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Glendale Legal Blog

DOL proposes revisions to Obama-era LGBT workplace protections

Employers in California and around the country that do business with the federal government were prohibited from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity by President Barack Obama in 2014. The move was lauded by LGBT advocacy groups, but the rules will be relaxed for religious organizations if a recent Department of Labor proposal is implemented. The proposal, which was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 15, would allow companies with a religious purpose and groups that identify as religious to base their employment decisions on whether or not a worker would accept and adhere to faith-based tenets.

This proposal has drawn widespread condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU says the religious exemption would use taxpayer money to discriminate against LGBT workers in the name of religion. According to the advocacy group, the seemingly narrow rule change could affect millions of American workers. Almost one in four workers in the United States is employed by a company that has at least one contract with the federal government.

Do you believe you faced retaliation on the job?

Going into work comes with many responsibilities. You know that you need to perform the duties that are expected of you in relation to the position you hold, but you may also feel the responsibility to report wrongdoing that you experience or witness in the workplace. While some people appreciate complaints because they bring attention to the right people, not all employers are pleased with such attention.

In some cases, workers could face retaliation on the job for filing a complaint or for participating in an investigation into wrongdoing. What you need to understand is that workplace retaliation is illegal, and you have rights.

Camera operator on hit TV show sues over sexual harassment

A camera operator on the hit crime procedural "Criminal Minds" has filed a lawsuit alleging that the show's director of photography sexually assaulted him hundreds of times between 2011 and 2019. The director of photography, California-based ABC Studios and New York-based CBS Corporation and Entertainment Partners are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. is also listed as a defendant despite having no connection to the long-running show. The litigation was filed on July 25 in Los Angeles.

The plaintiff claims that the director of photography touched him in a sexually suggestive way between two and three times per week during his eight years working on the show. He also alleges that the director of photography screamed at him on several occasions and threatened to have him fired. He is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages for sexual harassment, discrimination, assault, emotional duress and retaliation.

Employees faced with discrimination face tough choices

The employee/employer relationship works best when it is based on a mutual feeling of respect with an understanding both have a shared interest in the success of the business endeavor. Of course there will be some areas of conflict, often regarding the issues of compensation, benefits, and working conditions that the employees think unfair, but these typically impact most or all employees and can be dealt with collectively as a group. However, when a California worker believes he or she is singled out as an individual and treated unfairly, there may be a legal remedy based on why the employer acted in the alleged manner.

Although there are California laws regarding the subject matter, most aggrieved employees consider filing a lawsuit under Federal law as well. In most cases, both suits are filed simultaneously and proceed on parallel but separate tracks. Legal experts report that Federal law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. The discrimination involves unfair treatment in hiring, firing, or working conditions, in which the individual is treated differently than other similarly situated employees.

Hundreds of companies urge Supreme Court to protect LGBTQ workers

Over 200 American corporations, including California-based Apple, Google and Walt Disney, have joined the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from workplace discrimination. The brief was submitted by a group of five LGBTQ rights groups on July 2 in preparation for oral arguments on three discrimination cases scheduled to go before the high court on Oct. 8.

During the Obama administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protected LGBTQ workers from discrimination. However, under the Trump administration, the Justice Department has argued that Title VII offers no such protections. So far, federal appeals courts in Cincinnati, Chicago and New York have ruled that federal law does indeed shield employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, an Atlanta federal appeals court ruled in reverse. The Supreme Court is being asked to settle the matter.

What information should you include in a wage violation report?

When you first started your job, you likely had trust in your California employer. You may have felt at ease in his or her presence when conducting your interview and may have been excited when you received an offer of employment. Unfortunately, after starting your position, you may have become less at ease.

At first, you may not have believed that your employer was acting unlawfully when it came to your pay. He or she may have asked you to work overtime, and you may have agreed with the expectation of receiving overtime pay. When that pay was left off your next check, you may have chalked it up to a mistake that would be corrected later. Soon, however, you may have noticed more wage violations taking place.

The EEOC is dropping the ball on discrimination cases

When employees feel they have been treated unfairly by their employers, they often face difficult decisions. Although they may truly believe they are being mistreated in a manner that is against the law, they might hesitate to act for fear that nothing will come of the complaint except more negative treatment at work or, worse yet, termination. Often, the worker wants to continue on the job but under proper and legal conditions. However, even when a California employee does take the major step of filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the results are not always as expected.

Established EEOC procedure requires a claim to be evaluated to determine if mediation may be helpful or if the employer should be provided an opportunity to answer the employee's allegations. Discrimination case experts indicate that the case may be dismissed for procedural reasons, such as an untimely filing or the lack of jurisdiction by the EEOC. Increasingly over the last several years, the EEOC has been designating more of its regular cases to its low-priority track, which essentially means that no action will be taken.

Lawsuit accuses Goldman Sachs of LGBT bias

Lawsuits alleging workplace discrimination and harassment can be extremely damaging to employers in California and around the country, and this is especially true when the claims involve unfair treatment based on a worker's gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. One such case was filed on June 5 in New York by a former vice president of the Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs. The 31-year-old banker claims in his lawsuit that he was fired for complaining about the treatment LGBT workers were subjected to at the bank.

In the lawsuit, the man claims that unwarranted criticisms of his job performance that began after he voiced concerns about rampant homophobia and discrimination within the bank were used to create a paper trail. He says that this evidence was then cited to justify his termination. One allegation contained in the lawsuit deals with an important conference call. The man claims that a supervisor refused to let him take part in the call because he sounded "too gay".

Bill aims to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people

Despite advances made in recent years, many LGBT people in California are deeply concerned about discrimination in employment, housing, health care and other key areas of life. This is especially true at a federal level where courts have disagreed with one another about the extent to which existing civil rights law protects LGBT people against discrimination, typically under the banner of sex discrimination. The Democrats in the House of Representatives are pushing to institutionalize those protections explicitly in federal law, passing a proposal 236-173 to expand civil rights protections to LGBT people.

Eight Republicans joined all House Democrats to vote in support of the legislation called the Equality Act. It aims to update existing laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. Anti-LGBT discrimination would be prohibited as a form of sex discrimination in terms of employment, housing, access to loans, education and other forms of public accommodation. Most of the 2020 Democratic candidates for president came out with strong support for the legislation, which is backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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.

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