Articles Posted in sexual discrimination

Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. However, laws have evolved over the last several decades to include many more protections and legal causes of actions for victims. Unfortunately, it still happens, and remains a very serious problem, as we’ve seen with several high-profile accusations made against famous power players like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly.  Even our own president has been accused of such conduct. But it’s not isolated to the seedier side of show business or within wealthy circles.

Employment LawyerAccording to a recent news article from The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has just settled a claim levied by an executive involving allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace.  The employee who filed the lawsuit was formerly the director of human resources. According to his complaint, he said that during the months he worked at the company, he was regularly the target of sexual harassment and said the company has an unwritten policy of targeting such harassment and employment discrimination.  Continue reading

A little more than a year ago, employees at San Diego P.F. Chang’s location won a roughly $1 million verdict in a sexual harassment lawsuit.  According to a recent news feature from the Los Angeles Times, the same defendant is alleged to have engaged in additional incidents of sexual harassment at various other Southern California locations.

highkeyupcloseThis first case that ended in 2014 involved two plaintiffs. Now, there are four women claiming they were repeatedly made to be victims of sexual harassment in Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Riverside, and Chino Hills.  Their contracts required employees to use a binding arbitration process as opposed to filing a complaint in a civil court. There is also another alleged victim, but her case is somewhat different, because she was only 16 years of age at the time of the alleged harassment. Continue reading

California laws provide protection from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is defined to include homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality. California law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of both gender and gender expression, which includes gender-related behaviors regardless of whether the behaviors are associate with the gender that someone has been assigned at birth. rainbow-flag-1144037

While California laws prohibit employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the federal government has not yet passed a law explicitly barring discrimination against people on the basis of homosexuality or sexual identity. Courts and administrative agencies, however, have continually expanded the protections available under federal law with the goal of ensuring that no one is deprived of opportunities on the basis of their LTBTQ status.

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A high-profile gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit is underway in Silicon Valley, with one of the area’s oldest venture capital firms in the center of the storm. technology

In her complaint, Ellen Pao claims she was subjected to five years of retaliation after she refused sexual advances from several of the senior partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. As a former partner of the firm, she stated she and other female workers were discriminated against when it came to matters of pay and promotions. She also said she was pressured into having an affair with a senior executive, and after she ended it, the discrimination began – and continued for the better part of five years. She is seeking $16 million in compensation for back pay, future wage losses and other damages as a result of the alleged discriminatory conduct.

The case is being closely watched as it has underscored longstanding issues of sexual inequality in the field of technology. As a result, many technological firms have started releasing diversity data regarding their workforces, and have vowed to make improvements with regard to racial and gender balances.

Discrimination and retaliation can impact lower-rung employees as well as high-paid executives. A recent case demonstrates that even employees at the upper end of the pay scale can suffer because of discrimination in the workplace.

According to Reuters, a former partner  filed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against a Silicon Valley venture firm. The case is unique because the partner waited five years before filing her claim.

In June of 2007, the partner informed the firm she would resign due to job dissatisfaction. Court records indicate that the resignation came seven months after she ended an affair with another partner. According to the complaint, the plaintiff suffered from discrimination and retaliation from the partner after she called off the relationship. The venture firm has denied the allegations of discrimination and retaliation and challenges the assertion that it did not take proper steps to prevent or put an end to the misconduct.

State and federal legislators commonly intervene to protect the rights of employees. While managers and business owners are required to stay abreast of sexual harassment training, it appears that California lawmakers are not. Despite the ongoing threat of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the repeated number of sexual harassment claims in state and federal politics, members of Congress are still not required to undergo sexual harassment training. According to an investigation by California radio station KPCC, House members, unlike most people who are in positions of power, are not required to undergo sexual harassment training.

uscapitolThe loophole opens the floodgate for not only, sexual harassment claims, but the potential for liability. One California lawmaker sees the lack of sexual harassment training for House members as an embarrassment and is trying to change the rules to protect staffers. Political figures, including members of Congress, are not strangers to sexual harassment charges. According to reports, more than a dozen women have filed complaints regarding the conduct of Bob Finer, former Congressman from San Diego. The representative retired from Congress in 2012 and won his race for San Diego mayor. Despite this political success, he faced numerous accusations of sexual harassment, alleging that he repeated touched, grabbed, and groped women while serving in Congress. Following the allegations, the San Diego mayor resigned and pleaded guilty to battery and false imprisonment.

This is one of many stories coming out of Congress related to sexual harassment. To initiate change on behalf of citizens and staffers, San Mateo Congresswoman spearheaded a bill to fund $500,000 of sexual harassment training for Congress members. Despite the initiative, the money was swiped from the compromise bill. Now she is seeking the House Rules Committee to take action to prevent future instances of employment law violations and abuse. Though training is mandatory for employees and managers throughout California, Congress members have not been held to the same standards. For those in favor of the bill, stopping sexual harassment could mean a step as easy as mandatory sexual harassment training.

A Seattle soccer team owner has been sued for sexual harassment and members of the team have questioned whether he was properly screened and background checked. Twenty-two players quit the Seattle Impact FC team after only one season game. Players stood alongside the dance team known as “Ladies with Impact,” who also resigned to protest the assault of two dancers. According to reports, the coach, also a former college soccer player, had a history of sexual assault and misconduct in his two-decade career as a high-school coach. In addition to lawsuits filed against the coach, questions remain if other entities are liable for failure to background check the owner.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas CowboysAccording to the Seattle Times, the coach had fired his staff and other office workers who were embittered by his management style. He accused the women who filed the lawsuit of being ‘dirt poor’ and trying to extort money through litigation. A 22-year-old dancer filed the lawsuit after the coach allegedly asked her to come over to his home. She accuses him of an assault that occurred during this encounter. The dancer was not only concerned about the professional complications of the assault, but has also been forced into counseling and takes medication to manage the stress associated with the event.

The coach has not been criminally charged for the offense, but the local law enforcement authorities are investigating. Members of the team, the association, and local fans have continued to protest his ongoing presence as the owner and coach of the team. The case has also raised questions about whether the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) went through a proper screening process to vet the coach. The newly formed professional circuit has boasted top indoor talent, but has had other legal problems related to sexual harassment. Reports indicate that another coach of a team in Texas was sued in 2010 by a female intern at his New York consulting firm. According to the complaint, the coach sent inappropriate emails, texts and notes. The case was settled out of court for $50,000.

California laws protect individuals from sexual orientation discrimination. In a recent case, a lawsuit has been filed against Pepperdine University and one of its basketball coaches, alleging harassment related to sexual orientation. According to reports, two players filed the suit against the school and the coach after they suffered harassment related to their lesbian relationship. One of the students suffered such severe harassment that she went into a deep depression and suicide attempt. The coach and academic coordinators allegedly became obsessed with the couple’s relationship and claimed that “lesbianism is not tolerated” on the team.

basketball-court-at-summer-1-1374666-mIn addition to the violation of privacy rights, the lawsuit also alleges that that school is in violation of the federal Education Amendments Act of 197 which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded programs and activities. The women were pulled aside and repeatedly questioned about their relationship, about their sleeping arrangements, sexual orientation, and sexual preferences. Both women repeatedly asked the coach to stop “prying” into their personal lives. In another discussion with the team the coach warned the players that they were prohibited from dating. The coach even blamed a team loss on a mid-season break-up between the players.

Other players on the team recognized that there was an intensive investigation going on. They were being questioned and asked about the relationship and warned the players to be careful. After months of living in fear and being harassed, one of the players went into a severe depression and attempted suicide. When she decided to return to the team, the coach refused to allow her back on the court without a doctor’s note from a gynecological exam. According to reports, the doctor’s notes provide evidence of good health, but have also prevented women from playing basketball at the university.

California law will now give unpaid interns and volunteers a number of the same legal protections as regular employees. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, religion, national origin, ancestry, disabilities, sex, gender, age sexual orientation, or gender expression. Assembly Bill 1443 will expand the protections against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns and volunteers. The law will go into effect January 1, 2015. The new law will also require employers to accommodate the religious beliefs of volunteers and unpaid interns.

working-511610-mIf you are an unpaid intern or volunteer, you should know your rights under California law. The new protections require employers to expand their policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment. Employers should also make necessary changes to handbooks, policies, and guidelines to ensure that interns and volunteers are protected against unlawful actions. Employers are also responsible for informing interns and volunteers about these protections and offer procedures for reporting harassment and discrimination.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers are protected against harassment and discrimination. Extending this protection to unpaid interns and volunteers means that employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees. These training sessions must take place to reiterate issues and processes every two years. To better protect employees and to prevent liabilities, many employers are providing this training to both supervisors as well as all members of the staff. Additional protections could include providing training to volunteers and interns so that they know their rights in the workplace.

When an employee suffers from sexual harassment, it can take months, even years to reach a resolution. In most cases, a company will want to settle out of court to prevent costs of litigation and public exposure. However, some companies are willing to take sexual harassment cases to a jury if they believe that they can defeat charges.

In a recent California case, Braun Electric Company agreed to pay $82,500 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. agency charged with ensuring compliance with federal labor and discrimination laws.

american-sign-language-904699-mBraun Electric provides industrial electrical services for the oil and gas industry throughout the California San Joaquin Valley. According to reports and the EEOC, a manager at the Belridge location subjected female workers to repeated instances of harassment, which created an illegal hostile work environment. Employees allege that the harassment took place since 2010. The manager made inappropriate sexual remarks and explicit propositions on a continual basis. Even though the employees reported the misconduct, upper management failed to adequately address the harassment reports and supervisors failed to property document and report the incidents that they had also witnessed. According to the lawsuit, one female employment was forced to quit as a result of repeated sexual harassment and the ongoing hostile work environment.