Verdict Still Out on Social Impact of Pao Gender Discrimination Case

On Friday, March 27, the jury in the Ellen Pao gender discrimination case returned a verdict for the defendant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, finding Pao was not fired in retaliation for her reporting of work-place sexual harassment. The verdict came after a month-long trial in which Pao shed light on sexual harassment in Silicon Valley venture capital firms, including double standards in how aggressive women are allowed to be and how they are promoted. While the verdict found for the defendant Kleiner Perkins on every count, many are still hopeful that the case will act as a catalyst for a larger discussion about gender in the work place and will lead to broader reforms in the future.


FCC Investigates Prison Phone System for High Costs and Higher Profits

After years of complaints from prison-rights groups and families of incarcerated individuals, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating claims concerning the high price of phone calls from prison. Phone companies pay millions in concession fees to secure exclusive contracts with prisons, and then drive up charges for in-prison phone calls as high as $1.22 per minute, while typical commercial rates are about 4 cents a minute. In addition, the companies charge fees for processing inmates’ phone bills, depositing money into an inmate’s phone account, and even just maintaining or closing an account. Such high costs make it difficult for inmates to speak to their families, while generating large profits for the phone companies in the process. The FCC is expected to rule this year on whether to ban concession fees and to put a cap on the amount phone companies are allowed to charge for prison calls.


Indiana Religious Freedom Law Grants Freedom to Discriminate?

On Thursday, March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Act is the broadest and “most dangerous” of the 20 “religious freedom” laws passed by states prohibiting the government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion.” While Gov. Pence stands by the law, claiming that the media’s portrayal of the bill as a basis for discrimination against the LGBTQ community is a “gross mischaracterization” of the law, he is also working to support legislation that will further “clarify the intent of the law.” However, Democrats in Indiana’s legislature have argued that there is only one way to fix the law: repeal it. In the meantime, businesses such as Angie’s List, which was set to expand into Indiana and create over 1,000 new jobs, have halted operations as a result of the new law.


Corinthian 100 Demand Debt Cancellation

On Tuesday, April 1, former students of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. who declared a “debt strike” earlier this year are scheduled to meet with officials from the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The group, which began as the “Corinthian 15” but has since expanded to become the “Corinthian 100,” are demanding that the Education Department cancel the debt of more than 400 former students. The students allege that Corinthian’s chain of for-profit colleges lured students in by promising false job placement and graduation rates. The Education Department helped bail out Corinthian last year after lawsuits by numerous state and federal authorities, and now the students are demanding that the department forgive the debt they incurred for “worthless” degrees.


Investigation Reveals Dangerous Living Conditions in NYC’s Homeless Shelters

A yearlong New York City Department of Investigation report released this month reveals that the city’s Department of Homeless Services’ shelters expose residents to serious health and safety violations. New York state law requires that the city provide shelter to anyone who requests it. Currently, nearly 60,000 people reside in the city’s shelter system, the highest number since the Great Depression. The report, which analyzed 25 city-run shelters, revealed that DHS is paying private landlords and nonprofits as much as three times the market rate for the substandard housing they provide. The DOI commissioner urged the city to take immediate steps to ensure the health and safety of the families living in the shelter system.