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Sacramento Employment Law Blog

WeWork, former CEO accused of gender, pregnancy discrimination

California readers might remember that WeWork CEO Adam Neumann was ousted from his job in September after his failed attempt to take the company public. Now, he and the company are being sued for gender discrimination by a former employee.

According to court documents, Neumann's former chief of staff claims she was paid less than male employees for doing the same work and was also subjected to pregnancy discrimination while employed at WeWork. She contends that Neumann asked inappropriate questions about her marriage and pregnancy plans when she interviewed for her job in 2013. She also says she was later "forced" to disclose her pregnancy to him because he regularly smoked marijuana around her on chartered business flights. She further alleges that he repeatedly referred to her upcoming maternity leave as a "vacation". Finally, she accuses the company of paying the man who took over her job $400,000 with a $175,000 signing bonus, which was significantly more than the $150,000 she was paid for performing the same duties.

California bans hair discrimination

For years, numerous people had to alter their hairstyles at work. This disproportionately impacted African Americans, who tend to have natural hair that is curlier or twisted than Caucasian hair. Additionally, African-Americans tend to have hair in twists and braids, as they are more popular in their cultures, which many businesses prohibit. Hair discrimination is now a thing of the past in California, thanks to the passage of the Crown Act

Governor Gavin Newsome approved the bill in July, and it will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The law states, "Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group." The goal of the bill is to foster inclusion at businesses and schools, so no one feels as though they need to alter their hair to conform to Eurocentric standards. 

Medical workers experience harassment as well

Medical professionals in California and throughout the country deal with sexual harassment at levels comparable to those in other fields. However, in spite of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment in the medical field isn't talked about as much as it is in other professions. While there is little reporting on the matter, there are gender discrimination lawsuits pending against employers such as Tulane University. Furthermore, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that nearly half of female medical students experience harassment.

The high rates of gender discrimination and harassment in the medical field are attributed to a high level of male leadership. Examples of discrimination include not following instructions given by a female doctor or not being taken seriously by superiors. Female medical professionals are also more likely to receive negative performance reviews if they have children. There may also be a higher risk of complications during pregnancy because they can't get time off.

Prejudice against female managers less among younger workers

Biases against women in leadership positions in the workplace might be easing among the younger generation. Research by an economics professor about employees' reactions to feedback and criticism from male and female bosses showed less prejudice among workers in their 20s. The results might indicate a generational shift away from discriminating against women managers in California.

The study conducted by the professor evaluated workers' perceptions of feedback based on whether it came from a man or woman. To measure responses to criticism, the study randomly gave male or female manager names to performance feedback transcripts and assigned them to random workers. Both men and women tended to have negative feelings toward feedback from women compared to men. Criticism coming from female managers corresponded with reduced job satisfaction among employees.

Sex discrimination evident in unequal pay, hiring and promotions

People experiencing sex discrimination in California workplaces often have an uphill climb to prove that it is happening. The discriminatory actions might take place over a long stretch of time, such as someone striving for a promotion while working for years. The subjective nature of hiring, which hinges on employer's preferences, can also make discrimination difficult to document. Pay inequities between male and female workers are more apparent. Regardless of any individual's ability to produce evidence about sex discrimination, multiple research studies have concluded that it is widespread throughout society.

A pay analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that women make roughly 80% of what men earn. The recent lawsuit brought forward by members of the U.S. women's soccer team presents a glaring example of unequal pay. The league only pays female soccer players about 38% of what male players make.

Stronger sexual harassment rules issued in California

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees in California and across the country are protected against discrimination and sexual harassment. This includes any unwelcome physical or verbal advances or requests for sexual favors. Not only does sexual harassment cause mental trauma, it can interfere in a person’s ability to work by creating a toxic work environment.

A new bill signed by Governor Newsom will increase rights of victims of sexual harassment in California. Although the bill was vetoed last year by the acting governor, it passed this year under the leadership of a governor more sympathetic to the #MeToo movement. The new bill extends the period in which people have to report claims of sexual harassment from one year to three years. 

Can LGBT people be fired for their orientation in California?

Despite major strides forward in the equal treatment of LGBT people in our country’s society, there are still setbacks that you may understandably find disheartening. There are numerous people with prejudices against those with different sexual orientations or gender identification, and they may take any opportunity to discriminate against them. You may be interested in learning about labor protections for LGBT people in California, especially if you are worried about your job.

Can you be fired simply for being gay or lesbian or for identifying as a different gender than your birth-assigned one? According to Inc., 21 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have protections in place for LGBT people in the workforce, California being one of them. This means that your employer is not permitted to discipline or terminate you solely on the basis of your gender identification or sexual orientation. Additionally, your co-workers and superiors may not taunt or harass you for the same.

3 subtle signs of retaliation for a harassment claim

Sexual harassment and sex discrimination have been problems in the workforce for decades. In the #MeToo era, though, a growing number of individuals are identifying improper behavior and exercising their legal right to complain. Nonetheless, sometimes, employers illegally retaliate against workers for reporting harassment or filing an official claim. 

Termination of employment is arguably the clearest indicator of retaliation. Still, retaliation comes in a variety of forms. Here are three subtle signs that you may be the victim of retaliation for complaining about workplace discrimination or harassment: 

Different forms of workplace discrimination

Californian workers have certain protections under the law that disallows them from being discriminated against. However, discrimination can come in many different forms and may be difficult to identify.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes a look at the various types of discrimination that are disallowed under national law, which is enforced by EEOC. This may include discrimination due to:

  • Disabilities one may suffer from
  • A person's age
  • Genetic information
  • Race or national origin
  • Religion
  • Sex

Does sexual harassment have to be physical?

In California, there are laws in place that protect workers from being sexually harassed while on the job. We at the Law Offices of Jeffrey D. Fulton are here to discuss what is considered sexual harassment under the law.

Unfortunately, there is a misconception going around that sexual harassment must be physical in order to be breaking any laws. Some people even believe that it has to carry a certain degree of physicality. This can keep victims of sexual harassment from speaking up about the traumatic experiences they have had, just because they don't think their experience is valid.

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