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Sacramento Employment Legal Blog

Employers have a duty to protect workers from retaliation

Discrimination in the workplace can create an environment of hostility and mistrust. When managers or supervisors mistreat employees in protected classes, such as race or gender, they are violating laws that protect such groups of people. Co-workers often notice when a boss behaves this way, and they may report such mistreatment to those in authority over the supervisor. The problems are compounded if the supervisor launches a campaign of retaliation against the whistleblower.

California employers have an obligation to investigate and confront any allegations of discrimination. Further, an employer would do well to take any action necessary to ensure such discriminatory practices cease and no retaliation takes place. Retaliation can be difficult to spot since a supervisor may keep such behavior subtle and private. Because of this, following up with employees and supervisors is a good habit, and keeping an open channel of communication will make employees more likely to report further discrimination or retaliation.

Age discrimination a growing problem in California

There is something satisfying about doing a job well. However, it often takes time to develop the skills sufficient to move forward in a position and contribute to the achievements of a company. After years, or even decades, in a company, an employee may feel emotionally and personally vested in its success. However, more workers in California and across the country are finding themselves victims of age discrimination as they reach this point in their careers.

After more than 40 years of stellar work at a sheet metal manufacturer in another state, one woman was shocked to be laid off along with over 300 other veteran employees. Her work reviews, consistently A ratings, inexplicably plummeted to a C just a few months before her termination. The company claimed it needed to reduce the salaried workforce to compete with others in the industry.

Is sexual harassment the norm at TV networks?

In recent months, TV networks have been quick to report the misconduct of their rivals. Now one of the most vocal is facing similar charges. NBC has been accused of a pattern of sexual harassment and discrimination against its female employees. California workers who are mistreated by their employers will likely be watching closely as the case proceeds.

The audio-visual coordinator no longer works for NBC, but that was not her choice. She claims she was fired after complaining about the treatment she received from her male supervisor. In fact, from the time an NBC recruiter contacted her about the job, the woman suspected something was amiss. She was required to submit her Facebook profile picture before the company would consider interviewing her because, as the recruiter allegedly explained, they only hired attractive people.

Pregnant teacher files wrongful termination claim

Most California employers understand they cannot fire someone just because the person is male or female. However, what some apparently do not realize is that firing someone because she is pregnant is included in the law protecting workers from sex discrimination. The supervisors of a nonprofit daycare center in another state may have realized quickly that a pregnant worker was protected by law, but they did not help their situation by continuing to harass her because of her condition.

As the law allows, the woman did not disclose her condition when she interviewed for the full-time teacher aid job after working there as a counselor the summer before. Already five months pregnant, she waited a month before inquiring about the policies for maternity leave. Her supervisor responded by informing the woman she never would have been hired if she had disclosed her pregnancy at her interview. The next day, the teacher was terminated.

U.S. Supreme Court considers definition of whistleblower

The integrity of a California employee may be challenged when the worker discovers his or her employer is violating federal securities laws through fraud, insider trading or other deceptive practices. The ethical obligation to report the violation may conflict with the employee's fear of workplace retaliation. Fortunately, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides workers with incentive to report. Recently, however, there are questions about how the law should be interpreted.

The Whistleblower Program provides awards to workers who report about securities violations within the workplace. The awards may be quite generous depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation. More importantly, the law provides protection against retaliation for whistleblowers. However, recent lawsuits question whether employees must make their reports to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission in order to be eligible for such protections.

Walmart's three-strike policy may violate FMLA

The members of California families depend on each other to provide for their needs and care for them when they are sick. When those two things are at odds, family providers may feel torn, especially if the company where they work is not sympathetic toward their situation. Based on recent reports, it might be safe to say that Walmart is one of those companies. In fact, Walmart's policies may be violating provisions in the Family Medical Leave Act.

The FMLA guarantees up to 12 days of unpaid sick leave to workers at mid-size companies. However, Walmart's attendance policy includes a strict three strikes limit. Each time workers take off for illness or family medical emergencies, they earn a point, and by the time they have two demerits, they are left with the risk of losing their jobs if they need another day off. Eighty percent of Walmart workers surveyed said managers had penalized them for missing work due to a medical emergency.

Former Fox anchor working to prevent workplace harassment

For too many people in California, harassment and mistreatment are just another part of the work day. Women may be especially vulnerable to the advances and abuse of more powerful people in their companies, but certainly men also face discrimination in the workplace. As the culture evolves and more people seek justice and fairness in all aspects of life, it may seem incongruous that people are still sexually harassed on the job, but former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson is trying to do something to change that.

The environment at Fox News was apparently one of pervasive harassment. Once Gretchen Carlson came forward last year with a harassment lawsuit against the network and its CEO, Roger Ailes, she received messages of gratitude from thousands of women who were fighting the same daily battle at work. She understands their reluctance to come forward and compares her own experience to jumping off a cliff.

Lawsuit: TSA reorganized to weed out older, more costly employees

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a class of Transportation Security Administration agents and air marshals who claim a cost-saving reorganization plan was a pretext for age discrimination. The agency closed field offices in San Diego, Phoenix, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Tampa, then allegedly made it "extremely difficult, expensive, unpalatable, and problematic" for older employees to transfer to new jobs, the lead plaintiff says.

The lead plaintiff claims that of the approximately 300 air marshals in the offices slated for closure, at least 90 percent were over the age of 40. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits job discrimination against anyone over 40. The reason older workers are often targeted is that their years of service have increased their salaries over time.


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