Articles Posted in Employment Law

obesityThere are many different forms of workplace discrimination that violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Sex discrimination, race discrimination, national origin discrimination, religious discrimination, and disability discrimination are just a few. When it comes to disability discrimination, there are a variety of conditions that qualify. Many illnesses, whether physical or mental, may entitle a worker to the anti-discrimination protections of the law. If you think you’ve suffered from disability discrimination at work, you should contact a knowledgeable California disability discrimination attorney promptly.

While conditions ranging from diabetes to bipolar disorder, and MS to PTSD, are covered, what about obesity? A recent case from the Bay Area addressed that exact question. The employee, Ketryn, had worked at a tennis club since 1997. She had also struggled with her weight since childhood. By 2012, she weighed 350 pounds and had a body-mass index in excess of 55, placing her in the category of Class III, or extreme, obesity.

The woman’s employment with the club was successful, with positive performance evaluations, merit bonuses, and raises for roughly a decade and a half. Then, in 2012, the club hired a new general manager. According to Ketryn, the new manager mocked her size, asked her “out of the blue” about whether she’d considered weight-loss surgery, did not consider her for extra hours of work, refused to consider her for promotions, and also paid her less than a newly hired (and petite) college student, even though Ketryn had more than a decade of experience with the club.

signatureWhen you start a new employment position, it is often an exciting time filled with a sense of accomplishment (at landing the job) and anticipation (of potential future career growth and advancement). You’re probably not thinking about all of the “fine print” in the employment agreement paperwork you’re signing. That fine print, however, can be very important, especially if it includes a mandatory arbitration clause. Sometimes, though, you may be able to sue in court and avoid arbitration in your wrongful termination case, even if your contract had an arbitration provision. If you’re been a victim of a wrongful termination, it is important to contact a skilled California employment attorney right away, especially if an arbitration clause is involved.

A recently decided case demonstrates how you can get past an arbitration clause in your wrongful termination case. The case involved Khrysta, who worked for a rent-a-car agency. In September 2015, the employer terminated Khrysta after nearly four years on the job. The employee sued for wrongful termination. Based upon the arbitration policy the employer had instituted (and that the employee had acknowledged by signing a copy of it), the agency asked the court to order the parties to arbitration.

Arbitration, of course, can be a very useful alternative means of resolving a dispute. The key, of course, is to use arbitration only if you think it will be helpful. There are many reasons why you might prefer a court trial to an arbitration hearing. If you and your legal counsel believe court is the best place to resolve your dispute, you should make sure you don’t get improperly forced into arbitration.

signatureEmployers may engage in many techniques to prevent employees from suing and winning in cases of discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. One way of doing that is by stopping employees from suing at all, through the use of mandatory arbitration agreements. While these agreements are generally allowable, California law imposes some restrictions on them. If your employer has demanded that you sign one, it must not impose certain restrictions on you, or it is unenforceable. An experienced California employment attorney can help you analyze your case if an arbitration agreement is involved.

One Bay Area action in which the employee got to pursue her lawsuit despite such an agreement was the case of Maya. Five years after Maya began her employment with an asset investment services company, another entity bought Maya’s employer, and she became an employee of that company. The new employer demanded that all of its employees sign a form that, among other things, included an agreement to resolve employment disputes through a process laid out by the employer. Employees had to sign the form or else lose their jobs. Not wanting to lose the job into which she’d invested half a decade, Maya signed.

By 2011, Maya had risen to a supervisory position. At that point, she objected to certain employee evaluation forms that included age, race, and gender coding, believing that such a practice was discriminatory. Two years later, while she was out on approved medical leave, the employer terminated Maya, who was African-American, and according to her complaint, gave her job to a white male colleague.

pregnancyIn California, there are several bases upon which your employer is not allowed to discriminate. Two areas in which an employee may potentially suffer from illegal discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act are pregnancy discrimination and disability discrimination. Sometimes, as happened to one woman in San Mateo County recently, you may suffer from discrimination on multiple grounds, and your employer’s liability may spring from multiple missteps. When that happens, you need skilled California discrimination counsel on your side to help you make the most of your case.

The woman who was the plaintiff in the San Mateo County case (San Mateo Superior Court case no. CIV538881), Keri, had worked for a Northern California supermarket chain for almost a decade and a half when she became pregnant in 2013. At that time, she served as the bakery/deli manager of her store. While she was pregnant, Keri learned that she had lupus, which complicated her pregnancy. After giving birth, Keri developed post-partum depression. The combination of these conditions meant that Keri took an extended leave of absence from work, both before and after the birth of her child. The employee did, however, remain in regular contact with her store manager and with the company that served as the vendor that managed the supermarket’s Family and Medical Leave Act cases.

Eventually, with the leave still ongoing, the supermarket sent Keri a letter. The letter claimed that she had not provided the proper documentation to support the medical need for her continued absence from work. The letter demanded that she provide a response within 72 hours or face termination. The letter, however, never made it to Keri and was returned as undeliverable. The employer subsequently terminated Keri, claiming as grounds “job abandonment.”

general cleaningSometimes, very terrible events can led to important court rulings that hopefully will lead to better outcomes in the future. The rape of a hotel housekeeping worker led the California Court of Appeal to consider whether the victimized employee could sue her employer for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The court ruled that, due to the actions taken and not taken in this circumstance, the woman could proceed with her claim of employer liability for non-employee sexual harassment. The case is a reminder that the potential for a recovery in civil court may potentially exist in a wide array of employment situations, so it is wise to consult with knowledgeable California sexual harassment counsel about your case.

The employee who sued her employer in this case, called “M.F.” by the courts, was a housekeeping worker at a hotel in San Diego. According to the housekeeper, the events that led to her injury and legal action began early one morning when a drunk man, who was not a guest of the hotel, was spotted wandering around the hotel property by the hotel’s engineering manager, who, despite seeing the man multiple times, reported nothing about the trespasser.

After that, the drunk man allegedly began approaching various housekeeping workers, offering them cash for sexual favors. One worker reported her encounter to a housekeeping manager. Although housekeeping management made efforts to check on the safety of the workers, they missed the second floor of one building, which happened to be where M.F. was working, according to the lawsuit. The drunk man encountered M.F. cleaning a room, blocked her exit, and, when she tried to leave, knocked her unconscious. He then spent the next two hours raping her.

at blackboardGenerally, most laws are designed to advance some sort of public policy objective. Each law, at its core, intends to protect or advance the public good in some way. So what happens when two laws, each with strong public policy bases, come into conflict with each other? A recent case that came before the California Supreme Court regarding the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the state’s anti-SLAPP statute demonstrated such a conflict. The case shows that any case can take twists and turns and encounter unforeseen complexities, which is why your FEHA case needs the careful attention of an experienced California employment attorney.

The recent Supreme Court opinion involved a Korean professor at one of the California State University campuses. In 2013, the university decided not to grant tenure to the professor. The professor sued, alleging that the university decided not to award him tenure due to national origin discrimination.

This is where the case became complicated. The employer asked the trial court to dismiss the case. The university’s argument was that the professor’s lawsuit impaired its freedom of speech and was a violation of California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. SLAPP refers to “strategic litigation against public participation.” This phrase refers to any lawsuit filed simply to intimidate, burden, or otherwise force someone to cease engaging in protected activity like free speech or petitioning for redress of grievances.

calendarIn some situations, the key to your success in your Fair Employment and Housing Act case may be related to some factual aspect of your case. In other circumstances, it may be the procedural rules related to FEHA lawsuits that potentially stand to make the difference between defeat and an opportunity to pursue your day in court. For one Southern California college professor, he was able to proceed only after he persuaded the Court of Appeal that his case was not barred by the statute of limitations. Making sure that you are in compliance with these and other procedural rules is one area where an experienced Oakland employment attorney can provide you with invaluable assistance.

The professor was a man named Guillermo, a Hispanic male of Mexican origin. He taught at a community college in Southern California. In November 2013, the professor’s employer decided not to grant him tenure. The final written notice of the denial of tenure was dated March 5, 2014. The professor initiated a grievance review procedure. That process reached its endpoint when a committee denied the professor’s grievance on May 21, 2014.

The employer terminated the professor’s employment on June 30, 2014, the last day of the 2013-14 academic year. On June 29, 2015, the professor filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging that he was a victim of race discrimination in violation of the FEHA. The professor followed that up with a FEHA lawsuit against the employer.

older womanSometimes, the conditions at a job can become beyond atrocious. These conditions can deteriorate to such an extreme extent that you feel you have no choice but to leave. If that negative treatment is a result of age, sex, or disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you may be able to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit, even if you resigned and were not fired. You can proceed under a theory known as “constructive discharge,” as one Southern California medical office worker recently did in her case. Your knowledgeable California wrongful termination attorney can explain how your case would work.

The plaintiff in the medical office case, Olga, worked in a Southern California dermatology office. While there, Olga allegedly suffered an extensive barrage of sex-related, age-related, and disability-related abuse by the doctor. The doctor called Olga too fat, too ugly, and too old, among other things, according to the woman.

Three years into her time at the office, the doctor hired another female employee. This new employee, Monica, was an attractive woman in her 20s. Shortly after Monica was hired, Olga, who was in her 40s, was demoted. This allegedly triggered a panic attack, and Olga took a leave of absence. On the day she returned, she resigned.

Ocotillo WellsAn allegedly “toxic” workplace in the San Diego County desert produced multiple lawsuits and, recently, a very important ruling from the California Court of Appeal. A state Parks and Recreation worker, who allegedly was intimidated so badly that she developed PTSD and a panic disorder, was, according to the recent ruling, entitled to pursue her civil lawsuit, rather than just file for workers’ compensation benefits. Since the alleged misconduct also amounted to a Fair Employment and Housing Act violation, that meant that the woman’s supervisor had stepped outside her proper role, which freed up the plaintiff to pursue her case in civil court.

According to certain employee lawsuits, the state Department of Parks and Recreation office at Ocotillo Wells had numerous problems with sexual and other forms of harassment. One worker, Delane, filed a lawsuit claiming that her supervisor, Lisa, loved to regale Delane and others with stories about the men she was sleeping with (or desired to sleep with) and demanded that Delane reciprocate with similar stories about the women in Delane’s sex life.

Delane’s complaint triggered an official investigation. Allegedly, Lisa ordered her subordinates, including a woman, Melony, to lie to the investigators. According to Melony’s lawsuit, Lisa stated that Melony should protect her and other supervisors and that, if she didn’t, “your career will be over.”

Google logoThe Fair Employment and Housing Act offers considerable protections to a variety of groups of employees. Of course, employees cannot be subjected to discrimination based upon gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. However, the law doesn’t stop there. It also protects employees from discrimination based upon political activity. That protection can potentially include a variety of types of activities and employees, including, as noted in a recent article on TheStreet.com, the now-famous former Google software engineer who was terminated after publishing a memo criticizing the corporation’s diversity policies.

James Damore had been a Google employee for 3 1/2 years when he wrote “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The memo critiqued the way in which Google set out to achieve diversity, including criticism of the way in which those employment practices affected the genders. After the engineer published the memo, the employer terminated him, allegedly for violating Google’s employee “code of conduct.”

Some observers have theorized that Google’s abrupt and immediate termination of the engineer’s employment may provide the engineer with a cause of action under the FEHA. Section 1102 of the code bars employers from coercing or influencing employees “to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.” This includes coercion or influence in the forms of loss of employment or threat of loss of employment.