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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

New California law tackles mandatory employment arbitration

Employers, if you have been using a forced arbitration clause as a condition of employment, you have some decisions to make. As of January 2020, California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) takes the teeth out of most of those old employment provisions.

Essentially, AB 51 prohibits employers from forcing employees to agree to mandatory arbitration. Under the new law, an arbitration provision cannot:

  • Require a mandatory arbitration agreement in order to obtain a job
  • Force an employee to agree to mandatory arbitration in order to remain employed
  • Force employees to waive their rights to bring legal claims as a condition of some work-related benefit (like a raise, promotion or desired transfer)

Executive dysfunction disorders and reasonable accommodation

Some people just seem to have it all together. They can easily plan a project at work from start to finish, are organized, efficient and self-directed.

People with executive dysfunction can only dream of doing the same. Executive functioning issues can occur on their own or as part of another condition. It's common among people who aren't neuro-typical, like those with autism, attention deficient disorder (ADD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. It is also associated with many physical disorders, including psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus. When someone has an executive function disorder they may have trouble:

  • Seeing the steps needed to accomplish even simple projects
  • Following multi-part instructions
  • Setting clear or obtainable goals
  • Juggling more than one task
  • Listening or paying attention
  • Staying focused and organized
  • Regulating their emotions or impulses
  • Getting started on a task and staying on track
  • Accessing their short-term memory

Has 10 years of the 'Me Too' movement changed anything?

If it surprises you that the #MeToo movement is already a decade old, you probably aren't alone. The movement -- which is designed both to allow victims to show solidarity and to provoke beneficial changes in the workplace -- only developed some of its biggest momenta a couple of years ago.

But it's been a pretty productive couple of years. Here's a few of the ways that workers everywhere have benefited from the pushback that has -- finally -- stopped sexual harassment on the job from being normalized:

What are the aftereffects of sexual harassment?

Have you ever heard anyone express skepticism about the damage done by workplace sexual harassment? For decades, the idea of a lecherous boss chasing a harried secretary around a desk was played for laughs -- as if a little sexual harassment was just part of being an attractive human being in the workforce.

However, there's nothing funny about sexual harassment. Victims sometimes see their careers ruined and their personal lives thrown into turmoil. There can be other serious consequences of sexual harassment. Many victims ultimately develop mental and physical issues due to the abuse they've suffered at work.

What to do when wrongful termination happens to you

Getting fired is disheartening, frightening and often humiliating. It can also be grossly unfair and possibly illegal, depending on the circumstances.

How do you know whether you're a victim of a wrongful termination? Even if you were let go along with others due to a corporate merger or cutbacks, it's possible that there could be some type of discrimination behind your particular termination.

What makes an independent contractor different from an employee?

How do you know you're an independent contractor and not an employee? (If your answer is, "Because my boss told me so," you may want to keep reading.)

The "gig economy" is very popular right now in America, partially because it allows people to work a schedule that suits them best. You can, for example, drive for Lyft or Uber when it works best for you -- which makes it ideal if you need to work around your child's school schedule or your primary job.

Don't let language discrimination affect your rights

Speaking Spanish in public these days can expose you to some of the nastier elements of racism. Viral videos of Latinos being insulted, harassed and threatened because they were speaking in Spanish have been flooding the internet for awhile now. It probably surprises no one that up to 40% of Latinos have dealt with aggressive verbal attacks over their use of language.

So, what are your rights?

How do you cope with the emotional aspects of discrimination?

When you face racial, gender or some other form of discrimination at work, you may not be in an immediate position to react. As much as you'd like to file a complaint with Human Resources or quit, you fear that you don't have enough evidence to support your complaint or the financial means to just walk out.

So how do you cope? Workplace discrimination takes a toll on your mental health, elevating your stress levels with every incident. In between acts of discrimination, it's difficult to relax because you're always waiting for the incident.

What sort of workplace accommodations are common for autism?

There are plenty of people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who can function fairly well in the workplace -- although some need reasonable accommodations to better manage their neurodivergent condition at work.

If you have an ASD, you should understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before you decide to disclose your condition to your employer and ask for accommodations. If your employer is subject to the ADA, you have legal protections in place that can help you achieve your goals.

What is your employer's duty once you report sexual harassment?

You've been putting up with sexual harassment for weeks or months now from a co-worker or supervisor. You've tried politely ignoring the harasser as well as directly asking them to stop. You've made your boundaries clear, but the message doesn't seem to be getting through.

Now, it's time to take things up the ladder, either to your supervisor or the Human Resources Department. What do you have a right to expect from your employer once you report the harassment?