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Sacramento Employment Legal Blog

Study shows racial bias still exists in hiring practices

Most people in California would agree that racial relations have improved since the 1960s. Many may even point to the recent election of black president as evidence that the country is on the right track. However, for many people of color, the last quarter century has brought few changes.

One area in which blacks still seem to face discrimination is in the workplace. A report recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining an intense study conducted on the hiring practices for more than 25,000 job openings across the country. Data from experiments regularly performed over the decades was analyzed and compiled to ascertain whether businesses have improved in hiring people of color who are well qualified for available jobs.

Famous chef faces sexual harassment charges

It is not uncommon for the owner or manager of a California business to set the tone for the way people are treated within the establishment. An owner who treats his or her employees with respect and dignity may find that those workers share that respect and perpetuate the behavior. On the other hand, when employers abuse or objectify their staff members, they may inadvertently permit others to do the same, creating a hostile atmosphere. The owner of a posh restaurant in another state is currently under fire for establishing an atmosphere that encouraged sexual harassment.

Todd English may be much lauded in food circles, but more than one staff member has accused him and others on his staff of inappropriate behavior. One of the celebrity chef's restaurants is known for its unique dining experience and enormous reception hall, and it was in this hall that a server was working a private party when English approached her and allegedly began to harass her. The server claims he behaved as if he were intoxicated and began to kiss her, making sexual comments.

Five signs that your workplace is a hostile environment

Workplace harassment is a common problem for both men and women in California and across the United States. Many people do not know the signs of a hostile workplace and what qualifies as harassment.

This blog post outlines some of the common indicators of a hostile work environment that you should look for at your job. Workers have options if they experience harassment and they can take steps to protect themselves in a hostile workplace.

Employer fails to alter dress code for religious beliefs

Federal laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with special circumstances, such as health issues or religious beliefs. When California employers refuse to make those accommodations, the worker may have a case for discrimination. Recently, a woman in another state contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when her new employer refused to make adjustments to the company's dress code to accommodate the woman's religious beliefs.

EEOC has assisted a waitress in filing a lawsuit against a southern-themed restaurant because it says the owner wrongfully terminated the waitress just days after she was hired. The waitress claims the manager did not inform her of the dress code for the restaurant, which requires waitresses to wear blue jeans. Because her beliefs as a Pentecostal Christian do not allow her to wear pants, the woman requested to be allowed to wear a denim skirt instead. She received no reply, so she wore the skirt to work.

Lactating police officer faces discrimination and retaliation

Mothers in California and across the country are protected at the federal level from workplace discrimination through the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Affordable Care Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. These areas of employment law provide unpaid leave for a woman having a baby, as well as requiring employers to provide a sanitary place for nursing, and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing mothers. However, many women feel their bosses do not provide these accommodations, and they even face retaliation for complaining about the discrimination.

One example involves an exemplary police officer in another state, who went on 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave. When she returned to work, she expected to be able to pump breast milk during her breaks throughout her shift. However, her supervisor refused to make those accommodations for her. When she complained about having to express milk in a public locker room or bathroom, he told her she had to stop nursing her baby or quit her job.

Natural disasters may not qualify for FMAL benefits

There are few in California who have not heard of the devastation in other parts of the country as a result of the hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires. The news provides shocking images of communities and families devastated by the destruction, and many wonder how the victims will carry on. In some cases, homeowners struggle to figure out how to manage the cleanup and to help affected family members and still get to their jobs to earn money to support their families. Will the Family and Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA, cover this?

The federal law (California has other protections at the state level) provides unpaid time off work for qualifying workers to deal with situations involving an illness or other medical issue in their families. For example, a woman may qualify for FMLA for childbirth and the weeks of recovery to follow, and her child's father may have the same benefits from his job. However, does this act apply for dealing with the personal obligations that occur following a natural disaster?

California's SoFi faces charges of violations of employment law

The California finance company Social Finance Inc. has lately faced some disturbing charges by a former employee. While original complaints limited the allegations to managers in the company's headquarters, recent filings suggest the issues may extend to the CEO himself. However, the head of SoFi has decided to fight the allegations that he has violated employment law.

A specific incident apparently led to the dismissal of a senior operations manager in the company. The man claims to have witnessed another manager harassing a young, female office worker by using explicit sexual language. When the witness reported the incident to human resources, the company allegedly fired him. The manager also claims the CEO of the company had told others he would be terminating the whistleblower.

Soldier claims wrongful termination after training injury

Those in California who serve in the U.S. military understand that things may change while they are away from home. While there are some factors over which service members have little control, they know that, in most cases, the law protects them from losing their jobs while serving in the military. One man in another state is counting on employment law to resolve what he believes was a wrongful termination following an injury while on a military training exercise.

After serving in the Army National Guard for six years, the soldier took a job as a deputy sheriff. After two years, he decided to re-enlist in the National Guard with the dual goal of improving as a deputy and earning a pilot's license. With the encouragement of the sheriff, the man began his basic training, only to suffer back seizures after a fall during an 8-mile run. Unfortunately, his doctor discovered bone spurs in addition to severe degeneration in the soldier's spine. He was forced to leave the military.

Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation

Any California employee should be able to report his or her employer's violation of law or breaching of public trust and should not have to fear termination. Nevertheless, even though the vital role whistleblowers play in society is recognized by state and federal authorities, retaliation is prevalent. However, more and more states now have laws to protect employees that blow the whistle on their employers.

Retaliation after reporting any irregularities, even if it is not an official whistleblowers report, is illegal, and employees who consider filing any such report can take several steps to protect themselves. It all boils down to keeping accurate records, which could start with the date on which the report was filed, with whom it was filed and any immediate retaliation experienced. From then on, evidence must be gathered, but care must be taken to be discreet and to avoid doing anything illegal.

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.

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