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Glendale Legal Blog

Amazon accused of engaging in religious discrimination

The online retail giant Amazon has millions of loyal users in California who are attracted by the company's competitive prices, speedy delivery options and responsive customer service. However, workers at Amazon warehouses often complain about grueling working conditions and unsympathetic managers. The company continues to grow and improve its market share despite these stories, but a federal complaint filed on May 8 could provide Amazon with a far thornier problem.

The complaint, which was submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of three female workers of Somali descent, accuses the retailer of shunning black workers from Somalia and East Africa in favor of white employees when promotions and attractive assignments became available. The women also allege in the complaint that they do not pray at work due to fears of retaliation and were assigned unpleasant duties and issued written warnings when they protested about the alleged conditions on Dec. 14.

California bill would update existing state law

In California, an anti-discrimination law already on the books protects people from harassment based on their race. However, if SB188 passes, the law could be updated to include hairstyles or other traits associated with a race. The bill is known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act. It is meant to create an inclusive and diverse environment in schools and businesses. Rules against braids, locks and twists have typically been a greater burden for black students and employees.

These rules have the potential to discourage African-Americans from applying for jobs or subject them to punishment from their current employers. In some cases, workers have been denied advancement opportunities or event terminated from their jobs. Children have been sent home from school because their hair was deemed inappropriate. According to the lawmaker who created the bill, there are already state and federal protections for those who wear their hair a certain way for religious reasons.

When quitting your job is wrongful termination

You are not alone if you hate your job. It is a common feeling among workers in California and across the country. Among the many common reasons for dreading going to work are that your job is physically demanding, you get too little pay and no recognition for your hard work, or your boss is constantly on your back.

On the other hand, you may be one of those employees whose workplace environment is impossible to deal with. This may be due to a complete lack of respect throughout the company or very specific harassment directed only at you. If you feel your employer or coworkers have singled you out for mistreatment, you may have decided enough is enough.

The use of a biometric time clock results in a lawsuit

Human resource departments throughout the country, including in California, are keeping tabs on a recent case in Illinois. In the lawsuit, a large clothing retailer is being sued by employees in Illinois for tracking them by improper means as well as improper collection of personal data. The case is currently waiting to see if it will be certified as a class action.

An Illinois statute is at the heart of the claim. The law prohibits the collection of biometric data from employees unless they consent, and the proper means to store the information is used. In this case, the suit alleges the company utilized a fingerprint time clock to which an employee must present a fingerprint ID to log in and out of work rather than utilizing a time card or picture ID. The company claims the employees did, in fact, consent to the use of the biometric time clock. It further claims that it does not retain the data collected, obviating the need to store it.

Rumors about sex for promotions could be sex discrimination

People in California who are jealous of someone's success at work might retaliate by spreading rumors about that person sleeping with a superior to secure promotions. A case recently heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit resulted in a decision that exposed an employer to possible liability because the company fired the female plaintiff after she tried to address widespread rumors about her alleged sexual activities in exchange for promotions.

The woman rose to the position of assistant operations manager over the course of two years. A male co-worker who started working at the company at the same time but who did not advance started spreading gossip that her success stemmed from sleeping with a senior manager. A warehouse manager contributed to the gossip by talking about the rumors during a mandatory staff meeting that excluded the woman in question.

Federal court system adopts new sexual harrassment rules

When allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against a California federal appeals judge by 15 women in December 2017, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts responded by appointing a working group to investigate abusive, unwelcome or offensive sexual conduct in the federal court system. That group submitted its report in June 2018, and its recommendations have since been endorsed by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. The group concluded that sexual harassment was widespread in district and circuit courts and often went unreported due to fears of retaliation.

The working group's report prompted calls for change, and the Judicial Conference of the United States responded to these calls on March 12 by announcing revised rules designed to protect workers against sexual harassment and encourage federal court system employees to step forward when they witness behavior that could create a hostile work environment. The rules were announced by Merrick Garland, who is the most senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and a former Supreme Court nominee. Chief Justice John Roberts has backed the new rules.

How do I know if I was wrongfully terminated?

Employers in California usually have a say in which employees they will keep on and which ones they will let go. Hiring and firing is just part of the business world. A firing, though, can be a significant blow to the individual losing his or her job. It is normal to have questions about it, particularly if one is trying to determine if it was a wrongful termination. How do you know if your employer was within his or her right to fire you?

Wrongful termination cases can be tricky. Employers do everything they can to protect themselves when they fire employees. This does not mean that it is impossible to fight a wrongful termination case. There is usually evidence somewhere that helps the victim if a wrongful termination actually occurred.

Campaign fights sexual harassment in healthcare

Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and an increased media focus on sexual harassment on the job, many California workers continue to suffer from inappropriate advances and other misconduct in the workplace. One campaign is focusing specifically on harassment incidents in the health care industry, following similar efforts in entertainment, tech and other major sectors. Time's Up Healthcare aims not only to fight sexual harassment but also to increase gender diversity and equality in the industry.

The health care campaign is a spinoff of the anti-harassment campaign launched in entertainment. Time's Up said that it received the second-largest number of requests from health care workers, following only entertainment, the campaign's generating industry. According to advocates, while women make up 80 percent of the workforce in healthcare, they only make up 10 percent of its chief executives. In addition, workers at all level of health care reported serious problems with harassment and discrimination. One study noted that 58 percent of female surgeons had experienced sexual harassment in the past year, as had 25 percent of male surgeons.

Items that constitute sexual harassment at work

Both federal and California law protect workers against being victims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome advance, crude joke or other behavior that makes a worker uncomfortable. The behavior merely needs to be discriminatory on the basis of sex as opposed to being sexual in nature. Victims can be either male or female, and the perpetrator and the victim may be of the same sex.

There are several steps that workers can take to protect their rights if they have been victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The first step is to determine if the company has a sexual harassment policy. If it does have one, a worker should read and understand it thoroughly. If necessary, the victim report the misconduct to a supervisor or other trusted person within the organization. Failure to do so could make it tougher to pursue a claim or seek damages.

Breastfeeding discrimination often forces women out of their jobs

A report from the leader of the Nursing Mothers Law Project at the University of California, Hastings College of Law revealed the extent of the economic harm caused by employers who discriminate against breastfeeding women. An analysis of legal cases involving women who experienced workplace discrimination because of breastfeeding showed that two-thirds of them lost their jobs.

The discrimination involves employers denying women breaks to pump milk. These denials occur even when employees experience pain and milk leaks. Workplace barriers frequently forced women to stop breastfeeding or left them with painful infections. In some cases, requests for breaks resulted in job termination. Refusal to provide a clean and private location to use a breast pump represented another common form of discrimination as did an unwillingness to temporarily change work duties to accommodate the situation. Breastfeeding women also tended to experience increased harassment from co-workers who talked about their breasts.

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