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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

California Senate settles retaliation lawsuit for $310,000

Former Senator Tony Mendoza may have resigned his position in 2018 after a flurry of accusations involving sexual harassment, but his unfortunate legacy is still hanging over California. Another six-figure settlement has been made related to the senator -- but it's the taxpayers who have to pick up the bill, not the former senator.

This case is related to allegations that the senator retaliated against his legislative director for reporting the sexual harassment of a co-worker. According to the complaint, the legislative director informed both Senate officials and her direct supervisor about Mendoza's pattern of harassment, inappropriate actions and discrimination toward another female staffer in the office. The plaintiff was subsequently fired, an act that she claims was designed to punish her for speaking out. She was one of three employees handed termination letters during a meeting with human resources about the issues.

What sort of work accommodations can be made for migraines?

If you've ever had a genuine migraine, there's little chance you'll confuse it with an ordinary tension headache. Migraines can be utterly debilitating -- and an estimated 4 million adults in the United States suffer from a chronic form that affects them 15 days or more out of every month.

If you're a migraineur who is struggling with head pain, nausea and other symptoms, asking for reasonable accommodations from your employer can help you manage your condition and keep working.

California intervenes in Riot Games discrimination settlement

Video game developer Riot Games, the company that developed "League of Legends," has entered into a tentative agreement to pay $10 million to several former employees. The employees, all women, claimed they were victims of gender discrimination. The company received a lot of negative publicity over the allegations and -- rather quickly -- settled.

However, the state of California thinks the settlement is vastly unfair both to the plaintiffs and everyone who may follow in their shoes. The state is asking the company to pay $400 million to the women who sued -- and that's just for starters. The state also says that the settlement's non-monetary terms are inadequate to change the company's culture and enforce nondiscrimination policies.

What form does workplace discrimination take?

Workplace discrimination can affect you at all stages of your employment -- even though discrimination due to numerous factors, like your race, religion, national origin or gender, is illegal under both federal and state laws.

You may know that workplace discrimination is against the law, but do you know how to spot it when it happens? Many workers do not. Their lack of familiarity with the issue makes them doubtful about whether or not their employers have done anything wrong or if they even have a case.

California begins tracking sexual harassment claims

One of the reasons that sexual harassers thrive in the workplace is that there's never been any particular effort to track them. Indeed, since many employers are reluctant to admit that sexual harassment occurred behind their doors, many harassers can quietly move on to other positions in other companies -- where new potential victims await.

California would like to change that -- and it's taking active steps to do so. A new centralized system, designed to track both sexual harassment claims and discrimination lawsuits among state employees, "went live" on Jan. 1, 2020.

Is job discrimination against African Americans still a problem?

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination remains a huge problem for African Americans and other minorities in America. The state of California is no exception, with many struggling to find good jobs that pay fair wages to African Americans and other residents alike.

To show you just how relevant African American workplace discrimination still is in the 21st century, look at the following statistics provided by the Center for American progress.

California restaurant worker wins discrimination claim

Pregnancy can be an exciting time. However, that excitement can be diminished significantly if your employer uses your pregnancy as an excuse to discriminate, make your life miserable and force you out of your job.

Unfortunately, many women in the service industry face pregnancy discrimination. Often, they're in low-paid positions and without many resources. Therefore, they simply move on -- instead of fighting back.

California law ending forced arbitration put on hold

As of Jan. 1, 2020, California was set to ban forced arbitration in employment contracts -- a move that was designed to keep sexual harassment victims from being forced to settle and stay silent after being abused. Critics have long said that forced arbitration clauses can end up punishing the victims for fighting back. They also tend to protect the sexual harasser since a company can often settle a claim quickly and quietly -- without any risk to its reputation.

A federal judge has blocked the new law, however, at the last minute. The current injunction is temporary, pending a deeper review of the arguments brought by the California Chamber of Commerce and other opposition groups. The groups, comprised largely of business entities, say that arbitration clauses are protected under federal law and that they encourage a fair settlement. They allow companies to more quickly resolve sexual harassment cases without the unnecessary expense of court.

Californians brace for changes in employment law

There are a bunch of new laws going into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 in California -- and both employers and employees are bracing for the repercussions.

Here's an overview of some of the big changes to employment laws and employee rights in the new year that you should know if you live or work in the state:

  1. The minimum wage will increase to $13 per hour for employees working for companies with more than 25 employees. Those working for smaller employers will see their minimum wage increase to $12 per hour.
  2. Many independent contractors, including most freelancers and consultants, will now be reclassified as employees. In theory, this is to make certain that "gig workers" have access to paid sick leave, health insurance and a living wage. In practice, it could cause many small businesses to rethink their business plans and hiring strategies. Numerous groups of freelancers and some businesses have already challenged the law.
  3. Exemptions have been carved out of the new laws regarding independent contractors for professionals like physicians, attorneys, realtors, graphic artists and even hairstylists -- but only if they have significant autonomy to negotiate their fees and control their workflow.
  4. Employees who are new mothers are now granted a guaranteed eight weeks of postpartum leave, instead of six weeks. In addition, employers are now legally obligated to provide nursing mothers with lactation breaks and a clean, safe environment in which to nurse or pump.

Small businesses are seeing a rise in discrimination claims

A new report from the business insurer Hiscox may be making small business owners (and their own insurers) all over California a little nervous.

According to data mined from national and state agencies alike, California is the third-most risky state in terms of the risk of employment lawsuits for both small and medium companies. On average, the odds that a business of that size will face a discrimination claim or another employment action is 46%. The national average for those kinds of claims, by comparison, is only 10%.