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Sacramento Employment Law Blog

How to deal with ableism in the workplace

The U.S. Census Bureau says that 54 million Americans have a disability. Those in California who are disabled may have to contend with an issue called ableism. This is defined as discrimination that favors those who do not have a disability. Of those between the ages of 16 and 64 who are disabled, there is a 70 percent unemployment rate, and those who can find work report difficulty doing so.

Individuals who are disabled could also have to contend with the fact that their disability is not visible. Employers and colleagues may not even realize that they have a disabled person working for them. To help workers with disabilities, employers could take steps such as recording lectures, offering guide dogs to assist certain workers or creating ergonomic workspaces.

Wage discrimination remains an uphill battle

Activists in California and across the United States observed Equal Pay Day on April 10 with a sad reminder about what still needs to be done in regard to the gender pay gap in the American workplace. According to the most recent estimates published by the Institute of Women's Policy Research, an organization that has been researching income disparity since 1987, female workers in the U.S. earn just a little over 80 cents per every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The gender pay gap situation looks even more dismal when digging deeper into the statistics. On average, African-American women earn just 63 cents per every dollar earned by men, and Hispanic-American women earn just 54 cents. While wage discrimination is prohibited by federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, there is a clear need to revisit existing legislation and encourage employers to adopt smart practices to bridge this socioeconomic gap.

Gender and sexual preference protections in California

California is a state that has a lot of protections for individuals who aren't protected in many other states. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer, or LGTBQ, community is one that enjoys specific protections in this state. It is imperative that anyone who is included in this group, as well as heterosexuals and anyone else who identifies with a specific gender or sexual preference, understands their rights.

When it comes to employment, there isn't any good reason why companies should discriminate or harass anyone because of these factors. In fact, these behaviors are against the law because sexual preference and gender identity are protected statuses here.

Former IBM workers accuse company of age discrimination

Older workers in California might recognize some of the tactics that IBM has allegedly used to shift people over age 40 off its payroll. An investigation by ProPublica and Mother Jones discovered that an estimated 60 percent of the U.S. workers cut by IBM in the previous five years were over 40.

Statements from more than 1,000 former IBM employees revealed an array of methods used by the company to force people out. In addition to outright layoffs, the company allegedly fired some people, sidelined them or forced them to retire. An alteration to the company's longstanding telecommuting policy ended the ability of people to telecommute. They either had to move to distant work locations or lose their jobs.

California whistleblower amends case against Roadrunner

According to court documents, a Madera man amended his civil complaint against Roadrunner Intermodal Services in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on March 5. The man, who initially sued Roadrunner for wrongful termination, libel, slander and failure to pay wages, added a claim for whistleblower protection under the California Labor Code.

The man alleges that Roadrunner purchased the capital stock of Central Cal Transportation in 2012 from the man and another person for $3.8 million minus specific sums. The man received around $110,000 and was hired as a vice president of Central Cal with an annual salary of $200,000. Per the agreement, the man was supposed to receive earn-out payments if Roadrunner earned profits of more than $1.4 million for the fiscal years of 2013 through 2016. The earn-out payment was supposed to equal $750,000 plus 75 percent of amounts over $1.4 million with the total capped at $4 million.

Google faces another lawsuit over internal posts

A Google employee who was terminated in November 2017 filed a lawsuit against the company in a California court. He is seeking lost wages, punitive damages and compensation for emotional distress. He claims that his termination was retaliation for posts defending women of color and similar groups, and he asserts that the termination was discriminatory in nature.

The worker was both disabled and transgender, and he worked for the company as a site-reliability engineer. According to Google, he was terminated for engaging in conduct that promoted harmful stereotypes. The company reportedly does not take an employee's political views into consideration when taking action based on its code of conduct. The man was referenced in another lawsuit claiming that Google allowed liberal views to go unchecked while discriminating against conservatives.

Religion doesn't overrule Title VII

California employers and others cannot discriminate against a worker because he or she is transgender. That was the ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a woman who revealed to her boss that she was beginning her transition. The funeral home where she worked terminated her, citing the company owner's religious beliefs. However, the court ruled that Title VII protected transgender workers from discrimination.

The court also found that forcing the owner of the company to abide by Title VII's protections would not place an undue burden on him. Ultimately, the court decided that there was no religious exemption under the law as it applied to how the woman was treated. Its decision was 3-0 in favor of the employee, and the EEOC assisted with the lawsuit against the woman's employer. The decision by the 6th Circuit overruled a lower court decision that found that the funeral home would have faced an undue burden by retaining her.

Lawsuit claims Google discriminates against white and Asian men

California-based Google has been hit with several accusations of discrimination in hiring that have led to lawsuits. The latest one to be announced alleges that the company avoids hiring white and Asian men in favor of female, black or Hispanic job applicants. The complaint was made in a lawsuit filed by a former Google employee on Jan. 29.

As of 2017, the Google workforce was 69 percent male with 91 percent being white or Asian. The lawsuit alleges that in order to diversify its workforce, Google created and enforced hiring policies that discriminated against white and Asian male job candidates. The plaintiff, who worked at Google for nine years, also claims that the company retaliated against him for opposing these policies. He was fired from his job in 2017.

The difference between legal and wrongful termination

Losing a job is one of the major stressors in life. According to one social readjustment rating scale, the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, being fired from a job comes in at No. 8 on the scale, behind death of a spouse, divorce, separation, going to jail, death of family or friends, suffering a major injury or illness or getting married.

California workers, except those under contract, are at-will employees subject to termination for any reason, or no reason at all. But the law protects those workers who were wrongfully terminated based on discrimination over the workers' race, religion, age and any other categories that are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act or Title VII.

Federal court rules Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers

Members of California's LGBT community are fortunate to live in a state that legally protects them from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sadly, not every state recognizes that their lesbian, gay and transgender workforces routinely face discrimination in hiring, firing, compensation and promotions.

Whether federal law and regulations prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace is an open question, but a major ruling by the U.S. Second District Court of Appeals could lead to an answer once and for all.

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