

Researchers have been looking into these subtle paraconversations, and in this column I’m going to pile up a sampling of their recent findings. For example, Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim wrote a fantastic book excerpt in Sports Illustrated explaining home-field advantage. Home teams win more than visiting teams in just about every sport, and the advantage is astoundingly stable over time. So what explains the phenomenon?

It’s not because players perform better when their own fans are cheering them on. In basketball, free-throw percentages are the same home and away. In baseball, a pitcher’s strike-to-ball ratio is the same home and away.

Neither is it the rigors of travel disadvantaging the away team. Teams from the same metro area lose at the same rate as teams from across the country when playing in their rival’s stadium.

No, the real difference is the officiating. The refs and umpires don’t like to get booed. So even if they are not aware of it, they call fewer fouls on home teams in crucial situations. They call more strikes on away batters in tight games in the late innings.

Moskowitz and Wertheim show that the larger, louder and closer a crowd is, the more the refs favor the home team. It’s not a conscious decision. They just naturally conform a bit to the emotional vibes radiating from those around them.

They say you only hurt the one you love. That may not be strictly true, but in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Johanna Peetz and Lara Kammrath find that people are more likely to break promises made to people they love. That’s because they are driven by affection to make lavish promises in the first place. They really mean it at the time, but lavish promises are the least likely to be kept.

If you want a person to work harder, you should offer to pay on the basis of individual performance, right? Not usually. A large body of research suggests it’s best to motivate groups, not individuals. Organize your people into a group; reward everybody when the group achieves its goals. Susan Helper, Morris Kleiner and Yingchun Wang confirm this insight in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research. They compared compensation schemes in different manufacturing settings and found that group incentive pay and hourly pay motivate workers more effectively than individual incentive pay.

Joachim Huffmeier and Guido Hertel tried to figure out why groups magnify individual performance for a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They studied relay swim teams in the 2008 Summer Olympics. They found that swimmers on the first legs of a relay did about as well as they did when swimming in individual events. Swimmers on the later legs outperformed their individual event times. In the heat of a competition, it seems, later swimmers feel indispensible to their team’s success and are more motivated than when swimming just for themselves.

Not all groups perform equally well, of course. Researchers led by Thomas W. Malone at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management have found they can measure a group’s I.Q. This group I.Q. is not well predicted by the median I.Q. of the group members. Measures of motivation didn’t predict group performance all that well either.

Instead, the groups that did well had members that were good at reading each other’s emotions. They took turns when speaking. Participation in conversation was widely distributed. There was no overbearing leader dominating everything.

This leads to the question: What sorts of people are good at reading emotion? Age may play some role here. Jamin Halberstadt has a paper coming out in the journal Psychology and Aging that suggests that the young may on average read emotional cues more sensitively than the old. Halberstadt showed various people videos of someone committing a faux pas. Younger viewers were able to better discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Older subjects also performed worse on emotion recognition tests.

Taste may play a role, too. For the journal Psychological Science, Kendall Eskine, Natalie Kacinik and Jesse Prinz gave people sweet-tasting, bitter-tasting and neutral-tasting drinks and then asked them to rate a variety of moral transgressions. As expected, people who had tasted the bitter drink were more likely to register moral disgust, suggesting that having Cherry Coke in the jury room may be a smart move for good defense lawyers.

It’s important to remember that one study is never dispositive. But if this stuff interests you, I have a newish blog — brooks.blogs.nytimes.com — in the Opinion section of The Times online celebrating odd and brilliant studies from researchers around the world.”

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January 19, 2013 · 11:18 pm

Social Science Palooza III


Published: December 10, 2012

“Elections come and go, but social science marches on. Here are some recent research findings that struck my fancy

Organic foods may make you less generous. In a study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, Kendall J. Eskine had people look at organic foods, comfort foods or a group of control foods. Those who viewed organic foods subsequently volunteered less time to help a needy stranger and they judged moral transgressions more harshly.

Men are dumber around women. Thijs Verwijmeren, Vera Rommeswinkel and Johan C. Karremans gave men cognitive tests after they had interacted with a woman via computer. In the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the male cognitive performance declined after the interaction, or even after the men merely anticipated an interaction with a woman.

Women inhibit their own performance. In a study published in Self and Identity, Shen Zhang, Toni Schmader and William M. Hall gave women a series of math tests. On some tests they signed their real name, on others they signed a fictitious name. The women scored better on the fictitious name tests, when their own reputation was not at risk.

High unemployment rates may not hurt Democratic incumbents as much. In the American Political Science Review, John R. Wright looked at 175 midterm gubernatorial elections and four presidential elections between 1994 and 2010. Other things being equal, high unemployment rates benefit the Democratic Party. The effect is highest when Republicans are the incumbents, but even when the incumbent is a Democrat, high unemployment rates still benefit Democratic candidates.

People filter language through their fingers. In a study published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto asked people to rate real words, fictitious words and neologisms. Words composed of letters on the right side of the QWERTY keyboard were viewed more positively than words composed of letters from the left side.

We communicate, process and feel emotions by mimicking the facial expressions of the people around us. For a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Paula M. Niedenthal, Maria Augustinova and others studied young adults who had used pacifiers as babies, and who thus could not mimic as easily. They found that pacifier use correlated with less emotional intelligence in males, though it did not predict emotional processing skills in girls.

Judges are toughest around election time. Judges in Washington State are elected and re-elected into office. In a study for The Review of Economic Statistics, Carlos Berdejó and Noam Yuchtman found that these judges issue sentences that are 10 percent longer at their end of the political cycle than at the beginning.

New fathers pay less. In a study for the Administrative Science Quarterly, Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross studied male Danish C.E.O.’s before and after their wives gave birth to children. They found that male C.E.O.’s generally pay their employees less generously after fathering a child. The effect is stronger after a son is born. Female employees are less affected than male employees. C.E.O.’s also tend to pay themselves more after the birth of a child.

Affluent neighborhoods challenge mental equilibrium. In a study for the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Terese J. Lund and Eric Dearing found that boys reported higher levels of delinquency and girls reported higher levels of anxiety and depression when they lived in affluent neighborhoods compared with middle-class neighborhoods. Boys’ delinquency and girls’ anxiety-depression levels were lowest when they were from affluent families living in middle-class neighborhoods.

Premarital doubts are significant. In a study in the Journal of Family Psychology, Justin Lavner, Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury found that women who had cold feet before marriage had significantly higher divorce rates four years later. Male premarital doubts did not correlate with more divorce.

Women use red to impress men. In a study for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Andrew Elliot, Tobias Greitemeyer and Adam Pazda found that women expecting to converse with an attractive man were more likely to select a red versus green shirt than women expecting to converse with an unattractive man or another woman.

Birth date affects corporate success. In a study for Economics Letters, Qianqian Du, Huasheng Gao and Maurice Levi found that C.E.O.’s are disproportionately less likely to be born in June and July.

It’s always worth emphasizing that no one study is dispositive. Many, many studies do not replicate. Still, these sorts of studies do remind us that we are influenced by a thousand breezes permeating the unconscious layers of our minds. They remind us of the power of social context. They’re also nice conversation starters. If you find this sort of thing interesting, you really should check out Kevin Lewis’s blog at National Affairs. He provides links to hundreds of academic studies a year, from which these selections have been drawn.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 15, 2012


An earlier version of this column misstated the findings of a study in the journal Economics Letters about corporate success. It found that C.E.O.’s were disproportionately less likely — not disproportionately likely — to have been born in June and July.”

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January 19, 2013 · 11:11 pm

“Strong people don’t put others down…”

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December 20, 2012 · 5:02 pm