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Articles Posted in Employment Law

Our system of civil litigation in California is based, in part, upon the idea that, generally, it is preferable when cases are resolved on their actual merits, not by one side using some technicality to sidestep addressing the merits. One of the implications of that notion of justice is that if you’ve put enough in your complaint to put the other side “on notice” of a basis for liability, you are entitled to pursue that basis. When it comes to putting together the strongest and most effective complaints (and case presentations,) be sure you are relying upon the experience of a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney.

This concept proved very important to a police department employee in her recent sexual harassment case. S.A. had been a bomb tech for seven years when a male coworker, H.L., decided to make a play for her affections. He told her he had been “madly in love” with her for more than six years and planned to leave his wife due his love for her. S.A., who was a lesbian and had a female partner (all of which H.L. knew,) told H.L. that she didn’t love him and to leave her alone.

What allegedly ensued was a pervasive pattern of stalking. According to the complaint, H.L. showed up at restaurants where S.A. was eating, “bombarded” her with phone calls, texts and emails, and even showed up to S.A.’s job sites though he was assigned to a different detail. Eventually, the man allegedly cornered her and forcibly kissed her.

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As the calendar turned from 2020 to 2021, most of California remained under a “stay-at-home” order. For some Bay Area residents, the lifting of lockdown orders may actually exacerbate, rather than reduce, the challenges they face. Many people who were working before the pandemic struck may find themselves forced to remain at home, needing to care for their young children whose daycare remains closed or whose school-aged children remain waiting for their schools to reopen to in-person learning. Be advised that if COVID-19 has forced you to take time away from your job to care for your family, the Fair Employment and Housing Act offers protection against discrimination and/or retaliation related to your taking leave for caretaking activities. If you’ve suffered that kind of harm in your job, you should take immediate action and contact an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

The Families First Act went into effect in April of last year. That law expanded the availability of family and medical leave. Once you return to your job after a period of leave, your employer is forbidden by California law from punishing or taking any kind of adverse employment action against you (like termination, demotion, reduction of hours, reduction of benefits, negative performance assessment, reassignment to a less desirable shift, etc.) because you took that leave.

Say, for example, that you take several weeks of leave to care for your three-year-old child because your child’s previous daycare closed due to COVID-19, and you could not find a new one immediately. Once you returned to work, your coworkers began treating you differently. Three weeks after your return, your supervisor gave you a negative performance review, which you had never before received in your seven years with the company.

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Many times, when you begin a new job, you are presented with a massive stack of papers to read and sign. The whole thing can seem daunting and it may be tempting simply not to read all the “fine print.” Beware, though. The employment contract you sign may involve forfeiting various rights you have, such as suing in court if you’re later the victim of discrimination or harassment. The good news is that, even if you did sign such an agreement, there may be ways to avoid its enforcement. If you’ve been harmed at work by discrimination or harassment, whatever the details of your employment agreement were, reach out to a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney to discuss your rights and your options.

S.D. was an example of someone who was able to avoid the hurdle that his arbitration agreement presented. He held a managerial sales position at the maker of a popular energy drink when he was fired in 2018. After that termination, S.D. sued for age discrimination and sex harassment. S.D., who was in his mid 50s when he sued, alleged that he was targeted for termination because of his age and because he had supported women who were sexually harassed by high-ranking males at the company.

The employer asked the court to order both sides to arbitration. The basis for this request was the arbitration agreement S.D. had signed when he began working for the company.

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Having to endure racial slurs or epithets at work can be an extremely troubling thing, even if the word was used exactly once. In some situations, even just a single use of certain slurs or epithets can be enough to constitute the evidence you need for a successful workplace discrimination lawsuit under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. If that is something you’ve had to deal with at work, a favorable judgment and a substantial award of compensation may be within your reach, so contact an experienced Oakland employment discrimination attorney without delay.

Back in September, the Court of Appeal issued a ruling in an employment discrimination case that, while bad news for the employee who sued, represents potentially very good news for other workers who’ve heard certain slurs at work.

T.B., a Black woman who was an investigative assistant with a Bay Area district attorney’s office, became startled when a mouse ran through the area in which she was working. A coworker mocked her, saying, “you… is so scary.” There was, however, a word between “you” and “is.” That word was that profoundly toxic slur, the “n-word.”

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People with criminal convictions in their past face many challenges as they seek to rebuild their lives and return to participating fully in society. One of the bigger challenges they face is discrimination in the job application process. Fortunately, the State of California enacted the Fair Chance Act in 2018, which significantly restricts what employers can do in terms of asking about your criminal history. If you’ve been removed from an employment applicant pool because of your past conviction, that employer may have broken the law. Contact an experienced Oakland employment attorney to learn more and find out what you can do.

The Fair Chance Act is a kind of “Ban the Box” law. The “box” in question is the one next to a job application question asking you about whether or not you have a criminal history. The Fair Chance Act bans this kind of question, requiring employers to forego seeking applicants’ criminal histories prior to extending a job offer.

Along the way, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has enacted various regulations that implement the Fair Chance Act, including some that were composed only recently and went into effect October 1, 2020.

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About four years ago, a Fresno-area employment attorney wrote a blog post about a workplace discrimination case in which he gave employers the free advice of “don’t be a jerk.” OK, he didn’t use the work “jerk,” but you can still absorb the author’s main idea. Employers being jerks can do themselves quite a bit of damage. They may cause good employees to leave, good candidates to stay away and, sometimes, they may run afoul of discrimination law, particularly when it comes to creating hostile work environments. When you’ve faced that kind of harm on the job, it is important to reach out to an experienced Oakland employment attorney promptly.

Some employees may face bigger hurdles than others. For example, if you work for an employer that’s a church or church-related entity (such as, for example, a Catholic school,) then you may find that the discrimination you suffered at work may not be something upon which you can sue. That’s because of something called the “ministerial exception.” In fact, a U.S. Supreme Court case that recently ruled against two Catholic school teachers (one fired due to age and one fired due to disability,) made it clear just how broad the ministerial exception is.

Even when the hurdles are high, such as working for a religious employer, it is important to seek out capable legal advice before you decide to abandon your case. Sometimes, the totality of the facts in your case may still provide you with some legal avenue for compensation. For example, a religious employer may be able to demote or fire you because of your disability, age or sex, under the protection of the ministerial exception but, as one recent case illustrates, may be liable if it so humiliated, harassed and belittled you as to create a hostile work environment.

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Obviously, being a worker with duties that include the supervision and management of others is something that carries certain risks. One of those risks is that underperforming employees may become disgruntled at facing discipline for their deficiencies. One thing that shouldn’t be a risk of your job is being fired due to a false accusation lodged by a disgruntled subordinate. If that happens to you, you may have very good case for wrongful termination and the opportunity to recover very substantial amounts of compensation, so be sure to act promptly in retaining an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

The case of a bank vice president, and the multi-million dollar award he received, is a good illustration of what you can do… and how you can win. The employee, T.K., was a Sacramento-area senior vice president for a major national bank. In 2012, T.K. informed K.T., one of his subordinates, that he intended to place her on a “performance improvement plan,” which is a type of employment discipline against a worker with job-performance deficiencies.

Shortly after the vice president made the comment, K.T. complained to human resources about T.K.’s supposed gender discrimination and harassment. Less than two months later, the bank, having completed its investigation, fired T.K.

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Workers who suffer discrimination and harassment on the job respond to it in different ways. Some may confront the harasser directly, others may approach their immediate supervisor, others may take the problem to their employer’s human resources (HR) department while still others may say nothing to people at work. If you are someone who falls into that last group, does your failure to speak out at work automatically mean that you cannot win a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) case? No, it doesn’t… not even if your employer has policies about reporting discrimination and harassment! So, if you’ve been the target of workplace discrimination or harassment – whether or not you reported it or confronted it internally – you may be entitled to significant compensation, so be sure to reach out an experienced Oakland employment attorney without delay.

As an illustration of this aspect of California law, there’s the recent case of R.M., a worker at a major aerospace company’s El Segundo facility. The worker, during his nearly two decades with the company, allegedly endured comments and jokes that were blatantly racist. These included crass and offensive things like jokes about R.M. missing work to go to the zoo and visit his relatives there.

R.M. allegedly did not report the offensive comments to supervisors or to HR. He allegedly reached a breaking point one day in 2017 when a white coworker threw a piece of rope at him that was tied into the shape of a noose.

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With the challenges that have been created by the current pandemic, more and more people are wearing the dual “hats” of employee and caregiver for children or seniors. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is possible to face employment discrimination because you care for those family members, whether they’re your kids, your grandchildren, parents or other elders. While the Fair Employment and Housing Act does not currently list family responsibilities discrimination as a specific cause for suing and collecting damages, that doesn’t mean that you cannot win a case based on the workplace discrimination you suffered due to your family responsibilities. There potentially may be avenues available under the FEHA, so be sure to reach out to an experienced Oakland employment attorney about your situation.

D.R. was someone who allegedly faced this difficulty. She was an account executive for an insurance brokerage firm in San Diego, and was also a mom to two young children. According to a New York Times report, when the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order, the executive began working from home. At home, she managed her work duties and also tended to her children (for whom she could not find childcare due to the stay-at-home order.)

Allegedly, the executive’s supervisor was not happy with D.R.’s juggling work and kids, and took several discriminatory actions, such as assigning her several tasks with “rush” deadlines (even though those tasks weren’t actually urgent) and frequently scheduling conference calls during the lunch hour, even though the supervisor knew that D.R. would be either nursing her youngest, feeding her oldest or putting the younger child down for a nap. The supervisor allegedly did this even after the executive stated that afternoon calls would be better as the younger child would be napping during that period, according to the Times report. D.R.’s supervisor reprimanded her after her children were heard on a call with a client, calling it “unprofessional,” and later told D.R. to “take care of your kid situation,” in addition to making many other sexist statements that demonstrated a clear bias against mothers, according to the mother’s lawsuit.

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The state of California set a bleak milestone recently as it surged past 300,000 total cases of coronavirus, according to Deadline. The Mercury News reported that, on July 12, Alameda County was added to the state’s coronavirus “watch list.” There are many ways that coronavirus can hurt you, but one way you perhaps hadn’t considered is the possibility of contracting the virus and recovering, only to be faced with discrimination when you try to return to work (due to your having had the virus.) If that happens to you, California’s discrimination laws may have options for you to obtain compensation for the harm you suffered, so be sure to contact an experienced Oakland employment attorney right away.

One of the first things that you should understand is, if you have tested positive, there are certain things that California’s law forbidding certain forms of workplace discrimination (the Fair Employment and Housing Act) says your employer can do, and other things it cannot.

The law in California may allow an employer to make certain demands of employees in order to ensure that the employee in question is capable of doing the job and doing it safely. These are called “fitness for duty” exams, and they typically include a medical examination and a certification from a medical professional that any safety concerns related to that worker’s return to the job no longer exist.

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