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Bay Area Employment Law Blog

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.

Chain email leads to investigation by Microsoft

In California and most other states, discrimination is illegal, but it doesn't mean that it can't happen. An email chain that was started on March 20 and includes a number of female Microsoft employees caught the attention of senior leaders within the organization. The chain was started by a woman who had worked for the company for six years and was looking for tips on how to get a promotion.

The company was using a regularly scheduled company meeting to ask individuals in the chain to speak more about their experiences. In the chain itself, one women said that she was asked to sit on a colleague's lap. Another said that she was relegated to making dinner reservations despite the fact that it was outside of her role in the project she was assigned to. In one instance, an employee threatened to kill a female coworker if she denied his sexual advances.

Sexual harassment is worth more than $300,000

Those who sue a California employer or any other in a Title VII case can obtain a maximum of $300,000 in compensation. The cap has been the same since 1991, and it isn't widely believed to be a deterrent. However, a professor at Vanderbilt University said that the cap should be $7.6 million. This figure was developed in part based on the theory that workers get paid more when they take on extra risk.

In certain industries, workers may face a greater risk of being the victim of sexual harassment. If the cap were raised, it could better serve as a way to deter companies from not working to eliminate harassment within their ranks. At a minimum, it could make it more likely that a worker would file a sexual harassment charge because there would be greater incentive to do so. The belief is that a higher cap on sexual harassment damages would reduce sexual harassment much like the workers' compensation has reduced workplace fatalities.

U.S. women's soccer team files discrimination lawsuit

In a lawsuit filed in a California district court on March 8, the U.S. women's soccer team accuses the sport's governing body of gender discrimination. The litigation alleges that the United States Soccer Federation, which is more commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, pays female players less than men even though they perform substantially similar work. The lawsuit is the latest development in a long-running pay equity dispute and comes just months before the women's team begins its defense of the World Cup it won in 2015. The victory was America's third in the competition.

The 28 plaintiffs, which include some of women's soccer's biggest stars, hope that former national team players will step forward to join the lawsuit. Animosity over pay and working conditions disparities have festered among female players for many years. In 2000, the team boycotted a tournament in Australia over these issues shortly after winning their second World Cup.

Breastfeeding mothers face discrimination in the workplace

Employees at a California-based company have alleged in a class action lawsuit that the company discriminates against nursing mothers. According to the lawsuit, although state law protects the rights of breastfeeding mothers, they are not allowed breaks and are laughed at when they request them.

This is one of several lawsuits and many allegations of discrimination that employees have raised related to breastfeeding. A jury in Delaware awarded a mother $1.5 million after harassment at work prevented her from pumping and caused her supply to dry up. Breastfeeding women are supposed to be protected under several different laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and state and local laws, but in practice, this is not always the case.

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