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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

When your employer discourages conversations about pay, watch out

One of the biggest social taboos at work is discussing your rate of pay with your co-workers -- and that suits your employer just fine.

In fact, many employers have openly discouraged employees from discussing their wages with each other -- despite the fact that it's illegal to do so. Since many employees don't realize that the practice is illegal, they comply.

Know your rights regarding work and mental health issues

Mental health issues are very common. However, many people still don't realize that their mental health conditions are entitled to the same workplace protections that physical disabilities are accorded through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also published information to help spread awareness of the rights of mentally ill employees.

Here's what you should know:

Amazon faces renewed charges of pregnancy discrimination

Imagine this: You're pregnant. The law -- and your employee handbook -- guarantee you at least three 10-minute breaks during your shift. To take your break to go to the bathroom, you have to call your supervisor over and let them know that you need to leave, then navigate your way across a massive warehouse floor to the bathrooms, hope that you don't have to wait and somehow manage to navigate your way back to your assigned station within that 10-minute period.

This was a reality for a number of pregnant women working in Amazon warehouses. One woman found her supervisor glaring at her every time she returned because it took her five full minutes to make it from her station to the bathroom -- giving her only seconds to actually use the bathroom -- before she headed back. She often didn't make it within the 10-minute time frame. When she tried to give her supervisor a note from her doctor saying she needed additional bathroom breaks and time, she was flatly told: "It's still against the rules."

Don't let your employer get away with violating your rights

Most people only have a vague idea of what rights they have as employees. Young people, especially, often lack the experience to know when they're being cheated or abused by an employer. However, even older workers can be taken advantage of -- especially if they're from poor socio-economic classes, immigrants who don't speak much English or they're afraid of losing their job and not finding another one.

Here are some of the most commonly violated employee rights:

California ends discrimination against natural hair

Braids, dreadlocks, Bantu knots, twists, fades and Afros have long been associated with men and women of color -- and generally discouraged in many workplaces (if not outright banned).

For decades, professional men and women of color have had to subject their hair to harsh chemical straighteners and relaxers or invest in wigs in order to conform to white notions of what "acceptable" or "professional" hair looks like.

Wrongfully fired? Know how to leave with your dignity intact

You've just been wrongfully fired and you're quite naturally livid about the whole thing. You know that you're experiencing unfair treatment and outright discrimination, and you're humiliated and upset.

Take a deep breath. You need to do everything in your power to control your emotions right now and act with a clear head -- because that can still make a big difference to your future. It's important to keep your dignity on your way out the door. Here's how you do it:

Lawsuit alleges Disney discriminates against women workers

Does Disney discriminate against its women workers? A lawsuit recently filed in Los Angeles County claims that the entertainment giant pays its female employees less than it does males for the same work.

The lawsuit is the latest splash in the news about income disparity among the genders. Large companies like Disney have been dealing with increased scrutiny on their pay practices both in the United States and abroad. They've also been feeling the pressure to be more proactive against workplace inequalities between the genders.

Don't fall for these tricks that can cheat you out of overtime

Most employers are perfectly aware that they need to pay their employees overtime when those employees work more than 40 hours in a week -- but some still try to skirt the law to save a few bucks.

How do they do that and avoid being reported to the government for a wage violation? They usually try to convince their employees that they aren't actually due the money.

California won't let harassment victims be silenced any longer

Sexual harassment in the workplace is no longer something that people simply have to quietly endure -- it's now a subject of intense scrutiny.

California, in particular, seems to have had a wake-up call when it comes to how problematic sexual harassment really is in the workforce -- and what type of barriers victims have faced in the past. Indeed, the wave of sexual harassment claims against members of the state legislature has been somewhat embarrassing -- not to mention expensive. Defending accusations of sexual harassment in the Senate and the Assembly have cost taxpayers more than $1.8 million in legal expenses since 2018 alone.

What is “ableism” in the workplace?

"Ableism" is a form of disability discrimination -- but it's so culturally ingrained that it's often hard to combat. Ableism is anything that devalues someone based on their disability -- whether that disability is visible or not.

Here are some examples of ableism in the workplace:

  • Having an able-bodied individual invade a disabled individual's personal space to physically assist them -- often touching them -- without being solicited or welcomed.
  • Mocking or dismissing someone who is suffering from an invisible disability with phrases like, "He's mental," or "She uses that 'tired' excuse a lot."
  • Grabbing someone's wheelchair without their permission in order to "help" them navigate a difficult turn or movement.
  • Grilling the disabled individual about personal matters related to their condition. Things like, "Is there any chance your cancer will spread?" or "What type of multiple sclerosis do you have?" are intrusive. They're also frustrating when someone is trying to concentrate on their job and possibly even painful to discuss.
  • Making helpful suggestions about the latest fad diet, miracle cure or possible treatment that's been seen on the internet -- especially if it is being touted as a "cure-all" that can help just about any condition.
  • Making comments that suggest that willpower alone can help someone overcome a disability. For example, suggesting that a co-worker suffering from major depression can "snap out of it" by forcing himself or herself to get out and exercise or telling a co-worker with chronic fatigue syndrome to just "push through it."