Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fifty Shades of Odd

An odd thing happened on my way to writing this column - I felt guilty.

Who was I to make fun of someone's writing style?

Hadn't I realized her feelings might be hurt? What kind of monster am I?

But then, I was looking at some pretty hilarious material ...

So I'm going ahead with my weekly callous mockery, but first, here's a tip that might help you avoid cynical critics: Accompany anything you write with a smiling picture of yourself.

Now that I think about it, it doesn't have to be your picture. Just add a picture of someone who looks pleasant and friendly.

I was rubbing my hands in glee (as I am wont to do almost every week) while I read an article in the American Bar Association's "Law Practice Today," when I was sobered up by the sight of the writer's picture at the end of the piece.

It was a smiling woman who looked perfectly nice. How dare I hurt her feelings?

I came very close to scrapping this column.

But then, I do have to produce these every week ...

And - imagine the light dawning on me as I desperately worked to rationalize my occupation - there is a more serious social issue here: I'm a sexist!

Would I hesitate if I saw a man's picture there?

Absolutely not.

So in the interest of gender equality, I direct your attention to the article: "The New Shade of Grey Created by California's Fair Pay Act."

Yes, it's about gender equality. It may have been placed there as a lesson to me.

Now feast your eyes on the first paragraph:

"Move over 50 Shades of Grey, there's a new grey in town - the California Fair Pay Act. Just as the best-selling novel 50 Shades of Grey brought to light the controversial interplay between women and men in society, the California Legislature has revived the provocative dialogue regarding the inequities in compensation received by men and women in the workplace, and attempted to redress this disparity by imposing more stringent payment standards on employers."

Your next assignment is to read the second sentence of that paragraph aloud without taking a breath. (Please don't sue me if you're injured. You're doing this voluntarily.)

If you're still conscious, let's consider the analogy: "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the California Fair Pay Act.

Are they substantially similar? Is there a difference between the two?

I have to admit I've haven't seen the "Shades" movie or read any of the books, so I'm probably missing something.

Does the "Grey" guy get paid more than Dakota Johnson (or whoever she's supposed to be)?

Do the two of them do similar work?

Maybe the actors didn't get paid the same for being in the movie?

If not, the only similarity is that the movie has "grey" in the title and the new pay standards are a gray area if you think about them too much.

Fair enough. You take your comparisons where you can find them.

The author of the article certainly meant well. She's trying to be helpful.

She points out that the problem with the law is that's it's hard to define "substantially similar" work (which I guess explains the movie/law comparison).

And she has suggestions for solving the problem.

Here's my favorite: "If a janitor in San Diego performs the same skills and duties as a window washer in San Francisco, in the absence of one of the enumerated bona fide factors, they should be compensated the same regardless of their gender."

Now I understand why this is such a gray area.

Why is the window washer sweeping floors?

Why are they in different cities?

No wonder employers are confused. The Legislature needs to fix this problem.

In the meantime, I can't wait for the film version of the California Fair Pay Act.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.