Natural Hairstyle Discrimination Banned in California

natural hairstyle discriminationHave you missed out on employment opportunities because of natural hairstyle discrimination of your afro, braids, or locks?  Starting in January 2020, employers will no longer be allowed to discriminate against people based on natural hairstyles that they may not like. The Governor signed SB 188 into law, strengthening California’s prohibitions on race discrimination. If you experience issues related to your natural hair in the workplace, it may be worthwhile to contact local employment attorney about next steps.  

History of Natural Hairstyle Discrimination

While both state and federal laws ban racial discrimination, hairstyles have not always been protected in all federal courts. The issue came into the spotlight in December 2018, when a young black wrestler in New Jersey was made to choose between his dreadlocks and being forced to forfeit a wrestling match. It was a horrible decision that no person, let alone a high schooler, should be have to make. The California legislature acknowledged a number of historical trends in the text of SB 188:

  • Traits associated with blacks, including dark skin and kinky hair, have historically been viewed as a sign of inferiority in this country;
  • Society’s understanding of “professionalism” has been largely linked to European norms of appearance;
  • Irrespective of strides to reduce racism, hairstyles remain a significant source of racism in California and throughout the country;
  • This racism has very real impacts on the health and economic status of Black people and communities;
  • Workplace dress codes that ban natural hairstyles, including braids, afros, locks, and twists, disparately impact Black people;
  • Since hair is ultimately a proxy for race, discrimination of the basis of hair constitutes racial discrimination.

Practical Meaning of the Law

The impacts of this new law are significant. For individuals who have experienced discrimination based on hairstyles, affirmative relief is now a reality. This could mean a number of remedies are available, including:

  • Reinstatement to a former position;
  • Back pay for amounts lost due to termination or job reassignment;
  • Out-of-pocket expense reimbursements;
  • Grants of tenure previously denied;
  • Promotions previously denied;
  • Training opportunities for which the employee was previously deemed ineligible.

A Name with Meaning

Senate Bill 188 specifically identifies traits generally associated with race as being on the list of issues deserving of legal protections, along with sexual orientation, disability, sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. It has been given the acronym the CROWN Act, in order to promote the idea of respect for natural hair. No longer will Californians have to make grooming choices related to natural hair that could have significant ramifications in the workplace or at school. Instead, the Senate, which passed the bill unanimously, hopes that an expanded view of what constitutes “professionalism” will promote greater acceptance of the black experience in the state. [Read more…]

Transgender Rights – Workplace Protections

transgender rights in the workplaceTransgender rights are human rights. According to Amnesty International, transgender individuals are the recipients of casual discrimination on a daily basis. In fact, they undergo as many as 60 instances of discrimination or harassment every single day. While many of these indiscretions are made without malice, or even unknowingly (such as using a pronoun other than the one the transgender person identifies with), they still take a toll on the transgender community. California lawmakers have taken deliberate steps to provide protections for transgender workers. The goal is to reduce and even eliminate instances of harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace that is based on gender identity, sex, or gender expression. The rights of transgender individuals in the workplace are important to the health and safety of the worker, fellow employees, employers, and the business itself.

Posting the Transgender Rights Poster

All employers with one or more employees must post the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing poster regarding workplace rights for transgender individuals. The poster clarifies any questions employers and their employees may have as to some specific rights for transgender employees.

Parity in Restroom Facilities – Transgender Rights

All employees are entitled to feel safe in restrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities. Individuals who are transitioning and/or who are transgender have particular protections when it comes to restrooms in the workplace.  

  • California standards ensure that employees are allowed to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.  
  • Single-occupancy restrooms must be identified as gender-neutral with signs that label the room as such.
  • It is the choice of the transgender individual whether to use a single-occupancy restroom or a general use restroom that is designated as either male or female. Employers do not have the right to force transgender individuals to use the single use facilities exclusively.

When are Transgender Rights Protections Viable?

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act provides protections from harassment and discrimination for transgender individuals, among others. These protections apply to hiring, wages, opportunities for training and promotions, lay-offs, firing, and retaliation. They protect transgender workers before, during, and after social, legal, and physical transitioning.

Social Transition

Individuals undergoing social transition may not be discriminated against for the issues such as following:

  • Changes in attire;
  • Alterations in hairstyle;
  • Preferences for different pronouns.

Physical Transition

Transgender individuals who undergo hormone therapy and/or surgery may not be discriminated against during or after therapies and treatments that change the physical body of the individual.

Legal Transition

At the culmination of the social and physical transition, transgender individuals may ultimately be required to undergo a legal name change, which may, in turn, result in updates to social security cards, driver’s licenses and other identification, birth certificates, and additional important documents. These changes should not result in workplace penalties. [Read more…]

Obesity Discrimination?

obesity discriminationObesity discrimination in the workplace? After 15 years on the job, a California woman began having problems. She says the issues all revolved around a new manager with a nasty temperament and his disdain for her and her oversized body.

Obesity Discrimination – Cornell’s Story

As a college co-ed, Ketryn Cornell got a job as a lifeguard at the Berkeley Tennis Club, a revered tennis facility that has been the host of many a celebrity tennis star over the years.  

Over time, Cornell tried her hand in a number of positions at the club. She struggled with weight gain, and ultimately found she was not able to walk much farther than one mile or to stand in place longer than about an hour. Severe obesity was impacting her life and her health. 15 years after starting as a lifeguard at the luxury club, it would begin to affect her job.

New Manager Does Not Play Nice

When a new general manager was hired, Cornell claims he targeted her for her size, and deliberately humiliated her by ordering a work uniform that was several sizes too small. But that was not the end of it. Her manager pointed out that Cornell ought to consider getting weight-loss surgery, and told her she was not a “good fit” for the club.

Furthermore, when Cornell complained that a fit, young co-worker was making more money than Cornell was, the manager conceded that the petite woman was “a good fit.”

Termination

Ultimately, this story ended like many such cases do – with Cornell’s termination. The manager claimed that Cornell was surreptitiously attempting to record a board meeting one evening at the club. He used the accusation as the basis for firing her.

Obesity Discrimination – The Lawsuit

Cornell was having none of that, and quickly filed a suit claiming discrimination based on her disability (obesity), harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. The case was thrown out of court on a summary judgment motion, but the discrimination and harassment rulings were reversed on appeal.  

What Does it all Mean?

To prove obesity discrimination, Cornell will still be required to prove that her obesity constitutes a disability as a result of a physiological cause, and she will now have the opportunity to show that the manager’s explanation for her termination was bogus, and simply a ploy to get rid of her. Additionally, she will be able to put forth her evidence that the manager’s behaviors were predicated by malice, resulting in her wrongful discharge. [Read more…]

Pregnancy Discrimination Costs AutoZone Big Bucks

pregnancy discriminationA case of pregnancy discrimination. A San Diego AutoZone manager was told that she could not handle the responsibilities of management after becoming pregnant. Pressured to step down, she stood her ground. After having her child, she was subjected to a reduction in pay and a demotion, and was later set up to be fired. She did not take the alleged pregnancy discrimination actions sitting down. In the lawsuit that ensued against her employer, Juarez was vindicated and AutoZone learned an important lesson.

Pregnancy Discrimination, A Glass Ceiling for Women?

In her suit, she asserted that female employees are limited in their ability to be promoted. In fact, only about 10% of AutoZone stores in the San Diego area had female managers. During the trial, one man who had formerly been a district manager testified that he had been admonished for promoting too many women into management positions. He had been instructed to get rid of the women, as the company was not running a boutique. Another district manager was offered a promotion in exchange for terminating all females in the stores he managed. It would seem that in addition to pregnancy discrimination, all females’ jobs were in a precarious position.

Anti-Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

Gender bias laws have been on the books for decades. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 specifies that pregnant women should be accommodated in their jobs, in the same manner as an individual with a disability or who had experienced an injury. Providing light duty and making other reasonable adaptations for pregnant woman is required by law.

Additionally, California law bans workplace discrimination. Contrary to federal law, the state has no cap on awards for punitive damages and emotional suffering. In the Juarez case, the decision was made to bring the case to state court, arguing that Juarez was discriminated against under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.California law obligates employers to do the following:

  • Provide reasonable accommodations, such as allowing extra breaks, allowing employees to sit, and so forth;
  • Transfer pregnant employees to a lateral position to avoid strenuous or hazardous conditions;
  • Provide as much as four months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL);
  • Allow employees to return to their same position following PDL;
  • Provide appropriate lactation breaks following the birth of a child.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Judgment

The jury found in favor of Juarez, and the court upheld the verdict, awarding her nearly $875,000 in compensatory damages and $185 million in punitive damages. They found that AutoZone, had, indeed, discriminated, harassed, and retaliated against Juarez due to her pregnancy. [Read more…]

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

california fair housing and employment actCalifornia’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) lays out the duty of employers toward their employees, as well as prohibited actions in the workplace. These policies address discrimination against individuals with disabilities, as well as other protected groups, including:

  • Age;
  • Military status;
  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • National origin or ancestry;
  • Marital status;
  • Physical or mental disability;
  • Gender, sexual expression, or sexual orientation.

Anti-discrimination rules have been on the books for years. Revisions to these policies in recent times are worth noting:

Sex Discrimination and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act

The law protects individuals from any form of discrimination on the basis of sex. This applies to both males and females and expressly covers gender identity and expression and transgender identification.

Fair Employment and Housing Act on Volunteers, Interns, and Other Unpaid Individuals

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act protects unpaid persons from discrimination, just as paid workers are. In fact, for the purposes of a harassment claim, they are considered employees.

Discrimination on the Basis of Religion

Religion may not be a factor in hiring and firing decisions. Reasonable accommodations must be made to address a worker’s religious tenets. An employer may not isolate a worker from fellow employees or from customers due to religious beliefs or attire, unless it is something that is requested by the employee.

Pregnancy

Employees are entitled to as much as four months of unpaid leave in association with a pregnancy. It is not necessary to for the time to be taken in one continuous break. Furthermore, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, breastfeeding, or other conditions associated with childbirth is not permitted.

Discrimination on the Basis of National Origin

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act does not permit employers to require employees to demonstrate that they have a driver’s license except under particular circumstances:

  • State or federal law requires it for the position;
  • It is a mandatory item for the type of work required;
  • There is a legitimate business reason for the requirement, and all employees are held to the same standard.

Training for Anti-Bullying

Employers who employ 50 or more workers are required to provide training that encompasses key topics:

  • Definitions of “abusive conduct;”
  • Impacts of such conduct on both victims and employers;
  • Steps the company will take to rectify harassing behaviors, such as the policy for investigating complaints and responsive actions;
  • Obligations of supervisors to document claims of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.

Employers must document attendance at these trainings with sign-in sheets and must keep training materials on hand.

Support Animals in the Workplace

Support dogs or other animals that are required to assist with vision issues, cognitive problems, or emotional support must be accommodated in the workplace. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

Standing up to Racial Discrimination

discriminationWhen a black, female Chipotle employee confronted her manager about being assigned night shifts with fellow black employees, while Latino workers were given more preferable day shifts, her manager had a troubling comeback. “Black girls always have an attitude.” The worker then complained to a district manager, who brushed her aside. According to records, the employee was then fired without being given any explanation. She did not take it sitting down. Instead, she marched into court and filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, wrongful termination, failure to prevent harassment, and retaliation. If you are facing racial discrimination in the workplace, you may wish to consult an attorney and take legal action, as well.

Racial Discrimination is Real

Although some may try to deny it, statistics indicate that racial discrimination is alive and well in this country. Wage gaps are one of the clearest markers of this:

  • Median hourly earnings for men of color lag behind those of white men by six to seven dollars;
  • The wage gap separating black and Hispanic men and white men has not narrowed since 1980;
  • Black men earn 73% of what white men earn;
  • Hispanic men earn 71% of what white men earn;
  • Even with a bachelor’s degree, men of color earn 80% of what white men earn.

It is no wonder that just over 20% of black adults and just under 20% of Hispanics report that they have experienced unfair or discriminatory actions in hiring, promotion or pay in the past year.  Meanwhile, while 5% of white adults say their race makes success difficult, that number is 40% for blacks and 20% of Hispanics.

What Does Racial Discrimination Look Like?

Racial discrimination can rear its ugly head in a number of ways. Some examples you may encounter include:

  • You are not hired because a company’s clients would not be working with someone of your race, or you are kept in the background so customers will not be exposed to someone of your race;
  • You are laid off, while white employees with similar skills and less seniority are kept on;
  • White employees with similar positions and experience are paid more than you;
  • Whites are assigned preferential shifts or territories while you are given unfavorable ones;
  • Colleagues tell racially offensive jokes, use racial slurs casually, or in other ways create a hostile work environment and management does not deal with the situation.

Remedies for Racial Discrimination

If you experience race discrimination at work, you should know that Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 protects people from such workplace violations. At Beck Law P.C., we do not tolerate excuses. We seek justice for those treated unfairly. That may include:

  • Back pay and/or reinstatement following a lay-off or firing;
  • Hiring when you were denied such due to race;
  • Promotions you did not get due to race;
  • Compensatory damages for pain and suffering;
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs

[Read more…]

Disabled Employees Rights

Disabled EmployeesDisabled employees facing discrimination. If you or a loved one has experienced workplace discrimination due to a disability, it is indefensible. When one employee with emphysema, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requested accommodations in order to complete necessary tasks on the job, the company responded by discharging that employee. That act of dismissal has resulted in a lawsuit against that San Francisco company, InsideUp. If you have experienced workplace discrimination due to a disability, a local employment attorney may be able to help.

Disabled Employees and Federal ADA Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the civil rights of people with disabilities.  The law addresses all aspects of public life, ranging from school and employment to transportation and dining out. Essentially, the law ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as people without disabilities. Title I of the ADA deals specifically with employment.

Employment Opportunities

This piece of the ADA calls for employers to provide opportunities and benefits to people with disabilities that are equivalent to the opportunities and benefits of their non-disabled counterparts. Additionally, reasonable accommodations and/or modifications must be provided to employees when essential to help the employee perform necessary functions of the job.

Disabled Employees and Reasonable Accommodations

Specific accommodations should be designed around individual circumstances in the workplace.  Examples of sensible accommodations include:

  • Adapting facilities to make them accessible for all employees;
  • Restructuring job requirements so as to provide opportunities for employees who might otherwise be limited by a disability;
  • Procuring specialized equipment or modifying existing equipment as needed;
  • Adapting tests, policies, or materials used in training employees;
  • Providing part-time positions or modified work-schedules when possible;
  • Reassigning employees to vacant positions when qualified.
  • Providing interpreters, readers, or similar assistance.

When and How to Request Accommodations for Disabled Employees

If you require workplace accommodations due to a medical disability, you simply need ask your employer. The request does not have to be in writing, although having documentation of your request can not hurt. It is not necessary to disclose your disability and ask for modifications during the hiring process. You may make your request at any time.

Documentation of Your Disability

Employers do have the right to request documentation for a disability that is not obvious. Be advised, however, that your employer is not entitled to your entire set of medical records. Just the documentation necessary to establish the need for reasonable accommodations must be provided.  Employers should be specific in their requests for information related to functional limitations and the types of accommodations that may be necessary. Employers may sometimes ask an employee with disabilities to provide a limited release of their medical information. Appropriate professionals who might provide information may include doctors and nurses, mental health professionals, occupational therapists, and other authorities on your medical condition. [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.