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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

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%.

Riot Games settles gender discrimination suit for $10 million

Riot Games, the maker of League of Legends and other popular video games, has been in the news since at least May. That's when 150 of its employees walked away from their desks in Los Angeles, CA, in protest over what they said was a toxic corporate culture that discriminated against women.

The video game industry has long been a hotbed of allegations of sexism where women are undervalued and often discredited in what is often a male-dominated field. Riot Games denied the allegations, claiming that "gender discrimination (in pay or promotion), sexual harassment and retaliation are not systemic at Riot."

How to tell you need a wrongful termination attorney

wrongful-termination-attorney-california-sf.jpgHave you been fired? If you feel like the firing was unfair, you may be wondering if you're just out of luck -- or if you have a case for wrongful termination. Should you see a lawyer about your situation? Here are some reasons why it's smart to consider it:

1. An attorney can advise you about the next steps you should take

Court rules accidental discrimination is still discrimination

A California Court of Appeals' decision regarding a wrongful termination claim and disability discrimination has a warning for employers: Be cautious when you apply a termination policy to a newly disabled employee. You'd better be certain that you've done everything necessary to make reasonable accommodations for the disability and that you're not making an error in the application of your policy. If you do make an error, you -- not the employee -- will bear the financial consequences.

The case behind the ruling involved a pharmaceutical representative who developed an eye condition that impaired his ability to drive, thus making him unable to do his job. However, he requested accommodation by asking to be reassigned to a position that didn't require driving. In fact, he asked repeatedly and was forced to complain that the company's human resource department wasn't doing enough to arrange a transfer.

What forms can pregnancy discrimination take?

pregnancy-discrimination-attorneys-california.jpgWhen you think of "pregnancy discrimination," you may think of those days, long ago, when companies actually forbid female employees from getting pregnant. Anyone who announced they were expecting (or started to show) was summarily dismissed from their position.

Well, that's not legal anymore but that doesn't mean that the atmosphere in some companies has changed all that much. Pregnancy discrimination just takes on new forms. Here are some of the ways it manifests:

  1. Unwelcome comments about a pregnant woman's body, like statements about her increasing chest size, weight gain or belly
  2. Crude, sexual comments about how the baby was conceived or how childbirth affects a woman's body
  3. Statements that play to stereotypes about working mothers, like "I bet you quit once that baby's actually here," or "There's no way you'll have time to handle a major account once you have a newborn"
  4. Sudden negative performance reviews that focus on things like the number of bathroom breaks a pregnant woman is taking or how often she sits down
  5. A refusal to make any sort of ordinary accommodations for the pregnancy, recovery or period of nursing without putting the employee through unnecessary "hoops," like getting a doctor's note to be allowed to sit down when her feet swell
  6. Comments from employers (or co-workers, if the employer tolerates it) about how the pregnancy is making the woman "slow" and less productive, and naturally, less valuable to the company
  7. A refusal to allow a woman to do her job because she is pregnant even though her job poses no substantial risk to her health or the baby's health