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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

Executive order addresses transgender discrimination issues

An executive order that was signed last week by President Barack Obama officially made into law an order that bans discrimination against federal employees and contractors who are gay or transgender. The order comes on the heels of a March 16, 2015, hearing held by the United States Commission on Civil rights to discuss workplace discrimination against those who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender community.

Although former Olympian Bruce Jenner has turned the spotlight onto issues facing the transgender community, it has not stopped employment discrimination against transgenders. NPR News states that since the year 2013, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has heard some 1,200 employment discrimination claims under Title VII that were filed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Does my employer need a reason to fire me?

As an employee, there is no denying that you have many rights. At the same time, your employer is in position to make decisions for the betterment of the company. This leads to one very important question: does my employer need a reason to fire me?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. As noted by The State Bar of California, employers are in position to discipline or fire employees at will. In other words, they are not required to provide a reason for doing so.

What you should know about reverse discrimination

Reverse discrimination is a term used to describe an action where an individual or group of individuals who are members of a majority, are discriminated against due to what is considered a protected factor, such as gender or race. As an example, a Caucasian male is turned down for a promotion because a company is trying to promote more women or African-Americans into management, even though the male is the more qualified candidate.

While the purpose for these types of promotions within a company is typically done as a way to promote and advance minorities and help to address inequality issues, these types of diversity initiative programs sometimes break discrimination laws instead. This is sometimes due to an incorrect assumption by some employers that individuals who are members of a majority group are not covered by the same type of discrimination laws.

California employers benefit by misclassifying workers

Independent contractors work for California employers but are not classified as employees. Contract workers are not afforded the job protections employees have due to this separate title. Without the status of an employee, independent contractors forfeit benefits like group health care coverage, workers' compensation benefits for job-related illnesses and injuries and family leave.

Los Angeles employers do not have to pay unemployment or disability insurance for independent contractors. Insurance payments and taxes for Social Security and payroll are absorbed by the contractors themselves. In addition, independent contractors may be paid less than minimum wage and lose out on overtime pay.

How are spouses defined in the Family and Medical Leave Act?

California employment laws provide protections for workers that aren't available in other parts of the country. Some laws like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act have overlapping provisions. The extended protections for Los Angeles workers highlight the laws' differences.

Both laws require companies with at least 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks' leave to workers under certain conditions, like the need to care for a new child or a seriously ill spouse. The word spouse is not defined the same way in the FMLA as it is in the CFRA. In California, the definition applies to all spouses whether married partners are heterosexual or gay.

Jury votes against California gender discrimination lawsuit

Although a 45-year-old woman's gender discrimination case against a capital venture company brought focus to how women who work in venture capital are treated versus the treatment of their male counterparts, the jury still chose this week to vote against the woman, in effect, ending her lawsuit. The women had alleged that while working for the company, she was not only denied raises and promotions because of the fact that she is a female, but was also the continued subject of sexual harassment by her male co-workers.

The woman, who was ultimately fired by the company for under-performance in her job, filed the lawsuit in 2012 claiming that the partners in the company had turned against her after she made a complaint about a male co-worker who reportedly had been pressuring her to have an affair. According to court testimony, a female partner also was the subject of sexual advances from the same man, stating that while on a business trip in 2011, the man had arrived at her hotel room door while wearing a bathrobe.

How must California employers prevent sexual harassment?

Los Angeles employers who turn a blind eye to reports about on-the-job misconduct are breaking California employment laws. You may know employers are not allowed to discriminate against or sexually harass workers. Some employees don't realize employers are also obligated to take preventive measures to discourage these illegal activities.

Workers have a right to know about the employment laws that protect them. Businesses must share this legal information with employees. Your employer is not in compliance if you failed to receive information about sexual harassment laws.

Can you be terminated for a failed drug test?

Although there have been challenges in court as to whether workplace drug testing policies violate an employee's right to privacy, these challenges have not exactly been successful. In most cases, the employer has the law on their side and an employee can be terminated for drug use. In some instances, however, the way the test results are utilized or the way the test was conducted may give an employee a valid reason to challenge his or her termination.

As an example, an employee could challenge his or her termination due to a positive drug test if an employer divulges the results indiscriminately or if the employee was forced to take the test in a manner that disrespected his or her privacy rights. An employee may also have a case to question his or her termination if he or she is tested for drugs excessively or in an inappropriate manner.

Facebook named in California gender discrimination suit

The biggest, most powerful companies in California must follow the same federal and state employment laws as smaller businesses. Discrimination against protected classes of workers is prohibited. Employees who've been discriminated against or harassed may pursue civil claims for damages.

A lawsuit alleging racial and gender discrimination was filed recently by a former technology partner at Facebook. The woman, who worked at the social media giant between 2010 and 2013, is seeking compensation for what the lawsuit described as an "outrageous" termination in retaliation for complaints.

What you should know about pregnancy discrimination in California

medmalpregnantwoman.jpgPregnancy discrimination is typically considered the act of treating a female employee or applicant differently or unfavorably due to the fact that she is pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was added as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act which was established in 1964 and was created to provide protection to women in the workplace who are pregnant, have given birth, or have a medical condition related to their pregnancy.

While some cases of pregnancy discrimination may be intentional, such as not promoting an employee because the employer believes motherhood will affect the employee's ability to do her job, other types of discrimination may occur because the employer has made assumptions about how the pregnancy may affect the employee and misguidedly tries to help. As an example, the employer transfers the employee to another department because he or she believes that she is unable to perform the duties of her job because she is pregnant.