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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

DOL changes internship laws

Enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is also known as the FLSA for short, helps regulate the employer-employee relationship in all of the United States of America. Interestingly, although states like California may have their own labor laws, they also have to abide by the FLSA. In the event that the two conflict, employers have to abide by the one that is more favorable to the employee. With all that said, it should come as no surprise that any change the DOL applies to the FLSA is of monumental importance to business owners and managers on the one hand and hardworking Americans on the other.

Hence, when the DOL announced that it was changing its 2010 definition of what constitutes a legally unpaid intern, this was big news. In fact, on January 5, the department replaced the old test it used to establish the basis for hiring an unpaid intern with a more lenient one.

How to handle harassment at a bar

California residents and others who work as bartenders may have to deal with poor behavior from customers on a regular basis. When it comes to incidents of nonfatal work violence, they have the third-highest rate behind law enforcement and security personnel. Some may simply choose to deal with the behavior in the hope that they don't lose their tips. Employees may also feel like they have to put up with the behavior because they haven't been trained on how to deal with it.

Many bars and restaurants have a token policy when it comes to sexual harassment or don't offer training at all. One woman who has been a bartender for nine years said that she had never received any formal training in the subject. However, a program called Safe Bars may be able to help both bartenders and patrons spot sexual harassment and take action to stop it.

Terminated whistleblower prevails in lawsuit

Whistleblowers in California and across the nation are often under great pressure to keep their revelations secret; however, this does not mean that they lack legal protection. A recent case involving an employee who exposed an unsafe and inefficient asbestos removal operation in New York is a good example that may encourage whistleblowers to act.

In 2010, the plaintiff was employed with Champagne Demolition as an asbestos removal specialist assigned to a project in the upstate New York town of Alexandria Bay. He noticed deficient asbestos removal and became concerned to the point of returning to the site of the contract, a public high school, to take pictures and collect a bag of asbestos that he showed to his supervisor. The whistleblower was terminated just one day after he reported the issue to his supervisor, and the company filed a defamation lawsuit against him within a month after he was fired.

Study sheds light on gender-based workplace discrimination

Gender discrimination in the workplace remains a serious problem for women in California and around the country according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. The poll of 4,914 American adults was taken in the summer of 2017, before several prominent politicians and entertainment industry figures were the subjects of highly-publicized allegations of sexual misconduct. More than four out of 10 of the women surveyed said that they had faced discrimination at work based on their gender, but this claim was only made by 22 percent of the men questioned.

The difference between the experiences of working men and women became more pronounced when the respondents were asked what type of job-related discrimination they had experienced. While only 5 percent of the men surveyed said that they had been paid less than a female peer, a quarter of the women polled said that men who performed similar tasks were paid more. Other questions yielded similar results. Almost a quarter of the working women polled, but only 6 percent of the men, said that they had been treated as less competent due to their gender.

Famed chef Mario Batali accused of sexual harassment

Individuals in California working in the hospitality industry are likely interested in the sexual misconduct and harassment accusations that have caused celebrity chef Mario Batali to step away from his business empire. His businesses include famous restaurants and a television show on ABC.

Mario Batali did not deny the allegations of misconduct that have been brought by a number of anonymous women. Instead, Batali apologized to the victims, his family, customers and fellow employees that he has hurt and mistreated. He stated that although the identity of all of the women who have brought accusations against him have not been revealed, the conduct he is being accused of does match the way he's always acted. Accused of inappropriately touching or groping women, making inappropriate sexual comments and pressing his body against women, he said that he takes full responsibility for his actions and expressed pain and hurt over the discomfort he has caused others.

Size of delivery vehicle influences ruling on overtime pay

Delivery drivers in California wondering how the Fair Labor Standards Act could apply to their wages have new guidance from an appeals court decision. The terms of the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 persuaded the three-judge panel of a federal appeals court to determine that the sales managers for a bakery company were entitled to overtime pay.

Their employer had contested the claim, citing the exemption detailed within the FLSA that excused companies categorized as professional motor carriers from paying overtime to drivers. A lower court had sided with the employer, but, on appeal, the judges looked more closely at how the corrective legislation from 2008 could apply. That act undid the exemption for motor carriers if employees' duties included vehicles that weighed 10,000 pounds or less.

Transgender professor successful in discrimination case

While California has laws that protect transgender people in the workplace, this is not true in every state. However, in one case, a court awarded a professor $1.1 million after she was denied a promotion and tenure following her transition.

The professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University was hired in 2004 for the tenure track. In 2007, she began transitioning. She was open about her transition, and someone on the human resources staff phoned her to tell her that the vice president for academic affairs had explored firing her. He felt her transition clashed with his religious beliefs. His sister was the director of the counseling center, and she warned the professor that she should take precautions because some people disliked transgender people. She also said the professor offended her brother from a religious standpoint.

Lawmakers show bipartisan support for sexual harassment bill

In a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, members of the House of Representatives from both sides of the political aisle have voiced support for legislation introduced by a California Democrat that would introduce mandatory sexual harassment training for lawmakers and their staffs. During a Nov. 14 House hearing, Representative Jackie Speier pointed to a recent spate of sexual harassment allegations, which have been leveled against both Republicans and Democrats, as evidence that action is necessary.

During the same hearing, Republican Representative Barbara Comstock mentioned a female staffer that resigned after an unnamed lawmaker exposed himself to her. Speier told those in attendance that she had been sexually assaulted herself by a male colleague. The proposed bill, which has been vocally supported by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, would overhaul the reporting and investigation protocols currently in place and require lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers and interns to be trained about recognizing and preventing sexual harassment.

Understanding the rights of pregnant workers

Pregnant women in California and elsewhere are protected by law from most types of employment discrimination. For instance, it is illegal to refuse to hire someone because of a pregnancy. It is also illegal for an employer to fire a worker after becoming pregnant. Furthermore, pregnant employees typically have the right to take time off to seek prenatal care without putting their jobs in jeopardy.

A pregnant worker would likely be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act that allows employees to take time to care for an unborn child. It also allows individuals to take time off to handle their own health issues. However, FMLA only applies to companies with 50 or more employees. Therefore, those who work for a smaller company would likely be covered under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA basically says that pregnant women must be treated like anyone else in the workplace.

Understanding employment law regarding sexual harassment

When a California employee has a harassment complaint, human resources is supposed to talk to the accuser, the accused and any witnesses to the harassing behavior. Once that initial step has taken place, employees are supposed to be made aware of an investigation's findings. However, not all employers do this. In some cases, HR may try to claim that a complaint was never made or that an interview with a victim ever took place.

It is important to note that during the interview, an HR representative may be neutral at best to someone who is making a harassment complaint. It is also important to know that the contents of the conversation don't have to be kept a secret from anybody. Those who fear possible repercussions may ask to be transferred to another department if quitting isn't an option.

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