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Palo Alto Employment Law Blog

Recognizing sexual orientation in unlawful discrimination cases

Despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of employment law complaints are filed in California and throughout the country every year, only a percentage of cases actually go to court. In order for workplace discrimination claims to be heard in court they must meet guidelines identifying an incident of illegal bias, and proving that someone’s experience falls under such guidelines can be difficult. One recent case illustrates how sexual orientation discrimination can fall under gender discrimination policies in some instances.

To date, state and federal antidiscrimination laws do not officially recognize discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, rights groups and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have attempted to have sexual orientation recognized as a protected class under gender discrimination laws. And while many plaintiffs have been unsuccessful in bringing their sexual orientation discrimination complaints to court, some have succeeded.

CEO compensation reflects changes to business structures

Countless workers throughout the state of California and beyond can relate to the fact that the national recession has had an impact on major aspects of American business and life. Not only has the economic crisis affected everything from the employment market to the housing market but it has changed the way companies function and grow. New figures on executive compensation rates point to significant shifts in the way corporate profits are achieved and how CEOs are rewarded.
For the majority of almost 105 million full-time employees between 2012 and 2013, it is estimated that their pay increased by a little more than one percent. That figure stands in stark comparison to recent numbers suggesting that the pay of hundreds of company executives increased by approximately 13 percent during the same time period. When considering factors like executive incentives and perks, a significant number of CEOs make around $10.5 million a year.

Talent agency loses contract dispute with TV celebrity

Indeed, it may be true that it is not entirely uncommon to hear of Hollywood celebrities engaged in contract disputes with their talent agencies and/or production companies, but that does not mean that such employment law issues should not be taken seriously. After all, employment agreements of all kinds must be fair and appropriate, especially since many involve benefits and considerable amounts of money. If the judge had ruled differently in his contract dispute with his talent agency, one well-known TV personality may have lost a considerable amount of his salary.

According to Geraldo Rivera, the lawsuit that was filed against him by his talent agency was intended to pressure him into complying with the agency’s demands instead of defending himself in court. Such tactics are used by such agencies to bully entertainers in many instances, claims Rivera, and it’s the duty of actors and musicians to uphold their rights against contract-related accusations.

Ensuring the employee rights of temp workers

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that many people are willing to endure unfair employment practices and unsafe working conditions to maintain a steady job. As a result, incidents of employment discrimination and wage violations can go unreported by victims. In an effort to uphold the rights of employees in California, the state is considering legislation that would hold companies responsible for the employment practices of temporary staffing agencies.

The findings of one recent investigation suggest that employment law issues like hour and pay violations are increasingly common in the temp agency industry. The investigation also found that temp workers are often exploited, being exposed to unsafe working environments and serious injuries. One example of temp workers being subject to illegal employment practices involves one Massachusetts temp agency that allegedly denied overtime to workers because the agency claimed it was not properly compensated by the contracting company.

44 workers will receive back pay in wage dispute settlement

Many people in Palo Alto struggle to make ends meet. They work for a minimum wage, they put up with some pretty rough work conditions and sometimes they must endure being treated unfairly. One form of unfair treatment concerns wage issues. Employees may be forced to work long hours without receiving time and a half, work without breaks or work for a wage that is below what the law allows. However, employees in this situation should understand that they have legal rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This was recently made evident in a wage dispute filed against a company by the U.S. Department of Labor. Apparently, employees at a number of beauty salons in Hawaii hotels were not allowed to take lunch breaks and received no payment for the time they worked. It is unclear how the problem came to the attention of officials but the salons’ corporate owner will pay those employees back wages plus the overtime that was denied them.

Success and high performance nets Ford executives a raise

Executives and other company leaders have a big responsibility on their shoulders to lead that company forward and build revenue. As a result of the long hours, worry and travel that they put in, boards of directors or company owners offer them bonus payouts, hefty salaries and even options in stock as part of their employment contracts. If the company experiences significant growth, executives may also experience a growth in the compensation that they receive.

This appears to be the case for executives at Ford during 2013. The company’s head of operations for South America and North America, the chief operating officer, and the chief executive officer all received an increase in their executive compensation. The head of operations received $4.1 million, the chief operating officer received $10.2 million and the CEO received $23.3 million - $13.6 million of which was in the form of company stock.

Unlawful discrimination suit denied despite opinion of EEOC

For those California workers not necessarily familiar with the efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency is often viewed as an important figure that helps to enforce employment laws and uphold the rights of employees across the country. And while the EEOC does conduct thousands of investigations every year and is successful in identifying incidents of workplace discrimination, the findings of the EEOC do not necessarily guarantee that a lawsuit filed against an employer will be successful in court.

After determining that the claims made by a former employee of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. had merit, the EEOC filed a court briefing on behalf of the woman. The EEOC argued that the woman identified as the plaintiff in her unlawful discrimination suit had in fact experienced pregnancy and gender discrimination. Even so, the Iowa appeals court presiding over the case discharged the claims.

McDonald’s employees accuse chain of breaking wage laws

Thousands of people throughout the state of California are employed in the fast food industry. And many of those that work at fast food restaurants have contributed to conversations recently over issues like minimum wage rates and working conditions for employees. A recent case involving a major fast food chain that is accused of allegedly infringing upon the rights of employees highlights some of the many problems cited by workers across the country.

One of the seven lawsuits filed against McDonald’s takes place in California and may become a class-action suit, involving 27,000 past and present employees. Around 100 McDonald’s restaurants are identified as defendants in the case, and the dispute focuses on the issue of the defendant allegedly failing to pay workers for all of the hours they were required to be on the job. According to the flow of customers at some restaurants, the plaintiffs claim that they were instructed to either clock in or out for work and that they were not allowed to leave between those periods.

Who watches the employment law watchdog?

The only way to effectively ensure that California workers are treated fairly under the law is to implement and enforce state and federal guidelines prohibiting unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Fortunately, more than one agency has been established to combat issues like workplace discrimination and unfair business practices across several industries. Problems can arise, however, when the integrity and effectiveness of a discrimination watchdog is undermined by potential unlawful discrimination within the agency.

Any employment or business practice that intentionally or otherwise favors one group of people over a legally recognized minority group can be identified as having a disparate impact on the minority. The practice may then be considered discriminatory, and the organization can be held legally accountable. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is one federal agency charged with monitoring the dealings of establishments in different industries for fair business practices, and recently investigated the indirect lending policies of car dealerships across the country. The CFPB allegedly found that some customers of minority groups are discriminated against with disproportionately high interest rates.

Class action wrongful termination case moves forward

Just as anyone employed in the state of California is protected against unlawful discrimination on the grounds of their race, religion, gender or disability, the contents of their criminal background check cannot be used as the primary basis for an employment decision. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibits employers from basing decisions regarding the hiring and firing of workers entirely on an individual’s criminal record. One woman has filed a class action wrongful termination lawsuit against her previous employer, claiming that the defendant has a history of discriminating against workers on the basis of their criminal history.

The woman identified as the plaintiff in the wrongful termination case claims that she was fired two weeks after being hired for a permanent position with Canon Solutions America because the defendant learned that she had been convicted of a felony more than 10 years earlier. The job application for the permanent position apparently inquired about any criminal conviction within a seven-year period, so the plaintiff answered “no.”

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