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Bay Area Employment Law Blog

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.

New California law bans hairstyle discrimination in workplace

Many African-Americans may feel that their workplace discriminates against their natural hairstyles. A new California law addresses that discrimination.

California has become the first state to protect natural hairstyles of African-Americans. The new law bans discrimination in the workplace and school based on hairstyle. Called the Crown Act, the law adds language to existing discrimination laws and defines hairstyle as part of racial identity. This means any employer that has a policy against natural hairstyles violates discrimination laws based on race.

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.

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