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Bay Area Employment Law Blog

WeWork sued for gender, pregnancy discrimination

California readers might be interested to learn that a former WeWork employee is suing the company and its recently ousted CEO over alleged gender discrimination claims. The complaint was filed on Oct. 31.

According to court documents, the plaintiff faced a gender pay gap and pregnancy discrimination while serving as former CEO Adam Neumann's chief of staff. The claim contends that Neumann asked the plaintiff about her marriage and pregnancy plans during her job interview in October 2013 and repeatedly referred to her maternity leave as a "vacation" when she eventually became pregnant. The suit further alleges that a man who was hired to perform the same job as the plaintiff was offered more than twice her annual salary of $150,000.

Female leaders may face more scrutiny at work

Female bosses in California and throughout the country are more likely to face discrimination from both male and female employees. This was the key takeaway from a study that involved 2,700 workers. These individuals were hired to transcribe receipts, and some of them received feedback from the person who they thought was their manager for the project. It was discovered that workers were more likely to react negatively to poor or critical feedback from a female manager.

They were also more likely to indicate that they wouldn't work for the company again in the future. It is thought that people tend to react harshly to negative feedback given by a woman because people associate women with being positive. An inability to accept criticism from a woman could be problematic for those who are in leadership roles, and it could make them less likely to want to pursue them.

California expands protections for nursing mothers at work

Progress can be slow and incremental in our society. This is especially true for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. While parental leave has rightfully received recent attention, there has also been a push to help mothers once they return to work.

A new law taking effect in January 2020 will provide mothers who must pump milk during the day with further protections in the workplace. The new changes aim to reduce absences and increase worker productivity and job satisfaction.

EEOC rules that employers' Facebook ads were discriminatory

A string of recent rulings by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that seven companies that posted targeted employment ads on Facebook violated federal civil rights laws. The rulings make clear that it is illegal for companies to exclude certain demographics when advertising jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the country.

The ads came to light two years ago when an investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times found that various companies were using Facebook's advertising targeting tools to prevent women and older workers from seeing their employment postings. Following the report, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Communications Workers of America and others filed discrimination complaints with the EEOC. The agency investigated the claims and came to the conclusion that the companies acted illegally by excluding certain applicants.

Fired worker sues Walgreens for wrongful termination

One former California Walgreens worker is suing the large drugstore chain after the senior maintenance mechanic was fired from his job. The man told another co-worker that a "wet vac" was needed to clean up spilled products on the floor at a warehouse for the company. This is a device often used to vacuum up spilled liquids. However, the employee who heard the request thought that he had used a racial slur and reported him to the company. The man was suspended the next day and then fired. He was not given a chance to respond to the allegation or explain the misunderstanding, he said.

The wrongful termination lawsuit claims that the 50-year-old worker was well-liked by his colleagues. It says that the company wrongfully said that he was a bigot and did not suitably investigate the incident. In addition, the case says that the company defamed the man and discriminated against him on the basis of race and national origin. The company would not comment to reporters about the case but said in court that even if the man's allegations were true, Walgreens had not violated any of his protected rights.

The EEOC largely fails workers who are facing discrimination

Congress originally formed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a vehicle for resolving workplace discrimination cases outside of court. When workers in California experience discrimination on the job, the law directs them to first file a complaint with the EEOC. People must await the outcome of the EEOC review of the case before potentially receiving a "right to sue" letter. This letter comes if the agency decides that the complaint lacked any reasonable cause to go forward with an enforcement action. An analysis of EEOC claims over a 21-year period showed that the agency found no reasonable cause in 87% of complaints.

With the chances low that the agency might take action against an employer, complainants must often wait a long time before the EEOC authorizes their right to sue. The slow process potentially wears down some workers and discourages them from continuing their quest for accountability against a discriminatory employer.

What sort of adverse employment actions allow for lawsuits?

As an employee, you have a right to feel comfortable and safe when you go to work every day. If you have an issue with a coworker or suspect illegal activity, you must be able to report this negative behavior without the threat of retaliation. In the event that your employer responds to your decision in a way that negatively affects your workplace performance, you may have a case.

An adverse employment action is a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of a person’s employment. Simply put, this refers to any decision made by your employer that changes the way you operate at work.

Riot Games settles employee lawsuit

Video game enthusiasts in California and throughout the country may be familiar with "League of Legends," which was produced by Riot Games. The game developer has been in the spotlight lately because of a class-action lawsuit that claimed the company engaged in gender discrimination. The suit was filed in November 2018 by both a current and former employee. It specifically claimed that they were subject to unequal pay and a lack of advancement based on their gender.

The company did eventually suspend its chief operating officer who was alleged to have fostered a "bro culture" within the organization. According to the lawsuit, employees of both genders were subject to systemic sexism and misogyny in the workplace. Riot Games announced that it had settled the case on Aug. 23. Representatives said that the settlement was reached to close the matter in a timely manner.

Survey looks at workplace ageism toward men and women

Men and women in the San Francisco Bay area may experience ageism in the workplace at roughly equal rates. This was one of the findings of a survey by the website Fairygodboss, which asked 1,000 people who were older than 40 about workplace discrimination based on age.

Almost three-fourths of respondents said they had not encountered ageism at work at all. Among those who did, 13% of men and 12% of women believed they had been turned down for a job because of their age. Similar percentages of men and women experienced workplace ageism in the same way, with 12% of men and 10% of women saying a coworker had said something negative about their age. Other examples of ageism included being laid off and not being promoted because of age.

Google settles class action lawsuit

Google has agreed to pay $11 million to 227 plaintiffs who claimed that the company engaged in age discrimination. A settlement notice was filed in a California court. In addition to the financial component of the agreement, Google will provide training to employees and managers regarding age bias and discrimination. Furthermore, a committee will be formed to ensure that the company engages in age diversity and investigates complaints about age bias.

The ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) was put into law in 1967 and protects workers 40 years of age or older in various ways. For instance, employers cannot base a decision to hire or promote a person covered by the law on age alone. The law also applies to decisions related to paying an employee or providing an individual with opportunities to learn new skills. Despite the presence of ADEA, many acknowledge that age discrimination is rampant in the business world.

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