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…]

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…]

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…]

Employers: Will Your Liability Insurance Cover Discrimination Lawsuits?

Business Liability InsuranceAs a business owner, will you be covered by your general liability insurance policy if an employee sues for discrimination? It seems at first glance that you ought to be covered if there are no exclusions specified in the policy, so many employers are surprised to find that insurers may deny coverage.  If you find yourself in this situation, an experienced employment law attorney may be able to help.h0Hey

Reasons for Liability Insurance Claim Denials

Liability insurance claims may be denied for any number of reasons, but three very particular issues may come into play with a discrimination case: The lack of coverage for economic issues, requirements associated with mental health claims, and the purposeful nature of discriminatory acts.

Let’s say an employee purports to have been passed over for a promotion due to race, age, or other protected status. He seeks compensation for multiple economic losses, including past and future earnings and benefits. Additionally, he is claiming psychological injury, as the entire incident caused a serious blow to his confidence and mental health. Your general liability policy does not cover those things: it covers three key areas:

  • Property damage;
  • Bodily injury;
  • Personal/advertising injury.

Now, while some might think the mental health piece of the claim to be covered under the bodily injury portion of the policy, in practice those types of problems are covered only if associated with a physical injury.

Coverage may not kick in for another reason: The injury to your employee was not due to an accidental occurrence. General liability policies do not cover intentional actions.

Umbrella Policies and Employment Practices Liability Insurance Coverage

In some instances, discrimination claims may be with protected with umbrella coverage under Personal And Advertising Injury Liability. In other cases, Employment Practices Liability Coverage (EPL) may be necessary. This type of coverage kicks in when a lawsuit is filed, not when an alleged incident occurs. Of note, while such policies typically cover situations involving discrimination, they often do exclude intentional acts of wrongdoing. In discrimination cases, the claim is typically surrounding intentional behaviors. In other words, if the jury finds that an employer purposefully discriminated against an employee, the policy may not cover damages.  Even so, court costs may still be covered up until a finding of intent is delivered. Having those costs covered often makes holding a policy of this kind worthwhile.

Liability Insurance – Other Considerations

As an employer, there are other factors to be aware of when purchasing liability insurance of this kind:

  • Lawsuit Decisions: Who chooses the attorney? If the insurer has someone in mind but you have your own ideas as to counsel, who gets to make the final decision? It is not something you want to haggle over in the face of a lawsuit.
  • Settlement issues: The insurance company may not see eye-to-eye with you when it comes to settlement decisions. You need to know just how much control you will have over final pronouncements when discussions like this are underway before they occur

[Read more…]

Workplace Discrimination Based on Mental and Emotional Conditions

Workplace DiscriminationWorkplace discrimination. For an employee with a mental or emotional disability, navigating the demands of the workplace can be especially perplexing.  Unlike physical disabilities, which are often visible, mental challenges are visible only through the behaviors of the afflicted individual. Sometimes these behaviors carry with them social stigma and fear, which can actually exacerbate the underlying problems.

Employers may not wish to deal with the challenges of mental or emotional disabilities, but the law does not give them that choice. If you suffer from a diagnosed disability, you are entitled to workplace accommodations to give you every opportunity for success in the workplace. Absent those accommodations, a good employment law attorney may be necessary.

Common Mental Health Impairments and Workplace Discrimination

  • Bipolar disorder: Over 6 million individuals suffer from this disorder, which is characterized by shifting moods and energy.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): 4-5%t of adults in this country suffer the instability in behavior, self-image and moods, impacting many aspects of the person’s life.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Over 2 million Americans experience compulsions regularly that interfere with life functions;
  • Panic Disorder: 6 million people in the US have anxieties resulting recurrent panic attacks.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Nearly 8 million Americans experience decreased function and excessive emotions due to this disorder.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Millions suffer recurrent depression, generally associated with winter weather.

Workplace Discrimination Legal Protections

Mental disabilities, including psychological conditions, cognitive disabilities, emotional and mental illnesses, and mental conditions are all protected under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. This law provides even broader protections than those afforded by the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and were designed to prevent discrimination based on an individual’s history of mental illness. Conditions limiting major life activities (as opposed to the ADA’s substantial limitation requirement) are eligible for consideration.

What Does the Law Require of Employers?

Essentially, employers must accommodate these conditions to a reasonable degree in the workplace. That means assisting the employee to perform the most crucial aspects of the job.  Appropriate modifications in the workplace will depend on the mental condition being addressed, but might include:

  • Reducing distractions by providing sound absorption panels;
  • Providing full spectrum lighting or more natural lighting;
  • Providing flexible scheduling;
  • Providing memory aids or organizers;
  • Allowing support animals on the premises;
  • Providing a supportive mentor;
  • References to Employee Assistance Programs or counseling;
  • Reducing triggering stimuli;
  • Providing disability awareness training for coworkers;
  • Providing various forms of feedback.

Supervisors can accommodate employees by creating an inclusive culture that values all employees. Open communication, regular feedback, and clear written goals are always helpful.  Additionally, developing strategies to deal with conflicts and emotions may be essential in creating a positive work environment. [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…]

Understanding Workplace Age Discrimination Laws

workplace age discrimination lawsUnderstanding workplace age discrimination laws. Age discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently, or denied a benefit, right or service because of their actual or perceived age. Age discrimination is more subtle than other forms of discrimination, but can be just as pervasive in a workplace.

Workplace Age Discrimination Laws

Both federal and California state laws provide specific prohibitions against age discrimination in the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against all persons 40 years or older. The ADEA is applicable to employers with 20 or more employees, and this includes labor organizations, employment agencies and also state and local governments. This law prohibits unfavorable treatment against those who are 40 years or older, though it is not illegal for employers to favor an older employee over a younger employer, even when both workers are over the age of 40. Furthermore, age discrimination can be conducted by a person who is also over the age of 40.

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination from occurring during any part of the employment process, which includes firing, hiring, job assignments, training, promotions, layoffs, benefit payouts, and for any other condition or term of employment. Harassment is also prohibited by the ADEA. Harassment can take an assortment of forms and can include offensive remarks about an employee’s age and ability to perform job functions as the result of their age. Furthermore, an employment practice/policy that has general applicability to all employees, regardless of their age, can still be found illegal under the ADEA if that practice/policy is not based on a reasonable factor other than age, and has a negative impact on employees 40 years of age or older.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides specific prohibitions against discrimination in California workplaces. The FEHA applies to all employers with five or more employees, and this includes government bodies, labor organizations, apprenticeship programs, employment agencies and private employers. Under the FEHA, there is an exception to the five-employee minimum when harassment has occurred in the workplace. Under this exception, all employers with one or more persons, or those receiving the services of at least one independent contractor, are subject to the FEHA’s prohibition against workplace harassment. This exception also allows individual co-workers who are harassing other employees to be held strictly liable for their actions.

Both the ADEA and the FEHA provide employees with a cause of action to file suit against their employers because of workplace age discrimination laws. However, state administrative remedies provided under the FEHA must first be exhausted before a civil action is pursued under the ADEA. In order to pursue age discrimination suit under federal law, the age discrimination suit must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the alleged discrimination, or within 30 days after the EEOC receives notice from the California’s Department of Employment & Housing (DFEH) that they will not pursuing the age discrimination claim.

Age discrimination in the workplace is a very important issue that is prohibited by both state and federal laws. If you work in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, or Lake County California and feel that your employer is in violation of workplace age discrimination laws, contact the employment law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in California today.


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