Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2000 16:18:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 10/11/2000

            AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    weekly issues of 10/11/2000, ed. by Priscilla Benson
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This week's issues:
1. On labor law
2. Job Notice
1. On labor law

Regarding Michelle Kaufman's contribution.

She says, in the context of a woman fired from a high-tech

"When a person is fired without cause, a labor lawyer can
negotiate with a company for a better severance package on
the condition that everything be kept confidential."

I believe that she overstates the legal position of 
employees as well as the willingness of employers to settle 
lawsuits. Many states are "at will" employment states, 
meaning that an employer can fire an employee for any reason 
at all, or no reason. In such a case, the employee has 
little or no legal recourse.

In seeking a better severance package, the only leverage the 
fired employee has is the threat of a lawsuit. For private 
companies, Affirmative Action laws do not apply the same way 
as for universities (and even there the laws are actually 
extremely weak, not at all the impression that the public 
has of them.) In the case of a woman fired during maternity 
leave, the employer may be in violation of the Family Leave 
act or gender discrimination laws. But notice that in the 
case that Michelle cites, the woman's termination date was 
not actually during the period covered by the Family Leave 
act. It may be hard to prove that the woman was fired 
_because_ she was taking leave.

That the fired woman won a prize during that time would only 
be evidence that she was qualified for the job. It would 
not, by itself, prove discrimination. And, as I said, this 
private employer might not be covered by Affirmative Action 
laws in the way we are used to in the academic (especially 
public university) sector.

The point I'm trying to make is that we are all vulnerable 
to targeting by our employers, and though sometimes we can 
find vindication through legal means, we should not count on 
this to shield or protect us. Be careful not to take solace 
in the thought through the legal system our rights will be 
vindicated against unjust or illegal acts by our employers.

This is not to say however, that we should not use legal 
means available to us to protest unjust acts. Without 
standing up against unfair treatment, it will only continue. 
As Michelle says, "Lawsuits take money, emotional energy, 
and years." While the first few plaintiffs may "lose" their 
cases because the law in this area is weak, over time, 
employers will find it more cost effective to do the right 

Kathryn N. Mead

2. Jobs

Assistant Professor of Astronomy (Tenure-Track)
Wesleyan University

Search Committee
Astronomy Department
Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT 06459

The Astronomy Department of Wesleyan University is seeking 
candidates for a tenure-track position at the Assistant 
Professor level.  A Ph.D. in astronomy or a closely related 
field is required.  Preference will be given to applicants 
with at least two years of post-doctoral experience. We seek 
a person who can combine an active research program with a 
commitment to undergraduate education.  Wesleyan awards both 
the BA and MA degrees in astronomy and is a member of the 
Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium.  The Astronomy 
Department is housed at Van Vleck Observatory, on the 
Wesleyan campus. Departmental facilities include a 24-inch 
reflector with CCD camera, a 20-inch refractor, a research 
library, and substantial computer resources, including a 50-
node Beowulf-class super computer.  Current staff interests 
are in the areas of star formation, galactic dynamics, dwarf 
galaxies, surveys for emission-line galaxies, star-forming 
and active galaxies, and observational cosmology.  We invite 
prospective candidates to visit the Department's Home Page 
at for additional information.  
Interest in and commitment to involving undergraduates in 
research is important, as is a mentoring role for our majors 
and graduate students.  Therefore, an applicant should 
submit a statement detailing her/his plans for developing a 
research program, and describe the level at which students 
might become involved.  Applicants should send their 
curriculum vitae and research statement, and arrange for at 
least three letters of reference to be sent to the address 
above. Wesleyan University is an Affirmative Action/Equal 
Opportunity Employer. The deadline for receipt of all 
application materials is Dec. 31, 2000.

End of CSWA Newsletter of 10/11/2000