Sunday, February 28, 2010

Word Origin: "Salary" - Naked Economics III

This is the third in a series of posts on Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan.
"The word 'salary' comes from the wages paid to Roman soldiers, who were paid in sacks of sal-salt." P. 177.
I thought this was an interesting tidbit so I researched it a little more and per the Wikipedia entry on salary, it comes from the Roman word salarium. There is apparently some dispute over the exact meaning of salarium. The soldiers (interesting sidenote, some people believe the word "soldier" derives from the Latin sal dare meaning "to give salt") were apparently paid in salt at one point. The actual term salarium may have been a reference to these salt payments, or alternatively, the allowance given to soldiers to pay for salt or "the price of having soldiers conquer salt supplies and guard the Salt Roads."

Aside from these minor quibbles, the inescapable truth is that our modern day "salary" derives from soldiers and salt. Fortunately, we don't have to drag home sacks of salt every other Friday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Prima Facie ADEA Case in RIF Post-Gross

If you don't follow the law, particularly employment law, that title probably makes no sense whatsoever. In easier to understand language (too long for a blog post title): What must a plaintiff establish to survive summary judgment in an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) disparate treatment claim for termination resulting from a Reduction in Force (RIF) following the Supreme Court's decision in Gross v. FBL (.pdf)?

This is an unresolved issue in the law and hence perfect for a moot court competition. And, in fact, it is an issue in the Robert F. Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition. Forty-six teams of law school students (I would guess mostly 3Ls) have submitted twenty-three briefs for each side (employer and employee). There's a second issue regarding immigration status and remedies following the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB.

Back to the Gross issue, the Sixth Circuit just issued an opinion in an ADEA case earlier this month stating:
"Thus, when a termination arises as part of a work force reduction, the fourth element of the McDonell Douglas test is modified to require the plaintiff to provide 'additional direct, circumstantial, or statistical evidence tending to indicate that the employer singled out the plaintiff for discharge for impermissible reasons.'"
Schoonmaker v. Spartan Graphics Leasing LLC, No. 09-1732 (6th Cir. Feb. 3, 2010)(citing Barnes v. GenCorp Inc., 896 F.2d 1457 (6th Cir.1990)). I think that framework remains viable following Gross, and it's now confirmed to be the framework in the Sixth Circuit.

There are plenty of arguments and counterarguments to go around though (just read through some of the briefs from the Wagner competition!).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

McDonald's Receipts Address Agency Problem

In a previous post, I recounted some of the basics of the principal-agent problem. Today, I encountered a novel method of alleviating the problem in an unexpected place: my McDonald's receipt. To recap the problem in the most general terms: When a principal (or owner) employs an agent, the agent's incentives will not always align with the principal's. Employers use numerous methods to alleviate this problem, ranging from performance bonuses to employee monitoring and discipline.

Well, McDonald's has an owner, Ronald McDonald. Just kidding, it's publicly traded (MCD) which just means it has lots of owners. Without going into the ugly details of corporate governance, McDonald's has a whole hierarchy of management most of whom will never set foot in any one given McDonald's restaurant. So how do they monitor the performance of the individual stores? Well, lots of ways I'm sure (most notably through dollars). But they also employ their own customers to monitor actual employees.

So what was on the McDonald's receipt? Well, the usual McNuggets, dollar totals, time, address, etc. But there was also the name of the Restaurant Manager along with the email address of his supervisor. This isn't terribly different from the old standard: comment cards. And businesses have long used "hotlines" to take phone calls. I thought it was a novel approach to the old ways of soliciting customer feedback that recognizes more modern (and convenient) methods of communication though.

This way, management can keep apprised of problems just by checking their email (again, it's one tool of many). Not only will they be able to react to problems, but it serves a proactive purpose as well. Employees will know that customers can easily fire an email up the command chain and will hopefully adjust their behavior accordingly.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

LinkedIn Lawyer Profiles and the Rules of Professional Conduct

LinkedIn is a great social media tool to network in a generally professional environment. There's a possible ethics trap, however, for attorneys on the site. Profiles contain a "Summary" section followed by a "Specialties" section.

How's that a problem? Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 7.4 provides that:
"Rule 7.4 Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization
.... A lawyer shall not state that the lawyer is a specialist except as follows...."
What follows is a list of exceptions for patent and admiralty practice, and certifications approved or granted by the Supreme Court. Many states have a similar provision.

I am by no means the first person to pick up on this. One blogger called it a "Time bomb in your LinkedIn profile." Another attorney countered that she's:
"not inclined to muck up a simple profile with a bunch of legal-ese on because someone up at the bar stretches the meaning of 'specialties' beyond any reasonable interpretation."
Beyond any reasonable interpretation? Is it unreasonable to extend a prohibition referring specifically to "specialization" and "specialist" to include "specialties?" I don't think so. I don't want to go all Dr. Seuss on you, but a gardener gardens in the garden... and a specialization is the specialty in which a specialist specializes, right?

What do I do on my profile? Well, for now I'm going with this:

Maybe it is unnecessary. People can still see my areas of practice though. Worst case scenario: People who view my profile will see that I am aware of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and I take them (what some may consider too) seriously. What's wrong with that?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

EEOC Publishes "Reasonable Factors Other than Age" NPRM

Today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM, no I don't know why they throw 'M' on the end given that "Rulemaking" is one word) addressing the meaning of "Reasonable Factors Other than Age" (RFOA) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). OK, I think I'm done with acronyms for the time being.

The EEOC explained part of the need for the new rule:
"In Smith v. City of Jackson, the United States Supreme Court held that the ADEA authorizes recovery for disparate impact claims of discrimination and that the 'reasonable factors other than age' test, rather than the business-necessity test, is the appropriate standard for determining the lawfulness of a practice that disproportionately affects older individuals."
(hyperlink added). The Supreme Court, in Meacham v. Knoll Atomic Power Laboratory, subsequently held that the employer bears the burdens of proof and production on the RFOA defense. As the EEOC describes this standard:
"This standard is lower than Title VII's business-necessity test but higher than the Equal Pay Act's 'any other factor' test. It represents a balanced approach that preserves an employer's right to make reasonable business decisions while protecting older workers from facially neutral employment criteria that arbitrarily limit their employment opportunities."
So, what's reasonable?
"[A] reasonable factor is one that is objectively reasonable when viewed from the position of a reasonable employer under like circumstances."
Sounds, ummm, "reasonable" (sorry, couldn't resist!). What kind of evidence does an employer need?
"[T]he RFOA defense requires evidence that the challenged practice was reasonably designed to further or achieve a legitimate business purpose and was reasonably administered to achieve that purpose."
What are some relevant factors to consider in determining whether an employment practice is based on an RFOA?
"Factors relevant to determining whether an employment practice is reasonable include but are not limited to, the following:

(i) Whether the employment practice and the manner of its implementation are common business practices;

(ii) The extent to which the factor is related to the employer's stated business goal;

(iii) The extent to which the employer took steps to define the factor accurately and to apply the factor fairly and accurately (e.g., training, guidance, instruction of managers);

(iv) The extent to which the employer took steps to assess the adverse impact of its employment practice on older workers;

(v) The severity of the harm to individuals within the protected age group, in terms of both the degree of injury and the numbers of persons adversely affected, and the extent to which the employer took preventive or corrective steps to minimize the severity of the harm, in light of the burden of undertaking such steps; and

(vi) Whether other options were available and the reasons the employer selected the option it did."
The proposed rule does more than just address reasonableness (the R), it also addresses whether a factor is "other than age" (the OTA). This portion pointedly targets supervisor subjectivity in identifying the "Factors relevant to determining whether a factor is 'other than age'." The non-exhaustive list:
"(i) The extent to which the employer gave supervisors unchecked discretion to assess employees subjectively;

(ii) The extent to which supervisors were asked to evaluate
employees based on factors known to be subject to age-based
stereotypes; and

(iii) The extent to which supervisors were given guidance or
training about how to apply the factors and avoid discrimination."
The NPRM is a lengthy document and the EEOC obviously took a lot of care in drafting it. So give it a read, and if you are so inclined, get your comments in by April 19, 2010.

Image from Wikimedia Commons under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 
Author: AgnosticPreachersKid (own work).
Date: September 11, 2008
Description: "The old Woodward & Lothrop Service Warehouse located at 131 M Street, NE in the NoMa neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Designed by Abbott, Merkt & Co. in 1937, the building is an example of Streamline Moderne architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the local department store company Woodward & Lothrop (known locally as Woodies) foundered in the 1990s, the warehouse sat vacant for several years. Re-development of the NoMa neighborhood has resulted in the warehouse becoming the new U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Headquarters and Washington Field Office (WFO)."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"An Arrogant American Will Not Work Well In This Role"

In a rare front page employment law story, is running an exclusive story on a job posting from an Illinois staffing firm. The posting is for a technical writer and it contained some interesting, and possibly discriminatory, job requirements:
"Exelon is looking to provide these proposals to Chinese businesses, so someone who is respectful and understands Chinese culture is preferred. An arrogant American will not work well in this role."
Specifying a nationality that will "not work well" is probably a bad idea given that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on national origin. Would you want to explain to a judge or jury that an American didn't get this job for nondiscriminatory reasons?

I was just happy to see employment law on the main page and figured I'd pass it on. The article also features some quotes from an EEOC attorney and another employment lawyer. The employment lawyer, in typical lawyer fashion, offers, "Maybe they need a lawyer. There's plenty of good defense attorneys in Chicago." Always sound legal advice: go speak to an attorney.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dunkin' Donuts Sued by Alleged Drunkin' Ex-Exec

Dunkin Donuts Original Blend Medium Roast Ground Coffee 40oz. Bag (2.5 Pounds)Alternatively: Time to Make the Lawsuits

In the interest of full disclosure, I go to Dunkin' Donuts almost every Sunday morning. Aside from my current boycott of the East-end shop (due to their disregard of my love of maple frosting), I'm a big fan. I'll try to be objective though. The Boston Globe reports that an Ex-Dunkin' executive filed a $5 million lawsuit against his former employer.

Michael O'Donovan, entered into a severance agreement with Dunkin' Donuts that included a confidentiality clause and prohibited the company from making disparaging statements that could harm his reputation or career prospects. Per the Globe, the Complaint included allegations that Dunkin' employees made false and defamatory statements alleging
"excessive drinking, inappropriate conduct with female employees, chronic inability to meet deadlines, and a misleading and dishonest character."
Well, that certainly sounds disparaging to me.

Reputation-wise, this seems like a no-win situation for O'Donovan. If he was worried about confidentiality before... putting everything in the pages of the Boston Globe surely won't help. People may believe his ex-co-workers' allegations. If not, they're still left assuming his old co-workers so despise him that they make up these awful things about him. I could also swear (although I am now unable to find this anywhere so I'm questioning my own memory) that I read another article that included some information regarding his 2007 departure.

From an employer's perspective, the moral of the story  seems pretty simple: If you enter into an agreement, then you abide by its terms.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On Presidents Day we Honor... Washington (and Lincoln?)

FoxNews ran a story today, On President's Day, We Honor ... Someone. The story reports:
"In 1971, Congress passed a bill to rename Washington's birthday Presidents Day, and to celebrate it on the third Monday of February instead of the actual date of Washington's birth — Feb. 22. The holiday also was designated to honor Abraham Lincoln...."
(emphasis added). However, if you look at the signed image of the bill to which I believe they are referring, it makes no mention of renaming the holiday or Lincoln. Further, 5 U.S.C. § 6103(a), the statute identifying "legal public holidays" continues to identify the third Monday in February as "Washington's Birthday." I can't find any mention of Lincoln. I'm open to alternative explanations though I must tentatively conclude that the story is simply incorrect as a matter of federal law. Drop a comment if you have more information!

Also, as a minor point, the Act was signed into law in 1968 although it did not take effect until 1971.

Update (2/15/2010): Jim Thomas (@jimtdenver) pointed me to his own entry (also appearing on Huffington Post) on the subject: I Cannot Tell a Lie: There is No Presidents Day Holiday. Conclusion: Washington 1; Lincoln 0.

Happy Presidents Day/Washington's Birthday!

By Sharon R. Miles

The third Monday in February marks the federal holiday officially titled, “Washington’s Birthday,” but this holiday is more commonly known as Presidents Day.

Originally started in 1880 for D.C.’s government offices, the holiday grew in 1885 to encompass all federal offices. Since it was the very first federal holiday to acknowledge an American, the holiday was originally celebrated on our first President’s birthday, February 22. However, in 1971 the holiday was moved to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

After the Washington’s Birthday holiday was implemented and as time went on, a strong interest in honoring more Presidents developed. As such, in 1951, a committee formed, “President’s Day National Committee,” with the intent of creating a day to honor the Presidential Office, instead of honoring only one President in particular. Much discussion centered on naming the original inauguration day of March 4 Presidents Day or naming Lincoln’s birthday of February 12 Presidents Day. During this time, some states did declare these days as Presidents Day, Lincoln Day, or even Washington and Lincoln Day, in addition to celebrating the federal holiday of Washington’s Birthday. Eventually, with these holidays falling so close together, the original and official federal holiday of Washington’s Birthday, became more popularly known as Presidents Day.

Image: The signed Uniform Monday Holiday Act from the National Archives (clik to enlarge).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Building Entrepreneurial Associates

My article, Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit in Associates, appears in the latest issue of the American Bar Association's Law Practice Today webzine. An excerpt:
"[A] firm’s shareholders are not just partners in the practice of law; they are partners in a business—and when the time comes for today’s associates to transition into partnership, the firm will depend on them to bring in additional clients and grow the firm. That’s why it’s so important to instill in associates a desire to innovate and identify and seize opportunities."
In the article, I cover a few practices for partners to encourage new associates to show initiative and advance the firm's reputation. I also address the balance between granting associates free reign, and the obligation of the partners to safeguard the firm's reputation.

Give it a read and let me know what you think. The February 2010 issue of ABA Law Practice Today contains a number of other interesting articles with a focus on "Human Resources: Managing Your Most Critical Assets."

Note: Lawffice Space has undergone something of a redesign these past few weeks: New header, new profile pic, and new pages linked up top (Web 2.0 and About Me). For those of you who subscribe in a reader or via email, stop by and check out the new site.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lawffice Space 2.0

The latest Lawffice Space on Web 2.0 information can be found on the Web 2.0 Page (also linked in the header above).

A blog used to be a web site that people came to and read. Now it's fully integrated across web 2.0 with numerous ways to integrate feeds into social media. This page will track Lawffice Space across the web:

@philipmiles - This is my personal account. I use it for general legal micro-blogging (with an emphasis on employment law); occasionally drifts into STEELERS, PSU football, and current events.

@LawfficeSpace - All Lawffice Space all the time. The Lawffice Space feed is tied directly to this Twitter account so when a new post goes up a new tweet goes out. Occasionally I'll send out manual updates with Lawffice Space news (ex. When another blog links to Lawffice Space).

Also note that I have integrated the Tweetmeme button at the top of each entry. Click it to share with your own followers on Twitter!

Google Buzz
A well-kept Lawffice Space secret: I used to be a software developer. One of the most annoying catch-phrases of that industry was "bleeding edge" (like super-advanced-cutting-edge). Well, it doesn't get much more "bleeding edge" than Google Buzz which Google is currently integrating into Gmail. My Buzz account is currently linked to my personal Twitter account, the Lawffice Space RSS feed, Picasa (to share photos, though I don't upload many), and Google Reader (this will allow me to one-click share blog entries from others in Google Buzz).

New Lawffice Space entries automatically appear in your Facebook feed just like status updates, links, and messages from your friends. There are also special features like my photo album from my tour of the historical sights in Philadelphia, fun acts about Lawffice Space (like the origins of its name), and links to sites that mention Lawffice Space.

The Facebook widget also appears on the right-hand side of the Lawffice Space web site in the sidebar.

Also see, Lawffice Space on Networked Blogs, a Facebook app.

Note that I have integrated the Facebook Share button at the top of each entry. Click it to share an entry with your friends on Facebook.

Lawffice Space entries are integrated into my profile (though I believe only visible to my connections). I do periodically enter status updates with Lawffice Space entries as well.

Cornell LII
Cornell LII provides a free online lawyer directory. My profile includes my Lawffice Space feed, personal Twitter feed, and abbreviated online resume.

This is another feed aggregator. My FriendFeed includes my personal Twitter updates and is directly linked to the Lawffice Space RSS feed. I almost never manually update this account.

Miscellaneous Blog and Blawg Directories

This post will be updated periodically.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Employment Law Blog Maven in 5 Easy Steps

The blogosphere can be pretty intimidating and it's often difficult to know where to start. This entry will provide some guidance to those seeking to get a handle on the employment law niche. The tips go from casting a broad net to identifying individual people. Let's get started!

Go Big

First, let's get a big picture view. The ABA Journal maintains a blawg (that's blog+law=blawg) directory, broken down by various topics, including a labor and employment law blawg directory. I count about 165 on there right now.

Justia likewise offers an employment law blawg directory. I actually prefer theirs because it displays more blogs per page (90 vs. 20) and it shows the titles of the three most recent entries for every blog (that's 270 employment law blog entry titles at once!).

Go Good

OK, the point was to make you feel comfortable in the face of this daunting blogosphere and I go and throw hundreds of employment law blogs at you. Perhaps it's better to narrow things down a little bit. One example: The Delaware Employment Law Blog's Top 100 Employment Law Blogs... Plus 10.

Another good way to find good blogs is to identify an employment law blog you like and then look at its blogroll. A blogroll is just a list of recommendations that bloggers add to their own sites. I have one over there on the right (the "sidebar"), all the way at the bottom. Mine could use a good updating, it's pretty limited at the moment (though great recs!).

Go Great

Why go good when you can go great? Why take the top 100 employment law blogs when you can take the employment law blogs in the top 100 of all law blogs? As luck would have it, I put together a list of Employment Blawgs in the 2009 ABA Blawg 100.

Go Entry-by-Entry

So far I've been focusing on identifying blogs. Is there any way to identify only the good entries? Well, one blogger does this every week. Jon Hyman, author of the Ohio Employer's Law Blog provides a review of the best individual blog entries he comes across every week. It's really kind of amazing. He calls it "WIRTW," which I believe stands for What I'm Reading This Week.

Go Personal

Social Media affords opportunities to connect with people on an individual level. I commented in my Blawg 100 entry linked above that I recognized most of the folks from Twitter. Once you get a few connections you'll start to find the people who pass on the best links and they'll point you in the right direction.

And now that you're mastering the employment law blogosphere, you'll be able to pass the good stuff on to them as well! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to drop a comment.

You can follow me on Twitter @philipmiles. Also, Lawffice Space has its own page on Facebook.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Naked Economics: Rational Discrimination and Information Disparity

This is the second in a series of posts on Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan.

On pp. 82-84, Wheelan inserts a brief discussion on what he calls "rational discrimination." He uses a hypothetical law firm (go figure) to highlight a hiring decision between two candidates: one young man and one young woman, both fresh out of Harvard Law (in other words, both qualified).

He posits that "the rational choice is to hire the man." This is because

"[d]emographics suggest that both candidates are likely to start families in the near future. Yet only the female candidate will take paid maternity leave. More important, she may not return to work after having the child, which leaves the firm with the cost of finding, hiring, and training another lawyer."
In short, the woman has a higher probability of taking the parental benefits and running. Now, before you curse Wheelan, he does take care to emphasize that "playing the statistical averages may offend our sensibilities and violate federal law." I will note that it almost certainly violates state and possibly local law as well.

Playing the odds in this case is a substitute for actual information on an individual. The man could be looking to stay at home and raise the kids, or the woman could be looking forward to being a working mother, or maybe neither of them has any interest whatsoever in having kids. There's simply no way to tell (and no do not ask them about kids in the interview!)... or is there?

Wheelan offers this solution: offer a "generous but refundable maternity package. Keep it if you come back to work, return it if you don't." The point? Interviewees that plan to take the benefits and run will generally self-select out of jobs with employers that offer refundable maternity packages. The plan won't work if you can't take the money. Further, employers can then give better maternity benefits because they incur fewer costs from employees leaving.

This illustrates a classic information disparity problem. The employer lacks information on the individual. By offering generous refundable benefits the employer will get better candidates who plan to stay (for the higher maternity benefits) and the candidates who planned on leaving will likely not choose to work there (opting for an employer who will let them take the benefits whether they come back or not).

One final note: Wheelan also explains that all of this will be unnecessary "when men assume a larger share of child-care responsibilities." In other words, the "rational discrimination" (or "profiling") becomes irrational when the profiles shift to equality.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Charts of Minority Private Sector Employment 1966-2007

OK, before we get to the charts a quick note that the EEOC has issued New Data on Job Patterns in the Private Sector. As part of a push for "open government," they're posting aggregate data sets of the results of the 2008 EEO-1 survey. They claim it's part of a "larger EEOC effort to advance the President’s goal of opening up our government and providing greater access to agency information and operations."

The 2008 data shows the following rates of employment (by race):

White - 65.58%
Black - 13.98%
Hispanic - 13.48%
Asian American - 5.30%
American Indian - 0.57%
Hawaiian - 0.36%
2 or More - 0.74%

A Chart from the EEOC showing the rates from 1966-2007:

An aggregate of Non-Minority vs. Minority for 2008:

Non-Minority - 65.58%
Minority - 34.42%

A Chart from the EEOC showing the rates from 1966-2007:

An html chart of the 2008 data is available here.
And the historic data is available here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NLRB Already Here? Returns? In the Distant Future?

What is the status of the National Labor Relations Board and why is it so hard to figure out?

Is it Already Here?

Section 3(b) of the NLRA provides that:
"The Board is authorized to delegate to any group of three or more members any or all of the powers which it may itself exercise. . . . A vacancy in the Board shall not impair the right of the remaining members to exercise all of the powers of the Board, and three members of the Board shall, at all times, constitute a quorum of the Board, except that two members shall constitute a quorum of any group designated pursuant to the first sentence hereof."
So what's the problem? Currently, the NLRB only has two members. Is that enough for the NLRB to hear labor disputes and issue orders? The Seventh Circuit thinks so, as held in New Process Steel v. NLRB.

Not so fast though! The D.C. Circuit held the other way in Laurel Baye Healthcare of Lake Lanier v. NLRB.


Maybe the NLRB's return is imminent. After all, President Obama has nominated Craig Becker who appeared before a Congressional committee (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions -HELP) yesterday (video of hearing). So no matter what the number needed for a quorum, the NLRB's about to return, right? Not so fast!

In the Distant Future?

Despite his pledges of impartiality before a congressional committee, some Republicans remain skeptical. Becker holds SEIU and AFL-CIO credentials (associate general counsel) and some Senate members fear he will be too pro-labor. In breaking news today, it appears Scott Brown will be certified as Massachusetts' new senator as early as Thursday, February 4, 2010. Some reports are that "labor is steaming" over what they assume will be one more vote to block Becker.

Another option? One of the other nominees (Brian Hayes or Mark Pearce) will get confirmed.

Another option? New Process Steel v. NLRB was granted certiorari, meaning the Supreme Court will hear the case and presumably decide the issue, but that will take awhile...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Same-Sex Partner Benefits for PA Court Employees

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it will extend benefits to same-sex partners of court employees (Scranton Times Tribune). This decision covers about 1,100 elected judges and 1,000 staffers, though it is unclear how many of these employees are currently in a same-sex relationship. The Scranton Times Tribune piece notes that Gov. Rendell has already granted equal employment benefits in the executive branch via executive order.

The opinion piece also stated that Supreme Court Justice McCaffery, "viewed the matter as a civil rights issue."Another report, in the Philadelphia Gay News, quotes Justice McCaffery as saying, "[I] spoke with my colleagues [and we came] to a unanimous decision that this was an equal-rights issue that needed to be addressed immediately.” (emphasis added).

Civil rights? An equal-rights issue? A unanimous decision!? Now, I don't want to read too much into the Justice's comments and I have no idea who the "colleagues" are that reached a unanimous verdict... errr decision... but could we be getting a glimpse into the high court's view of same sex unions?

The Philadelphia Gay News cites a court spokesman as stating that the "policy will apply only to same-sex partners of the employees and will not be offered to unmarried heterosexual couples." Pennsylvania does not currently recognize same sex unions or marriages so such a requirement would defeat the purpose. It is interesting, however, that similarly situated, unmarried, heterosexual couples will not receive these benefits.