- Microsoft moves to end secrecy in sexual harassment claims
- Ford apologises for sexual harassment at Chicago factories
- BHP to exit World Coal Association over climate policy
- Make supermarkets and drinks firms pay for plastic recycling, say British MPs
- Facebook scraps fake news warning flags
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Microsoft has announced it has eliminated forced arbitration agreements with employees who make sexual harassment claims and is also supporting a proposed federal law that would widely ban such agreements, which have been criticised for helping to perpetuate sexual abuse in the workplace. Forced arbitration lets companies keep harassment and discrimination claims out of court, effectively cloaking them from public view and, in some cases, allowing harassers to continue their conduct for years. According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than half of American workers are bound by arbitration clauses. Cases tend to tilt heavily in favour of businesses, a study has shown. Of 3,945 employment cases decided by arbitrators from one of the nation’s biggest arbitration firms, plaintiffs prevailed in about 31%. (NY Times)
Ford Motor Company has apologised to its employees for sexual harassment at two Chicago plants, addressing accusations that span more than a quarter-century. In an open letter, Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett promised the company would learn and do better. “Candidly, it was gut wrenching to read the accounts of these women,” he wrote, adding that “there is absolutely no room for harassment at Ford Motor Company.” The letter follows the publication of a New York Times article detailing accounts of sexual harassment and retaliation at the two factories. Harassment complaints have prompted several lawsuits since the 1990s. A separate lawsuit with about 30 plaintiffs is still making its way through the courts. (NY Times)
BHP Billiton, one of the world’s biggest coal miners, is planning to withdraw from the World Coal Association due to differences with it over climate and energy policies as well as the limited benefits of membership. The Anglo-Australian company is also considering withdrawing from the US Chamber of Commerce due to the organisation’s criticism of the Paris Agreement and its opposition to carbon pricing. While BHP has not planned to withdraw from the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) despite differences on climate policies, it said it would ask the MCA – which receives 17% of its subscription revenue from BHP – to refrain from advocacy on policy issues that differed from its positions. Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said BHP’s move was “extraordinary”, showing “that even organisations with large coal assets do not value aggressive anti-climate lobbying”. (Financial Times)*
Supermarkets, retailers and drinks companies should be forced to pay significantly more towards the recycling of the plastic packaging they sell, the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has said in a new report. Members of the EAC called for a societal change to embed a culture of carrying reusable containers which are refilled at public water fountains and restaurants, cafes, sports centres and fast food outlets. British consumers use 13 billion plastic bottles a year, but only 7.5 billion are recycled. MPs said the introduction of a plastic bottle deposit return scheme (DRS) – which is expected to be part of measures announced in the new year – was key to reducing plastic waste. Major retailers have yet to support such a scheme, but Iceland and the Co-op recently announced their backing for a DRS. (Guardian)
Facebook will no longer display red warning icons next to fake news stories shared on the platform. In a news post, Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons explained that academic research has “shown that putting a strong image, like a red flag, next to an article may actually entrench deeply held beliefs”. Instead, Facebook will now display what it calls “fact-checked articles” next to disputed stories to provide additional perspectives and information, including articles by third-party fact checkers. Through the use of fact checkers, Facebook currently demotes fake news, which it says leads to an 80 per cent decrease in the post’s traffic. Domains that repeatedly published fake news have restrictions placed on their opportunity to make money. However, it takes on average three days to verify an article, meaning that fake news can be shared widely well before any warnings appear. Facebook says it is working to improve this. (ABC News)