California Court of Appeal Revives a New Father’s Gender Discrimination and Parental Leave Case

The #metoo movement exposed many of the humiliating, hurtful, disrespectful and damaging things women often face in the workplace when it comes to discrimination and sexual harassment.

While it occurs less often, bias and discrimination that harms male workers is a real thing, too. California lawmakers have sought to maintain gender fairness in many statutes, including things like parental leave laws. Sometimes, employers or supervisors may be less enlightened. When that happens and you are the victim of discrimination, you may have options within the legal system. Contact an experienced Oakland employment law attorney to find out what’s available to you.

As an example, there’s the case of J.V., an employee of a property management company and also a first-time expectant father. J.V. put in a request for 12 weeks of parental leave, as allowed by California law. Reportedly, J.V.’s female supervisor expressed her disapproval. The employee received such biased questions as “Why can’t your wife stay home and take care of the child?” and “Will you be doing anything … or just sitting and watching T.V. all day?”

During J.V.’s leave, the employer allegedly continued to expect him to perform certain job-related tasks and to make himself available by phone and email. At the end of the 12 weeks, J.V. returned to work. On that first day back, the employer fired J.V., so he sued for gender discrimination, retaliation and violation of family leave laws.

One of the bigger hurdles that you’ll have to face in your discrimination lawsuit is if your employer has a non-discriminatory reason for firing you, and that reason is something more than just an obviously phony pretext. In J.V.’s case, the employer asserted that it fired the new father because he had placed a family in one of the employer’s rental properties without first obtaining an approved rental application from the family. That, the employer said, was allegedly a “serious” violation of its policies. J.V. had, in fact, placed a family in a property without an approved application.

Overcoming your employer’s stated non-discriminatory reason for firing you

However, even when your employer has a reason for firing you that is not bogus on its face, that doesn’t mean your case is doomed. If you have strong enough circumstantial proof to suggest that, even though the alleged misconduct did occur, the real reason you were fired was illegal discrimination, then you are still entitled to go forward to trial.

In J.V.’s case, he had evidence that he’d generally gotten positive performance reviews prior to his leave of absence. This is important proof because, when an employer that fires an employer that it had previously recognized as typically doing adequate or above average work, it raises a valid possibility that performance wasn’t the true reason for termination. He also had proof that he was fired the first day back from paternity leave. This is also extremely important because timing can substantially strengthen the credibility of your case. If the employer had fired J.V. 11 months after his return, it diminishes the likelihood that his leave was the reason. But… the first day back? That can allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the leave and the termination were strongly connected.

He also had proof that his supervisor expressed displeasure with his taking leave. Furthermore, he had evidence that he only placed the family in the property without an application because his supervisor told him to do it, making him fearful that he’d lose his job if he didn’t do it. All of that was clearly enough to create a valid “dispute of fact” and place J.V.’s case in the hands of a jury.

Regardless of your gender, it is possible for you to be the victim of gender discrimination. Discrimination against men and new fathers is just as wrong as discrimination against women and new mothers, even if does happen less frequently. For reliable representation in your discrimination case, call upon the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Attorney Fuerch is a skilled Oakland employment law attorney who has many years of successfully helping workers to seek justice for the harms they’ve suffered. To learn more about how we can help, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.