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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Northern California Employment Law Blog

Cal State pays $2.75 million to settle sexual harassment claims

A former female athletic department official at Cal State Los Angeles recently received a $2.75 million settlement from the university. The woman alleged that the ex-athletic department director violated the California Fair Housing Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by committing acts of sexual harassment.

FEHA is the primary statute in California that prohibits sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race, color, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, pregnancy and several other factors.

We're willing to take on big companies in California

Taking legal action against a big national or international corporation can be a very daunting task. Large companies usually have access to a lot of resources, including a well-financed legal team that will do what it can to defeat or minimize even a legitimate claim filed by an employee.

For a California employee who has been discriminated against by a major corporation or the management thereof, choosing the right lawyer to handle their claim is critical. In this respect, many employees who have suffered discrimination, retaliation, harassment or some other form of illegal action at the hands of their employers have benefited from our knowledge of California and federal employment law, particularly with respect to anti-discrimination provisions.

Basic points about the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA for short, is a federal law that affords certain protections to people who have documented physical or mental disabilities. The ADA actually covers a variety of topics; among these, it protects employees in California and nationwide who may have to work with a disability.

For employees, the ADA offers two basic protections. The first is that employees with disabilities must not be singled out for different treatment with respect to screening, hiring, firing, laying off and the like. Moreover, those with disabilities must be offered the same job opportunities and other benefits of employment that are offered to everyone else, including even things like the ability to attend company outings and social activities.

Big pregnancy discrimination case turns heads across country

California employees may be interested to hear that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the settlement of allegations against a major nationwide corporation. The action alleged pregnancy discrimination in that a major retailer, which ironically sells women's clothing, was accused of not accommodating pregnant employees as required by law.

In some cases, for instance, pregnant employees were either fired or forced in to taking unpaid time off even though other options were available. Ultimately, the company agreed to pay $3.5 million and agreed to reform its practices and require additional training for 10,000 or so employees.

Health care provide settles pregnancy discrimination lawsuit

A healthcare provided in California, Family HealthCare Network, settled a federal pregnancy discrimination lawsuit with United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The settlement involved the company's having to pay $1.75 million in fines, as well as re-evaluating their procedures and ensuring additional training of managers.

The accused employer operates 20 health care facilities throughout this state. The crux of the government's pregnancy discrimination claim revolved around the provider's leave policies. Apparently, the company made it extremely difficult for pregnant employees to get the leave time they needed, even when it was to attend to a legitimate pregnancy-related medical condition.

Man leaves California Senator's office after allegations surface

A man who was until recently working as a top aide to Senator Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, recently resigned after it came to light that the state had to pay a settlement of $400,000 on his behalf.

The settlement was to resolve sexual harassment claims filed by one of the man's employees while he worked for the California Department of Justice. The suit was filed right at the end of Senator Harris's tenure as the Attorney General of California, who also is the head of the California Department of Justice. The man was a senior official in the Department.

Many men admit to harassing behaviors

It may come as little surprise to women in Fresno, California, that sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in the American workplace. Almost half of all women have reported experiencing sexual harassment while at work. What is interesting is that, according to a relatively recent survey, many men were in confidence willing to admit to engaging in some sort of behavior at work that, legally, might be considered sexual harassment.

Of the over 600 men asked, 1 in 4 admitted to engaging in at least one type of inappropriate behavior, although they were often somewhat reluctant to admit that it was actually sexual harassment. Per the rules of the survey, these behaviors had to have occurred within the previous 12 months.

Racial marginalization in the workplace

Recently, a former Strategic Partner Manager at a large social media company decided to resign from his position after experiencing racial discrimination at work. He had been one of a small percentage of the company's black employees, many of whom he shared these frustrations with. He attempted to raise awareness on their encounters through a company forum post, but his employers did not show the support he was hoping for. As a result, he decided to address his experiences on social media, discussing the subtle ways large corporations may be racially marginalizing their employees:

Sexual harassment an ongoing problem in tech world

Although technology companies that are so popular in California have a reputation for having pro-employee and progressive workplaces, they may not be living up to that reputation when it comes to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. It has long been thought, for instance, that women are grossly underrepresented in the big technology and software engineering firms located in Silicon Valley and in other quarters of this state. It also seems that, perhaps because of this underrepresentation, a lot of women who work in the tech industry also experience sexual harassment.

For instance, about one in three women in these positions either have personally been the victims of sexual harassment or have witnessed an instance of sexual harassment while they were at work and within the previous 12 months. Extend that window of time to five years, and over half of the women asked said that they have either witnessed or experienced sexual harassment.

Pregnancy discrimination and the FMLA

This blog has written previously about the many rights expectant mothers in California enjoy. These rights are enshrined in several different laws, both state and federal. Together, they ensure that a Fresno mom does not have to choose between having a child and maintaining her career. One such law which protects pregnant women, at least indirectly, is the Family & Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.

While not limited in scope to pregnancy, the FMLA protects women who have a medical condition related to pregnancy so that, if needed, they can take an unpaid leave from work without having to worry about having a job when they came back. Unfortunately, even large employers in this state who should know better sometimes try to skirt around the provisions of the FMLA. Sometimes, this is due to ignorance either on the part of the organization as a whole or on the part of individual managers. At other times, an employer's resistance to the FMLA is less benign and, instead, is driven by a concern for the bottom line or, worse, just plain vindictiveness.

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