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Oakland Employment Law Blog

Vice faces pay discrimination lawsuit

Vice Media is facing a lawsuit alleging that it violated equal pay laws in California by paying women employees less than men. The lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 13, says that the Federal Equal Pay Act and equal pay laws in New York were also violated.

The lawsuit was filed by a woman who worked in management from 2014 to 2016. She has asked that the lawsuit be granted class action status and that the company be required to pay everyone affected by the pay disparity. According to the lawsuit, the woman hired a male subordinate who made $25,000 more than she did. Later, the man became her supervisor. The plaintiff subsequently reviewed memos and pay records and found that men were paid more than women who were doing similar work.

Basic approaches to reporting sexual harassment

Across California, workers in any industry might experience sexual harassment. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder collected responses from 809 full-time employees in the private sector and concluded that 12 percent of them had been sexually harassed at work. Reporting the behavior to their employers, however, proved to be the exception rather than the rule. Among victims, 72 percent of them stayed silent. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a victim has options for pursuing a remedy.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination, including harassment, at workplaces with 15 or more employees. A victim should check to see if an employer has a written policy and procedure for reporting harassment. People should follow their employer's procedures when at all possible. In general, victims should document their experiences in detail and list any people who might have witnesses the unwanted sexual advances or lewd comments. This report needs to be presented to the supervisor or someone higher up the chain of command if the supervisor is the harasser.

Companies accused of using social media to skirt labor law

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employers in California and the rest of the country from discriminating against job applicants who have reached the age of 40. However, the results of an investigation conducted by ProPublica and the New York Times indicates that some of the nation's largest corporations are using social media to skirt the landmark 1967 law. According to the study, companies including Amazon, Target, Verizon and Goldman Sachs use the demographic filters offered by ad platforms from Facebook and Google to ensure that older job seekers are unable to view their help wanted advertising.

The recent investigation does not mark the first time that Facebook's demographic filters have been scrutinized by ProPublica. In November 2016, Facebook revised its guidelines to prevent advertisers from excluding racial and ethnic groups in the wake of a ProPublica probe, but the social media giant reacted more defiantly to the latest allegations.

The federal workplace and sexual harassment

For a federal employee dealing with sexual harassment in a California workplace, there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind that make reporting it somewhat different from doing so in private industry. Harassment may come from a supervisor, a coworker or someone outside the agency such as a contractor. A person does not have to be the object of the harassment to be considered the victim. A previous relationship between the person who is harassed and the person doing the harassing does not make sexual harassment acceptable. Sexual harassment is not necessarily related to gender or sexual orientation.

If an employee is demoted, suspended or removed because of a supervisor's harassment, the agency is liable. The employee must report the harassment in other cases for the agency to be liable. After an incident of harassment, a person has 45 days to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This can be an informal process.

How to make sexual harassment policies better

Sexual harassment may be a problem for California employers because of a failure to enforce workplace policies related to that issue. In some cases, managers and employees may fail to hold themselves to the standards that they expect others to abide by. Facebook has gone public with its own sexual harassment policy as well as its policy against bullying in the workplace. While it doesn't claim to have all the answers, the company believes that it can help others create better policies.

Facebook also hopes that other companies will follow its lead when it comes to publishing their policies as well. In addition, Facebook also revealed how it investigates complaints once they have been made. For a sexual harassment or any other workplace policy to work, it is typically necessary for it to be applied in a consistent and public manner.

NBC News fires Matt Lauer from 'Today" for sexual harassment

California residents who are used to waking up with the "Today Show" may be interested to learn that, on Nov. 29, long-time host Matt Lauer was suddenly fired from NBC. The firing reportedly came just hours after an unknown individual claimed that the former host had acted sexually inappropriately towards her during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The accuser's attorney stated that, over the course of several hours, the accuser detailed various acts of sexual harassment and misconduct that had been committed by Lauer. Following the meeting with NBC executives, NBC reportedly investigated the claims and ultimately decided to fire the former host.

Companies should take steps to end sexual harassment

The numerous recent news reports and the #metoo campaign have shed light on the prevalent problem of sexual harassment in society and in California. Workplaces are not immune, and many workers are the targets of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace as a forbidden form of sex discrimination, and it is imperative that employers take steps to prevent it from happening.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were 27,000 charges of discrimination that were filed with the agency in 2016. Experts say that this number is only the tip of the iceberg. Only about 30 percent of women who have experienced workplace sexual harassment file complaints within their companies because of the fear of repercussions.

Addressing sexual harassment

Statistics indicate that about 71 percent of women decide against reporting workplace sexual harassment due to the fear of being retaliated against. However, there are certain steps that individuals can take to help prevent future incidences of sexual harassment and support their colleagues.

One action entails addressing the workplace misconduct when it is witnessed. This means that individuals should speak up when they hear inappropriate and sexual comments regarding a colleague or sees a colleague being victimized by a sexual harasser.

About workplace sexual harassment

California workers should know that the United States Department of Labor recognizes two types of sexual harassment. A hostile work environment is the result of sexual harassment that makes the work area offensive or threatening. Quid pro quo refers to using whether a victim succumbs to sexual harassment as a basis for making employment decisions, such as promotions or work assignments.

There are different types of behaviors that qualify as harassment. They include making unsolicited sexual advances, making unpleasant and nonsexual statements about an individual's sex, asking for sexual services and any other physical or verbal type of harassment that is rooted in sex.

Football player claims wrongful termination

California pro football fans may have heard of Erin Henderson. He was on the New York Jets roster until he was released in February after the team declined to pick up his option for 2017. The option would have been worth $2.25 million. Henderson claims that he was wrongfully terminated and was discriminated against because of a disability. In a lawsuit, he seeks $3.3 million in compensatory damages in addition to punitive damages.

On Sept. 14, an attorney for the former player wrote a letter to a team representative indicating that a lawsuit was coming if the sides couldn't come to an agreement. According to the lawsuit, the team failed to pay $580,871 in salary and a $250,000 bonus after being placed on a non-football injury list in October 2016. Although this was allowed under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union, Henderson's attorney claims that the Jets violated New Jersey law.