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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.