June 16, 2020

LGBTQ workers win big at the Supreme Court

June 16, 2020
The Hustle
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Who else has a bizarre quarantine brain dump stashed in their Notes app? We put that question to our crew, inspired by a hilarious tweet from Erin Griffith. She jotted down, “Ebitda stands for everybody in town does awesomely.”

Steph took the cake. She says she wrote this in her sleep 2 weeks ago — “I think it was an article idea but still not really sure 🤔”

We’re wondering: Was it an article idea, or a Jay-Z single?

A Landmark Ruling

The Supreme Court hands a major victory to LGBTQ workers

Yesterday, the decades-long fight for LGBTQ rights took another momentous step forward.

The US Supreme Court ruled that a major federal civil-rights law protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing for the majority. If you love reading Supreme Court opinions — and who doesn’t at a historic time like this? — you can dive down the 172-page rabbit hole here.

Here’s the short version

The decision concerned Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

It involved the cases of 2 gay men who said they had been fired over their sexual orientation, and a transgender woman who was fired after telling her employer that she was transgender.

When it filed briefs with the court last year, the Trump administration argued that the law doesn’t cover discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The majority disagreed. Here’s the clincher from Justice Gorsuch’s opinion:

Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids. 

What it means for businesses and workers

For one thing, it brings consistency to a confusing patchwork of state laws. 

  • Many states already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but more than half of them haven’t yet done so, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that there are 8.1m LGBT workers in the US who are over the age of 16.
  • 3.9m of them live in states without laws barring LGBT employment discrimination. 

The ruling now offers them protection, no matter where they live. There is one caveat: Fortune points out that the law only applies to employers with 15 or more workers.

The plaudits poured in

The CEOs of the nation’s tech giants — including Apple’s Tim Cook, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — all praised the ruling. Their companies had signed on to a friend of the court brief calling on the court to protect LGBTQ workers.

Postscript: Read this remembrance of Aimee Stephens, a plaintiff in the case, who died last month — just weeks before Monday’s decision was handed down.

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#AirbnbWhileBlack

Airbnb has a plan to fight racial discrimination (again)

Coming off the high of settling its long-running lawsuit with New York City, Airbnb is feeling ambitious. So much so that it’s ready to solve another giant problem that has dogged it since day one. 

In partnership with Color of Change, the company is rolling out an initiative called Project Lighthouse to study racial discrimination on the platform. 

We’ve been here before

Unlike when you book a hotel, Airbnb hosts get to screen you first — and internalized bias has left Black guests out in the cold.

Back in 2016, a guest named Quirtina Crittenden started the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack after hosts kept ignoring her booking requests. 

Crittenden put her theory to the test: She shortened her name to “Tina,” and she replaced her profile photo with a photo of a skyline. Sure enough, her problems disappeared.

According to a Harvard study, Black users were 16% less likely to be accepted as guests than their white counterparts.

Airbnb isn’t checked out on these problems

On its own, a study might sound like weak sauce, but Airbnb has put its money where its mouth is before. In the years after #AirbnbWhileBlack, the company: 

  • Sent out a “community commitment” pact that threatened to ban hosts who discriminated based on race, ethnicity, and other factors. 
  • Promoted its “instant book” option to cut down on hosts trying to screen their guests. 
  • Stopped displaying guest profile photos prior to booking.

But as CEO Brian Chesky noted to Axios, customers face discrimination even after they’re approved for a stay. 

Take the check-in or checkout process — guests of color may face more suspicion than their white peers. Moments like that, for Chesky, are ripe for improvement.

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Small Business Stories

A community for Black nerds grew out of its founder’s passions

We’re highlighting stories of black business owners from our audience — and their tips for up-and-coming entrepreneurs of color. If you’re interested in being featured, fill out our survey here.

As a lifetime connoisseur of all things nerdy, Terril Fields turned affectionate ribbing from his buddies into a bona-fide business.

“One of my really good friends was always like, ‘You’re the biggest blerd I know,’ because I was always into video games, comic books, technology, things like that,” Fields said. 

That’s what inspired him to create Blerd (slang for Black nerd), a media company for Black geeks and gamers who are often overshadowed in a predominantly white industry.

This site fosters a tight knit community, advertising community events and featuring members who cosplay. Fields calls Blerd’s focus “nerdy culture, but from a black cultural lens.”

Fields used sales commissions and gains from cryptocurrency investments to cover startup costs.

Since going live less than a year ago, Blerd has weathered some of the most hostile business conditions in recent memory. But thanks to a groundswell of community support, Fields reported a 300% increase in merch sales and an 80% boost in traffic over the past few weeks.

Many of Blerd’s products showcase Black Lives Matter and Pride themes. The company is donating 50% of profits from select items during the month of June to the Black Visions Collective.

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The D-List

All I want to do is Zoom-a-Zoom-Zoom-Zoom … with minor celebrities

Hold the phone. No, really. Do that. The rent-a-celeb platform Cameo has launched a new feature that lets users book live Zoom sessions with their favorite pop-culture personalities.

Quarantine has been kind to Cameo

Cameo launched back in 2017, but it really took off during the height of the corona crisis.

More people used it to delight friends and family members with personalized recordings from such luminaries as WWE Superstar Big E and horror hostess Elvira.

The celebs, meanwhile, took to Cameo to squeeze more juice out of their 15 minutes of fame. Fast Company reported a 160% uptick in talent sign-ups during the month of March. 

I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you — Nobody — too?

If you’re hoping to chat with Beyoncé, well, you can hope in one hand and sh*t in the other. 

The stars hawking their time tend to be… well, of niche interest. But that doesn’t mean they come cheap. 

  • “Entourage” actor Jeremy Piven caused a Twitter uproar when it was revealed he would be charging $15k for a 10-minute convo.
  • Retired NFL QB Brett Favre will talk shop for $5k.
  • Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is happy to squawk at you for $750.
  • Early aughts blogger Perez Hilton dishes the hot goss for $225.

If you can’t scrounge together enough change for a personal video chat, worry not! 

Cameo is expected to launch a group chat feature that will allow people to pay $5/month to join other fans for Zoom conferences with their fave stars.

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Snippets

1️⃣  Make way for Hey — a new service from the Basecamp team that wants to blow up how we use email.

2️⃣  BP is writing off at least $13B thanks to the pandemic — and it predicts the cost of emitting carbon dioxide will 2x in a few decades. 

3️⃣  Amazon is facing antitrust investigations in California and Washington.

4️⃣  ByteDance is shuttering its spinoff apps — Vigo Video and Vigo Lite — in India. The company wants all those users to hit up TikTok instead. 

5️⃣  Hollywood, avert your gaze: The box-office numbers coming out of Japan are a giant, steaming pile of “yikes.”

6️⃣  Two pandemic powers are joining forces: Shopify is teaming up with Walmart to expand the retail giant’s ecommerce footprint.

7️⃣  Talk about hitting close to home: 6 former eBay employees have been charged for harassing the heads of a business newsletter (!) with “live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask.” 

8️⃣  Is Ithaca, NY actually canceling rent citywide? It’s complicated. 

9️⃣  The newest crop of Animal Crossing and League of Legends fanatics? National politicians.

🔟  And speaking of the Notes app: Vanity Fair has officially declared the celebrity Notes app apology dead.

The Hustle Says

Watch this 100-year old grandma meet a 5-month old puppy. Nothing to buy here, folks. Just some much needed love in video format. 

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