Quick Takes: Employment Discrimination

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Quick Takes: Employment Discrimination

Quick Takes: Employment Discrimination

Many interesting stories about workplace discrimination have made the news recently and we decided to try a slightly different format this month. Instead of focusing on one topic, we will briefly discuss a few of them.

Discrimination in the Workplace—Amplified by the Recession?

Discrimination claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have risen to an all-time high—nearly 100,000 complaints were filed over the last year, according to Catherine Rampell in her article entitled, “More Workers Complain of Bias on the Job, a Trend Linked to Widespread Layoffs,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2011. This increase is possibly a result of the high number of private sector layoffs. Id.

The highly competitive job market may also be used as an excuse to discriminate. Terry K. Nance, a 76 year old from Charlottesville, VA, who has been unable to find retail work for the last year and a half, told the New York Times: “I think there’s age discrimination from these companies because they don’t want an old body and an old face fronting for them . . . . When I go back in and I show up [at] these same places I’ve applied to and never heard back from, I see younger faces in there all the time. It’s a revolving door of young people.” Id.

If you have not been hired for a position you applied for and you have reason to believe that it was because of your race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or disability, contact an attorney at Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. right away.

The Glass Ceiling—Still Intact in California

Discrimination persists at the highest levels of business leadership in California. A recent study of California’s 400 largest public companies conducted by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management found that women hold only 9.5% of the state’s highest-paid management and board positions. See “UC Davis Study Finds Women Scarce at the Top of Corporate California,” available at www.gsm.ucdavis.edu/census. Moreover, more than a third (141) of these 400 companies have no women whatsoever on their boards of directors or as top executives. Id. Only 4% of these top California companies have a woman CEO. Id.

If you have been passed over for a promotion because of your gender, contact an attorney at Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. right away.

Employers Must Prove that They Took Immediate and Appropriate Corrective Action to Correct Hostile Work Environment Harassment—Even in Circumstances when Customers/Clients are the Harassers

Joyce Turman worked for a halfway house as a resident monitor in Salinas, CA from 1999 to 2004. The halfway house served to transition federal and state prisoners into society prior to their full release. In her job, Ms. Turman alleged that the residents regularly propositioned her for sex, subjected her to crude sexual gestures, and called her “whore” and other even more explicit slurs. When Ms. Turman complained to her supervisor about this conduct, she was told that the residents “don’t really mean it,” and that that she should “try and be nicer to ‘em.” He also told Ms. Turman not to write the residents up for disciplinary violations as often as she did. Ms. Turman claimed that this abuse made her feel degraded and sick. In 2004, Ms. Turman was terminated based on a rule against women working alone at night in the facilities and a reduction in staffing numbers.

Ms. Turman filed a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit challenging her termination and the hostile work environment created by the residents. The halfway house argued that “harassment by prisoners is inherently part of the job,” as a method to excuse their failure to take corrective action. The Court of Appeal (Sixth District) ruled otherwise and clarified that the halfway house was still under an obligation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to take immediate and appropriate action to correct the situation, reasoning that “[w]hile it may be true that male residents who are living under restricted conditions are more likely to harass or mistreat their female supervisor, it does not absolve [the halfway house’s] legal responsibility . . . .” Turman v. Turning Point of Central California, 191 Cal.App.4th 53 (2010).

Workplace harassment frequently comes from clients, customers, and co-workers, as well as supervisors. Employees have a right to be free from workplace harassment based on sex or other protected characteristics, and employers have an affirmative obligation, once they are aware of the harassment, to take immediate and appropriate corrective action to remedy the situation.

If you have been passed harassed at work, contact an attorney at Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. right away.

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