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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

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."

Olive Grove Charter School charged with wrongful termination

A lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court alleges that a California educator was the victim of wrongful termination once she tried to alert a school's governing body to numerous improprieties by its executive director.

Olive Grove Charter School bills itself as an alternative to traditional schools, catering to those who prefer home schools or who want a mix of home school and traditional classroom activity for their children. It has a variety of locations around the Santa Barbara area.

Take action against disability discrimination

A disability can strike anyone, at any age. In fact, it's estimated that around 40 million Americans struggle with some form of mental or physical disability. Many of those people are working despite their impairments -- but they don't always have an easy time finding acceptance in the workforce.

Disability discrimination is never acceptable -- but people don't always realize the varied forms that disability discrimination can take. Since you can't combat something you don't recognize, it's time to discuss three different types of discrimination you may encounter if you're disabled:

Can you be fired over a hairstyle?

Your hair is a very personal, important part of your identity. So, what happens when your hairstyle is at odds with your employer's grooming policy? Worse, what if your manager tells you that your natural hair is somehow "unprofessional" and expects you to submit to painful, damaging and expensive treatments in order to make it more socially acceptable by white standards?

That's the unfortunate reality for many black men and women in the workforce today -- and it has, historically, been an issue.

New mothers and breastfeeding discrimination at work

Breastfeeding an infant is best for both the infant and mother -- but when that mother is working, attempting to breastfeed and asking for accommodations too often ends with a pink slip.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which covers many employees in the United States, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) both give nursing mothers who work the right to ask employers for a place to express their milk and the right to reasonable break times to do it for a full year after giving birth. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is also used to prevent employers from retaliating against nursing mothers who request accommodations. However, all of those laws pieced together still leave more than 9 million women without legal protection when they nurse.

The various types of workplace retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace is illegal but it still happens today in businesses all throughout San Francisco, the rest of California and the rest of the country. There are various ways you can face retaliation at work and for various reasons. We will take a look at a few of those retaliation types in today's post so you know what to look for on the job.

In many cases, an employee faces retaliation because they acted as a whistleblower. Whistleblowers are protected by law from retaliation but it still happens. Many people blow the whistle on unethical practices, fraud, sexual harassment and other issues that are present in their workplace.

When is obesity a disability?

People with disabilities enjoy certain workplace protections -- but is obesity really a disability in California?

Actually, it depends. An appellate court's ruling on a recent case laid out the conditions under which obesity can be considered a disability. Employers need to take note and adjust their thinking accordingly.

The customer's not always right -- and an employer may be liable

If the customer is always right, does that mean anything goes? Do you, as an employee of whatever enterprise that puts you in the public's path, simply have to suffer whatever bad and boorish behavior a customer wants to dish your way?

Absolutely not.

Know you right to refuse unsafe work

Every job has risks of some sort -- but some are far more dangerous than others. For those occupations, certain protective measures have to be taken to ensure that workers can operate with at least some sense of personal safety.

What can you do, however, when your employer wants to "forge ahead" on a job that's clearly unsafe -- without the necessary personal protective equipment or other equipment you need to do so with a modicum of care?

Moschino accused of racial discrimination in California

In an eye-opening wrongful termination lawsuit against the luxury retailer Moschino, a former employee of its West Hollywood location alleges that her manager pulled out all the stops when it came to showing her racial biases.

The employee, a black woman of Haitian descent, details some startling abuses in her complaint. For example, she was upbraided for having "kinky" hair that was deemed unprofessional, treated with all manner of verbal abuses, referred to as a thief and called "ghetto" by her boss. Her boss even made reference to the employee's "voodoo," an apparent slur aimed at her Haitian heritage.