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Oakland Employment Law Blog

Former Blizzard employee speaks out

For many developers in California and throughout the country, working for a company like Blizzard would seem like a dream come true. However, some Blizzard employees have stepped forward claiming that working there is more like a nightmare. One worker claimed that colleagues considered him to be sexist or a chauvinist simply because he was a male with Mexican heritage. He claimed that the jokes got worse over time and led to depression and thoughts of taking his own life.

While he tried to take action to get the hostile behavior to stop, it only resulted in a backlash against him. He said that the relationship that he had with his team in the eSports division was frosty at best. This was despite the fact that he claimed to have a good relationship with one of the team members at the start of his tenure there.

Lawsuit alleges Mariners fired woman because of discrimination

Many people in California would view an opportunity to work for a professional baseball team as a dream job. The dream was short-lived for a woman who accepted a job with the Mariners on Nov. 1, 2017, because the team officially dismissed her barely a year later on Nov. 15. She has now filed a lawsuit against the team seeking lost pay because of alleged wrongful termination motivated by gender and racial discrimination.

According to her court filings, she felt that the organization impeded her ability to do her job as soon as she started her position as high-performance director. Her job required her to oversee physical and mental training for players. She had originally planned to travel for 60 away games, but the club restricted her to only 12 days of travel. She also stated that she was excluded from meetings with players because of her gender.

At-will employment in California

The concept of at-will employment has grown increasingly prevalent over time because it allows both employer and employee a great amount of freedom in regard to termination and quitting. At-will employment essentially means that a person can be fired from the job at any time without warning, reasoning or explanation. It also means that the worker can quit whenever he or she wants, without reason. In California, the idea of at-will employment is modified by the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing applies to protect employees from termination for certain reasons. Specifically, employers are not allowed to fire employees in order to avoid legal responsibilities for things like retirement compensation, paying commissions or providing health care.

Forest Service efforts to end sexual harrassment

Many employees in California have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work. Such problems have especially plagued the United States Forest Services over the past several decades. However, the federal agency is making efforts to stop workplace harassment and other misconduct.

The newest director of the Forest Service wants to enact a cultural change within the organization. The agency was a target of a class action lawsuit in the 1970s brought by women who claimed that they had been passed over for employment and promotions. In December 2016, a panel addressed widespread complaints within the agency of harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Facebook ends forced arbitration of sexual harassment cases

Discontent among technology workers in California and worldwide has prompted major companies to reform how they handle sexual harassment claims. Facebook, Inc. announced that it will stop requiring employees to address their sexual harassment complaints through arbitration. This decision arose one day after Google made a similar move to end the practice.

A global walkout of employees at Google cast a spotlight on the methods used by the company to handle claims of sexual harassment and assault. As a result, Google chose to stop forcing victims into arbitration as their sole means of resolving their cases. In the announcement from Facebook, a spokesperson said that an amendment to its employee agreements would expand options for employees and leave arbitration as a choice instead of a requirement.

EEOC urges improved training against sexual harassment

Far too many people in Alameda County continue to face sexual harassment on the job despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and the public conversation about unwanted sexual advances at work. The acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, said that this kind of inappropriate workplace behavior continues to be pervasive and persistent, a common topic of complaints received by the commission. She noted that she was appalled by the volume of sexual harassment complaints received by the agency, indicating the scope of the issue.

In response to the complaints received as well as the public conversation about sexual harassment, the EEOC is urging employers to take action to make their workplaces safer places for women workers. One survey of professionals found that 70 percent were either the victims of harassment or witnesses to it. In June 2016, the commission issued a report on workplace harassment, instructing employers on how to better address problems on the job. The commission recommends a focus on how employees behave toward one another as well as supporting bystander interventions and improved education for employees.

ADA protects workers from discrimination over mental health

Workers in California who have mental health difficulties could gain protection from workplace discrimination under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mental illnesses, such as PTSD, anxiety or depression, could develop in almost any person at some point. The death of a loved one, divorce or trauma resulting from military service often impact people's mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 18.5 percent of adults cope with mental illness every year.

The stigma of mental health problems increases the likelihood of harassment occurring at work, which is why the ADA included mental illness as a protected category. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the ADA or expose their organizations to claims of disability discrimination if they withhold jobs from qualified applicants or fire people undergoing mental health treatment. Other forms of discrimination could include passing people over for promotion, lower pay or screening for mental illness during hiring.

More than a third of employees experience workplace harassment

According to a new study, 35 percent of employees in California and across the U.S. have experienced some form of workplace harassment. Of those who have experienced harassment, approximately 50 percent report that the discrimination was linked to their gender. The study was conducted by Hiscox, a specialty insurer.

For the study, researchers surveyed 500 U.S. adults with full-time jobs. The participants of the study were 50 percent male and 50 percent female. Of those who reported experiencing sexual harassment, 78 percent said the perpetrator was a male while 73 percent said the perpetrator was a work superior. Overall, 41 percent of all female participants reported experiencing workplace harassment.

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.