The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling in Judd v. Weinstein, reinstating actress Ashley Judd’s California sexual harassment lawsuit against one-time Hollywood power player, producer Harvey Weinstein. Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer

As our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers can explain, the complaint stems from a sexual harassment claim under California Civil Code section 51.9. This allows for claims of sexual harassment that occurs between people who have a business, service or professional relationship wherein the defendant holds himself/herself out to be able to help the plaintiff establish a business, service or professional relationship with defendant or third party. These can include doctors, lawyers, estate trustees, landlords, teachers, elected officials, lobbyists, directors/producers or any substantially similar relationship. In order to prevail in such a claim, plaintiff needs to show defendant made sexual advances, solicitations, requests, demands (or engaged in conduct of a sexual nature or hostile based on gender) and the plaintiff has or will suffer some economic loss as a result of that conduct.

Judd’s case appears to fit the bill, but a lower court had dismissed it, siding with Weinstein’s arguments, which were that the traditional power balance might be flipped in some scenarios and that there was not a professional relationship at the time of the alleged harassment. The question of whether the relationship between the two parties was an employment relationship outside the purview of that statute is a question for the trier of fact (the jury). The case was remanded for further consideration.

Recently, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled a broad plan to confront systemic racism and promote racial equity. The former vice president’s Racial Equity Plan is part of a larger Build Back Better economic proposal. This newest element – support of the BE HEARD Act – addresses workplace inequalities that are known to disproportionately impact minorities.Los Angeles racial discrimination lawyer

BE HEARD (Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace), or H.R. 2148 has drawn praise from social justice advocates – yet earned the sharp ire of corporate interest groups. Essentially, it would (among other things) prohibit workplace harassment and discrimination under federal law – regardless of how many employees a company has – and require harassment training. It would further seek to address sexual harassment of tipped employees (a well-established problem) by requiring the cash wages paid to these workers be steadily increased until they meet the minimum wage for other workers.

As staunch regulatory critic Hans Bader wrote in the National Review, “(Under this plan), even the tiniest of employers would be saddled with unlimited legal liability for discrimination or harassment committed by an employee.” He added the law would alter the definition of sexual harassment in a way that would make small businesses vulnerable to liability for “trivial actions of their workers.”

As a longtime Los Angeles employment lawyer experienced in handling cases of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, I would note first that it’s a misconception that California employment lawsuits are or have ever been easy to win. Part of what this new law would do is establish a new liability standard for workplace harassment that “fulfills the Congressional intent” (as meticulously laid out in prior legislative action and case law) of providing broad protection from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth, a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth and sex stereotype), national origin, age, disability, genetic information and uniformed service status. Note the recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity – statuses that have protection in California, but not nationally. Continue Reading ›

As cities and schools across California and the U.S. are preparing to reopen, employers are requiring workers to return to in-person interactions – despite the fact that we are still in the grips of a global pandemic. Further, as Kaiser Health News reports, some employees are being compelled to sign a waiver of liability – agreeing not to sue their employer if they catch COVID-19 or suffer any injury from it while working there. In Irvine, CA, a teacher who refused to sign the waiver was fired within a week. “They said it was my choice to sign the paper, but it wasn’t really my choice. I felt so bullied.” Los Angeles employment lawyer

We encourage employees to discuss their concerns with a Los Angeles employment lawyer before signing any such waiver or if you have been fired as a result of refusing to sign one. Note that last year, California lawmakers passed AB-51, which bars employers from mandating workers or prospective employees sign away their right to pursue legal claims or benefits as a condition of employment. It also forbids employers from terminating any worker who refuses to sign it. That law is being challenged in court by a number of business interest groups, but for now, it stands.

Reports of employers requiring their workers to sign these liability waivers have been sporadic, probably because they know these agreements won’t hold up in court. In addition to AB-51, there is the fact that there is clearly a power imbalance between employers and employees/prospective workers – especially at a time when so many people are unemployed. Continue Reading ›

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools and businesses across the country to close, though education and work continued remotely where possible. That left a significant number of parents juggling the responsibilities of being an employee, as well as their child’s caretaker/teacher. Most companies recognized that with schools and day cares closed, they’d have to be flexible in understanding that employees may not be able to devote 100 percent of their attention to work during work hours. However, some of that understanding is waning. For example, Florida State University released communication indicating that beginning next month, the university will no longer allow workers to care for their children while they’re working remotely – an announcement made while COVID-19 cases in that state spiked five-fold. wrongful termination lawyer

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, a single mom with an 11-year-old son has filed an employment lawsuit after she was reportedly fired after being denied a request to flex two hours daily so she could focus on her son during the work day. The Washington Post reports the airline revenue management director was given the option of either taking leave or resigning. When she asked about the workplace protections available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, her supervisor reportedly told her he was “well aware of the various new laws that you’ve had time to look up while at home.” Days later, she was fired, allegedly under the pretext of having a conflict with other workers, something she denies.

As our Orange County wrongful termination attorneys understand it, that is believed to be one of the first employment lawsuits filed under the FFCRA, the goal of which was to expand paid sick leave and family medical leave. Yet it’s probably a sign of things to come as working parents (mothers especially) try juggle employment responsibilities and family obligations. Some employment law attorneys anticipate an uptick in coronavirus-related litigation, once the courts are back in full swing, particularly among workers who have reportedly been denied leave or paid time off to manage child care. Continue Reading ›

A Black employee for Facebook, represented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has alleged in a complaint he experienced racial discrimination at the firm, being denied promotions and pay raises and receiving unfair evaluations, despite “excellent” work performance. Meanwhile, two job applicants say they were denied the opportunity to work for the company – despite being qualified – because of their skin color.Los Angeles racial discrimination

According to the Associated Press, the employee was employed as an operations program manager at the social media firm. Facebook said it is committed to investigating allegations of racism. The AP reports that like many Silicon Valley companies, Black workers are underrepresented, accounting for less than 4 percent of the total number of Facebook employees and only 1.5 percent of the company’s technical workers.

Allegations of racial discrimination have been leveled before at the company. Although CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared last month that, “Black lives matter,” previous employees say the tech firm hasn’t made racial diversity a priority. Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some employees of religious schools, social service centers and hospitals will not be allowed to sue for employment discrimination, due to the ministerial exception. The 7-2 decision (with two liberal justices siding with the conservative majority) pointed to a unanimous ruling eight years ago that found “ministers” could not sue churches for employment discrimination. Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer

But this ruling not only solidified that previous ruling, it expanded the protections these companies have against nondiscrimination litigation. The ministerial exception holds that the First Amendment protects churches and other religious organizations from government interference in employment decisions of “ministers” because, as Chief Justice John Roberts concluded, that would strip the church over control of those who personify its beliefs. But the question the court didn’t answer in 2012 was who, exactly, was a minister? Here, the majority decided that teachers are among those who can be considered”ministers,” in turn opening the door for countless other employees.

Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyers recognize that this was a significant blow to the hundreds of thousands of employees who work for these organizations (by some estimates, there are more than 300,000 private school teachers alone). Continue Reading ›

Recently, California employment law regulators filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Silicon Valley technology company Cisco, Inc., accusing the multinational firm of failing to intervene in harassment experienced by an Indian-American employee by two of his managers because he’s from a lower Indian caste than they are.Orange County employment discrimination lawyer

The Indian caste system is an ancient one that divide’s the country’s Hindus into four different social hierarchy groups. Privilege is bestowed on the higher castes while prejudice and repression is sanctioned against lower castes. India’s constitution banned caste-based discrimination in 1950, but much like the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, enforcement has been a process.

As our Orange County employment discrimination attorneys can explain, neither Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor the California Fair Housing and Employment Act bars discrimination on the basis of one’s caste. However, it does protect against discrimination on the basis of religion. What regulators in the case against Cisco are alleging is that the caste system stems from the Hindu faith, and thus this type of discrimination can be covered against discrimination on the basis of religion.

The court’s position on this is being closely watched by many of the hundreds of thousands of Indian immigrants living and working in California. Continue Reading ›

A supermarket chain has agreed to pay nearly $3 million to settle a class action California pregnancy discrimination lawsuit for its refusal to allow pregnant workers to go on light duty – something it allowed other temporarily disabled workers to do.pregnancy discrimination

As our Orange County pregnancy discrimination lawyers can explain, both federal and state law provides protection for pregnant workers. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions the same way they would non-pregnant workers or applicants who have a similar ability/inability to work. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender – which includes pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions. FEHA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for a known physical disability of an employee unless they can show doing so would create an undue hardship. Continue Reading ›

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month sparked a global outcry over policing practices and a notable shift in the conversation over the Black Lives Matter movement. It also set off an avalanche of response from corporate America, which rushed to express solidarity with the black community, some promising billions of dollars collectively to advance the causes of racial equality and justice. Public reaction to this has been mixed, in part because it’s unprecedented; companies have been largely silent on this issue before now, despite the fact that it’s not a new one (as those of us in Los Angeles well know). But the other skepticism stems from the fact that many firms don’t appear to be as vigilant on equity and diversity within their own ranks. racial discrimination attorney

Social justice advocates point out that racial disparities go far beyond policing and are calling on these companies to closely examine their hiring and promotion practices for possible racial bias.

As our Los Angeles racial discrimination lawyers can explain, lots of companies have committed to diversity in years past, some on their own and some because a court ordered them to do so. But in many corporations, there remains significant unchecked structural bias for people of color and also women. Continue Reading ›

A prominent, national law firm is facing a growing number of lawsuits pertaining to its secretive compensation system that former attorneys say hides systematic pay discrimination against women. Some of those include claims, filed in 2018, included plaintiffs who worked for the firm in California, as the ABA Journal reported. gender discrimination

In that case, the lawsuit alleges there was an enforced “code of silence” with regard to pay and productivity wherein partners kept compensation information confidential. That left female attorneys out in the cold, unable to discover or attempt to equalize their pay. Guidelines at the firm were reportedly changed to discourage – but not outright forbid – discussions of pay among partners and employees.

Recently, a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the law firm’s motion to dismiss these lawsuit, though the court did dismiss several of the pregnancy discrimination claims. Continue Reading ›

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