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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

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.

Google employees looking to end forced arbitration

California employees may be familiar with forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts. These clauses require workers to resolve disputes with employers by going before an arbitrator. In many cases, employees' odds of winning are lower when compared to taking a case to court. They may also receive less compensation than they might be entitled to in a court case. A group of Google employees is looking to call attention to the issue of forced arbitration through a social media event.

They will be using Twitter and Instagram to promote employee stories as well as facts about forced arbitration. Although this type of clause doesn't apply to sexual harassment cases at most tech companies, they are still used in cases involving other types of discrimination. The organizers of the event hope that raising awareness will result in a level playing field for all workers.

Lawsuit accuses IBM of age discrimination

Older workers in California and around the country have voiced complaints in recent years about age discrimination in the technology center. International Business Machines Corporation is known more for blue suits than beanbag chairs, but it too has been accused of treating its older workers unfairly. On Dec. 21, a 57-year-old former IBM sales director filed a lawsuit alleging the New York-based company has a longstanding and pervasive culture of discrimination that targets employees over 50 years of age.

The woman, who started working for IBM in 1984 and worked her way up from a customer service position to senior management, claims in her lawsuit that she was fired just one month before she was due to receive a $573,000 bonus. She was eventually paid $20,000 according to the litigation.

Male labor analyst sues Disney Cruise Line for sexual harassment

While most sexual harassment lawsuits in California and around the country are filed against male coworkers or supervisors, this isn't always the case. One such recent case involves a middle-aged man who was fired by the Disney Cruise Line after working for the company for 18 years as a labor analyst. Disney claims the man was terminated for using illegal substances, but he says that he lost his job after complaining about the way he was being treated by his younger female manager.

The man alleges in a federal lawsuit that his manager made disparaging comments about him based on his age and gender. He also says that she moved him into a windowless office and denied him electronic devices that had been issued to all of his colleagues. He claims that the manager made lewd and inappropriate comments about sexual conquests involving older married men and routinely passed him over for promotions in favor of less deserving candidates.

California court ruling puts managers at risk

In 2016, the California legislature passed the Fair Day's Pay Act, a law that was intended to assist employees in collecting judgments against judgment proof employers for wage and hour violations. Specifically, Section 558.1 of the Act provides that individuals working on behalf of the employer, such as managers, are personally liable for wage and hour violations.

In 2018, the California Court of Appeal issued a ruling that emphasizes the need for managers to be vigilant about complying with wage and hour laws due to potential personal liability for wage claims. In Atempa v. Pettrazini, two restaurant employees were awarded $30,000 in civil penalties, in addition to attorneys' fees and interest, for the restaurant's failure to pay minimum wages, regular wages and overtime wages. The restaurant had also failed to submit timely wage statements.

When does harassment become a hostile work environment?

If you are like most California employees, you probably dread going to work some days. Unfortunately, few, if any, people can honestly say that they consistently love going to work. Most workplaces have at least one or two people who make work life difficult for others either via general negativity or outright harassment

If you must deal with one or more such people, however, at what point does his, her or their harassment rise to the level of a hostile work environment for which you could file suit against your employer? The answer to this question involves a myriad of factors, including the following:

  • What type of harassment did your co-worker perpetrate against you?
  • For what period of time did this harassment continue?
  • How intense was this harassment?
  • How did this harassment negatively affect your workplace productivity and performance?

Workplace discrimination involving doctors who are mothers

In general, doctors in California and other parts of the country are among the highest earners in the United States. However, results from a survey published in a leading medical journal show that more than a third of doctors questioned who are also mothers face some type of discrimination in the workplace. And it's mainly because they have children. The anonymous survey is based on comments from approximately 6,000 respondents.

The type of workplace discrimination frequently reported by the female doctors and mothers included lower salaries than colleagues, fewer opportunities for advancement, and lack of support while pregnant. Some of the respondents discussed instances where they were purposely excluded from activities outside of work, including somewhere they could have made connections that might have led to advancement because it was assumed they wouldn't be able to attend since they have children. The study's co-author believes the comments suggest some women doctors are fearful of reporting discrimination due to concerns that it may jeopardize their employment status.

Protecting the rights of pregnant employees

California employees who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should be aware of discrimination laws concerning the legality of firing a pregnant employee. For example, an employer may illegally attempt to force a pregnant employee to take an unpaid leave of absence or risk losing her job.

One pregnant employee working at a distribution center in Atlanta experienced this type of illegal discrimination firsthand. After a bout of morning sickness, she informed her supervisor that she was unwell. He responded that she could not take a break without a note from her doctor. She then went to her doctor, who gave her a note stating she should avoid heavy lifting while at work. However, after giving her supervisor the note, she was told to take it to human resources. Human resources informed the pregnant employee that she had to apply for an unpaid leave of absence or face termination. After researching the issue, the employee discovered that her employers were participating in discrimination and that women in her situation had taken the issue to court and won.

Employee rights established by EPA and Title VII

The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act seek to protect workers in California from discrimination. Although the acts obligate employers to treat people fairly regardless of their gender, race, religion or national origin, reality often falls short of the law, and mistreated employees must pursue legal complaints against their employers. The rights granted by these acts sometimes overlap, and a victim of discrimination might choose to file complaints based on one or both acts.

The EPA focuses entirely on preventing wage discrimination on the basis of gender. The law requires employers to pay men and women in equivalent positions the same salary or potentially expose themselves to legal liability. Courts will generally view jobs as equal if they depend on equal skills, effort and responsibility at the same worksite. An EPA complaint offers a person the advantages of a longer statute of limitations compared to a Title VII complaint and the ability to proceed without approval from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EPA claims tend to be easier to prove, and all employers are subject to this law.

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