Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton

Sacramento Employment Law Blog

Gender discrimination in the workplace

Although many companies have developed ways of reducing gender bias and leveling the playing field when it comes to equal rights, gender discrimination still exists in many U.S. industries, including the federal government. While it is more prevalent in male-dominated industries, such as information technologies, engineering, construction and law enforcement, gender inequality is still an issue in work fields across the nation.

Gender discrimination can present itself in a number of different ways. In some cases, people may interview men and women differently by asking certain questions, such as whether a woman has children or plans to have children in the near future. Women may be given diminished responsibilities while working in the same position as a male co-worker even though they have the ability to perform at the same level. Managers may speak differently to women than men in general conversation related to work, which could be construed as discrimination as well.

Sexual harassment reports are higher in California

Sexual harassment is a widespread problem, but do you ever wonder if it is worse in California? According to a new study from UC San Diego School of Medicine and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, there are more reports of sexual harassment in the Golden State than the national average. Reports from women and men in California are 5% and 10% higher than nationwide numbers, respectively. 

This is the first statewide report that explores the scope and prevalence of sexual harassment in California. The report takes into account all types of physical, verbal and cyber sexual harassment. So, what are we to make of these numbers? And what can you do if you are a victim of sexual misconduct?

California agencies fail to provide sexual harassment training

California law mandates that all employers with more than five employees provide sexual harassment training to their workers. In this day and age of sexual harassment claims and bullying in the workplace, this training gives employees information regarding their rights in the workplace, as well as how to handle situations that may involve harassment. Yet, more than one California government agency failed to adhere to this law and are now under scrutiny for this oversight.

According to the State Personnel Board, agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, did not provide training to hundreds of supervisors. In fact, approximately 1,800 supervisors in government positions across dozens of agencies did not get the sexual harassment training that is legally required in the state. At least 60% of agencies did not provide training, which is an increase from the 32% of agencies that did not adhere to the law in 2017. When employees do not receive this training, it can lead to a hostile work environment where workers may not know what is considered harassment and how to report it occurs. Supervisors who do not receive the training may overlook critical complaints, which could lead a more dangerous situation.

Discrepancy in law leads to wrongful termination

The Family Medical Leave Act is designed to allow employees extended periods of leave while they take care of ailing family, give birth or face a myriad of other family and health situations. The act allows workers to return to their positions after an extended leave and protects them from losing their jobs. Employers are required by law to keep the job for them under FMLA and cannot terminate employees or give their job away while they are gone.

This, however, is exactly what happened to a woman who was given permission by a company to fly to Nicaragua to take care of her dying mother-in-law. Although the company gave the woman an okay to take an extended leave for this reason, they later terminated her for missing too many days of work. When the woman returned to the states once her loved one passed, the company told her that her situation was not covered under FMLA because in-laws were not included in the law. Yet, an investigation initiated by a local news team found a loophole in California FMLA laws. While California’s paid leave law allows in-laws to be covered under the realm of care, in-laws are not covered under the California Family Rights Act. Further legislation will need to be conducted in order to clear this discrepancy.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

If you are a disabled California worker, you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act forbids your employer or a potential employer from discriminating against you on the basis of your disability. It also requires any employer with 15 or more employees to provide you with reasonable accommodations. But what actually constitutes a reasonable accommodation?

The ADA National Network explains that a reasonable accommodation is one that allows you to perform the essential functions of your job despite your disability.

Your rights to leave under FMLA

No one ever plans for health or family issues to arise, yet they do, and oftentimes they will require your full and undivided attention. That may leave little for you to expend in fulfilling the duties of your employment. The hope is that when such issues do present themselves, your employer will be understanding and not only afford you the time off needed to attend to them, but also welcome you back when said issues have been dealt with. Many come to us here at The Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton concerned that such understanding will not be extended to them. If you share the same worry, you will be happy to learn that your employer does not have the choice: it is required by federal law. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, The Family & Medical Leave Act mandates that employers provide employees with up to 12 weeks of leave every year to deal with family or health concerns. All of the following types of organizations are subject to FMLA's regulations: 

  • Public agencies
  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools
  • Companies with more than 50 employees

Panic button approved for Sacramento County hotel workers

In 2018, a member of the California Assembly sponsored Assembly Bill 1761. The bill would protect hotel workers from all forms of sexual harassment and assault.

Hoteliers rebutted by asserting the bill would burden the hotel and motel industry. They objected to the expense and administrative logistics.

Jury awards large sum for age, disability discrimination

Residents in California know that there are strong laws in place that expressly forbid discrimination in the workplace based on a variety of factors, often called protected classes. These include gender, race and religion. Persons over the age of 40 and those with disabilities are also protected classes, meaning that they should not be discriminated against by an employer for their age or because they have a disability.

According to The Los Angeles Times, a longtime employee of and columnist for the paper has recently been awarded a large sum by a jury for alleged workplace discrimination based on age and disability. The man first began working at the paper in 1990 and since 2000 was a regular columnist. Reports indicate his work was consistently of high quality, earning him positive performance reviews.

Reasons that may or may not support termination

In California, it is common for employment of a person by a company to be considered at-will. This generally means that an employee is not required to remain working for the company if the employee wishes to leave. On the other side of the coin, the company may be allowed to terminate the person's employment for any reason at any time. This, however, does not mean that all terminations are lawful.

Understanding the reasons that a person may or may not legally be able to be fired for can be complex. As explained by Forbes, a manager or company might not have grounds to terminate a person simply because they have a challenging nature and may be prone to asking a lot of questions or offering new ideas for how to get things done. Even a single mistake may not be sufficient to justify firing someone if the mistake was truly honest and the person learned from the experience and does not repeat the action.

When management fails to address severe discrimination

We have covered many of the different types of discrimination which occur in workspaces across the state of California. Unfortunately, some workplace situations which involve a great deal of discrimination can be especially tough for employees to deal with. For example, someone who is experiencing discrimination because of their ethnicity or their religious beliefs may be subjected to relentless, brutal discrimination. Even worse, there are times when management fails to take action and ignores what is happening on the job. In these instances, it is pivotal for victims of discrimination to firmly stand up for themselves.

There may be all sorts of options available to someone who is experiencing these challenges. If discussing the issue with a manager or an employer does not help, filing a complaint may be the next step to take. Moreover, some people even need to file a lawsuit as a result of their experiences. Severe discrimination can be incredibly difficult not only from an emotional point of view but from a financial one as well. In some cases, those who are subjected to relentless and serious discrimination may even fear for their personal safety. This is unacceptable and has affected far too many workers across the country.

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