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"Criminal Minds" camera operator sues over sexual harassment

Readers who follow California's entertainment industry could be interested to learn that a crew member on the CBS drama series "Criminal Minds" has filed a lawsuit against CBS Corp., ABC Studios, Warner Bros. and others over sexual harassment and battery claims. The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

According to the court filing, the plaintiff, a camera operator on the series, claims that he has been subjected to a series of sexual harassment and battery incidents by his supervisor, the director of photography, since he began working on the show in 2011. He alleges that his boss inappropriately touched his body in a sexual manner fairly often for years. He also claims that his boss repeatedly screamed at him, threatened to have him fired or demoted on a regular basis and prevented him from being promoted. He further contends that other employees on the series were wrongfully fired after reporting similar incidents by the same individual.

Gender harassment rises as sexual harassment falls

Female workers in California and elsewhere are reporting fewer instances of unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion. This is according to a study conducted by the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado. The study involved 500 women who were polled about their experiences with sexual harassment and coercion in September 2016 and in September 2018. The results suggest that sexual harassment is happening less frequently in the workplace.

However, there was an increase in the amount of gender harassment reported between 2016 and 2018. For example, men have increasingly said that they don't want to be alone with women or mentor them because they don't want to be falsely accused of sexual harassment. This is in spite of the fact that false accusations of harassment are rare. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there was a 14% increase in sexual harassment complaints in 2018 compared to 2017.

Large companies back LGBT workers' rights

LGBT workers in California and across the country could be seriously affected by the outcome of three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Oct. 8, the high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the cases, which concern whether workplace discrimination against LGBT employees is prohibited under federal civil rights laws. In a striking move from the business community, over 200 large corporations filed a legal brief urging the court to rule that LGBT workers are protected under existing law prohibiting sex discrimination.

The brief, being filed by five LGBT rights organizations, is signed by major corporations including Amazon, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Nike and Walt Disney as well as two baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays. The companies say that a uniform rule against workplace discrimination best helps to ensure that their workers face equal circumstances and protections in all 50 states. While some states explicitly include gender identity and sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination laws, others do not. If there is no clear federal standard, workers in those states face a serious gap in protections.

High Court permits workers to proceed with federal claims

Even if employees in California and other states don't bring allegations of workplace discrimination directly to state agencies or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), they may still be able to move forward with their claim. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision in June, 2019. The verdict applies to federal courts and discrimination claims filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The decision essentially means courts cannot automatically dismiss an employment discrimination case simply because a worker didn't first file a claim with the EEOC or an equivalent agency. However, employers are still able to bring up instances of a plaintiff's failure to first file a claim with the EEOC within a timely manner to seek dismissal of a claim. But this defense may not be permissible if an employer fails to bring it up within a reasonable period of time.

Gay man sues former employer Goldman Sachs for discrimination

Some members of the LGBTQ community in California will recognize the pattern of discrimination allegedly experienced by a former employee of Goldman Sachs. According to his lawsuit, the man worked for eight years at the banking giant. He advanced to a vice president position at the age of only 27. He had been openly gay throughout his career and earned good performance reviews. This abruptly changed after he made formal complaints to the Employee Relations team at the company in 2018. His evaluations suddenly turned critical. According to court filings, the evaluations provided a manufactured reason for his dismissal.

The plaintiff had served as a leader for the company's internal LGBTQ group. His complaints involved his experiences of sexual orientation discrimination at work. He provided evidence of mistreatment. One incident described in his lawsuit resulted in his removal from a conference call because of his gay-sounding voice.

Age discrimination bill re-introduced to Congress

California residents who are old enough to suffer from age discrimination in the workplace should be aware of POWADA, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. This is a proposed law designed to make proving age discrimination in court much easier. One study by the Urban Institute found that 56% of older workers are forced out of their jobs before they can retire. Only one in 10 of those workers will make as much money at their new place of employment.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with employers in 2009 by making it much more difficult for victims of discrimination to prove they were wrongfully demoted or terminated. Aged workers are still able to sue their employers for workplace discrimination; however, the Supreme Court's decision requires that plaintiffs prove that age was the sole factor in their termination or demotion. An employer could simply argue that the plaintiff would have been fired even if they were younger. The burden of proof currently lies solely on the plaintiff and creates a serious hardship since proving age as a sole factor is no easy feat.

Amazon employees file religious discrimination complaint

Three Amazon employees have filed a federal lawsuit against their employer for workplace discrimination and retaliation. Workers in California might want to know the details of the case as it raises issues of workers' rights that are applicable nationwide. The three employees, who are Muslim women, were working for an Amazon warehouse. They allegedly feared taking breaks to pray because they thought they would be issued write-ups. One of the women was so afraid, according to the complaint, that she broke her fast for Ramadan and stopped taking breaks for ablutions or even to use the restroom.

The complaint also alleges that the online retailer did not promote Muslim employees from East Africa and Somalia, and that it gave better assignments to white workers. The women claim to have been retaliated against by management after they joined a protest effort against the labor conditions at the Amazon warehouse.

Sexual harassment complaints continue to grow

Many employees in California and across the country continue to face serious problems with sexual harassment on the job. Unwanted sexual advances and other types of inappropriate behavior continue to rise, despite the emergence of the #MeToo movement and widespread media attention on the problem. Indeed, since allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against high-profile Hollywood executives hit major news, the number of federal complaints about sexual harassment on the job has escalated significantly.

In the 2018 fiscal year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 7,609 complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace, an increase of 13.6% over the prior year. At the same time, general reports of workplace discrimination and harassment of all types declined. This means that sexual harassment complaints formed a greater proportion of all federal filings. During the year, workers filed 76,418 complaints of workplace harassment for various protected reasons, making a nearly 10% drop. Surveys also show that more instances of sexual harassment and assault are being reported through internal company procedures as well. Still, EEOC officials said that only around one-fifth of all workers who experience sexual harassment on the job actually file a report. In most cases, people must file an EEOC claim before proceeding to a federal lawsuit for workplace discrimination.

Woman sues employer for persistent age discrimination

A California woman's long career at the Beverly Hills Department of Recreation and Parks came to a humiliating end according to her lawsuit. The 66-year-old had worked for the city since 1979 and earned a series of promotions until 2017 when she applied to be department director. This action proved to be a turning point that resulted in dwindling duties, reassignment ,and eventual job loss. Her court filings describe ongoing hostility at work that created a humiliating environment for her.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the city for allegedly discriminating against her because of her age. Her allegations also include a failure to prevent harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation. Prior to applying for the open director's position, she had appeared to excel as a senior recreation supervisor who organized events at the Greystone Mansion and attracted high-profile sponsors. Although she had acted as the director informally for several months, her application was rebuffed. The city hired a 35-year-old former lifeguard with minimal experience managing recreational venues.

Gender pay gap still a problem in tech

Women workers at large and small tech companies in California and across the country continue to face serious concerns about pay discrimination. According to research, over 50 percent of women who work in the industry are paid less on average than their male co-workers. One recruitment firm reported that women may be offered lower salaries than men at 60 percent of the jobs on offer in the industry. The same survey of 2,600 tech workers reported pay differentials at 63 percent of jobs one year earlier.

After women learn that they are being paid less than male co-workers, the differences may be substantial. In 16 percent of cases, the salary differential was $20,000 or more. The pay gap became even more significant when race was taken into account as well. While there is an average pay gap of 3 percent between men and women, Hispanic women receive 9 percent less than white men at these companies. Black women receive 11 percent less than white men at the same firms. LGBT women also experienced elevated pay discrimination with an 8 percent pay gap.

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