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Bay Area Employment Law Blog

Top U.S. corporations support LGBTQ worker protections

On Oct. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on three cases involving alleged workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Ahead of the hearing, over 200 well-known American companies have sent an amicus brief to the court, urging the justices to support federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ employees in California and across the U.S.

The brief argues that the country's current system of patchwork laws and individual company anti-discrimination policies is not enough to fully protect LGBTQ workers, particularly those who want the freedom to move across state lines for employment. As a result, itcontends that uniform federal LGBTQ protections are needed. Some of the companies that joined the brief include Apple, American Airlines, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Starbucks, Viacom and Walt Disney. The San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays also endorsed the brief.

Study finds harassment more likely to impact minority women

A recently published study shows that black women are more likely to be sexually harassed than white women. Researchers based their conclusion on roughly 20 years of data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Furthermore, researchers found that there was a link between unemployment rates and sexual harassment claims. When unemployment rates went up, harassment claims in California and elsewhere went up as well.

Between 1997 and 2016, the number of sexual harassment claims went down by 40%. However, most of the decrease was experienced by white women. Researchers say that this is because they are seen as more powerful in the workplace. It was noted that sexual harassment tends to be rooted in an effort for one group to assert power over others. This is partially why the number of harassment complaints go up when individuals feel less secure about their place within an organization.

Workers face retaliation for reporting discrimination

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to face sexual harassment or other types of inappropriate behavior on the job. Even more upsetting, those who attempt to report wrongdoing can face retaliation. Workers have lost jobs and promotions because they tried to stop the behavior. However, just like discrimination itself, retaliation in the workplace is illegal. Retaliation can take many forms, from increased harassment to demotion to termination.

Workers are often afraid to protest discrimination or sexual harassment or participate in an investigation because they worry they will face retaliation as a result. It is so common that it is the most frequently cited issue in discrimination complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2018, there were 76,418 charges received by the EEOC in total; 39,469 related to retaliation against workers that tried to stop discrimination. This means that over half of all of the complaints handled by the EEOC deal with workers facing unjust retaliation for attempting to improve their workplaces.

Lawsuit accuses FBI of misogyny and sexual harassment

Many California residents view the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the nation's most prestigious law enforcement agency, but a lawsuit filed on May 26 alleges that the Bureau is misogynistic and treats its female agents and analysts unfairly. Seven of the 16 female plaintiffs still work for the FBI, and some of them did not use their full names in the lawsuit because they fear retaliation.

The women claim that the overwhelmingly male instructors at the bureau's Quantico training facility penalize women for mistakes that are overlooked when male trainees make them, and they say that female trainees are dismissed at far higher rates than their male counterparts. The lawsuit also alleges that inappropriate jokes and uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances are commonplace.

Survey finds widespread sexual harassment in legal profession

Legal professionals in California and worldwide too often have to cope with sexual harassment. A survey by the International Bar Association that collected nearly 7,000 respondents from people in 135 countries recorded widespread problems. Sexist comments and sexually charged jokes represented the top source of harassment as reported by 67.9% of respondents. Unwelcome physical contact such as brushing up against the body accounted for 48.6% of incidents that respondents experienced.

Overall, women had many more complaints about sexual harassment than men with 36.6% of women identifying themselves as victims compared to 7.4% of men. Responses from the people employed in the judiciary sector revealed an above-average presence of sexual harassment. Interestingly, zero men indicated that they had experienced mistreatment in the judiciary while 46.6% of their female colleagues had been made to feel uncomfortable at work.

Should I be receiving overtime pay even though I’m salaried?

Have you worked over 40 hours per week and felt that you weren’t receiving the wages you earned on pay day? Feeling as if your employer has shorted you on your paycheck is an upsetting feeling. Your employer is legally bound to pay you 1.5 times your normal hourly rate of pay for any time worked past eight hours and double time for work after 12 hours.

Just because you’re paid salary doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot receive overtime pay. You’re still entitled to overtime pay if you work on salary because your employer can still calculate your hourly rate by multiplying your monthly income by 12, dividing that number by 52 and dividing that number by 40.

Genetic information discrimination prohibited in the workplace

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area may have a number of significant concerns about discrimination on the job, ranging from racial discrimination to gendered harassment and abuse. While many know that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates discrimination issues based on race, sex, age or disability, they may not be aware that misuse of genetic information can also give rise to a workplace discrimination case. The EEOC has provided guidance on the use of this provision, one of the newer and less-used aspects of workplace civil rights law.

The EEOC investigates complaints of genetic information discrimination based on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, a law barring unfair treatment in employment or insurance. Many people are unaware of these protections, and this could be reflected in the low complaint numbers; in 2018, only 220 complaints were received, a tiny fraction of total EEOC volume. It aims to prevent employers from garnering information about family medical history or background and using this to make employment decisions, such as failing to hire an employee, firing them or demoting them because they could be more expensive to insure.

Age discrimination considered to be an open secret

According to one survey, workers in California and throughout the country regularly face discrimination based on their age. The AARP study revealed that 61 percent of respondents over 45 years old had seen or experienced it themselves. Although the practice was made illegal by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it can be difficult to prove that it happened in a given case.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that age has to be the primary reason why a current, past, or prospective employee was subject to a termination, demotion, failure to hire, or similar action. Therefore, employers are generally free to engage in tactics such as requiring that a job applicant provide a birth year with his or her application. Employers may also get away with coded language suggesting that a workplace is fun or that an applicant is overqualified for a position.

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