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Oakland Employment Law Blog

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.

When caste becomes a workplace discrimination issue

Since California is a center for the tech industry, a number of the workers from South Asia who come to the country on skilled worker visas may be located there. Some of those workers may have been among those who responded to a survey by the South Asian American human rights startup Equality Labs about workers from that region and caste discrimination in the United States.

Caste discrimination is thousands of years old, but it is rarely discussed in the United States. However, in areas where there is a sizable immigrant population of South Asians, it may emerge in the form of being unable to date someone of another caste, being made to sit somewhere else or being the target of slurs. Unfortunately, it can be a difficult issue to address because most Americans do not understand or recognize caste discrimination.

Pregnancy discrimination can taint the workplace

Working parents in California are not alone in their concerns about how their pregnancy and parenthood will be treated by their employers on the job. Even U.S. senators may have reason to share in these concerns as has come to light following the pregnancy of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the first senator to deliver a child while in office. She may be prevented from participating in deliberation and voting during her parental leave as senators must be physically present in order to vote and children are barred from the floor of the Senate, unlike many other national parliaments.

Numerous parents face some of the same problems, such as a lack of a formal paid parental leave policy, but without the advantage of a senatorial vantage point. Parents may face workplace discrimination due to their pregnancy or their parenting role despite existing protective civil rights legislation like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.

IBM faces allegations of age discrimination

Workers in California and around the country who are 40 or older are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. However, a report from ProPublica and Mother Jones suggests that IBM has taken many different steps to reduce the number of workers it has in that age range. This has been done by asking some to retire early or to move thousands of miles to keep their jobs.

In the past, IBM was known as a company that would reward workers for their loyalty, but a shift reportedly began taking place in 2014. This was when the organization decided to change its focus to providing cloud storage and data analytics. Instead of older workers, the company decided that it wanted millennials to make up a larger portion of its workforce. According to ProPublica, IBM got rid of 20,000 workers who were 40 or older in the past five years.

Microsoft sued by female employees

Workers throughout California and the rest of the country are supposed to be protected from disparate treatment in the workplace. However, even the nation's top companies sometimes fail their employees. According to a report from Reuters, there were 238 sexual harassment or gender disparity complaints made by female Microsoft employees between 2010 and 2016. This was revealed as details from a 2015 lawsuit against the company were recently made public. It claims that female workers were passed over for promotions or other opportunities.

Of the 118 gender discrimination claims, the complaint says only one was considered founded by the company. Microsoft says that the number of claims made and considered founded should not be made public as it could discourage others from coming forward. According to Pew Research, 50 percent of women working in tech/math fields say that they have experienced gender discrimination. This is about 10 percent higher than the rate for women in other fields.

Google sued for discrimination against white and Asian men

A former Google employee has filed a lawsuit against the California-based company for discrimination. According to the complaint, YouTube, which is owned by Google, pressured recruiters to exclude white men and Asian men when hiring as a way to increase the company's diversity.

The lawsuit said that some of the hiring practices included "Project Mirror", which was where employees from marginalized groups would be specifically assigned to interview candidates that were their gender or their race. Further, the lawsuit noted that in one hiring round, all software engineering interviews from applicants that were non-diverse and below a specific experience level were cancelled.

Dealing with gender discrimination in the workplace

Sexual harassment has become a hot-button issue in California after allegations were made against several prominent figures in the entertainment industry, and research shows that this kind of behavior is also worryingly common in workplaces around the world. Four out of five of the 856 male and female managers in United Kingdom comanies polled by the Chartered Management Institute said that they had either been the victim of or witnessed some form of sexual discrimination or harassment while at work.

The CMI report also revealed that only a quarter of the managers surveyed take gender issues seriously and just 8 percent were aware of the pay gap within their own companies. Common gender issues that emerged in the interviews included male workers taking credit for the ideas of their female colleagues and women in the workplace being viewed as performing administrative rather than managerial functions.

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.