Gender Bias and Discrimination at Paramount?

Gender BiasWhen gender bias rather than qualifications and experience influence workplace decisions, companies will face legal challenges to their practices. If you believe you have been held back due to your gender, an experienced employment attorney may be worth consulting.

The Case at Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures is facing a gender bias and discrimination lawsuit. The former head of marketing and distribution, Megan Colligan, claims that a culture of gender bias led to her last days with the corporation.

Plaintiff’s Claims of Gender Bias and Discrimination

The suit alleges that female employees are consistently overlooked for promotions. A case in point involves Brad Grey, who left the company in the spring of 2016 and was replaced by Jim Gianopulos. Since that event, four women have resigned from their executive positions. Colligan believes that systemic discrimination at Paramount must be remedied, and vows to fight for the rights of women until the organization is revamped and the matter is resolved.

Paramount’s Rebuttal to Gender Bias and Discrimination Claims

In the meantime, Paramount has promoted a number of women to prominent positions:

  • Mirelle Soria will head the animation department;
  • Elizabeth Raposo was promoted to be the president of production;
  • Syrinthia Studer will lead acquisitions.

California Law on Gender Bias and Discrimination

Both state and federal law prohibit discrimination in the workplace. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) clearly defines the legal requirements for employers with regard to discrimination:

  • It applies to all private and public employers, employment agencies, and labor groups;
  • Companies with five or more employees may not discriminate or retaliate against someone in a protected category;
  • Harassment against such an employee, volunteer, intern or contractor is prohibited.
  • All business practices must be free of discrimination and/or bias, including:
    • Advertising;
    • Applications, job screening, and job interviewing;
    • Hiring, promotions, transfers, separation of workers, or termination;
    • Ability to participate in job training, apprenticeship programs, or other workers’ organizations;
    • Compensation and workplace conditions.

Dealing with Discrimination

When workers do experience discrimination or harassment, they are entitled to file a complaint with the human resources department, or to even sue the company. A number of potential remedies may be attained, including:

  • Remuneration for the differential in pay;
  • Lost past and/or future earnings;
  • Reinstatement after losing a job;
  • Promotions previously denied;
  • Changes in company policy:
  • Training opportunities and fees;
  • Punitive damages;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees.

[Read more…]

Immigration Sweeps and California Employers

immigration sweepsCalifornia employers warned to steer clear of immigration sweeps. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has made it clear that employers are not to assist federal ICE agents with illegal immigrant roundups. If they do, he cautioned, they could face fines of as much as $10,000, along with other legal consequences.

Immigration sweeps – California Employers Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Employers in California have been caught in the middle of conflicting state and federal expectations. While Becerra promises prosecutions for violations of state laws, federal immigration agents continue to expect cooperation as they search for undocumented immigrants.  Current acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, has threatened that Californians need to hold on tight, asserting that federal agents are determined to protect local communities in spite of sanctuary laws. The battle between state and federal agencies puts employers in a tough spot when asked for information about and/or access to employees.

Immigration sweeps and California Immigrant Worker Protection Act

California’s governor signed the Immigrant Worker Protection Act into law in January of this year. It spells out the legal requirements of employers toward their workers, irrespective of their immigration status. Essentially, employers are not to assist in any activity that would result in an employee being detained while at work. The specifics of the bill spell out the employer expectations to:

  • Ask to see a warrant before giving ICE agents access to the site;
  • Not give out confidential employee information to ICE agents unless subpoenaed to do so;
  • Not re-verify information on employment forms without federal coercion.

Furthermore, the exclusive authority to enforce state labor laws has been given strictly to the state attorney general and the state labor commissioner, leaving federal authorities with no authority.

Immigration Sweeps – ICE Raids California Businesses

In the span of just five days, 122 businesses were swept up in the federal government’s clampdown on undocumented immigrants. Over 200 arrests took place in Southern California businesses. ICE agents explained that any alien found to be in violation of United States immigration laws was subject to deportation, regardless of other crimes, or the lack thereof.

Immigrations Sweeps – Be Prepared

California employers are urged to be ready for potential interactions with federal agents. Both supervisors and employees need to be aware of their obligations under the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, and should be instructed to ask agents for subpoenas or warrants when required by California law. Furthermore, employers should be prepared to address all pre- and post-inspection requirements. [Read more…]

Workplace Gender Discrimination

workplace gender discriminationWomen in this country face workplace gender discrimination on a regular basis. In fact, over 40% of women report encountering work-place discrimination at some time in their lives. If that is something to which you can relate, the services of an experienced employment attorney may be helpful.

What Workplace Gender Discrimination Looks Like

This is a many-headed monster, impacting women with a bachelor’s degree at much higher levels than women with less education. Those with post-graduate education report discrimination at still greater levels. Overall, women submit that they come head to head with discrimination in a variety of forms:

  • Lower earnings for the same work (25%);
  • Treated as if incompetent (23%);
  • Being slighted repeatedly in the workplace (16%);
  • Not being supported by senior management (15%;
  • Being overlooked for key assignments (10%);
  • Feeling isolated at work (9%);
  • Failing to be promoted (7%);
  • Not getting hired (7%).

Why Workplace Gender Discrimination is so Prevalent

One theory states that stereotypes begin at birth and are nurtured throughout a female’s lifetime, eventually reaching fruition as gender discrimination in workplace situations. This makes sense when you think of pink and blue baby blankets, dolls and Hot Wheels, ballet class and karate class. Gender grooming through advertising, opportunity, and social beliefs feed female employment choice expectations. Research abounds demonstrating the imbalance in focus toward boys in math and sciences and many programs such as debate, sports, and science focus on male participation in secondary schools, while females are encouraged to do volunteer work.  Ultimately, college courses in business and technical fields are dominated by males, whereas females fill courses related to caregiving areas such as education and nursing.

Once women make it into a profession, they often lack female role models and have to fight to make it to the top. Are trends changing? To some degree, yes. Women have taken the lead over their male counterparts when it comes to business startups. Even so, they tend to go into fields customarily viewed as “female” work. Those who do break into a male-dominated field often find themselves battling sex and gender discrimination at surprisingly high rates.

Doing Away With Workplace Gender Discrimination

Without a doubt, women are underrepresented in high-level positions in this country. When it comes to Fortune 500 companies, only 5% of CEOs are female. Females do slightly better attaining executive positions, with 15% of women scoring those jobs. This is troubling when considering the influx of women into the workforce in recent decades. While plenty of organizations have instituted training programs to battle discrimination, the evidence suggests that women still have bias to confront, whether conscious or not.

What is a well-intended CEO to do? Diversity training is a good starting point, but it should not stop there. Other approaches include:

  • Mentoring programs;
  • Diversity committees;
  • A staff position dedicated to diversity;
  • Having joint committees to look at hiring and promotion decisions;
  • Acknowledging bias issues and addressing them publicly.

[Read more…]

10 Things A New Hire Should Know

new hireIf you’re a new hire at a company, it’s important to know your rights and exercise them. Here are some things a new hire may not know that are definitely worth knowing.

New Hire Check List

  • Are you are required to wear a particular uniform? Your employer cannot force you to purchase it. Should you leave the job without returning the uniform, you may consent in advance to having the cost of the uniform deducted from your final paycheck.
  • Do you earn less than double minimum wage? If so, your employer cannot expect you to pay for the tools or equipment needed to perform your job.
  • Does your employer require medical tests, physical exams, or drug tests as a condition of your employment? They cannot require you to pay for those tests.
  • If your employer enacts a wage reduction or change of pay periods, notice must be provided before the change occurs.
  • Employers are limited as to what may be deducted from an employee paycheck to those deductions expressly required by state or federal law. This excludes:
    • Portions of gratuities;
    • Costs associated with photos or badges required by the employer;
    • Bonding fees;
    • Uniforms costs, unless as described above;
    • Expenses related to the termination of employment;
    • Expenditures related to equipment and/or tools except as described above;
    • Losses due to broken property, checks that bounce, or cash shortages, unless those losses can be proven to be a result of gross negligence or dishonesty.
  • When employees resign and give 72 hours notice or more, employers are required to pay out any remaining wages due on their last day.
  • If a labor dispute results in an employee’s resignation or termination, all wages due must be paid by the next scheduled pay day.
  • For companies employing 25 or fewer workers, the minimum wage is $10.50. For larger companies, the minimum rate is $11.00.
  • Hourly employees must be paid at 1.5 times the normal rate for all hours over 40 in one week, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of any given week. They must be paid double the normal rate for any hours exceeding 12 in one workday, and for all hours beyond eight on the seventh consecutive workday.
  • Employees are entitled to a 30-minute break for every five hours they work consecutively.  During that time, they are to be exempt from performing any duties whatsoever related to their employment. Employees are allowed to leave the premises during this break.

[Read more…]

Avoid ADA Violations

ADA - The Americans with Disabilites ActIf you own a business, you are required to follow various specifications related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Failure to do so could result in fines, accidents, loss of business, and even lawsuits. Taking note of the most common violations and working to eliminate them can save you more than a few headaches.

Frequent ADA Violations

Access is a key issue addressed by ADA guidelines. Failure to provide it is a serious problem:

  • Number of parking spaces: The law requires a certain minimum number of parking spaces, based on the size of the business and parking lot;
  • Condition of designated spaces: When handicapped parking spaces are on a slope, or when the paint is faded and difficult to see, it is a violation;
  • Van access not in compliance: Vans require larger spaces and/or aisles to enable wheelchair bound individuals the room to maneuver;
  • Signage missing: Reserved spots lack a sign designating them for accessibility;
  • Entry Routes inaccessible: Ramps or curbs are lacking or non-existent, or surfaces are not level;
  • Doorways are inaccessible: Automatic doors are not available;
  • Indoor access to the facility: Tables, counters, and other surfaces are not in compliance with ADA guidelines, or aisles within the building are not wide enough for wheelchairs to maneuver;
  • Floor space not cleared: Objects in aisles and otherwise leaving insufficient room to turn around in a wheelchair;
  • Bathrooms not in compliance: Problems related to missing grab bars, inaccessible sinks, towel dispensers, faucets, mirrors, hand sanitizer or soap dispensers, and toilet seat cover dispensers.

Businesses Most Often Found in Violation of the ADA

Any business is responsible to provide access for disabled individuals. Those businesses most frequented by the public experience the greatest numbers of complaints for non-compliance. In California, the data relating to complaints gives us a window into the businesses most often found to have deficits with regard to ADA accommodations:

  • Sales and/or rental businesses: 41% of complaints;
  • Food and drink establishments: 27% of complaints;
  • Service-oriented businesses: 26% of complaints;
  • Lodging establishments: 4% of complaints;

Employee ADA Training

In addition to the physical accommodations in your building, train employees about the proper way to interact with individuals with disabilities. Remember, they are people who are looking for products or services, just like anyone else. Be aware that not every disability is visible, so courteous, individualized service from your employees will benefit everyone.

  • Individuals with slurred speech will require patience and attention;
  • Those with hearing difficulties may need to see your lips moving as you speak;
  • Individuals of short stature may appreciate employees coming around a counter to interact;
  • Someone with respiratory disabilities or chemical sensitivities may have an adverse reaction to spray cleaners, air fresheners, or other toxins in the air;
  • Persons with psychiatric disabilities may have trouble with social cues, stressful situations, or unexpected delays.

[Read more…]

How to Avoid an Employee Lawsuit as an Employer

employee lawsuitThe last thing you need as an employer is an employee lawsuit. Running a business is not easy. It requires an assortment of skills that include business savvy, financial prowess, organizational mastery, and schmoozing finesse to deal with customers, competitors, and employees. In the event that you wind up battling an employee lawsuit, consulting with an experienced employment attorney is your best bet.

Employee Lawsuit – Why do Employees Sue?

There are all kinds of reasons for an employee lawsuit. Employees will definitely take to the courts to deal with their grievances.  Here are some of the employee lawsuit biggies with suggestions on how to avoid these issues:

  • Employees feel they have been mistreated: When human dignity is secondary to the company’s bottom line, workers feel it. Whether they are still employed, demoted, or no longer with the company, if people believe they are or were disposable, it hurts. This is likely the number one reason individuals seek retribution against an employer – because they believe their efforts on behalf of the company went unrecognized and underappreciated.
  • To avoid this pitfall: Treat employees respectfully. Make sure managers get the message that people matter, and build recognition into the culture of the workplace.
  • Employees are disciplined, demoted or fired for engaging in a protected activity: Oftentimes employers may feel uncomfortable with, say, union participation. Or perhaps an employee has reported discriminatory behavior in the workplace. If negative consequences follow this kind of protected activity, it is unlawful, and could result in a lawsuit.
  • To avoid this pitfall: Make sure HR documents issues with employees so there is a clear paper trail leading up to job actions. Additionally, stay up to date on the laws regarding employee rights, and make timely responses to employee concerns regarding discrimination.
  • Employees working under the direction of a bad manager: When a manager lacks the leadership skills and the ability to represent the values of the company adequately, no matter how wonderful the mission statement is, it could be trouble. One harasser, one cheater, one cruel manager, and the company is at risk.
  • To avoid this pitfall: Train managers well, and perform regular evaluations to ensure they are working within the law and treating employees properly.
  • Employees see unfair application of rules: Employee A is written up for excessive tardiness, but Employee B gets away with it on a regular basis. It irks everyone to see that type of thing, especially if it looks like the uneven enforcement is related to race, gender, or other protected status. When employees can prove unequal treatment occurred, it can be expensive for employers.
  • To avoid this pitfall: Have clear rules and expectations, and specific policies in place to intervene when there is a problem.

[Read more…]

Personnel Records

personnel recordsIf you are concerned about what is contained in your personnel records file, there is a simple way to find out – simply make a request. If you hit roadblocks, a local employment attorney can help.

Personnel Records – Your Right to Know

California law provides the opportunity for employees—whether current or former—to take a look at their personnel records and any files documenting employee performance. Additionally, employees have the right to any documentation related to grievances with which the employee is associated. Copies of these documents must be made available to the employee for the cost of reproduction within 30 days of the request. What does this mean for employers?

For starters, employers must hang onto employee records for at least three years following the conclusion of employment. Then the employer must make said personnel records available for inspection and copying following any such request. These requests must be honored at least once per year upon request.

In the event an employee was terminated due to illegal actions, an employer may comply with a request for records by mail, or at a location other than the workplace, if that location is within a reasonable distance from the former employee’s home. In this case, records associated with a criminal investigation are not required to be included.

Making a Personnel Records Request

Companies may vary in the procedures related to record requests, but either of two methods of request are acceptable according to Labor Code 1198.5:

  • Written requests;
  • Written requests using a form provided by the employer:

The law requires compliance with any written requests within 30 days of notification to the employer. That request may come from any employee, former employee, or representative of an employee. The employer is not required to provide time during the workday for the inspection.

What Documents are Available?

A number of records must be made available, including:

  • Any paperwork signed by the employee at the time of hire;
  • Payroll records;
  • Explanations of piece rate policies or incentive plans;
  • Production records;
  • Documentation of exposure to hazardous materials;
  • Attendance documentation;
  • Records of training or education;
  • Official warnings, discipline and/or termination;
  • Notices related to garnishment of wages;
  • Performance ratings and reviews;
  • Notices related to vacations or other time away from work.

What Personnel Records are Not Available for Inspection

A number of items in an employee file are not necessarily available for inspection. Such documents include:

  • Letters of recommendation;
  • Records acquired prior to hire;
  • Documents prepared by persons or committees who would be easily discernable;
  • Records related to criminal investigations;
  • Records related to promotional testing.

[Read more…]

Asian Descent and Discrimination

asian descentWhen fellow police officers made fun of Asian accents and disparaged the Asian culture and community, five law enforcement officers of Asian descent finally had enough. The offended officers, a group of current and former employees of the San Gabriel Police Department, (SGPD) filed a lawsuit against the department. If you are facing a similar dilemma, you deserve strong legal counsel.

Asian Descent – Specific Claims

According to the suit, the discrimination and harassment had been going on for decades, and individuals of Asian descent felt intimidated and unable to report the problem. When two individuals did stand up for themselves, they allegedly experienced retaliation and were rebuffed when they applied for various job assignments. Because the department did not satisfactorily deal with this culture of harassment, a lawsuit became the only way to seek redress.

According to the plaintiffs, inappropriate and, indeed, illegal discrimination and harassment was a daily part of the job. Included in the list of offenses:

  • Joking about physical features of Asian people;
  • Using racial slurs;
  • Making fun of Asian accents;
  • Making flippant remarks related to Asian stereotypes regarding intellect;

Not only did the rank and file participate in this harassment; managers were regular offenders, as well. Furthermore, Asian officers state that their work was scrutinized more closely than their colleagues, and they received harsher disciplinary action than non-Asian peers for similar infractions. This is particularly disturbing considering the fact that the SGPD serves a primarily Asian community; where over 60% of the population is of Asian descent. (The department reports that only 14% of its full-time officers are of Asian descent).

The Roots of Discrimination Towards Those of Asian Descent

Researchers connect discriminatory behavior with perceptions of threats to economic well-being and security. Beyond those kinds of deep-seated fears, media portrayals of Asian Americans are frequently far from favorable, making Asian men appear to be submissive, and even docile.  Asian stereotypes are reinforced, and their human emotion and values are disregarded. Experts link these attitudes to discrimination for Asians in this country, pointing to the fact that Asian Americans have been the target of a rising number of hate crimes in recent years.

Federal Law

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race or ethnic origin. In the case of the San Gabriel Police Department, the implications go beyond the impacts of discrimination on employees. Some wonder at the impact of such attitudes on the community at large. Surely, it is not inconceivable that problems go far beyond employment issues in this case. [Read more…]

Discrimination Against Pregnant Women Does Not Pay off in the Workplace

pregnantIs your job at risk because you are pregnant? If so, your employer may face some trouble with the law. Only an experienced local employment attorney can say for sure after reviewing the circumstances of your particular case. The fact is, employers have tried to get away with ignoring or even stomping all over women’s rights, and it has not worked out well for them in California.

Jury Award for $185 Million

Consider the case of Rosario Juarez, who sued her employer, AutoZone, after being demoted shortly after giving birth to her son. Juarez states that her boss consistently suggested she step down from her management position due to her pregnancy. When she complained about the prompting and the demotion and filed suit, she was ultimately fired. A jury found that the company had discriminated against her and terminated her in retribution, awarding her nearly $900,000 to compensate her for lost wages and emotional suffering, as well as $185 million in punitive damages. AutoZone was set to appeal the decision, but the two parties came to an agreement for an undisclosed settlement in order to avoid further litigation.

Refusing to Hire Pregnant Applicant Results in Lawsuit

When executive management at Olam Americas, Inc. rescinded a job offer after discovering the applicant was pregnant, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) got involved. They sued the Fresno company in hopes of gaining compensatory and punitive damages on the basis of gender discrimination. The case centered on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the base of gender or pregnancy.  Ultimately, the case was settled for $140,000.

Fired After Giving Birth

A few days after Leah Marshall delivered her infant son, she received a distressing phone call from her manager. Although she had been promised that she could return to her position with Genesco Inc. following the birth of her son, she was now told that there was simply not a spot for her with the San Francisco company. Apparently, company bigwigs did not understand that any discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or problems related to those conditions is illegal under EEOC rules. The EEOC suit sought damages to cover lost wages, emotional suffering, and punitive damages. A federal judge approved a settlement for $5,000 in lost wages and $20,000 for emotional distress. Managers were also ordered to undergo training to avoid future problems with discrimination issues related to pregnancy. [Read more…]

California Employees’ Right to Organize a Union

labor unionUnion organization changed the lives of California workers decades ago. Arguably, it was the work of those early activists that propelled many of the working class into the middle class, providing them with opportunities to own their own homes and earn disposable income. Despite the heroic beginnings of the union movement, only 16% of today’s California workers carry union cards. If you are experiencing illegal employer actions to block your efforts to organize labor, you may wish to seek the counsel of a local labor attorney.

Dreams of Historic Union Organizers

Caesar Chavez famously fought for the rights of farmworkers, and Harry Bridges was on the front lines advocating for longshoremen. They, and others like them, organized strikes and other actions to improve working conditions and wages for American workers. Pat Brown endeavored to eliminate employers’ right to make employment decisions based on skin color. Anna Smith led demonstrations protesting the horrendous conditions during the depression.

Despite these gallant soldiers of the working class, union membership is in serious decline. Likewise, the median income of California workers has experienced a parallel decline, along with a drop in homeownership rates.

Starting a Union

Forming a union is within the rights of every American worker. Employees are allowed to discuss and push an agenda putting forth the ideas surrounding organizing as workers. If you wish to start the wheels turning, here are some important tips worth heeding:

  • Be aware of your rights, and have clear goals;
  • Create an organizing committee and gather information about the workplace structure, employee contact information, and facts about the employer’s union history;
  • Create a platform highlighting the issues you’d like to address;
  • Investigate local unions and determine which one is best for you;
  • Solicit input from a local union organizer;
  • Sign up a majority of workers quickly so elections can be held;
  • Signed cards are required to petition the labor board or the state for the ability to hold an election. This may take some weeks, so keep the fire burning:
  • Negotiate a bargaining contract with the employer.
  • Keep employees organized and motivated.

Employer Resistance to a Union

Despite state and federal laws permitting employees to organize in this fashion, many employers resist such movement. They may put a lot of money into a campaign to destroy organizer’s momentum. While they have every right to defend their position, employers may not:

  • Threaten organizers;
  • Limit free speech during employee breaks;
  • Make employment decisions based on union activity;
  • “Get even” with organizers in any way.

[Read more…]

Disclaimer

The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.