MRW Partners Dahlia Rudavsky and Ellen Messing Quoted in the Media
In the past few weeks Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky, P.C. partners Ellen Messing and Dahlia Rudavsky have been contacted to share their expert opinions on the latest issues in employment law. We are proud to see their input prominently featured by the journalists investigating these fascinating developments.
Chariot for Women is a new ridesharing service set to start serving the Boston area later this month. While ridesharing services are nothing new to Bostonians with competing companies Lyft and Uber already holding significant market share, Chariot for Women hopes to address recent concerns about women riders’ safety by exclusively employing female drivers and only accepting female (or youth) passengers. On March 28th, the Boston Globe published an article written by Curt Woodward exploring this business model. Seeking expert opinions on the matter, he contacted Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky, P.C. partner Dahlia Rudavsky for comment. “Companies that provide a service need to accept potential customers without discriminating,” Rudavsky said, referring to Chariot for Women’s narrow service offering. “If a company goes further and refuses to pick up a man, I think they’d potentially run into legal trouble.” While exemptions for various other services targeted specifically toward women exist in Massachusetts (e.g., health clubs), it remains unclear whether the Legislature will support a women-only program when less discriminatory measures to assure rider safety have not been exhausted. Existing ride share companies have faced consistent criticism for lacking thorough background investigations as part of their hiring/contracting process. Regardless of the legality of Chariot for Women’s business model, some of their proposed security techniques, like a confirmation safe word sent to both the driver’s and passenger’s phones and a random security question that changes daily, could find their way into the protocols of all ride sharing companies. And even if drivers’ backgrounds are checked more thoroughly, that begs the question whether a company could legally refuse to pick up all adult male passengers. Ultimately, a commitment to women’s safety is admirable but can’t come at the expense of Mass. civil rights laws, particularly when other techniques may be effective.
This should come as no shock to managers: employees are not always content with the decisions made by leadership in the workplace. But what happens when bitter mutterings around the water cooler move to the local watering hole? In a Mass. U.S. District Court case brought by former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Christina E. Corda, she claims she was terminated in retaliation for her legitimate complaints to the DA’s chief of staff about pay discrepancies between male and female assistant district attorneys. This particular conversation was unusual in that it took place at a bar during a co-worker’s going-away party. The DA’s office argued that Corda was belligerently drunk, used profanity, disparaged colleagues, and otherwise acted in a way unbecoming an ADA. However Corda asserts that it was common for ADAs and other staff to drink heavily, swear, and speak freely, and that she was targeted not for her behavior but because her topic was gender discrimination. Commenting for the April 4th edition of Mass. Lawyers Weekly on the issue of pretext raised by the case, Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky, P.C. partner Ellen Messing noted how common it is for employers to selectively apply office policies when they oppose an employee or her message: “I always find it amazing in my cases how many rules an employer has that no one has ever heard of.” Determining whether an employee has actually done something wrong or is being selectively singled out is always a key issue in any discrimination case.