Racism Within a Police Department?

racism within police departmentRacism within a police department? You would expect the people in the business of law enforcement to actually know the law and follow it. But according to one officer of the San Jose Police Department, when it came to racist comments and discriminatory behavior, the department knew of harassment and did nothing to stop it.

Details of the Racism Claim

Officer Nabil Haidar escaped a civil war in Lebanon by coming to the United States in the late 80s. Roughly a decade later, he joined the SJPD. According to him, discriminatory nicknames have plagued him from the beginning, increasing in ruthlessness over time. The taunts included tags such as The Beirut Bomber, ISIS, and Taliban. Why did he not complain when things first started? He says he feared retaliation.  

Finally, in 2017, Haidar had enough when a sergeant “joked” in a meeting that Haidar had worked with ISIS for two years. Haidar quickly filed an administrative claim alleging harassment. After almost a year passed with no conclusion to the internal investigation, Haidar took things a step further and filed suit against the department. In addition to the initial discrimination and harassment, Haidar asserts that the department Chief has retaliated against him with an unfair reprimand for a collision in which Haidar was involved. According to Haidar, the chief left out pertinent information related to the crash, which would have exonerated him to an extent, in the reprimand.

In Haidar’s May 2018 claim, he says a transfer taken due to the problems has resulted in more than one million dollars in lost future wages over the coming years until he is eligible to retire.  He also is claiming $5 million for emotional distress.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Laws

Federal law prohibits discriminating against individuals due to race, culture, or ethnic background. This relates to any aspect of employment, including hiring, pay, benefits, training, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, and firing. Equally important, the law addresses harassment, stating that employees shall not be victimized with racial slurs or pejorative statements related to race or ethnicity. This applies to coworkers and supervisors alike. If such harassment exists and is the basis for creating a hostile work environment, it can result in legal consequences.

Racism – A Significant Problem

Although some might believe that racism is no longer a problem in America, the numbers tell a different story. Nationwide, nearly 35,000 suits filed with the EEOC were resolved in 2017 alone, at a cost of over $75 million.  Clearly, a substantial problem still permeates this country in all sorts of businesses. [Read more…]

Employee Lawsuits: Why and How

Employee LawsuitsEmployee lawsuits happen. Employees sue their employers for a number of issues, generally centered around discrimination complaints. The complaint may be against managers, co-workers, or even individuals who are not a part of the organization. A local Santa Rosa labor attorney can help you fight back. What types of discrimination might warrant legal charges?

  • Age: Individuals over age 40 are protected in the workplace;
  • Disability: Physical and emotional limits must be accommodated;
  • Pregnancy: The same accommodations given to any injured employee must be given to pregnant women;
  • Race/national origin: Hiring/firing, promotions, training and so forth may not be based on race;
  • Religion: Reasonable accommodations for an employees’ religions beliefs must be made;
  • Sexual Harassment: Harassment directed toward an employee based on gender, sexual preferences, or sexual identification is illegal;
  • Sex: Gender or sexual preference cannot be factored in when considering promotions, training, or hiring and firing;
  • Genetic information: Genetic predispositions toward disease that may incur insurance costs cannot be a factor in employment decisions;
  • Retaliation: Employees who report problems must not be retaliated against.

Employee Lawsuits – Filing Charges

Employees may file charges for discrimination with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with local agencies here in California. Your attorney will know the best route to proceed.

California Laws on Employee Lawsuits

In California, lawsuits against employers are 46% higher than the national average. The reason for this is that state laws are more stringent than federal laws or than many other state laws in the nation. Some of the issues addressed in California state law that are less strict in federal law include:

  • Credit checks: Employment decisions may not be made based on an individual’s credit history;
  • Pregnancy accommodation: Unless the business would suffer a significant hardship by accommodating the needs of pregnant employees, they must adapt the job requirements for these women;
  • Criminal Record: Job applications may not ask whether or not applicants have been convicted of a crime.

Employee Lawsuits and Issues With Retaliation

The number of lawsuits that charge retaliation is astounding; nationwide, 45.9% of charges include this claim. Victims assert that they are passed over for promotions, training opportunities, and raises because they have become a thorn in the side of management. Even if the accused harasser is dealt with effectively, businesses are at risk of retaliation lawsuits if those who report discrimination are held back after their complaints are filed.

Nationally, nearly one in four lawsuits result in payouts based on discrimination, averaging $160,000 for each case. Most of these lawsuits are resolved in less than one year. [Read more…]

Criminal History? Can’t find Employment?

criminal history searchDo you have a criminal history? An ex-felon perhaps? You’re trying to get a job and finding nothing but brick walls in your path? You are not alone. Between 1.5 and 1.7 million former offender were unemployed according to 2010 statistics, and all indications tell us that things have not improved much since then. If you are trying to get your life back on track but are carrying your criminal history around with you, is finding a decent job simply out of reach?

Why Employers Screen for Criminal History

Employers surveyed report a number of reasons for screening job applicants for criminal convictions:

  • In a effort to avoid workplace fraud and theft;
  • Due to concerns about workplace violence;
  • Fear of liability due to negligence in hiring practices;
  • Compliance with state and federal laws.

Criminal History, Race, and National Origin Disparities

While federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and other factors, criminal history is not a protected status. That said, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes the potential for disparate treatment when employers refuse to hire felons:

  • Disparate treatment liability is a potential problem if employers view an applicant’s criminal history differently depending on the national origin or race of the applicant;
  • Factually, excluding workers based on a criminal history does have a disparate impact on certain races.

Indicators of Illegal Criminal History Discrimination

Proving discrimination requires the documentation of specific behaviors. If an employer refuses to hire, for example, someone with a criminal record who is a member of a racial minority group, but hires an equivalent applicant who is white, that may be one indicator that discrimination is at work. In fact, if it can be demonstrated that an employer utilizes a practice, such as screening for criminal history, and it has a disparate impact on race or another protected category, the practice itself may be unlawful. Other problems include:

  • Biases or stereotypical comments related to race;
  • Inconsistent hiring practices with regard to racial minorities;
  • Indiscriminate application of the screening process;
  • Statistical analysis that reveals discriminatory practices with regard to hiring, promoting, etc.

EEOC Recommended Procedures

To avoid liability, the EEOC provides guidelines to employers who choose to screen for criminal history:

  • Conduct an individual assessment of each applicant;
  • Tailor screenings narrowly to correspond with job requirements;
  • In general, avoid making inquires about criminal history;
  • When such inquiries are made, make sure applicants would only be excluded based on job-related factors;
  • Keep information about criminal histories confidential.

Government Incentives to Hire Former Offenders

The Federal Bonding Program (FBP) and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) are a couple of incentives available to support employers who hire former offenders. Credits of 25-40 percent of wages earned in the first year are available to employers.

Additionally, California laws are working to protect those with convictions that have been set aside or are sealed (Cal. Lab. Code § 432.7(a)). Additionally, this legislation puts the burden on employers to show that their screening policy is necessary to the job at hand and takes into account several factors:

  • Nature and severity of the crime;
  • Time passed since the arrest;
  • Nature of the job responsibilities.

[Read more…]

Criminal History and Illegal Employment Discrimination

Criminal HistoryWhen is it illegal for employers to consider an employees’ criminal history? Many employers in California are unaware that state law prohibits them from considering certain information related to applicants’ criminal backgrounds when they make employment decisions. Under Section 432 of the California Labor Code, employment decisions may not be based on the following information:

  • Records of arrests or detentions that did not lead to convictions;
  • Information related to an applicant participating in (or being referred to) a pretrial or post-trial diversion program;
  • Records of convictions that have been judicially dismissed, or ordered sealed pursuant to law; or
  • Records of non-felony convictions for possession of marijuana, if the convictions took place two or more years ago.

A proposed amendment to the California Code of Regulations would place additional prohibitions on which types of criminal history employers may consider when deciding who to hire, fire, promote, train, or discipline. Section 11017.1 does not specify any particular types of criminal history information that would be off limits. Rather, it would prevent employers from considering convictions that would have a disparate impact on employees and/or applicants, on the basis of characteristics such as race, gender, and national origin.

Criminal History and Defining “Disparate Impact”

If a selection procedure has an adverse impact on the hiring, promotion, or other employment opportunities of members of any race, sex or ethnic group, then it would be considered discriminatory, unless the procedure is both job-related and consistent with business necessity.

In other words, let’s say that studies show that members of a particular ethnic group are disproportionately likely to have been convicted of drug offenses. If an employer is refusing to hire applicants with histories of drug convictions, and a rejected applicant demonstrates that his or her ethnic group is adversely affected by this policy, then the burden would fall on the employer to justify the validity of its policy regarding drug convictions.

The employer could do this by showing that its policy is related to successful job performance, and measures a person’s fitness for the specific job. The amendment specifies that the employer must demonstrate that the policy/practice in question is appropriately tailored, by taking into account “at least” the following factors:

  • The nature or gravity of the offense or conduct;
  • The time that has passed since the offense or conduct and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • The nature of the job.

In order to show that the policy is appropriately tailored, the employer has two options. The first option is to conduct individualized assessments of the circumstances or qualifications of applicants or employees who are excluded by the policy.

If, however, the employer would rather use a “bright-line, across the board” policy of disqualification, then it has another option. In this case, the employer must show that the policy can distinguish between individuals who have acceptable levels of risk, and those who do not – and that the convictions have a direct and specific negative bearing on individuals’ qualifications. [Read more…]


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.