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Glendale Legal Blog

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.

Gender discrimination in today's workplace

It's an unfortunate fact of life that gender discrimination still permeates American society, including in the workplace. Citizens of California might be surprised to learn that studies have shown how gender discrimination impacts both genders and harms their opportunities when they pursue jobs that tend to be associated with the opposite sex, i.e. when a woman applies for a "man's" job or vice-versa.

The study began when a sociologist wanted to know to what extent gender discrimination affects each gender in the workplace. She sent out 3,000 applications to different jobs, both working-class and middle-class. The researcher chose jobs that tended to be affiliated with one sex significantly more than the other, such as "male" jobs that required strength and mechanical ability or "female" jobs that required good communication skills and friendliness. After that, she waited to see which applications ended up in an interview

Former employee describes pattern of race discrimination

Members of the gamer community in California might dream of working at companies such as Blizzard. However, a former Blizzard employee has spoken out about the allegedly discriminatory treatment he experienced while he was working on the Hearthstone esports circuit.

According to the man's social media post, the culture of inclusion at the company only applies if people are not people of color. The man, who is of Hispanic heritage, reports that he was repeatedly tormented over the fact that he was Mexican by a female team member.

Are you getting the breaks you deserve?

A long shift can seem even longer if you do not get a chance to take a break. Stopping to grab a bite is not the same as taking time to sit and rest so your body and mind can recharge. Unfortunately, not even half of the states in the country require employers to provide a period of time off the clock so you can sit and eat in peace. However, California does have such a law.

If you are a non-exempt worker in California, meaning that you receive an hourly wage and overtime if you work more than 40 hours a week, your employer has certain rules to follow regarding your breaks. Having a general understanding of those rules may help you recognize if your employer is violating your rights.

Confronting retaliation on the job

When employees in California witness or experience inappropriate or discriminatory behavior in the workplace, they may want to take action but be concerned about the potential to face retaliation. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted that retaliation is a common form of discrimination in and of itself. Equal employment laws prohibit workers or even job applicants from being punished or targeted because they complained about discrimination or asserted their rights regarding workplace harassment. Employers that fire workers, cut their hours or deny them raises as a result of raising these issues are violating the law.

There are a number of protected activities for which employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees. These include filing a complaint with the EEOC, participating in an investigation or pursuing a lawsuit; witnesses are also protected. It is also illegal to punish employees for answering questions during a harassment investigation at the company. Workers have the right to refuse to follow discriminatory orders, to refuse sexual advances and to proactively intervene to help others being targeted for harassment and discrimination. Employees also have the right to ask other workers about their wages, as this is a mechanism to uncover discrimination in pay that may go otherwise unrevealed.

What the law says about age discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is designed to prevent workers who are 40 or older from being treated differently by their employers. It applies to employers in California and throughout the United States that have 20 or more employees. This is true whether the employer is in the private sector or is a state or local government. Furthermore, ADEA applies to the federal government and labor unions.

Under the terms of this legislation, employers are not allowed to use age as a primary basis for hiring, firing or making other employment decisions. This generally applies to decisions related to benefits, promotions and employee training programs. Although employers are allowed to ask for a job applicant's date of birth, it could be seen as a violation of age discrimination legislation. If a worker takes legal action against an employer or participates in legal action against an employer related to possible age discrimination, a company is not allowed to retaliate.

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