Transgender Discrimination: A Case Study in California

Transgender DiscriminationImmediately after pronouncing herself a transgender woman, 53-year-old Meghan Frederick experienced transgender discrimination via a lack of respect, isolation, and outright harassment. As a correctional officer in a maximum-security prison, she discovered that colleagues as well as supervisors were more likely to react to her with rejection than acceptance. Ultimately, she felt she had no choice but to file a discrimination lawsuit. If you can relate to this case, you may wish to contact an experienced employment attorney, as well.

Meghan’s Transgender Discrimination Story

A career in finance segued into a position in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for Meghan. There, colleagues welcomed an athletic man. But some years later Frederick began to transition, and after five years announced that she wished to be identified as a woman.

Since then, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains have all misidentified her gender. She filed internal complaints against them, but nothing changed. Her vehicle has been vandalized multiple times since her announcement, as well, signaling the loathing fellow employers feel toward her.  She has spent years walking into rooms in the workplace, only to be ignored or stared at wordlessly. Meghan has been insulted over the intercom and has repeatedly had to correct peers who refer to her as “sir.” The least desirable assignments were given to Frederick, and her movements were frequently restricted for unusual periods of time. More significantly, Frederick claims her life was put in danger.

When inmates witnessed colleagues undermine her and openly disrespect her, it made her a target. In fact, inmates made death threats against her more than once – threats that her superiors failed to inform her about in a timely manner. Typical protocol requires that correctional officers be separated from inmates who have stated they wish to harm them personally. In Frederick’s case, she was not informed of the threats until weeks after they occurred, and she was required to work with the menacing inmates despite the accentuated risks associated with such threats.

Options When Transgender Discrimination / Discrimination is Pervasive in the Workplace

Why not find another job, some might wonder. Frederick says she will not be bullied. She is proud of herself and her work, and refuses to back down to transgender discrimination and retaliation. Frederick believes that fighting back through the courts will improve life for her, but the impact of the transgender discrimination suit may have much larger implications. Transgender men and women throughout the country experience workplace discrimination every day. This lawsuit shines a light on the types of behaviors condemned by state law. In California, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Additional protections are in place related to housing, education, workplace dress codes, bathroom use, and hate crimes.

Aggressive Legal Help for Transgender Discrimination

If you have experienced discrimination in the work place, the law is on your side. At Beck Law, our aggressive employment team will go to the mat for our clients in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County California discrimination cases. Contact us in Santa Rosa today for a confidential consultation.

Gender Wage Gap – California Fair Pay Act

Gender Wage GapThe gender wage gap has been around for a long time, and came to the forefront with Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. Although Clinton lost the election, the issue she ran on is still alive and well. Are you a woman who suspects disparate wages due to gender discrimination?  You need an experienced legal team to help you recoup the wages you deserve.

Gender Wage Gap in California

An analysis of California wages demonstrates that women were earning about $8,000 less per annum than men in 2012. Women of color lagged even further behind. Latina women earned only 43 cents on the dollar, Black women earned 63 cents on the dollar, and Asian women earned 72 cents on the dollar in comparison to white men. The situation has improved with time, but women on average earn just 79 cents to every dollar a man earns in this country.

Why the Gender Wage Gap?

Research indicates that women traditionally gravitate toward lower paying jobs, such as nursing and teaching. Even in professions such as marketing and technology, women actually ask for roughly $14,000 less than their male counterparts for the same job. That makes it easy for employers to offer women about 3% less than men for the exact same position.

Discrimination may play a role in wage disparities. A Cornell study concluded that when women compete for men for the same job while holding equivalent credentials. Their study corroborates with census data indicating that across industries, job functions, and educational background. Women earn significantly less than men for the same work.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap in California

This fall, Governor Jerry Brown took a step to improve matters when he signed a tough new pay equity law that will come into effect in January 2017. Supplementing state and federal laws requiring equal pay for equal work, the new California Fair Pay Act prohibits bosses from paying employees less for “substantially similar work” when their titles or locations differ. It also bans retaliation against employees who discuss their disparate salaries.

Now, more than ever, rather than differentiating pay at will, employers must apply a reasonable standard based on seniority, merits, quantity or quality of production, education, or experience.  Furthermore, employers must keep accurate records of pay for three years.

Remedies for Discrimination and Retaliation

Under statute, employees may recover wages plus interest and attorney’s fees. If unfairly discharged as retaliation, an employee may pursue civil action and seek reinstatement, as well as pay for lost wages and benefits, plus interest. The employee must make such a claim within one year of the perceived actions. [Read more…]

Will California’s Equal Pay Law Be Amended to Include Race?

Equal Pay LawWill California’s equal pay law be amended to include race? California employers should already be familiar with the state’s Fair Pay Act, which prohibits them from paying employees lower wages than employees of the opposite gender who perform substantially similar work. The law, which took effect on January 1, 2016, is considered the strictest of its kind in the nation.

Racial disparities may soon be prohibited, in addition to gender disparities. State Senator Isadore Hall has introduced legislation that applies similar prohibitions with regards to race. If Senate Bill No. 1063 becomes law, an employer may not pay employees lower rates than employees of other races or ethnicities for performing substantially similar work – with certain exceptions.

The Bill’s Specifications

The bill does not state that all employees must receive the same salaries paid to colleagues of other races that hold the same position. Rather, it prohibits employers from paying their employees lower salaries than other employees of other races or ethnicities performing substantially similar work (when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility), unless an employer can demonstrate a valid reason for the wage differential.

If you are wondering what would be considered a valid reason, the legislation provides guidance. Racial wage disparities would not be in violation if an employer can show that they are based on either:

  • A seniority system
  • A merit system
  • A system based on the quantity or quality of an employee’s production, or
  • A bona fide factor other than race or ethnicity.

The legislation also specifies that a factor will only be considered bona fide if it is not related to race or ethnicity, if it is related to the employee’s particular job, and if it is “consistent with a business necessity.” Also, if the employee who is making a complaint can show that there is a different practice that would satisfy the business necessity without a racial pay disparity, then the factor will not be considered bona fide.

The bill gives examples of the types of factors that could qualify. These include education, training and experience.

What Would Happen to Employers Who Violate the Equal Pay Law?

Employers who violate the law would be liable for damages to employees who have been affected by the wage disparities. They would be required to pay the employees for their lost wages, along with interest, and an additional equal amount of liquidated damages.

The legislation also specifies that an employee who is entitled to these damages would also be entitled to compensation for the costs of their suit, and reasonable attorney’s fees. In order to recover damages under a civil action, the action must be commenced within two years of when the discrimination occurs – unless there has been a willful violation, in which case the action must be commenced within three years. [Read more…]

SB 358: Equal Pay for Substantially Similar Work

equal payThe concept of paying men and women equal pay for equal work should be familiar to California employers but under new legislation, wage equality requirements no longer apply only to employees with identical job descriptions. Employers are now required to pay male and female employees equal wages for doing “substantially similar” work.

The legislation in question, California Senate Bill 358, was signed into law on October 6, 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown at the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in Richmond. The new legislation amends Section 1197.5 of the California Labor Code.

What Does the equal pay Bill Say?

SB 358 states that an employer may not pay any of its employees at lower wage rates than employees of the opposite sex for work that is substantially similar, when viewed “as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions,” unless the employer can demonstrate that:

  • The wage differential is based upon one or more of the following factors: a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, and/or a bona fide factor other than sex (such as education, training or experience.)
  • Each factor is relied upon reasonably, and
  • The factor or factors relied upon account for the entire wage differential.

The legislation clarifies that if an employer cites a “bona fide factor other than sex,” it must not be based on, or derived from, a sex-based differential in compensation. In addition, the factor must be related to the job in question, and it must be consistent with a business necessity.

Other aspects of the legislation include:

  • The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which is in charge of administering and enforcing the legislation, may supervise the wages that are due to employees when a violation takes place.
  • Employers must maintain records of the wages and wage rates, job classifications, and other terms of employment of their employees. The records must be maintained for at least three years.
  • When an employee files a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the name of the employee will be kept confidential until the Division establishes the validity of the complaint. (There is an exception to this, however, if abridging the employee’s confidentiality prevents the Division from investigating the complaint.) If the employee withdraws the complaint before his or her confidentiality is abridged, then the Division will maintain the employee’s confidentiality.

Your Equal Pay Responsibilities Under the New Law

If you run a business in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California, and you have not monitored whether there is a gender gap in your employee’s wages, it is time to start. Consulting an attorney to ensure your wages meet the standards of this legislation may be far less expensive than dealing with a gender discrimination lawsuit. [Read more…]

Silicon Valley venture capital firm subject of gender discrimination lawsuit

 Silicon Valley venture capital firm subject of gender discrimination lawsuit (via The Bay Citizen)

Storied Menlo Park venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has funneled money into some of the world’s most high profile companies: AOL, Amazon, Genentech, WebMD, and Zynga — to name a few. And now it’s the subject of a gender discrimination suit. Ellen Pao, a partner in the firm,…

[Read more…]

How to File a Work Discrimination Claim

How to File a Work Discrimination Claim (via PR Newswire)

Mediation can help speed up case resolutions and avoid litigation WASHINGTON, March 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Work discrimination is not only wrong, it’s illegal. The U.S. government has laws that prohibit work discrimination based on age, disability, place of origin, race, religion and sex…

[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.