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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

What the UPS discrimination lawsuit means for employers

Workers in California may be interested to learn that the United Parcel Service just settled a case with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission for $4.9 million. The case revolved around religious discrimination in which UPS was accused of not accommodating its employees' religious beliefs.

Specifically, the EEOC claimed that UPS was neither hiring nor promoting individuals whose religious practices forced them to deviate from the company's appearance policy. This made it a matter of religious discrimination. For example, UPS had strict guidelines stating that its male employees who are in supervisory positions or interact directly with customers should have clean-shaven faces and relatively short hair. Unfortunately, this created a problem for Muslims who preferred to keep their beards, Native Americans who chose to maintain long hair and Rastafarians who grew long dreadlocks. Consequently, UPS hired these individuals into non-supervisory roles, forcing them to work in back-of-house positions where they wouldn't interact with customers.

Ikea targeted by 5 age discrimination lawsuits since 2018

Ikea is well known to consumers in California who need home furnishings. However, a growing list of lawsuits paints a picture of a company that's hostile to older workers. In a little over 12 months, five employees have filed lawsuits against the company complaining of age discrimination. A statement from the company highlighted its philosophy of inclusion and equality but did not address specific complaints from the plaintiffs.

In early 2018, the first lawsuit appeared when a 54-year-old male employee accused the company of refusing to promote him. His court filings point out that he had good performance reviews. By August 2018, two more lawsuits emerged. One of the female plaintiffs included gender discrimination in her legal complaint. Before the year ended, Ikea had been named in a fourth lawsuit based on age discrimination.

Google announces an end to mandatory arbitration for workers

Google employees will no longer be prevented from taking part in class-action lawsuits or suing the company over matters such as wrongful termination and discrimination. The California-based company announced that it was relaxing its mandatory arbitration rules in a Feb. 21 press release. The move marks the second time the it has relaxed its rules regarding workplace claims in recent months. In November, Google waived its mandatory arbitration requirement for assault and sexual harassment claims after 20,000 of its employees walked out in protest.

Employers prefer arbitration because it does not involve an unpredictable jury, is less expensive than litigation and allows them to keep potentially embarrassing allegations private. The protesting workers questioned the impartiality of arbitrators paid for by Google and claimed that the secrecy shrouding the process encouraged and enabled abusive managers and sexual harassers. They walked out after learning that a senior executive accused of sexual harassment had been offered a $90 million exit package by the company.

Department of Labor sues Oracle over $400 Million in Lost Wages

A major discrimination lawsuit against tech giant Oracle could have implications for employers in California and nationwide. According to the lawsuit, Oracle's practices were so discriminatory that it cost black, female, and Asian employees more than $400 million in pay over four years.

The lawsuit, filed by the United States Department of Labor, came after the conclusion of a 2014 investigation into the company. Filed in 2017, the suit alleges a number of factors that have led to discriminatory pay. To begin, the Department of Labor believes that Oracle's college and university hiring practices largely discriminate against employees that are black, Asian, or female. While Oracle hires a large number of Asian graduates, the Department argues that Oracle's hiring strategy relies on foreign visa-holders that can be taken advantage of. This is due to their visa being dependent on continued employment with Oracle.

Severance agreements are different for over-40 employees

In California, a severance agreement must meet many requirements in order to be enforceable. For example, this kind of contract between an employer and a departing employee cannot include a noncompete agreement.

Furthermore, an employer must comply with special severance agreement requirements that only pertain to employees age 40 and older.

Overtime rule to raise minimum pay for exemptions

Some California workers may have changes in their overtime status in 2019, but the changes will not be as drastic as those that were in the original rule put forth by the Obama administration. That rule raised the amount for the white-collar overtime exemption to $47,476 from $23,660 and the highly compensated exemption from $100,000 to $134,004.

The rule was due to take effect in December 2016, but just beforehand, a Texas federal court declared it invalid. Following an initial appeal, the Department of Labor decided to revise the rule instead. Although the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL said in fall 2018 that a new proposal would be released by March 2019, the rule went to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in January. The OIRA may spend up to 90 days reviewing it and can then extend that time. The review includes making sure alternatives have been considered, examining benefits and costs and integrating public comments.

Most employees alleging breastfeeding discrimination lose jobs

It's no secret that some employers in California and elsewhere across the country fail to provide adequate accommodations for breastfeeding. When this happens, nursing employees often face potential health risks and other challenges. According to a new study focusing on this topic, two-thirds of breastfeeding discrimination cases over the past decade resulted in employees alleging this type of discrimination being terminated.

Breastfeeding is a type of employment discrimination that can involve many different issues. For example, some employers may deny break requests for nursing employees when they are leaking milk or experiencing pain. Discrimination of this nature may also involve not providing privacy so that nursing workers can pump breast milk, co-worker comments on breasts, or firing employees who ask for breaks to breastfeed. Legally, employers are supposed to provide sufficient breaks for pumping, a clean place to do this and temporary job reassignment when necessary. Discriminatory consequences sometimes result in nursing mothers weaning earlier than what's normally recommended. There's also the possibility of infections or a diminished milk supply.

Employees sue over alleged racism at GM plant

General Motors is a very familiar brand in California and nationwide. The company employs thousands in many locations, but a specific plant in the Midwest appears to be a hotbed of racism. Three lawsuits targeted the same plant where African American workers claimed that the workplace tolerated racial slurs, verbal attacks, racist graffiti, and the display of nooses.

Leadership at GM responded to the lawsuits filed against the company in 2018 by stating that the incidents of harassment and mistreatment were isolated. An attorney representing eight workers said that the automaker did not respond appropriately to the allegations. The racially-charged atmosphere persisted at the plant, she said.

Age discrimination is a common problem

In 2000, individuals over the age of 65 made up about 12 percent of the United States population. By 2050, it is expected that roughly 22 percent of those living in California and throughout America will be over the age of 65. Therefore, it may be necessary for individuals to spend additional years in the workforce. However, most people still prefer to start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62.

This may be in part because of age discrimination. According to one study of 2,000 adults over 50, more than half left their jobs for reasons such as their companies close or an unexpected retirement. Another study found that 39 percent of individuals who retired in 2014 were forced to do so. The data suggests that older workers are being pushed aside in favor of younger employees. This can have negative impacts on a person's long-term finances as well as on an individual's physical and mental health.

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