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Orange County Employment Law Blog

SCOTUS weighs in on religious discrimination

Both federal and California state law prohibits employment discrimination based on religious beliefs. While employers may find it relatively straightforward to comply with these laws in most situations, the neutral look policies adopted by many companies led to a certain degree of ambiguity. These policies are designed to ensure that companies present a consistent face to the public, and they usually place restrictions on matters such as the way that employees dress or wear their hair.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took exception to one such policy after a Muslim woman was denied employment at the popular clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The woman in question applied for a job wearing a hijab, but she was not hired because her headwear would conflict with the company's policy regarding employee appearance. A grievance was subsequently filed by the EEOC on the woman's behalf based on religious discrimination. The EEOC won its case in district court, but the decision was reversed by an appeals court because the woman was not able to prove that the company knew she was wearing the hijab for religious reasons.

Military discrimination policies now include sexual orientation

California residents might like to know about the latest changes taking place in the military. The Military Equal Opportunity program that investigates complaints of discrimination based on things like sex, religion and race can now look into claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement on June 9 that lesbian and gay troops can seek protection under the equal opportunity policies in place within the military.

While gay and lesbian troops who disclosed their sexual orientation could be kicked out of the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy before 2011, these troops now receive the same protection as other members of the military. In the past, discrimination complaints from gays and lesbians were handled by inspector general offices. Carter said diversity is needed because it is bad policy to exclude those who are qualified for service.

California protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment

People who are working as unpaid interns might be doing so for a variety of reasons, including seeking work experience, trying to learn a new skill or hoping to get a foot in the door of their chosen vocation. These interns, however, are often the targets of workplace harassment. California is one of the few states in the U.S. that protects workers from this treatment.

There are many states across the country in which unpaid interns have no legal protections to combat a hostile working environment. Since they are not paid, these interns are not covered by the applicable provisions of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. If they were, they would have recourse through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Former employee sues Intermex for privacy invasion

A former employee is suing Intermex for wrongful termination and invasion of privacy, claiming the electronic money transfer company fired her for deleting a phone app that tracked her location at all times. The $500,000 suit was filed in California.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff began working at Intermex as a sales account manager in February 2014. Shortly afterward, all company employees were asked to download an app known as Xora StreetSmart onto their work phones. Xora allows users to log their work hours and assignments and lets employers track the whereabouts of their employees through GPS. The suit alleges that an Intermex regional vice president stated the app could also track employees when they weren't working and bragged that he had monitored the plaintiff's driving speeds periodically since she installed the app.

Sexual harassment mistakes for California employers to avoid

Sexual harassment is a common problem in the workplace, and it can be made worse by poor corporate practices related to the issues. For instance, some companies require an accuser to report harassment to a direct superior. However, this can be problematic if the harasser is the supervisor or a manager at a higher level. To avoid this problem, an accuser should be able to report the incident to anyone he or she feels comfortable with.

Anytime harassment is reported, it should be thoroughly investigated. Employers who don't take allegations seriously may be implying that harassment is an acceptable part of the company's culture. Another common cause of sexual harassment stems from romantic relationships between managers and employees. To avoid harassment in the event that a relationship ends, management should be made aware of a relationship as soon as possible. Doing so allows the employer to ensure that no one is getting preferential treatment.

Raley's sued for pregnancy discrimination in California

Cailfornia-based supermarket chain Raley's is being sued by two women who claim they were discriminated against by the company for being pregnant. The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on April 9.

According to the civil complaint, one woman informed her managers that she was pregnant when she was five months along. She presented them with a note from her doctor that stated she should not be required to lift more than 10 pounds. The woman, who worked in the store's bakery decorating and boxing cakes, claims an accommodation of her condition could have easily been made, as the only things she was unable to do was to lift frozen dough boxes and boxes of chicken. Instead of accommodating her, she alleges the manager instead forced her to take unpaid leave due to her pregnancy.

Employee claims retaliation after termination

A California woman has taken her employment case to court, claiming the real reason behind her termination was retaliation. The woman had reportedly received excellent performance ratings for 4 years. However, she claims that the situation at her job changed when she reported fellow employees for a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The woman became the subject of an investigation after she reported her fellow employees for allegedly releasing confidential medical files. After two meetings with compliance officers, she was called into a third meeting and told that her employment would be terminated. The woman claims that she was given the choice of writing a resignation letter on the spot or being fired and losing her right to unemployment benefits. Under alleged coercion and manipulation, she wrote the resignation letter.

Suit accuses Facebook of harassment, discrimination

While one ongoing discrimination suit in California names large social media company Facebook as the defendant, many suits may arise when there is a lack of diversity in the workplace. Companies in the technology sector largely lack a diverse culture of employees as statistics reported by companies like Facebook and Google report that an average of 70 percent of employees are male and white.

The suit against Facebook was filed on March 16 in San Mateo County Superior Court by a woman who worked at the company from June 2010 to October 2013, and she filed 11 claims alleging national origin discrimination and sexual harassment. Her suit names 51 employees that reportedly contributed to an environment of harassment, and the woman says that her opinions were ignored while coworkers made sexist comments. The suit contends that she was asked to serve drinks to male employees at a company event and was told to stay at home and take care of her children.

Supreme Court reviews discriminatory employment practice

Job applicants in California who are preparing for interviews may be surprised to find out that practices discriminating against religious attire are still being followed. A Supreme Court case being reviewed by the justices involves a job applicant who was refused a floor position with the company Abercrombie & Fitch because of issues that her religious headscarf presented to the store's dress code.

The federal statute at the center of the case, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, makes it illegal for an employer to engage in discriminatory practices when hiring or terminating an employee. In former court cases involving similar circumstances, the court sided with the employer, since the individual's appearance did not fit with the expectations of the place of employment. Counsel for Abercrombie & Fitch claim that the job would have been refused to any applicant who did not comply with their dress code, which indicates that the wearing of any headgear is not allowed.

Wrongful termination in California

Sometimes when a California worker is fired, the termination may have been in violation of federal or state law. In the event that the termination was made for an unlawful purpose, the employee may have grounds to file a wrongful termination claim against the employer.

There are several types of terminations that are prohibited. If the firing was done for a discriminatory purpose or as an act of sexual harassment, grounds may exist for a claim. Other actionable reasons include terminations that are contrary to the provisions of an oral or written employment agreement, retaliatory termination following the filing of a complaint by the employee and firings done in violation of labor and collective bargaining laws.

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