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California's Employees


Going to work each day in California should be a positive experience. One that allows you to use your skills, expand your knowledge and participate in achieving company objectives.

Feeling as though you cannot fully embrace your job because of discrimination can create ongoing and serious problems. Knowing how to react in this situation can help you protect your well-being and your career.

Moving quickly

Discrimination can take on many forms and target lots of personal characteristics. For example, your gender, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation, ethnic background and disability status could all trigger discriminatory behavior from others. Some examples of discrimination include the following:

  • Isolation from various team exercises
  • Inadequate training or access to resources
  • Threats of harm or physical violence
  • Derogatory remarks about you or your work
  • Withholding benefits, pay or advancement opportunities
  • Unexplained disciplinary actions or termination

If you suspect discriminatory behavior has created a hostile or unsafe work environment for you, immediately take action. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if the statute of limitations passes, you may not have as effective of an outcome when you file a charge of discrimination.

Awaiting action

Once you file a charge, you should receive an update about your claim in an appropriate period of time. If you file your charge directly through the EEOC portal, you can access information about your case and the status of your claim each time you log in.

If you do not receive timely correspondence and continue to experience discriminatory treatment at work, you may choose to involve an attorney. A legal professional can help you organize the facts of your case to establish your claim and get you the justice you deserve.

When you walk into a job interview, whether for a new position or for a potential promotion, you may find yourself asked an unexpected question. These out-of-the-box questions may allow employers to learn more about how you solve problems, your approach to working with others on the job and your long-term career aspirations. However, some of these unexpected questions may cross a line.

What questions might be a form of discrimination?

Do you plan on having children?

While this may seem like an interviewer is attempting to build a personal connection, it can also be a sign that they will factor your intent to have children into their hiring choice. Even if you don’t plan to build your family now, employers that base a hiring choice on the idea that an employee may become pregnant in the future are acting on a form of pregnancy discrimination.

What religious holidays do you observe? Do you go to church?

While most employers want to know about your availability and schedule, asking directly about your religious practices could lead to unfair treatment. Employers may base their hiring decision on your religious beliefs rather than your actual availability.

Are you a U.S. citizen?

While employers will need documentation that an applicant is authorized to work in the country or about the languages they speak, they cannot focus specifically on an applicant’s citizenship. This can be a subtle indicator that the interviewer will make decisions in part about an applicant’s national origin.

If an interviewer asked these or other unfair questions in your job interview, you may want to speak to an attorney about your legal options.

Mental illnesses are illnesses just like any other. If you were suffering from a broken leg, your employer wouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against you or harass you because of this. The law stands exactly the same for a mental illness, whether that’s depression, anxiety or another condition.

Those suffering from a mental health issue may be more vulnerable to discrimination and harassment because their illness is not visible. If you believe that you are being discriminated against or harassed because of a mental health condition, it is important that you understand the law and that you take legal action if appropriate. The following is an overview of your legal rights as an employee suffering from a mental health condition.

You cannot be fired because you have a mental health condition

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, it is likely that you are struggling in some aspects of your work, or that you need to attend doctor’s appointments and therapy. Regardless, it is illegal for your employer to fire you, reject you for a promotion or ask you to leave, unless they have objective evidence that you are unable to perform your job role.

You don’t have to declare your condition to anyone

You never have to tell your employer about your condition if you do not want to. Similarly, your employer cannot ask questions about your health, physical or otherwise, except for some situations. Your employer can ask medical questions in the event that you ask for a reasonable accommodation if they are asking everyone in the same job category the same questions when they start the company, when they are engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities or when there is objective evidence that you cannot perform your job.

If you believe that your employer may have broken the law regarding the way that they have treated you in relation to your mental health condition, assert your legal rights and protect yourself.

Employees at a company are almost like components in a machine. They all need to fit into their specific role properly and must perform certain tasks in order for the rest of the machine or employee group to function optimally. When one person does not come to work for multiple weeks, that can be a major hindrance to a company’s productivity or standard workflow.

Such problems are one reason that most companies have strict attendance policies. However, there are life circumstances that necessitate taking a leave of absence. Receiving medical care, helping a loved one heal or having a new child are scenarios where an otherwise diligent employee may need to make a reasonable request for an extended leave of absence.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), those who welcome new family members into their household, including expected mothers, have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Can your employer demote you or try to pay you less when you come back from your maternity or FMLA leave?

You should have the right to resume the same work as before

Under the FMLA, a qualified worker who takes necessary leave has the right to return to the same job with the same compensation. Employers should not discriminate against workers who require leave, including women who take a full 12 weeks off following the birth of their child.

Some companies try to push pregnant workers to quit by claiming they don’t offer maternity leave. While the federal government does not mandate that your employer provide you with paid leave of any sort, the company does not have to offer paid maternity leave for you to be able to take FMLA leave and return to the same job.

Demoting you or cutting your pay is an example of discrimination

Pregnancy is a protected medical condition that an employer should not use as a basis for any sort of employment decisions. A woman having a child in no way impacts her ability to continue performing her job or developing her career.

When companies penalize workers for taking a leave of absence, the workers facing negative repercussions may be able to take legal action against their company for their discriminatory practices.

Although federal law requires women to receive equal treatment to men in the workplace, many still notice a gender-related wage gap. The nonprofit Equal Pay Today reports that according to United States Census data, American women earn an average of 88 cents on the dollar to male earnings for the same job in 2020.

If you are a woman affected by unequal pay in the workplace, you have options.

Get the facts

Transparency about salaries can help eliminate wage discrimination. Federal law prohibits policies that forbid nonsupervisory employees from discussing their salaries. The company cannot legally discipline you for asking a male colleague what he earns.

Gather evidence

Before approaching your supervisor about the discrepancy, make sure you can show that you are truly on the same level as male coworkers who earn higher salaries. You should provide details about how long you have been with the company, how many years of industry experience you have and your responsibilities. Employers can legally pay increased wages to some employees based on their increased value to the business.

Consider your options

If you have a strong case for equal or greater value than your counterpart, you may be able to negotiate an equal salary with human resources and your manager. If negotiations are unsuccessful, however, you may consider filing a discrimination lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, the judge may award compensatory damages and punitive damages. If your employer let you go over the wage issue, the court can order your reinstatement and require the firm to pay back wages.

You may also file an Equal Pay Act complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can do so online, in person, by phone or by mail, but you only have 180 calendar days from the date on which you learned of the equal pay violation. The EEOC will investigate your claim and schedule a follow-up interview with you.

Like many other expecting mothers in the Bay Area, you take your career seriously. While you expect your employer to reasonably accommodate your pregnancy, you plan to work hard until and after your baby comes into the world. Unfortunately, though, your employer may use your pregnancy as a reason to discriminate against you.

If your employer terminates your employment immediately after you confirm your pregnancy, discrimination is likely to blame. Still, some signs of pregnancy discrimination are harder to identify. With many women, isolation and exclusion are the first red flags that something may be amiss. You must realize, though, that discrimination-related exclusion may take a variety of forms.

Social exclusion 

You probably work with management, colleagues, clients and others virtually every day. If doing your job effectively requires social interaction, exclusion may be disastrous. That is, if your manager excludes you from important meetings, sales events, conferences or networking functions, achieving professional success may become virtually impossible.

Information exclusion 

For good reason, organizations limit access to information. While you may have relevant information to do your job, you probably do not know everything about your company. During your pregnancy, though, your managers or colleagues may discriminate against you by excluding you from the information that you need to perform job tasks. If you suddenly lose access to meetings, internal data or training opportunities, your employer may be engaging in impermissible workplace discrimination.

Opportunity exclusion 

Because your career is important to you, you may be constantly on the search for additional responsibilities or other opportunities. If your employer refuses to offer you chances for professional growth during or after your pregnancy, you may be the victim of discrimination. This is particularly true if you had an opportunity for advancement before your pregnancy.

While pregnancy discrimination is sometimes clear-cut, it is often subtle. As such, you must watch closely for disparate treatment. If you notice the warning signs of exclusion, you likely must act quickly both to protect your career and to take advantage of available legal remedies.

Across the country, women face thousands of challenges in their working life every day. But few things are as professionally devastating as coming back from having a child to find your entire workplace different.

A few weeks back, a famous female politician related the story of how she had been fired from her job in 1971 after getting pregnant. It was met with dozens of stories from women recounting similar circumstances. Those stories highlight a sad fact: while outright pregnancy discrimination has been illegal since 1978, the practice is not eradicated. It’s just changed.

Disguised discrimination

Employers still discriminate. If they did not, then there would never be a need to vigorously protect the rights of any worker. What has happened is that the methods for discriminating against any one group, such as pregnant women and women who have recently given birth, have become much more subtle.

Quiet hostility

As a fact, maternity leave and pregnancy can leave a staff short-handed. But there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with that. If your managers constantly use your absence as a reason for the difficult situations your coworkers face, it can lead to a hostile environment on your return.

Changing circumstances

Even without an overt campaign against you, your workplace may change drastically in staffing or organization while you’re out. The job you return to may not be anything like the job you had before you gave birth.

Assumptions about your priorities

In ideal circumstances, your workplace will have banded together and stayed relatively stable while you were away and everyone is very understanding. But there is such a thing as being too understanding. If your duties change because your bosses and coworkers assume you have a new priority, that is a form of discrimination.

If you didn’t ask to change how you did your job, then you shouldn’t have your role reduced. If you didn’t ask for a new set of responsibilities, then you shouldn’t have new ones foisted on you. Just because you are a mom now doesn’t mean you are only a mom.

Keeping focus

After you have a child, and indeed throughout your pregnancy, you deserve to work in the way you are accustomed to. You do not deserve to have your job changed on you just because you had a child. If that happens to you, there are options available.

Many women in California and across the country face unnecessary stigmas when it comes to their work-related abilities. It is not unusual for women to be wrongfully considered less intelligent or less capable than their male co-workers. Unfortunately, even woman well-qualified and experienced can face workplace discrimination that can hold them back.

It was recently reported that a lawsuit has been filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a woman in another state. The woman works for an automotive group as a sales manager and has been hoping to move up to the general manager position. However, reports indicate that she has been denied the promotion nine times in favor of male employees, even though they were less-qualified than the woman in some cases.

It was also reported that she was passed over despite outgoing managers providing recommendations for her to receive the position as she was the most qualified person for the job. The woman and the EEOC are hoping that the lawsuit will result in the automotive group using programs and policies to promote equal opportunities for women and to stop gender discrimination. They are also seeking compensation for back pay and other damages.

Workplace discrimination that mistreats a worker based on gender can easily result in a person missing out on valuable employment opportunities. If workers in California believe that they were not hired, passed over for a promotion or otherwise treated unfairly based on their gender, they may want to look into their legal options. Some cases, such as this one, may warrant legal steps to address the misconduct.

California protects employees who serve as volunteer emergency responders and are called into action during natural disasters.

California law makes it unlawful for an employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against employees who take a temporary leave of absence to respond to an emergency in their roles as volunteer firefighters, emergency rescue personnel, or reserve peace officers.

Generally, the law does not require advance notice, except for certain health care workers. Employees who are health care providers must inform their employers both when they become designated as emergency rescue personnel and when they are notified of their duty in an emergency.

Being treated unfairly can often leave a person feeling stung. In serious cases, such as workplace discrimination, the reactions may be much more severe, and understandably so. When workers in California and elsewhere are mistreated on the job due to their race, religion, gender or other protected status, they may experience a myriad of emotions and wonder what their best courses of action may be.

It was recently reported that a discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a company in another state. Reports indicated that an African-American man filed a complaint due to being discriminated against on the job. He has worked with the company since 2012 and stated that he was called a racial slur on his first day. He also claims that he was not given a promotion due to complaining about discriminatory actions.

The man believes that he was mistreated, retaliated against and harassed due to his skin color. He hopes to receive compensation for various damages, including emotional pain, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience and others. A representative for the company denied any wrongdoing and did not provide any additional comment on the pending lawsuit.

Workplace discrimination can limit employees’ advancement opportunities and also damage their personal well-being. If California workers believe that they have been unfairly treated on the job to a serious degree, they may wish to look into their legal options. Speaking with experienced attorneys could allow them to obtain evaluations of their cases in hopes of determining their best courses of action.

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