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EU wants employers to report pay levels to fix gender gap

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EU wants employers to report pay levels to fix gender gap

BRUSSELS — The European Union executive wants to force employers to be much more open about how much their staff earn to make it easier for women to challenge wage imbalances and close the gender pay gap.

Even though the gender pay gap across the 27-nation bloc has been reduced to 14 percent for people doing exactly the same work, the European Commission wants to eliminate the disparity by imposing specific rules to make pay levels public.

“For equal pay, you need transparency. Women must know whether their employers treat them fairly,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Since its inception in 1957, the European Union has sought to end such gender bias, but progress has been slow over the decades. When it comes to pension rights, reflecting working conditions of the past 30 to 40 years, the gender gap still stands at 30 percent.

Wage conditions and scales in Europe have long been shrouded in secrecy, which has helped extend inequality and proved to be a big hurdle for those demanding pay justice.

And companies have fallen far short in helping bridge the gap, said EU Vice President Vera Jourova. “We have sufficiently strong evidence that we need to have binding rules and not only to rely on social responsibility of the companies because we see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.

She said that over the past 7 years, the gap had closed only by little over 2 percentage points. “You can imagine if we continue like that, we will achieve pay fairness some time in several decades. So we cannot continue like that.”

Under the commission’s proposals, employers would have to give information about initial pay levels in the vacancy announcement and ahead of the job interview, during which employers will not be allowed to ask about applicants’ previous pay grades.

Employees will be allowed to ask employers the average pay levels by gender for people doing the same work.

And to put more pressure on big companies, the proposal forces firms with more than 250 employees to publish information about any gender pay gap.

If women remain underpaid, the commission wants them to be able to get back pay and it wants the burden of proof to be on employers, not the women challenging them.

The European Trade Union Confederation lauded the intent but said the proposals lacked teeth to force companies into decisive action. It complained that small- and medium-size companies, where such discrimination often happens, were excluded from key elements of the enforcement.

The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and EU countries for further discussion before it can be approved.

The announcement came ahead of International Women’s Day next Monday.

The EU noted that women had been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, many having to add more home tasks to their work schedule because of the closure of schools and day care centers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only consolidated injustices and inequalities that already existed in our societies, it is also likely to wipe out decades of achievements by women, on progresses in the labor market,” said European Parliament President David Sassoli.

Jourova said women were vulnerable because most were still at the bottom of the pay scale.

“That over-representation in lower-paid sectors and occupations such as, for instance, hospitality, retail or personal services has made them particularly vulnerable in the labor market struck by the COVID-19 crisis,” Jourova said.

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

Most memoirs are a recounting of the author’s own life and experiences. “Everything is Fine” by Vince Granata (Atria Books), out April 27, is a memoir of an entire family — and a tragedy that forever changed its members. 

Granata was an only child for the first 4 ½ years of his life. On the day his mother and father returned home from the hospital, he remembers writing “welcome home mommy” in sidewalk chalk outside their Connecticut home. His parents had arrived home with not one but three siblings in tow — triplets Christopher, Timothy and Elizabeth. It was a joyful event. But the birth of his siblings put in motion a tragedy that would take years to unfold. 

On July 24, 2014, his brother Tim, 24, attacked and killed their mother in the family home. Claudia Dinan Granata was 58. Tim suffered from schizophrenia. “I won’t take the medication, the medication destroys me, takes my mind, takes me away from God,” he ranted to his mother on the morning of the attack. He had frequently threatened suicide. 

“Tim’s demons, electric in his ill mind, convinced him that the woman who had made him peanut butter sandwiches when he was a grass-stained child was the source of his constant pain,” Granata writes. “…After he killed her, he dialed 911, sitting on our front steps, clutching a white Bible.” 

This is a memoir about a horrifying crime, but it is also a book about mental illness, and the family’s ongoing attempts to get help for Tim in a system that is hopelessly flawed. Tim was hospitalized at the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital in February 2014. In the weeks leading up to the murder, there were numerous signs that he needed to return, but he refused to go back. 

“Eventually, I had no choice but to look at loss and pain, at all the pieces of my family’s story that I didn’t think I could ever understand,” Vince writes. “It was this process, recognizing the pieces, struggling to put them in order, that almost destroyed me. It’s also what allowed me to live again.” 

Tim was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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These colleges require students to get vaccinated if they want to live on campus

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These colleges require students to get vaccinated if they want to live on campus

As academic institutions look toward the post-COVID-19 future of education, some are implementing strict vaccine requirements ahead of the upcoming semester as others incentivize or urge students to pick up the inoculations.

Many colleges already require students to provide proof of certain vaccines, but those have been in use for years. The three FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines are all less than a year old.

But now that vaccines are open in many places to people age 16 and up, colleges are beginning to look into how that can benefit their reopening plans.

Colleges that will require proof of vaccination for students who want to live on campus include Oakland University in Michigan, Cornell University in upstate New York, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Brown University in Rhode Island.

“Students have an option to come to Oakland University and not stay in residence halls,” Oakland President Dr. Ora Pescovitz told Fox 2 Detroit this week. “Only 20% of our students live on campus. The other 80% are commuter students.”

The school is offering religious and medical exemptions to students who provide proof to the dean of students.

But she said more than 1,000 people signed up for vaccines within the first six hours after the school announced the new requirement.

Northeastern University in Boston is going a step further and requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all students before the fall 2021 semester as part of its plan to return to full-time, in-person learning.

Nova Southeastern University announced last week it would require vaccinations by Aug. 1 – then backtracked after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide ban on “vaccine passports,” citing concerns about individual liberty and patient privacy.

“We will continue to follow all state and federal laws as they evolve,” Nova President George L. Hanbury II said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mars Perseverance rover takes selfie with Ingenuity helicopter ahead of historic flight

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NASA's Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6, 2021, using the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera located at the end of the rover's long robotic arm. Perseverance's selfie with Ingenuity is constructed of 62 individual images, taken in sequence while the rover was looking at the helicopter, then again while looking at the WATSON camera, stitched together once they are sent back to Earth.

To the delight of social media users, NASA’s Perseverance rover used a camera on the end of its robotic arm to snap a selfie with the Mars Ingenuity helicopter this week ahead of its historic flight mission.

Shown about 13 feet apart in the pictures taken on April 6, 2021, or the 48th Martian day of the mission, the rover used its WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) camera on the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument.

In a release, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said Wednesday that the selfie had been constructed using 62 individual images — taken in sequence — that were stitched together.

It noted that the Curiosity Mars rover, which landed on the red planet in 2011, takes similar “selfies.”

Ingenuity, which has been released on the Martian surface, is scheduled to attempt the first-ever powered and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet no sooner than April 11.

NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter with its blades unlocked acquired by NASA's Perseverance Mars rover using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, on Sol 47, 08 April 2021. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover's mastcam-Z.
NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter with its blades unlocked acquired by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, on Sol 47, 08 April 2021. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mastcam-Z.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE

Once the team at JPL is ready, Perseverance will relay the helicopter’s final flight instruction from mission controllers, according to NASA.

If all final checks and atmospheric conditions look good, the helicopter will lift off climbing at a rate of 3 feet per second and hover at 10 feet above the surface for up to 30 seconds.

After data and potentially images from the rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-Z are downloaded, the Ingenuity team will determine whether the flight was a success. 

The results will be discussed by the team at a media conference that same day.

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