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Palo Alto Employment Law Blog

Understanding what wrongful termination looks like

Given that perfectly capable workers across the state of California lose their jobs every day to mass layoffs and other factors that are largely beyond their control, it’s important that you understand your rights under state and federal employment law guidelines. We here at Kastner Kim LLP believe that accurately identifying incidents of wrongful termination is crucial to combating unlawful discrimination across the state.

One of the difficulties that often arise in wrongful termination cases is that employees are not always familiar with how anti-discrimination employment guidelines apply to them, since the state of California recognizes at-will employment policies. Federal discrimination guidelines, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, mandate legal protections extended to workers across the country. Beyond that, both state and federal regulations identify protected classes by which employers are prohibited from showing unlawful biases.

Northern California union urges bus drivers to join

Workers across the state of California and the entire country are confronted by serious employment issues every day. And while many employment-related disputes are settled individually between workers and their employers, problems that are identified as being pervasive by employees in any given industry often compel workers to join in collective unionization.

One man employed as a Facebook shuttle driver in Silicon Valley raised concerns over the wages and employment practices offered by his employer. One of the complaints that the worker shared revolved around the fact that shuttle drivers are apparently often expected to perform split shifts, where they are forced to wait hours at a time without being compensated.

San Francisco employee strike symptom of larger dispute

As many California workers know, contract negotiations can be long and contentious when employers and employees cannot agree upon an arrangement. Union representation can help to facilitate dispute resolution in some cases, but there are instances where workers are compelled to defend their interests by engaging in employment strikes and other events.

The Marine Engineers Beneficial Association is currently one of 13 unions involved in a contract dispute with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway Transportation District. The union claims that employer-proposed increases to worker health care premiums would undermine any pay increases they would receive through new employment agreements, and that the cost of living in the region is higher than employees’ current wages. Therefore, the union coalition is attempting to increase the pay, as well as the health care and employment benefits, of around 400 members whose contracts ended at the beginning in July.

How does the CA Workplace Religious Freedom Act apply to me?

In a recent post we discussed the prevalence of workplace discrimination against members of the Muslim community across the state of California. Any and all incidents of unlawful discrimination can compromise the rights of all people employed in the state. That is why it is more important than ever that you, as a worker, understand your employment rights and how they apply to religious discrimination in the workplace.

According to the California Legislative Counsel, the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act protects against incidents of wrongful termination and discrimination on the basis of your actual or perceived religion. The piece of legislation was written into law in 2012, and expands upon legal protections outlined in the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. While the FEHA already protected California workers against religious discrimination, the WRFA altered the definitions of several key terms, including religion, religious belief, and religious observance. The language of the law was changed to be more expansive, protecting religious rights relating to grooming practices, clothing, and other insignia. Protected items include but are not limited to religious:

EEOC finds terms of employment contracts to be illegal

Employers throughout the state of California and across the country have the right to design their employment contracts around any number of considerations that apply to their specific company and/or industry. The terms of any employment contract must, however, comply with state and federal employment law guidelines. In the event that the legality of a contract is questioned, state and federal regulators may investigate the situation.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a franchise company that operates over 140 businesses across the South and East Coast of the country forced perspective workers to comply with the terms of a mandatory arbitration agreement. The arbitration agreement reportedly prohibited workers from pursuing employment discrimination and harassment claims in court by mandating that all complaints be resolved through confidential, binding arbitration. The agreement applied to workers in management and hourly positions.

Religious discrimination major concern in California

While workers across the country are legally protected against unlawful discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, California guidelines are believed by many to be some of the most comprehensive. That is not to say, however, that incidents of workplace discrimination linked to religious affiliation and expression don’t occur in the state.

Federal employment law guidelines stipulate that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs and practices, unless such accommodations would cause moderate hardship to them. The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act mandates that reasonable accommodations must be provided unless they would result in undue hardship to employers, increasing the burden of proving what constitutes excessive hardship to employers. Beyond that, the state guidelines expand upon the definitions of religious belief and observance to include personal grooming and attire. Some experts note, however, that a lack of cultural awareness and employee rights continue to contribute to incidents of discrimination and retaliation against workers.

How are sexual harassment and wrongful termination connected?

Despite the fact that California is considered an at-will employment state, employers are prohibited from basing hiring decisions on unlawful biases. Therefore, you may be the victim of wrongful termination if you are fired after raising concerns over unlawful conduct like sexual harassment in the workplace. Here are a few key points to help you understand sexual harassment and employment retaliation, and how they are addressed under California state law.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing offers a broad definition of sexual harassment in the workplace, describing it as unwanted physical, verbal or visual sexually suggestive conduct. Sexual harassment can be based on gender, pregnancy, sex, or childbirth, and can occur between people of the same genders. Unlawful acts of workplace discrimination can include but are not limited to:

Employee wages reflect sex discrimination

Wage disputes often arise over pay disparities between different groups of employees. That is why employment law attorneys and workers’ rights advocates alike are continually concerned over the socioeconomic factors that contribute to many wage and labor issues. In considering the impact that child-rearing has on the American family and workforce, apparent pay differences between working mothers and fathers points to serious cultural biases.

According to the Pew Research Center, women serve as the primary source of income in approximately 40 percent of American households with children. And the national Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 70 percent of mothers with children work for a living. Despite the fact that mothers are contributing to the workforce in a profound way, there is evidence to suggest that they are penalized financially for doing so.

Employment discrimination and the California DFEH

Workers across the state of California are protected under a number and state and federal guidelines prohibiting employment discrimination. Promoting a general awareness of intolerance, as well as state laws and how they apply directly to employees, is incredibly important to combat issues like unlawful discrimination and wrongful termination in the workplace.

According to statistics provided by the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a little over 33 percent of workplace discrimination charges filed in the state of California last year were race related. Claims of disability discrimination also accounted for around 30 percent of all charges in the state, and accusations over religious discrimination against workers were on the rise from 2009. State figures did vary slightly from national statistics, and shed light on difficulties that thousands of California workers face every year.

Contract dispute results in bankruptcy

Businesses across the state of California and the entire country rely on skilled workers to maintain company profitability and expansion. However, company profit margins are undeniably impacted by employee wages and compensation packages. Therefore, employment contract disputes can arise when there is a conflict between the benefits workers feel they are entitled to and the profits employers strive to achieve.

According to the bankruptcy filings of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., it costs the company around $20 million a year to cover the pensions, health coverage and other benefit programs provided to union workers. As a result, the company proposed plans to limit some benefits to union employees. In addition to replacing pensions with 401(k) benefit plans, the company suggested doing away with healthcare coverage in favor to provide credits toward government subsidized plans. If the proposed changes were to go through, they would affect hundreds of resort employees.

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