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Bay Area Employment Law Blog

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.

Tech workers fear age discrimination

For many San Francisco technology workers, age discrimination remains a serious concern. According to one survey, 43 percent of tech employees from the baby boom generation are concerned about losing their jobs due to their age. The survey involved over 1,000 professionals across the country, focusing on tech workers with an average of over 15 years of experience in the industry. While close to half of all employees are millennials, only 23 percent of the respondents felt that there was an overrepresentation of younger people on the job. An even smaller number, 18 percent, felt that there were too few baby boomers in the workplace.

Age discrimination is illegal, but many older workers are concerned that they will be driven out from their jobs. Promotion of youth culture can lead to an unwelcoming environment that discourages older workers. In many cases, people with decision-making power may have inaccurate ideas about the capacity of older workers. They may judge older workers more harshly and expect them to be more out-of-touch with current developments, even though baby boomers in the tech industry are often intimately familiar with innovative technologies and new developments. Despite one's performance, however, inaccurate ideas can still put their employment at risk, and it can be more difficult to find a new job at an older age.

7th circuit rules ADEA doesn't apply to some job applicants

While businesses in California and the across the United States cannot discriminate against employees for being over the age of 40, a new decision from the 7th Circuit casts doubt on whether those protections extend to the hiring process.

In this case, a 58-year-old man applied for a legal position with a large medical device company. Despite his strong qualifications, the company refused to interview him and ultimately awarded the position to a less-qualified candidate who happened to be 29 years old. The man filed an age discrimination suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, arguing that the discrimination had a disparate impact on him. When the case got to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the court disagreed. In their ruling, the court held that the "plain language" of the ADEA made it clear Congress only intended the statute to apply to discrimination against current employees. It was the court's belief that Congress did not intend for those protections to extend to job applicants.

The problems with forced arbitration

Employees at Google, the tech giant in California, have been challenging tech companies and urging them to change their policies with regards to workplace harassment. In particular, their main gripe pertains to forced arbitration, which requires employees of large tech companies to solve harassment issues at the company rather than taking their employers to court.

There are many problems with forced arbitration. For one thing, studies show that arbitration favors the employer over the employee more often than not whereas the courts tend to be fairer. Additionally, winning in arbitration can result in a smaller settlement than what would have been offered in court. This campaign to get rid of forced arbitration is part of a larger movement to tackle inequality in the workplace, especially in tech companies. These efforts are bolstered by the available diversity statistics, which demonstrate how underrepresented both females and minorities are at tech companies.

Job loss and retaliation silence many sexual harassment victims

The number of workers in California facing sexual harassment at work remains largely hidden because most of them never make formal complaints. University researchers who studied the problem estimated that roughly 5 million people experience sexual harassment on the job every year. Almost all of them, 99.8 percent, never make official charges because only approximately 1,500 cases went to court during the time period of the study.

Researchers gathered data from over 46,000 complaints that occurred from 2012 to 2016. They relied on reports from state fair employment agencies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Job loss resulted for 64 percent of people who complained about mistreatment at work. Retaliatory treatment affected 68 percent of complainants.

Doctors who are mothers face increased workplace discrimination

Doctors working in the San Francisco Bay Area and other parts of California generally enjoy a sizable income due to the nature of their profession. Even so, a survey published in a leading medical journal reveals that more than a third of MDs who are also mothers face discrimination in their workplaces. In an attempt to discover the reason for this trend, research authors dove deeper and looked at more than 900 comments from the nearly 6,000 physicians who responded to the anonymous survey.

Recurring issues included pregnancy discrimination in the form of lack of support while pregnant, lower salaries than colleagues performing similar work, gendered performance expectations and fewer opportunities for advancement. One woman reported routinely not being invited to outside work events where she could possibly make important connections as coworkers assumed she wouldn't be able to attend because of her children. Some of the doctors surveyed also reported increased stress from trying to find an appropriate work-home balance after becoming mothers.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors addresses race discrimination

The heads of several San Francisco city agencies vowed to do more to eliminate race discrimination in their departments during a volatile November 11 Board of Supervisors hearing, but many of the African-American workers gathered were unimpressed by what they heard. They and advocacy groups like the Service Employees International Union say that little has changed since San Francisco Mayor London Breed made similar statements when the board's Government Audit and Oversight Committee discussed the very same issues in September.

African-American workers at both hearings gave accounts of being passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified Caucasian candidates and facing workplace retaliation after filing complaints about race discrimination. City officials also heard that African-American workers face disciplinary action far more often and for less serious offenses than their white colleagues. Advocacy groups have called for a reevaluation of the hiring, retention and management practices of all city departments to root out both overt racism and unintentional bias.

Former Avon employees sue over discrimination claims

Many women in the San Francisco Bay Area see Avon as a company that celebrates female entrepreneurship and empowerment. Nevertheless, two former employees of the company have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the beauty products manufacturer of pregnancy discrimination. They alleged that Avon discriminated against pregnant women and mothers, including nursing mothers who need to pump breast milk while on the job. The suit cited Avon's own language about women's empowerment and commitment to advancement, noting that women may apply to work at the company due to its branding.

The suit also noted that Avon insists on forced arbitration to handle complaints. Arbitration clauses at various companies have sparked outrage after they have been used to silence people complaining about sexual harassment or workplace discrimination. In addition, the lawsuit noted that Avon's executive team was overwhelmingly male. The suit targets two companies, New Avon and Avon Products. Both firms share common branding despite one being spun off.

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