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Orange County Employment Law Blog

Have you been a victim of indirect discrimination?

With the recent headlines about sexual harassment and discrimination in Hollywood and other high-profile arenas, you may be becoming more aware of what is and is not acceptable in your own workplace. Since many of the current claims that are making headlines contain relatively straightforward allegations about prohibited behavior that is clearly outlined in employment law, it is easy to identify them as violations. However, this is another kind of discrimination that is harder to identify.

According to employment laws, your boss cannot blatantly discriminate against you for being a woman. Through indirect discrimination, your employer can take actions that do not seem discriminatory on the surface, but actually result in discrimination.

Understanding the protections provided for pregnant workers

If a California worker becomes pregnant, she may have a variety of employment protections under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This is true if a person works for a company with 15 or more employees. Under the PDA, an employer is not allowed to harass or otherwise treat a woman differently because of her pregnancy. Furthermore, employers are not allowed to take most employment actions such as demoting or terminating someone simply because she is pregnant.

Employers may also be required to make accommodations such as allowing extra bathroom breaks or allowing a pregnant person to work from home. It is important to remember that what the law says and what an employer does are two different stories. This is because proving pregnancy discrimination can be difficult. In addition to the PDA, pregnant employees may have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Tesla hit with class-action racial discrimination lawsuit

A former employee is suing Tesla over allegations the automaker allows racist behavior at one of its California factories. The class-action complaint was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Nov. 13.

According to court documents, the male lead plaintiff was employed at Tesla's Fremont factory. He claims that he was regularly called the n-word by colleagues and supervisors throughout his employment and that the factory practices race discrimination from the "pre-Civil Rights era". He further claims that he notified the automaker's human resources department about his treatment in October and was subsequently terminated. He alleges that Tesla told him he was fired for not having a good attitude. He also claims that Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote an email in May telling employees to be "thick-skinned" when faced with discrimination at the company. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit on behalf of all black workers at the Fremont factory.

Uber employees sue claiming discrimination

California residents may be interested to learn that three women filed a lawsuit against Uber in San Francisco Superior Court on Oct. 24. The suit claims that the company engaged in discrimination related to both race and gender. It specifically states that female engineers and those of color are not paid the same or promoted as often as engineers who are male, white or Asian.

One of the claims made in the lawsuit was that women make 18 percent less than males for doing the same work while women of color may be paid even less. Their attorney said that the goal of the suit was to make sure that women and minorities get paid the same as others for the same work. Two of the plaintiffs had stopped working with the company while another has stayed on. Uber had not made any statement regarding the lawsuit.

Illegal age discrimination in the tech industry

In this era of affirmative action programs and similar initiatives, many people in California are satisfied that society is working harder to prevent discrimination in employment. However, people in protected categories continue to face troubling experiences in too many industries. For example, a survey conducted by staffing firm Indeed found that tech workers over 40 perceive themselves as quite vulnerable to age-based discrimination. Forty-three percent of respondents reported that they periodically worried about losing their jobs due to their age.

Though race discrimination has rightfully received a lot of attention in the news media, some prominent thinkers have argued that age discrimination deserves greater scrutiny. At least in the tech industry, turning 40 is statistically associated with increased exposure to age-related employment discrimination. Some commentators have argued that religious discrimination and disability discrimination have historically caused more harm than ageism. Nevertheless, all employers who illegally disregard employee rights are facing increased societal pressure.

My boss demoted me after I got pregnant. Do I have any recourse?

Question: I have worked at the same company as a bartender for the last five years. I worked my way up so that I was getting the shifts that had the best tips (weekend evenings and closing shifts, generally.) I am now five months pregnant and I am starting to show. My boss has suddenly taken me off those shifts and put me only on lunch shifts—where I make far less money. He did this to the last girl who was pregnant, too. Can he do this?

Answer: In 1964, The Civil Rights Act was codified into federal law. It gave a variety of protections to employees, including protection against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was added as an addendum to the Civil Rights Act; it protects against discrimination based on pregnancy.

Study examines disability discrimination

California workers who have disabilities may be more likely to feel stalled in the workplace than those who do not. These and other findings regarding employees with disabilities were part of a study done by the Center for Talent Innovation. The research found that almost a third of full-time, college-educated, white-collar employees fit the expanded federal definition of disabled. However, fewer than 4 percent of disabled individuals identify themselves as such to employers.

This could be because employees fear discrimination if their disability becomes apparent. Almost two-thirds of people with disabilities have conditions that are not visible, but more than one-third report experiencing discrimination. Among the forms this discrimination takes is the assumption that a worker cannot do a job or will take longer to complete it. This was a particular problem for people who had visible disabilities. Forty-four percent of individuals with visible disabilities and 40 percent of people with somewhat visible disabilities reported experiencing discrimination.

California passes "ban the box" and salary history laws

A bill that prohibits most private sector employers from asking people who are applying for jobs about their criminal background has been signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, applies to all employers with five or more workers. Public sector employers were prohibited from asking these questions by a previous state law. Another bill signed by the governor prevents both private and public sector companies from making inquiries about salary histories.

Employers may still ask about prior criminal convictions, but these inquiries cannot be made under the new 'ban the box" law until an offer of employment has been conditionally made. The legislation also requires employers to complete a 'fair chance" process when they rescind such offers after learning about a candidate's criminal history. Similar measures have been introduced in more than 150 jurisdictions across the country.

Supreme Court ruling could limit employee rights

A Supreme Court case may mean that California employees will have a harder time taking legal action against their employers, depending upon the ultimate decision. At issue is whether employers can legally require employees to enter into arbitration to collectively settle overtime, wage and other claims. Oral arguments were heard on Oct. 2, and Justice Breyer has said that the case has the potential to undermine the New Deal.

Many workers sign contracts that require them to take their cases to arbitration. However, the National Labor Relations Board believes forcing workers to do so may violate their rights to protect each other. Those who represent the workers believe that they will be on the losing side on this matter because of the makeup of the court. Class action cases may be preferable for those who don't want to be singled out for retaliation or other poor treatment by their employers.

EEOC files lawsuit after Home Depot fires disabled employee

California Home Depot customers may be interested to learn that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the company in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 28 of failing to accommodate a disabled worker at an Illinois location. The EEOC claimed that the company then fired the employee after she suffered a disability-related emergency.

According to the lawsuit, Home Depot violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing the employee instead of allowing her to take a short break to deal with her condition. The ADA generally prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee's disability. The Chicago District Director for the EEOC stated that the company failed to provide the employee with the adequate means she needed to attend to her disability. it then fired her for minor infractions that resulted from the company's failure to provide the required reasonable accommodations.