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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

EEOC accuses bank of violating the Equal Pay Act

The 1963 Equal Pay Act requires employers in California and across the country to pay men and women equally when they have equal responsibilities and perform duties that require the same amount of skill, experience and effort. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is tasked with administering and enforcing the nation's workplace civil rights laws, and the federal agency filed a lawsuit on June 18 that alleges a Nebraska bank violated the Equal Pay Act by paying a female relationship manager less than a man who performed the same job.

In addition to monetary relief, the EEOC is seeking a declaratory judgment and demanding that the company implement practices and policies designed to prevent future violations of the 1963 law. The agency says that it filed the wage discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska after efforts to settle the case were unsuccessful.

Trump DOL changes for contractors and joint employment

Employers in California and across the United States should be aware of changes that took place in June 2017 regarding the regulation of independent contractors and joint employment. The new Department of Labor under President Trump has rejected the Administrator's Interpretations established under Obama. While these changes are not law and do not affect an employer's legal responsibilities, they may indicate a shift in priorities with the new DOL.

The changes may be considered a roll-back to a more traditional stance on identifying workers as independent contractors or joint employees. Under Obama, the focus on these types of employment was put under a higher degree of scrutiny with an aim to consider most workers actual employees and reduce the prevalence of workers considered independent contractors. With those changes now eliminated, employers can focus on the established case law and traditional use of the economic realities test that has long been a way of measuring a worker's independent status.

10th Circuit overrules lower court in harassment case

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit sent a sexual harassment case back to a lower court for trial. In its ruling, it rejected a claim by the defendant, that was the plaintiff's employer, that the case should not go forward because there was no required EEOC charge of quid pro quo harassment. California employees might be interested to hear that the appeals court based its decision on the fact that no label is required to proceed with a sexual harassment claim.

While academics may have created distinctions between quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment, they are not distinct claims under Title VII. The court found that a claim of sexual discrimination describes both types of sexual harassment and that there is only a need to have sufficient facts to back up the allegation.

Age discrimination could become easier to prove

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects California residents over the age of 40 from age discrimination. This federal law went into effect in 1967, but sometimes what appears to be age discrimination is difficult to prove in court. New legislation is pending in Congress that could make it easier for someone to prove age discrimination.

The results of a recent study show that older job applicants are often less likely to be called for interviews than the younger ones. Nevertheless, when an employer chooses to hire a younger person for a job when older people applied for the same position, it does necessarily constitute age discrimination. There are certain red flags that suggest that age may have played a factor in the hiring decision. For example, if an older applicant has the qualifications the job advertisement asked for but a younger person without them is hired, this could be a sign that the employer unfairly discriminated based on age. Some employers also specifically recruit younger workers, though they may use surreptitious methods to do this such as recruiting exclusively through colleges or requiring that applicants have less than a certain number of years of experience.

Sexual harassment hotlines do not stop the harassment

When reports of sexual harassment began swirling around Fox News earlier this year, it was noted that employees never took advantage of the media organization's hotline. Like Fox News, many California companies maintain a hotline for employees to report incidents of sexual harassment. However, these types of hotlines are generally meant to legally protect the company and not actually prevent sexual harassment.

In fact, reports surfaced that many Fox News employees did not even know the hotline was available. Those who did know a hotline existed may have had trouble finding the phone numbers to make a call. In may cases, victims of sexual harassment are uncomfortable using such hotlines. This may be in part because employees may not believe that the process is confidential or anonymous.

Physicians who are mothers experience maternal discrimination

According to a study from a California university, it is not uncommon for doctors who are also moms to experience workplace discrimination. The study was reportedly inspired by online conversations at a group comprised of physician moms. In the group, which has almost 70,000 community members, physicians can share stories, ask questions and seek support.

Of the nearly 6,000 participants who responded to the survey, approximately 78 percent reported that they experienced discrimination of some form while on the job. About 35 percent of the respondents reported maternal discrimination. This form of discrimination included any aspects of being a mother, including breastfeeding and maternity leave. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents also reported that they had been treated disrespectfully by coworkers at some point, including nurses and other staff members. Some even reported that they were left out of administrative decision-making.

AG seeks damages for sexually harassed female farm workers

In California, the agricultural industry continues to be an economic powerhouse, generating tens of billions of dollars annually. Further up the coast in Washington state, a major sexual harrassment case has been filed in federal court by the state's attorney general, alleging that sexual harassment has become an "occupational hazard" for female farm workers at one company.

The company was charged with extensive sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The complaint also included allegations that the company engaged in discrimination against women by segregating their jobs and retaliation against women employees who rejected sexual advances.

Cancer patients struggling with equal treatment at work

California residents may be aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 1990. In 2008, it was amended in order to protection for those with chronic diseases. However, a study that was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal has found that workplace discrimination is still a problem for those with chronic illnesses such as cancer. The study compared claim data from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission between 2001 and 2007.

It also looked at data from 2009 to 2011 after the amendments were passed. Claims related to terms of employment increased after it passed, and claims related to relations at work were also up after 2008. Claims for discrimination as it related to hiring, firing and other issues were roughly the same over both time periods. One conclusion was that oncologists and oncology providers could do more to create personalized accommodations in the workplace for those with cancer.

Attitudes about harassment have changed little

Most California residents have likely heard about Bill O'Reilly being fired recently from his job with Fox News. One explanation given for O'Reilly's termination after years of sexual abuse allegations leveled against him was that the landscape in corporate America has changed in recent years. Low employee morale and the loss of advertisers were other reasons cited for his ousting from the network.

Examining how sexual harassment in the workplace was viewed in the past can shed light on whether people's views on this issue have changed. In 1980, a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review in conjunction with Redbook found that women were more likely than men to view sexual harassment as a real issue at work. According to the survey, just 29 percent of companies in 1980 had formal policies in place for dealing with sexual harassment while only 8 percent offered any sort of training materials to help handle the issue.

FMLA leave and "in loco parentis"

A California employer of a worker who has applied for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for someone who is not legally or biologically the employee's parent or child might still be required to grant that employee FMLA leave. "In loco parentis" refers to a relationship that is like that of parent and child, and if this relationship exists, the employee may be eligible for FMLA leave. Furthermore, the employee does not have to specifically invoke the phrase "in loco parentis" but simply needs to state the nature of the relationship. It may be up to the employer to ask for more information.

For example, one employee was denied leave to care for his grandfather who had raised him for about a decade of his life. The court ruled that even though the employee did not say that the two had an "in loco parentis" relationship, the employer had an obligation to to inform the employer of the right to FMLA leave based on such a relationship.

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