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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Northern California Employment Law Blog

Prominent scientists moving to put teeth behind group's code

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences, with a membership that consists of around 2,000 of the brightest scientific minds in the country, is moving to add some teeth behind its recently adopted code of conduct for its membership.

At present, even in the wake of serious allegations of sexual harassment or other flagrant discrimination, a member of the Academy can only be asked to resign. Should the member refuse, the Academy has no way of forcing the member out.

Amazon under fire for pregnant employee bathroom breaks

Retail and online shopping industries are often seen as the most common culprits when it comes to work discrimination. You’ll frequently see some of the larger names in the news such as Walmart in a controversial court case at least once every month. Despite the heavy criticisms these companies receive and their vows to maintain a safe workplace, it can be difficult to hold them to their word considering how many buildings they have around the country and the number of workers within them.

The online shopping company Amazon has faced several controversies for their working environment within the last decade. Many current and former workers have cited inhumane conditions and disrespectful employers during their time operating there. The newest addition to their long list of criticisms was recently highlighted on a CNET article, where former employees that were pregnant spoke about how difficult their employers made it for them.

New sexual harassment claim against political party, former chair

Over the last several months, there have been a series of sexual harassment allegations against leaders in California's political scene. Now, a former employee of California's Democratic Party has sued the organization as well as its former chairman.

The man alleges the former leader sexually assaulted him. Specifically, the man said he felt compelled to perform sexual acts with the former chair. The former chair allegedly gave a veiled threat to the man that if the man refused, the chair would harm the man's career.

Update: more money paid for pregnancy discrimination in 2018

A previous post on this blog discussed how thousands of people across the country, including in California, file pregnancy discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) every year. The EEOC is a federal agency charged with enforcing the federal laws prohibiting various types of employment discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. To update the previous post, the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC are now finalized and available for the fiscal year 2018.

The volume of new claims dropped somewhat, from 3,174 in 2017 down to 2,790 in 2018. On the other hand, the total amount of payments collected on behalf of employees rose, from $15.0 million in 2017 to $16.6 million in 2018, an increase of about 10%.

Issues with remote work and employment discrimination

One of the neatest benefits of modern technology is that more and more employees in California are able to do some or even all of their work from the comfort of their own homes. While it is certainly not something that all employers in Northern California offer or that all employees would even want to accept, many find the option both convenient and enjoyable. However, employees who are interested in this option need to be aware of some important rights that they have with respect to remote working arrangements.

For one, California's wage and hour rules still apply when a person is working at home. A person who is not exempt from California's overtime laws has to be paid the appropriate overtime rate if he works over eight hours in a given day or otherwise qualifies for these benefits. Other wage and hour laws also apply to arrangements involving remote work.

Major national law firm sued for pregnancy discrimination

One would think that a large law firm with billions of dollars in revenue annually and a presence across the globe would know better than to run afoul of applicable employment discrimination laws, including laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and discrimination based on gender. However, Jones Day, one of the world's biggest firms, recently was on the receiving end of a lawsuit alleging that six associate attorneys, who were all female, were subject to discriminatory treatment. The allegations in the lawsuit include both pregnancy discrimination and gender discrimination.

The allegations are the latest in a series of lawsuits against big corporations from a variety of industries. These complaints all describe how these companies systemically discouraged female employees from having children. For example, women who were planning to have families often found themselves cut out of key business meetings and also overlooked when it came to handing out bonuses.

Transit agency under fire for pregnancy discrimination

Several pregnancy discrimination lawsuits stem from industries that challenge female employees physically. Police officers and factory workers cannot perform the same tasks they usually can when they are expecting, so employers should attempt to accommodate their needs in some fashion during this difficult period.

However, certain jobs can challenge a pregnant worker due to inactivity. Even though these employees are encouraged by their doctors to rest and take it easy, they still need to move every once in a while to keep their bodies in shape and not risk developing cardiovascular diseases. Because of this, some employers end up mistreating pregnant employees because they don’t consider the consequences of inactivity as much as the more physically active tasks. A recent lawsuit against one of the more popular transit agencies in California hints that these misunderstandings continue today.

Pending lawsuit tests Google's commitment to workplace fairness

One of California's most famous employers, Alphabet, has received accolades in recent weeks over their decision no longer to require employees to submit claims alleging discrimination to an arbitration process. Many people in the Fresno area probably recognize Alphabet as the parent company for Google.

Until recently, Google, like many other companies, made their applicants agree as a condition of their employment with Google to arbitrate employment discrimination claims. This policy forced employees into a process that many believe is stacked in an employer's favor. For those who are not familiar with it, arbitration involves a more free-for-all legal process in which a panel of experts review a matter and make a decision. Their decision will generally be respected by courts. Notably, if a claim goes to arbitration, an employee will not get the benefit of a jury trial.

San Francisco pays millions in employment claims

According to recent statistics, San Francisco has paid tens of millions of dollars over the past 12 or so years to resolve various lawsuits, most of which were filed at the hands of employees who had been victimized by some form of discrimination. To break down the numbers, since 2007, San Francisco has had to resolve 57 wrongful termination cases and 55 racial discrimination cases filed by employees against the city.

Additionally, there were 51 paid claims of employment discrimination on the basis of disability, and 14 claims related to gender discrimination. In addition to these gender discrimination claims, there were also 21 claims of sexual harassment. Overall, these claims made up over half of all cases in which San Francisco paid money to settle lawsuits.

Many cases of pregnancy discrimination go unreported

For over 40 years now, the federal government has afforded employment protections to pregnant women via the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law basically prevents women who are in the workforce from being singled out or discriminated against because they either want to have child or are expecting a child and have to take time off of work for pregnancy-related issues. Likewise, California has for several years had its own, broader laws in force that further protect pregnant women.

Between the late 1990s and about 2011, the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission spiked, going from about 4,000 in fiscal year 1997 to about 6,000 in fiscal year 2011. After that time, until just a year or so ago, the numbers have been more stable. Some of this apparent stability, however, may be attributable to changes in the way complaints are reported.

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