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  • pregnant worker contemplating her leave

    Following Ramit Mizrahi’s August 7, 2019 appearance on AirTalk discussing workplace pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, she shares the following additional reflections and information for workers subjected to pregnancy discrimination and retaliation:

    Additional Reflections

    California law offers strong protections to employees who have been subjected to discrimination and harassment. Despite that, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation for standing up to discrimination remain rampant. Once employees have been wrongfully terminated, they often know to reach out to seek legal help immediately. But current employees are often more confused about what to do. They may rightfully feel afraid about reporting unlawful conduct to Human Resources, particularly when the conduct is coming from their immediate supervisor. What if it just makes the situation worse? Indeed, far too often, Human Resources is more concerned with protecting the company than with taking the immediate corrective action that the law requires of them. A retaliating supervisor can make a job feel like death by 1,000 paper cuts: scrutinizing, criticizing, and nit-picking every action by an employee, making them feel ostracized or humiliating them in front of their peers, and leaving them in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Indeed, if true, the experiences of the Google employee whose memo went viral demonstrate the myriad ways that a company can fail its employees and allow discrimination and retaliation to persist.

    An employee’s best hope is to be fully informed about their legal rights. They can then decide whether to report internally, to file a claim with one of the government agencies that investigates and enforces anti-discrimination laws, to seek private counsel to negotiate an exit or to file suit, or to make a conscious decision to wait (being mindful that if a person waits too long, they may forever lose their ability to assert the claim–a post on this topic will be forthcoming). To that end, I provide the following brief overview of employment protections for California workers subjected to pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. Note that many of these topics have been covered in greater depth elsewhere throughout the blog. (The archive categories are listed to the right of this post.)

    1.       Discrimination

    The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits discrimination against employees because they belong to a protected category (sex, pregnancy, race, religion, disability, etc.). This includes refusing to hire or promote employees, terminating them, or discriminating against them in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

  • pregnant worker contemplating her leave
    On August 7, 2019, Ramit Mizrahi appeared on AirTalk (guest hosted by Libby Denkmann) at KPCC to discuss pregnancy discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. The primary topic was the memo by a former Google manager that has since gone viral; the show also welcomed guest callers to speak about their own experiences.

    The episode can be found here: Another Google Employee Memo Has Gone Viral, This Time Alleging Discrimination Against Pregnant Women. Ramit can be heard starting at 9:33.

  • On March 26, 2019, Ramit Mizrahi appeared on AirTalk (hosted by Larry Mantle) at KPCC to discuss the importance of SB 188, the CROWN Act.

    The CROWN Act will prohibit workplace discrimination against employees who wear their hair in braids, locks, twists, and other protective hairstyles. It will prevent employers from enforcing seemingly “race neutral” grooming policies that prevent people of color from growing their naturally textured or curly hair or wearing it in certain hairstyles.

    The CROWN Act will do so by amending the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (specifically, Government Code § 12926) to add the following definitions:

    (w) “Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.

    (x) “Protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.

    The episode can be found here: Braids, locs and twists: new CA bill aims to protect certain hairstyles from workplace discrimination.

  • Acting on the momentum of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, California legislators have leapt into action, putting forward legislation to protect employees who have been subjected to or opposed sexual harassment. They sought to limit confidentiality and nondisparagement provisions, restrict mandatory arbitration, increase recordkeeping and training obligations, extend the statute of limitations, and create individual liability for retaliation. In June, I wrote about the importance and potential impact of these bills in Sexual Harassment Law After #MeToo: Looking to California as a Model, published in the Yale Law Journal Forum.

    On September 30, 2018, Governor Brown signed into law a number of the bills aimed at addressing sexual harassment and abuse. He vetoed several others, to the disappointment of employee rights advocates. Overall, however, the new laws are cause for celebration.

    Bills Signed into Law

    SB 820, The Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures (STAND) Act

    SB 820 prohibits confidentiality provisions in the settlement agreement of any civil or administrative action that states a cause of action for: sexual assault; workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex; failure to prevent workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex; sexual harassment in a business, service, or professional relationship; and sex discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by the owner of a housing accommodation. The law permits restrictions on disclosure of the settlement amount. An employee is entitled to request confidentiality. The STAND Act will make it more difficult for employers to support and protect serial harassers.

    AB 3109

    AB 3109 makes a provision in a contract or settlement agreement void and unenforceable if it waives a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment.

    SB 1300

    SB 1300 is a comprehensive bill that helps combat sexual harassment in a number of ways. Among other things, it:

    • Prohibits nondisparagement agreements that gag employees from disclosing information about sexual harassment and other unlawful acts (often presented to employees at the outset of their employment as a condition of employment);
    • Prohibits releases of claims presented in exchange for a raise, bonus, or as a condition of continued employment;
    • Holds employers liable for failing to prevent all forms of unlawful harassment by third parties, not just sexual harassment;
    • Confirms that prevailing defendants are entitled to fees and costs only when the action is frivolous, notwithstanding CCP section 998. This means that an employee need not fear that if she loses her case, that she may be forced to pay the company’s legal costs;
    • Declares legislative intent regarding sex harassment, including that a single incident can constitute sex harassment, even absent extreme circumstances, that an employee’s work performance need not have suffered, and that summary judgment should rarely be granted;
    • Makes sexual harassment training more robust.

    AB 1619

    AB 1619 increases the statute of limitations for civil action for sexual assault of an adult to


  • On December 22, Ramit Mizrahi appeared on AirTalk (hosted by Larry Mantle) at KPCC to discuss how companies are using Facebook to target ads to younger employees, and how this can run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

    The episode can be found here: Age discrimination lawsuit against big employers exposes snag in Facebook’s targeted ad system.

    More Of Ramit’s Thoughts On Why Targeted Job Ads Are So Troubling

    Gone are the days when people would get the local paper to scope out job ads. These days, most jobs are posted online. While there are dedicated job sites like Monster or CareerBuilder, employers are increasingly posting on Facebook.

    There are many benefits to using Facebook to post jobs ads. Many potential employees are not on LinkedIn and do not have résumés posted online. Facebook has nearly 2 billion users who can be reached, including people who may not be looking to change their job situation but may be enticed to make a change. In addition, employers have the ability to microtarget, limiting their ads to people with specific interests or experience, enabling them to seek out the employees they believe will be most suitable for jobs.

    Targeting Job Ads By Age Can Be Devastating to Older Workers

    The problem is that employers can target ads to viewers not only by interests but also by protected characteristics, including age and gender. Working in collaboration, Propublica and the New York Times revealed that dozens of large companies–including Verizon, Amazon, UPS, and even Facebook itself–were posting job ads on Facebook that were visible only to those in certain age ranges (to give some examples, 18-24, 25-36, 27-40, and 25 to 60).

    Such a practice makes job postings invisible to older workers. This means that they may never


  • This series, beginning here, explores the top ten ways that employers deny employees their medical leave rights.

    #4 – Failing To Provide Employees Information About Their Leave Rights

    Employers have an obligation to inform employees about their leave rights. For example, an employer must “give its employees reasonable advance notice of employees’ [Fair Employment and Housing Act] rights and obligations regarding pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” including by posting a notice of leave rights in a conspicuous location, including it in a handbook or distributing it to employees separately, and giving a copy to the employee “as soon as practicable after the employee tells the employer of her pregnancy or sooner if the employee inquires about reasonable accommodation, transfer, or pregnancy disability leaves.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11049, subd. (a), (d).)

    Similarly, “[e]very employer covered by the [California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”)] is required to post and keep posted on its premises, in conspicuous places where employees are employed, a notice explaining the Act’s provisions and providing information concerning the procedures for filing complaints of violations of the Act with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11095.)

    If the employer fails to provide an employee reasonable advance notice of their leave rights under the…


  • An estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender. Many face pervasive harassment, discrimination, violence, and abuse in every aspect of their lives, including at work, in housing, education, healthcare, and personal relationships. Consider the discrimination suffered by transgender individuals at work. According to a comprehensive 2011 report titled “Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey“:

    • 90% of transgender individuals surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
    • 47% said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender non-conforming.
    • Over one-quarter (26%) reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% were harassed.
    • Large majorities attempted to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender or gender transition (71%) or delaying their gender transition (57%).
    • Overall, 16% said they had been compelled to work in the underground economy for income (such as doing sex work or selling drugs).
    • Respondents who had lost a job due to bias also experienced ruinous consequences such as four times the rate of homelessness, 70% more current drinking or misuse of drugs to cope with mistreatment, 85% more incarceration, more than double the rate working in the underground economy, and more than double the HIV infection rate, compared to those who did not lose a job due to bias.
    • A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).

    California has protected transgender employees from workplace and housing discrimination since before 2003. It has done so through the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on certain protected categories. However, many Californians remain unaware that transgender employees are protected from workplace discrimination. To help educate workers and employers, the California Legislature made these protections explicit in 2003 and 2011. And, this week, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing issued guidance . . .

  • Gov. Brown at signing

    On Tuesday, October 6, Governor Brown signed SB 358 (Jackson), the California Fair Pay Act. The Act, aimed at addressing the gender pay gap, will be the nation’s toughest. It seeks to ensure that women are paid equally for performing substantially similar work, and protects employees from retaliation for disclosing/discussing wages or seeking to enforce their rights. Credit goes to Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) for authoring the bill, which had wide bipartisan support, and to co-sponsors
    Equal Rights Advocates, California Employment Lawyers Association, and Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

    The Fair Pay Act Strengthens Existing Law

    California’s Equal Pay Act, Labor Code section 1197.5, was first enacted in 1949 and revised in 1985. It is similar to the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Fair Pay Act bolsters the California Equal Pay Act in the following ways:

    1.   It provides for equal pay for “substantially similar work,” not just equal work in the same establishment.

    This means that a woman need not hold the exact job as her male comparators to seek equal pay. Instead, the works needs to be “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

    2. It eliminates loopholes and limits employers defenses when a wage differential is challenged.

    Previously, the following four defenses were permitted:

  • Two workers over 40

    If you believe that you were not hired/promoted or were terminated/laid off because of your age, can you still have a case if the person given preference is also over 40?

    The short answer is “yes.”

    It does not matter that the person favored is also over 40 if he is “substantially younger.”

    The Supreme Court in O’Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U.S. 308 (1996), confirmed that age discrimination can occur even if the person favored is also over 40. In O’Connor, a 56-year-old who was fired and replaced by a 40-year-old sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). The district court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie case of age discrimination under because he failed to show that he was replaced by someone under the age of 40. The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Scalia, held that an employee asserting age discrimination need not demonstrate that his replacement was under 40; rather, he must demonstrate that his replacement was “substantially younger.” O’Connor, 517 U.S. at 312. The Court explained:

  • Business Man Assemble Puzzle Of Gay Flag

    When the Supreme Court recognized last month in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) that the fundamental right to marry applies to same-sex couples, Americans rejoiced. The Court’s opinion reflected the tipping point we have reached as a nation with broad public acceptance of LGBT rights.

    But civil rights activists and allies were quick to point out that there is more work to be done. Pundits observed that in some states, a gay couple could be married in the morning and fired from their jobs for being gay hours later. Indeed, LGBT people in many states still lack protections from discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and education. Sexual orientation discrimination in employment is not explicitly prohibited under federal law. In California, we are lucky to have the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code section 12940 et seq., which has, since 2000, prohibited discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. LGBT people in other states have not been so fortunate.

    LGBT workers are protected from sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII

    Thanks to a landmark decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), however, millions more LGBT workers now have some protections. In a July 15, 2015 decision, the EEOC held that sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on protected categories, including with respect to hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits.

    Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin; it does not explicitly cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a 3-2 decision, the EEOC reasoned that sexual orientation discrimination is nevertheless prohibited by Title VII because it is a subset of sex discrimination. The EEOC determined that an air traffic controller who alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his sexual orientation could pursue his claim of sex discrimination. While the 17-page decision is worth reading in full, the excerpts below capture the EEOC’s reasoning.

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