Three lawsuits in the news and why they’re really so silly

Some lawsuits are a good idea. Some are not. This post is about three that have been in the news and that are not. None seemed worth a post on its own, but now that I have a little collection going, here we go:

  1. Everybody heard about KTVU’s unfortunate reporting on the Asiana crash at SFO earlier this month. You probably also heard about Asiana’s response: to sue the TV station for damaging the airline’s reputation. This is obviously a silly proposition: Stephen Colbert wasted no time after his two-week hiatus to point out that Asiana’s reputation is largely defined by its pilots’ ability to almost land a plane. But there’s another obvious reason the lawsuit is silly. In a statement, Asiana claimed that “the reputation of the four pilots and of the company had been seriously damaged by this report.” Really? The four pilots’ reputation took a hit? All we know about Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow is what their names aren’t. Unless, of course, that’s what their names actually are… in which case, ho lee fuk.
  2. A female professor at the University of Denver is suing her employer for pay discrimination against women. According to the court filing, “Professor Marsh believes that she and other female professors at the law school were discriminated against with respect to compensation because of their gender and were paid less than men performing substantially equal work under similar conditions in the same establishment.” It’s not entirely clear whether women are actually paid less: Marsh cites a memo from the Dean saying yes, while the Chronicle of Higher Education says women actually make more (at least across the University as a whole), and I’m obviously in no position to judge. Instead, I’d like to focus on another data point that’s prominently noted in both the Denver Post article (2x) and the ATL account of the lawsuit (4x): “According to the filing, Marsh is the lowest paid professor, earning $109,000 per year, compared with the median full-professor salary of $149,000.” This is silly. There is going to be one lowest-paid professor, and that professor is going to be either male or female (or I suppose, neither). Whether that professor is a he or a she is largely immaterial. The fact that most faculty members are male while the lowest-paid professor is female is certainly suggestive — but it’s still just one data point. It doesn’t deserve the attention it’s been getting.
  3. An Orthodox Jewish woman is suing L’Oreal “claiming that [its] product does not work as advertised and fades before she can get through the Sabbath.” The product in question is “Teint Idole Ultra 24H foundation” — the 24H stands for 24 hours, indicating it is supposed to look fresh for 24 hours. Due to religious restrictions, the plaintiff applied the product before Shabbat began and was disappointed to discover it did not last all the way through. This is silly. Even if L’Oreal’s product did last twenty-four hours as promised, that still wouldn’t be enough to make it through Shabbat, which lasts twenty-five. This is basically a no-win for L’Oreal. But a better question: what’s a nice Jewish woman doing using Nazi products in the first place? Case closed.

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