Employers in California can get into legal trouble if they are paying a female employee less than a male employee who performs the same type of work. That's because unequal pay for equal work is considered gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Recently, a federal appeals court concluded that there are other paths to sue for pay discrimination besides unequal pay for equal work.
Employees in California continue to face discrimination on the job, despite laws that prohibit the practice at federal, state and local levels. Employers may not discriminate in hiring, promotion or termination on the basis of protected characteristics, which include race, sex, disability, religion, age and in many cases sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, sexual harassment is also prohibited in the workplace. At the federal level, affected employees must show that their jobs were directly under threat or that they were subject to severe or pervasive conduct, whether a single extreme incident or an ongoing offensive climate.
A survey by online company review site Glassdoor indicates that 61% of employees in California and across the country have experienced or witnessed discriminatory behavior in the workplace. The study included more than 1,100 employees and asked about discrimination that was based on gender, race, LGBTQ identification or age. Nationwide, 42% of those who responded said they had witnessed racism at work, and 45% said they'd witnessed discrimination based on age.
The outcome of a Supreme Court case coming forward this term could have an impact on how federal workers in California fight back against age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed in 1967, forbade discrimination on the basis of age for workers. However, appeals courts have split over the definition of actionable age discrimination. Some courts argue that workers must only show that age bias was one contributing factor in a negative decision about employment, promotion, termination or another employment-related decision. It does not need to be the only factor or even the primary one.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a groundbreaking decision concerning complaints of discrimination against employers that used Facebook advertising to discriminate against women and older people. Multiple complaints filed by Facebook users against 66 companies prompted the commission to agree that the demographic targeting system within Facebook advertising tools enabled discrimination against job seekers in California and nationwide.
Women in the workplace are far more likely to suffer from sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and other types of gender discrimination in California. However, there are also unique concerns that are particularly important for men in the workplace. Age discrimination is one such concern that has a stronger effect on men. According to one 2019 study of age-related discrimination in the workplace, less than 33% of women believed that their age was a factor in holding them back from finding new jobs or obtaining a promotion. On the other hand, almost 40% of male participants did indicate that age was a barrier for them in the workplace.
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.
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.
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.
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.