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How California’s new laws affect the state’s workforce

If you live and work in California, it is important that you understand the new employment laws that went into effect at the beginning of the year and that you recognize how they might impact you. From the types of questions potential employers can ask during your interview to your options as far as taking leave from your place of employment, the state’s laws have undergone numerous changes in recent months.

Some of the more notable changes affecting California’s workforce include the following:

Appeals ruling favors EEOC

Workers in California that believe they are experiencing wage discrimination may be interested in learning about a recent decision issued by a federal appeals court. With a ruling of 2-1, the 4th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could proceed with a lawsuit against an insurance regulatory agency. The EEOC alleges that the agency may have compensated female employees less than their male counterparts working similar jobs.

Evidence was presented by the EEOC that indicated the agency paid three women, who used to be fraud investigators, less than it compensated four male fraud investigators that had comparable experience and credentials. The EEOC asserts that the women investigators earned up to $45,503 to $50,300 annually while the men were paid up to $47,194 to $51,561 a year.

Younger workers targeted in ads hidden from older workers

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects people in California and throughout the country that are aged 40 years and older from age discrimination on the job. However, one study found that in comparison to their workforce representation, Generation X workers are hired 33 percent less and Baby Boomers 60 percent less in tech jobs while millennials are hired 50 percent more. Age discrimination is a serious problem in the tech industry despite the fact that one survey found that IT workers over 55 years of age were less stressed by workplace technology than younger workers were.

According to an investigation by the New York Times and ProPublica, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook published job ads that could only be seen by younger people. The investigation also found that Amazon, Verizon and other companies had done so as well. In December, the Communications Workers of America filed a class-action age discrimination lawsuit in response.

Whistleblower wins countersuit against retaliation

In December 2017, a jury awarded the former employee of an asbestos abatement and demolition business with a $174,000 settlement after he was retaliated against for reporting improper asbestos removal. California workers will want to know the details of this case so as to better understand what constitutes retaliation and wrongful termination.

According to the complaint, the employee was fired the day after he voiced concerns about incorrect asbestos removal at a high school in which the company was working. For proof, the man went to the work site after closing to take photographs of the asbestos and removed a bag containing the minerals. A few weeks after the whistleblower's termination, his former employer filed a defamation suit against him.

FLSA determines exemption from overtime pay, not job labels

Most California companies must follow the Fair Labor Standards Act when designating employees as exempt or nonexempt. Labeling a worker as a manager is not sufficient to meet the laws that govern whether a person receives overtime pay. Rules guiding these designations vary by industry, but the duties of the employee actually determine job classification instead of an employer's arbitrary decision or belief.

Some agricultural and interstate trucking jobs qualify for exempt classifications, but the bulk of exempt positions fall within the executive, administrative and professional category. White-collar positions must meet salary and duty requirements to be considered exempt. Salaries must equal a minimum of $455 a week or $23,660 per year. Duties must involve either direct management of employees or decision making crucial for business operations.

Examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace

As a California employee, you have certain rights, and one of those rights involves having a work environment that is free from discrimination. While discrimination can take on a variety of forms, know that you, as a pregnant woman, do not have to put up with unfavorable treatment at work because of your condition.

Just what is workplace pregnancy discrimination, and how can you tell if you are a victim?

Federal appeals court rules on FLSA professional exemption

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers in California and around the country to pay their workers overtime when they work more than 40 hours during a workweek, but employees who perform bona fide administrative, executive or professional duties are not covered by the landmark 1938 federal law. The statute does not clearly define what makes a position a white-collar job, and the courts have generally ruled that workers are covered by the FLSA unless their duties plainly and unmistakably fall within the exemption.

A recent case dealing with this issue involved two welding inspectors who filed a class-action claim against their employer after being denied overtime pay while working on a pipeline project in Ohio in 2013 and 2014. The Texas-based construction management company involved maintained that the plaintiffs performed executive duties and were therefore not covered by the FLSA, and these arguments convinced a district court judge to dismiss the case.

Gender discrimination in the workplace

Almost 40 percent of women in California and the rest of the country state that they have been a victim of workplace gender discrimination, according to survey data collected by the Pew Research Center. Some of the behaviors they have endured include being skipped for important tasks and receiving less pay than male co-workers who have the same job. The survey also determined that employed adult women were almost two times more likely than employed adult men to say that they had been a victim of one or more of the eight different types if workplace gender discrimination.

Researchers conducted the survey during the summer of 2017 and before the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against famous men began circulating. It was conducted from July 11, 2017 to August 10, 2017 and had 4,914 respondents, 4,702 of which were part-time workers.

Manager's statements can affect an employee's ACA claim.

Employees of Dave & Buster's successfully sued the chain for intentionally cutting hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate. In the lawsuit, they used an unusual approach to advance their argument. Because it may be the first successful suit of its kind, its effect could be felt in California and elsewhere around the country.

The lawsuit alleged the employer intentionally cut the hours of its employees to below 30 per week to take the employees out of the ACA provisions of mandatory healthcare benefits. In their class action suit, the employees used ERISA provisions rather than elements of the ACA. ERISA is normally thought of as an act protecting retirement benefits, but the plaintiffs relied on one specific provision.

Pregnant worker receives $45,000 from employer

As a general rule, employers in California and elsewhere in the United States cannot discriminate against an employee because of a pregnancy. According to the EEOC, a company called Peninsula Packaging will pay $45,000 to an employee for discriminating against her because she was pregnant. The employee reportedly needed accommodations after becoming pregnant that the company would not provide to her. This was a violation of Title VII in the opinion of the EEOC.

It was a violation because the company was treating the pregnant worker differently than it would have treated others who needed accommodations. In a statement, a representative of the EEOC in Fresno said that it commended the company for working with the organization to resolve the matter. In addition to the $45,000, the company will hire a consultant to create equal opportunity training programs.

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