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Oakland Employment Law Blog

ACLU says Facebook uses gender discrimination in job ads

Facebook has become a mainstream source for information for many people in California. The popular social media platform attracts many job advertisers, and the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the social network's ad targeting system that allowed companies to prevent women from seeing ads for open positions. The ACLU has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of three woman and their union.

The complaint names 10 companies that actively excluded women from seeing their job ads. Employers that allegedly discriminated against women in hiring included a police department, a software developer and a construction company. The ACLU wants to hold Facebook accountable for breaking laws that prohibit targeting job ads by sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans gender discrimination in the workplace, including the hiring process, and other state and local regulations also make gender-targeted job ads unlawful.

Ageism is still common in the workplace

In 1967, Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It protects older workers in California and throughout the country from being denied a job or other employment opportunities strictly on age alone. However, it is still relatively common for employees to experience age discrimination in the workplace. According to an AARP survey, 60 percent of respondents over the age of 45 said that they have been discriminated against based on age or saw it happen to someone else.

One of the reasons why companies may engage in ageism is that it can be hard to prove. The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that plaintiffs in age discrimination cases must show that age was the primary factor in an employment decision. While it can be hard to prove that age discrimination took place in a given case, there are ways to change the methods older employees are treated.

Discrimination lawsuit alleges workplace discrimination at Nike

Nike presents its athletic apparel as empowering to female athletes in California. However, a new gender discrimination lawsuit alleges that women at the company faced a discriminatory work environment. Two former female employees are the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit that could become a class action. Court filings detail the women's complaints about lower salaries, smaller bonuses and limited stock options.

The lawsuit alleges that human resources brushed aside complaints about harassment, discrimination and even sexual assault. One female plaintiff described a hostile workplace where women were the object of demeaning language. She informed human resources about the problems on four occasions and was ignored. The inaction and poor treatment prompted her eventual resignation.

Age discrimination still common, according to AARP study

A recent survey of Americans over the age of 45 conducted by the AARP reveals that age-based discrimination remains commonplace in workplaces throughout California and around the country. More than a third of the respondents said age discrimination at work is very common while 61 percent reported either witnessing such discrimination or being a victim themselves.

Older workers are also far more likely to be coping with long-term unemployment. While only 18 percent of workers between the ages of 16 and 54 are considered long-term unemployed, this figure leaps to 61 percent among workers over the age of 45. This is a concern for both lawmakers and advocacy groups like the AARP because 35 percent of all American workers will be 50 years old or older by 2022.

Waiving rights as condition of employment could be retaliation

If an employer in California attempts to head off discrimination complaints by insisting that an employee sign away the right to file a complaint, then the courts might view the act as anticipatory retaliation. The recent case of a former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs illustrates the legal theory that describes the adverse action of an employer meant to prevent people from engaging in legal activities.

The man's employer had disciplined him multiple times for allegedly poor performance and conduct with suspensions and written reprimands. He lodged complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each time because he believed racial discrimination motivated the actions. The employer eventually confronted him with an ultimatum. He would lose his job unless he signed a waiver promising to dismiss his existing complaints and never file another.

Hotel housekeepers at high risk of sexual harassment from guests

Hotel housekeepers in California usually enter rooms alone as they perform their cleaning duties. Unfortunately, this private environment often exposes them to assaults by guests. A survey conducted by the labor union Unite Here found that 53 percent of its members in Chicago and Seattle had experienced sexual harassment on the job.

Harassment took various forms, including physical intimidation, cornering, groping, solicitations for sex and guests walking around naked. A handful of major cities have passed laws that require employers to supply hotel workers with panic buttons so that they can summon security when threatened. A union for hotel workers in one city has included panic buttons in union contracts since 2013.

Workplace bullying can violate the law

People in Alameda County who face bullying on the job may be dealing with a problem that goes beyond interpersonal difficulties and represents a real legal issue. Workplace bullying may leave many victims confused about how to confront the problem. It may seem appealing to stay silent and hope that the harasser moves on or finds a new target; in addition, the threat of retaliation could loom large, especially if the bully is a supervisor or another person higher in the workplace hierarchy.

Bullying in the workplace is not, in and of itself, illegal. Simple mean behavior may be disruptive, immature and deeply divisive to a workplace, preventing the emergence of a healthy job environment. When it does not have an unlawful motivation, there is not usually a legal remedy available. However, in many cases, bullying is another form of workplace discrimination and harassment. Many instances of workplace bullying are not examples of random negative behavior but instead target individuals due to the characteristics that are protected from discrimination on the job.

Experience ranges could be discriminatory in nature

A 60-year-old man claims in a lawsuit that his supervisor at STMicroelectronics, Inc. made remarks that could be considered ageism. The man said that his supervisor said that the ideal candidate for a job that he was interested in applying for wouldn't have enough experience to be inflexible in the position. In 2008, the plaintiff had held the same position that he was interested in applying for in 2013.

While most companies understand that they can't directly tell older workers not to apply for jobs, they have other ways to discourage them from applying. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), ageism is an issue that they will take a closer look at. One poll found that about two-thirds of workers between the age of 45 and 74 have experienced or seen age discrimination at work. It is said to be an open secret that this occurs at workplaces both large and small.

Discrimination still prevalent in the workplace following #MeToo

Many California employees are aware of the #MeToo movement, which aims to bring gender inequality in the workplace to the forefront. While society appears to be pushing for equality, gender discrimination in the workplace is still prevalent as companies do not seem to be making any changes.

According to the poll, half of the women who responded reported that they had experienced gender discrimination at their workplace and had experienced unwanted sexual comments or an unwanted advancement made towards them. Even after the #MeToo movement has gained momentum, many of the polled employees said that they saw no improvement in their own workplace. Further, respondents to the poll said that both men and women do not treat other women as equals. This may be due to the fact that entertainment and media often pit women against each other in order to drum up drama.

Man wins $18 million in employment lawsuit

A jury in California awarded a man roughly $18 million in damages after finding that he had been wrongfully terminated. The 55-year-old had worked for Allstate Insurance for 30 years when he was let go months after being taken into custody by police. The incident occurred when his girlfriend wouldn't allow him to enter her home during a domestic dispute. He was originally charged with two counts of domestic violence as well as one count of drug paraphernalia possession.

However, two of the charges were dropped in January 2015 while the other was dropped later in the year. The company investigated the matter and determined in February 2016 that he had not violated any policies. After receiving a request from the man's former girlfriend for another investigation into the matter, he was terminated in the late spring of 2016.