Retaliation Claims Get Stronger

Governor Brown just signed SB-306, which significantly strengthens retaliation claims. Employers cannot discharge, discriminate, retaliate, or take adverse action against employees because they engaged in specified protected conduct. Aggrieved employees can seek reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits. Employees can file claims with the Labor Commissioner or pursue a case in court.

Retaliation Claims by Labor Commissioner

Under amdned Labor Code 98.7, the Labor Commissioner can pursue retaliation claims even if no one complains.

The division may, with or without receiving a complaint, commence investigating an employer, in accordance with this section, that it suspects to have discharged or otherwise discriminated against an individual in violation of any law under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner.

The Labor Commissioner can petition the court for injunctive relief, including reinstatement. The court must order injunctive relief if “reasonable cause exists to believe that an employee has been discharged or subjected to adverse action for raising a claim of retaliation or asserting rights under any law under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner.” The court must consider the “chilling effect” on other employees when determining the appropriate injunctive relief.

An employer that refuses to comply with the injunctive relief can be fined “one hundred dollars ($100) per day for each day the employer continues to be in noncompliance with the court order, up to a maximum of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)

Retaliation Claim Process

New Labor Code section 98.74 describes specific timelines and processes for retaliations claims by the Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner issues a citation in writing, describing the nature of the violation and the amount of wages and penalties due. The citation must also include any and all appropriate relief, such as cease and desist orders, rehiring or reinstatement, reimbursement of lost wages and interest thereon, and posting notices to employees.

Employers have 30 days to request  hearing, or the citation becomes final. The hearing must proceed within 90 days. There is no mechanism for conducting discovery before the hearing, and no limit on how short or how long a hearing can last. The decision must be issued within 90 days of the conclusion of the hearing. The decision must contain a statement of findings, conclusions of law, and an order.

Employers dissatisfied with the results can file a writ of mandate with the superior court within 45 days. Employers must also obtain a bond “equal to the total amount of any minimum wages, liquidated damages, and overtime compensation” owed.  The bond does not have to include penalties. The order becomes final when no writ is filed.

Employers refusing to comply with a final order are subject to penalties of $100 per day per employee, up to $20,000. The affected employees receive the penalties.

Retaliation Claims by Employees

SB-306 allows employees bringing retaliation claims to include requests for injunctive relief. Courts are directed to issue injunctive relief (i.e., reinstatement) when “reasonable cause exists to believe a violation has occurred.”

The court is must consider the “chilling effect” on other employees.

The new law will go into effect January 1, 2018. You can read the full text of the bill here.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties

$90,000 Lesson Regarding Rejecting Offers

Aleksei Sviridov learned a harsh lesson after rejecting offers from the defendant in his lawsuit. Aleksei sued his former employer, the City of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department, for discrimination and other claims. Defendants made several CCP Section 998 offers, which Aleksei rejected. When Aleksei lost his claims on summary judgment, the defendants asked the court to award their costs. The trial and appellate courts award defendants over $90,000.00 in costs.

Normally, in a discrimination case, the employee is only responsible for the employer’s costs and fees if the claims are frivolous. The same rule applies to claims under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act. There was no finding that Aleksei’s claims were frivolous. So how come the court awarded defendants $90,000? Here’s the lesson regarding rejecting offers.

Lesson Regarding Rejecting Offers

CCP Section 998 is a cost-shifting statute. Used wisely, it can require the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs if the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment. Section 998 encourages settlement by forcing parties to seriously consider reasonable offers.

A plaintiff who refuses a reasonable pretrial settlement offer and subsequently fails to obtain a “more favorable judgment” is penalized by a loss of prevailing party costs and an award of costs in the defendant’s favor.’ ” (Guerrero v. Rodan Termite Control, Inc. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1435, 1440.)

Rejecting offers after a 998 offer can be quite costly. Just ask Aleksei.

When California’s discrimination laws adopted the “frivolous” standard for awarding the employer’s costs, many assumed employees would not have to worry about excessive fees or costs. Under Sviridov v. City of San Diego, section 998 offers trump the FEHA statute. This is definitely a situation where bad cases make bad law. Apparently Aleksei did not respond substantively to the City’s argument that FEHA does not trump section 998.

Rather, he asserted, with no analysis or citation to legal authority, “just as [Williams, supra, 61 Cal.4th 97], precludes a prevailing defendant from recovering costs under section 1032, subd[ivision] (b),” then “so does Williams preclude a … successful defendant from recovering as a prevailing party under … section 998.” We deem the failure to support this statement with reasoned argument a forfeiture.

In other words, Aleksei provided no authority or substantive analysis upon which the court could rule in Aleksei’s favor. This not only hurt Aleksei’s case, it also made it more difficult for future employees.

I expect we’ll see more 998 offers in discrimination cases, and plaintiffs will once again need to carefully consider whether they can do better than the offer before rejecting offers out of hand.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Using this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. Using the Internet or this blog to communicate with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Expensive Disability Accommodation Lesson

Caltrans in Nevada County learned the hard way that you cannot ignore an employee disability accommodation requests. More importantly, you can’t retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation. An article in the Sacramento Bee provides many of the details. I’ve written several articles regarding the importance of proper accommodation policies and procedures in the workplace.

Employee Awarded $3million in Disability Accommodation Lawsuit

John Barrie claimed his supervisors harassed him and ignored his requests for accommodations related to his allergies. Mr. Barrie has severe reactions to certain smells, such as chemical cleaners and perfumes. Although Nevada County Caltrans accommodated Mr. Barrie for years, Barrie alleged supervisors started harassing him and denying the disability accommodations in 2010. Barrie allegedly sought help internally through various channels, but the harassment continued. The jury believed Mr. Barrie, and awarded him $3million for the retaliation and harassment related to his allergies.

Allergies Can Constitute a Disability

State and federal laws broadly define “disability.” In short, a disability is any medical condition–psychological or physiological–that impairs one or more major life functions. Severe allergies can impair major life functions such as breathing. Some people experience severe skin rashes, headaches, nausea and vertigo from allergic reactions.

Disability discrimination laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Failing to provide reasonable accommodations, and in some instances failing to engage in the interactive process of determining what disability accommodations are appropriate, is a violation of the law.

From the pleadings, it appears Caltrans HR department tried to accommodate Mr. Barrie. A regional administrator affirmed his allergies in 2011, and wrote an order compelling workplace accommodations. Barrie alleged his supervisors ignored the order, and retaliated against Barrie by giving him job duties outside his normal scope and moving him to less convenient job sites.

Every Disability Accommodation Request is Serious

Supervisors oftentimes fail to recognize they must treat every disability accommodation request seriously. While HR may know the requirements, ensuring supervisors comply with the law can be difficult. In Barrie’s case, an HR note revealed that Barrie’s supervisors wanted to discipline Barrie for going to HR because he went outside the “chain of command.” I suspect this factored heavily in the juries $3million award. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for requesting accommodations or raising complaints in the workplace.

If you require a workplace accommodation, or if your employee requests an accommodation, talk with an attorney familiar with disability accommodation and discrimination issues.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Using this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. Using the Internet or this blog to communicate with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

EEOC Sues Over Employee Post on Glassdoor.com

EEOC Sues IXL Learning Inc. for Retaliating Against Employee Who Posted Negative Comments on Glassdoor.com

The EEOC announced that it filed a lawsuit against IXL Learning Inc. for allegedly violating federal law. According to the EEOC, IXL retaliated against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com.  The employer allegedly fired an employee within minutes of confronting the employee about a negative review he posted on Glassdoor.com.

According to the EEOC’s press release, “the 32-year-old transgender man, fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, had written, “If you’re not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball – then you’re likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word ‘discrimination’ means, nor do they seem to think it matters.”’  The employee also felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). “Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.”

Retaliation for Posting on Glassdoor.com

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibit firing an employee for opposing discrimination. This includes posting criticisms online. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent discrimination in the future. There is no mention whether the company will seek damages against the employee for potentially defamatory statements.

William Tamay, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director, reports “Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide … Under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees’ rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, “While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker’s right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com.”

 

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice about wage and hour or other employment law issues, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

New Anti-Harassment Regulations

New Anti-Harassment Regulations In Effect

Effective April 2016, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission adopted new regulations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers have an affirmative duty to create a workplace environment that is free from sexual harassment and other employment practices prohibited by the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The new anti-harassment regulations provide clarity, but also create some ambiguity. Employers who have not modified their handbooks to comply with the new regulations could find themselves in trouble.

What Must Be Included in Policies Under the New Anti-Harassment Regulations?

In addition to distributing the Department’s DFEH-185 brochure on sexual harassment, all employers must develop a written harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy that lists all current protected categories covered under the Act. The list is ever-growing, so it is important to list all protected categories.

The anti-harassment policy must indicate that the law prohibits coworkers and third parties, as well as supervisors and managers, with whom the employee comes into contact from engaging in conduct prohibited by the Act. The new anti-harassment regulations also require employers to create a complaint process to ensure that complaints receive:

(A) An employer’s designation of confidentiality, to the extent possible;
(B) A timely response;
(C) Impartial and timely investigations by qualified personnel;
(D) Documentation and tracking for reasonable progress;
(E) Appropriate options for remedial actions and resolutions; and
(F) Timely closures.

The regulations don’t define “qualified personnel,” but it likely refers to the same persons that can conduct sexual harassment prevention training, or other persons trained to conduct investigations. The new regulations beg the question of whether an existing employee can ever truly be “impartial.”

Anti-Harassment Complaint Process

The complaint mechanism cannot require an employee to complain only to his or her immediate supervisor. Other individuals, such as the following, must be available to receive complaints:

(A) Direct communication, either orally or in writing, with a designated company representative, such as a human resources manager, EEO officer, or other supervisor; and/or
(B) A complaint hotline; and/or
(C) Access to an ombudsperson; and/or
(D) Identification of the Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as additional avenues for employees to lodge complaints.

The new anti-harassment regulations require supervisors to report any complaints of “misconduct” to a designated company representative, such as a human resources manager, so the company can try to resolve the claim internally. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to include this as a topic in mandated sexual harassment prevention training. The regulations do not define “misconduct,” but the term is arguably broader than complaints about sexual harassment.

Not surprisingly, when an employer receives allegations of misconduct, it must conduct a “fair, timely, and thorough investigation that provides all parties appropriate due process and reaches reasonable conclusions based on the evidence collected.” The regulations do not, however, define what constitutes “due process.” Additionally, I guarantee there will be litigation over whether the conclusions reached are “reasonable,” and “based on the evidence collected.”

The policies must state that “confidentiality will be kept by the employer to the extent possible, but not indicate that the investigation will be completely confidential.” The policy must also state “that if at the end of the investigation misconduct is found, appropriate remedial measures shall be taken.”

Finally, the policy must make it clear that “employees shall not be exposed to retaliation as a result of lodging a complaint or participating in any workplace investigation.” Again, note that the anti-harassment regulation is not limited to complaints about harassment. Arguably, employers cannot retaliate against an employee because the employee participates in any “workplace investigation.”

Disseminating Policies Under the New Anti-Harassment Regulations

The new anti-harassment regulations also dictate how the policy must be provided to employees:

(1) Printing and providing a copy to all employees with an acknowledgment form for the employee to sign and return;
(2) Sending the policy via e-mail with an acknowledgment return form;
(3) Posting current versions of the policies on a company intranet with a tracking system ensuring all employees have read and acknowledged receipt of the policies;
(4) Discussing policies upon hire and/or during a new hire orientation session; and/or
(5) Any other way that ensures employees receive and understand the policies.

Any employer whose workforce at any facility or establishment contains 10 percent or more of persons who speak a language other than English as their spoken language shall translate the policy into every language that is spoken by at least 10 percent of the workforce.

The new regulations can be found at Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11023

If you haven’t updated your handbook recently, now is a good time to review the policies to ensure your handbook complies with the new regulations.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties

IMDb Halts Age Discrimination Law

New Age Discrimination Law in the Entertainment Industry

In 2016, the California legislatures passed AB 1687, “to ensure that information obtained on an Internet Web site regarding an individual’s age will not be used in furtherance of employment or age discrimination.”  The statute prevents IMDb from publishing factual information (information about the ages of people in the entertainment industry) on its website for public consumption. Although Governor Brown signed the new age discrimination law, IMDb sued the government, arguing the statute violated its first amendment rights.

Injunction Prohibiting Enforcement of Age Discrimination Law

On February 22, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued an injunction prohibiting the government from enforcing the statute. According to Judge Chhabria’s order, “it’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment.” Although the government established a valid “goal” of limiting age discrimination, the government failed to show that the restriction is “actually necessary” to serve a compelling government interest. The government “presented nothing to suggest that AB 1687 would actually combat age discrimination (much less that it’s necessary to combat age discrimination).” The court held “there is an exceedingly strong likelihood that IMDb will prevail in this lawsuit.”

So, for the time being, IMDb can continue to publish the ages of actors. I guess Hollywood will have to find another way to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry. The judge’s order, although not the conclusion of the litigation, is a definite preview of how the court views this new age discrimination law.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

 

Marlon Wayans Accused of Discrimination

Discrimination in the Movies

In a recent case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, an actor working as an extra in a Marlon Wayans movie (A Haunted House 2) claims he was the victim of racial discrimination and harassment. According to Pierre Daniel, the alleged victim, during his one day of work on the movie he was compared to a Black cartoon character and called “ ‘[n]igga.’ ” Wayans filed an anti-SLAPP motion claiming Daniel’s claims arose from Wayans’s constitutional right of free speech. Wayans argued the comments were protected. He claimed the “core injury-producing conduct” arose out of the creation of the movie and its promotion over the Internet.  The trial court agreed with Wayans finding Daniel failed to establish the probability of prevailing on any of his claims.  The trial court entered judgment for Wayans, awarding him attorney fees.

On appeal, Daniel argued that the conduct at issue was not part of the “ ‘creative process’ ” inherent in making the movie because it occurred when the cameras were not rolling. Daniel claimed the comments did not involve the right of free speech or an issue of public interest.  Daniel also argued that even if the statements implicated Wayans’s right to free speech, Daniels established a probability of prevailing.  The 9th Circuit rejected Daniels argument and  affirmed judgment for Wayans.

Marlon Wayans (Wayans) co-wrote, produced, and starred in the movie, which came out in 2014.

Discrimination and Harassment in the Entertainment Industry

This is not the first time the entertainment industry avoided discrimination and harassment claims based on the “creative process.” In 2006, the California Supreme Court threw out a sexual harassment lawsuit against the makers of the hit comedy “Friends”, ruling that vulgar and coarse comments by the show’s writers reflected the “creative workplace” for a comedy with sexual themes.

Employers should not see these decisions as free license to allow racists or sexually inappropriate comments in the workplace. Employers have an obligation to provide a workplace free of sexually or racially inappropriate comments. These “entertainment” cases are outliers resulting from the unique circumstances in the studios. If the same comments were made on a factory floor or a typical office environment, I suspect the court would have gone the other way.

I will use this case in the sexual harassment prevention trainings to emphasize the importance of maintaining an appropriate work environment. The alleged comments occurred in 2013. Four years later Wayans and the other defendants were still defending the case. You can expect they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve a favorable result. Although the court ordered Daniels to pay Wayans’s attorneys fees, what are the chances that the movie extra has the ability to pay those fees?

If you have a question about inappropriate workplace conduct, contact the Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. We help employers and employees in a wide range of employment disputes, including race and gender discrimination claims.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Fair Pay Act Investigations

California recently enacted new standards to combat discriminatory pay practices. California’s Fair Pay Act prohibits paying any employee less than the amount paid to employees of the opposite sex, race or ethnicity for doing “substantially similar work.” Employers have the burden of demonstrating that pay differential are based entirely and reasonably upon:

  • Seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earning by quantity or quality of production; or
  • Bona fide factor that is not based on or derived from sex-based differential compensation and that is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Fair Pay Act Presentation

I recently attended a great presentation sponsored by the Alameda County Bar Association where Hillary Benham-Baker, Jamie Rudman and Carolyn Rashby did an excellent job describing the interplay between the various state and federal statutes, regulations and orders regarding equal pay. Jamie described a speaking engagement where Julie Su, California’s Labor Commissioner, discussed enforcing California’s Fair Pay Act. The Labor Commissioner discussed what questions Deputy Labor Commissioners would typically ask during Fair Pay Act investigations to determine what constitutes “substantially similar work.” I asked Jamie’s permission to share the information, as they represent excellent questions employers should ask themselves when evaluating whether they are complying with the law.

Fair Pay Act Questions To Determine What Constitutes “Substantially Similar Work”

·         What are the actual tasks performed for each job?  What percentage of time is spent on each?

·         What experience, training and education are required for each job?

·         What knowledge is required to perform each job?

·         What kinds and amounts of physical and/or mental effort are required for each job?  Is one job more physical difficult or stressful?

·          What programs, equipment, tools or products are required for each job? What training is needed to use the programs, equipment, tools or products?

·         What is the working environment?  Does one job involve an exposure to hazards or damages?

·         Does one job require supervision of other employees?

·         What is the difference in terms of the job obligations, levels of authority and/or degrees of accountability?

·         What are the programs, equipment, tools or products used for each job?

·         What kinds and amounts of physical and/or mental effort required for each job?

Employers need to understand what constitutes substantially similar work so they can properly evaluate whether or why employees should be paid the same. Pay disparities must be justified by legitimate business reasons.

If you have questions about equal pay, fair pay or any other employment-related issues, contact me at your convenience.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we remember the life and assassination of a great leader, I thought it poignant to recall Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. His words are an inspiration, and a reminder that although we’ve made great progress toward equality, we are not done.

If you’ve never read the speech in its entirety, or if it’s been a while since you’ve heard the recording, take a few moments. Read it to your children or your grandchildren. Better yet, listen to King deliver the speech. Discuss with your family and friends whether we have lived up to the the dream.  The speech begins by echoing the words Abraham Lincoln recited 100 years earlier. Consider how much progress we’ve made in the more than half a century since King spoke these inspiring words.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech:

Reprinted from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Provided by Robert Nuddleman of the Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

The Nuddleman Law Firm protects the workplace. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys bring the highest level of advocacy to attain the results our clients deserve. We represent employers and employees, giving us an advantage over firms that only focus on one side or the other. Our experienced Northern California attorneys handle workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, unpaid wages, disability discrimination, retaliation and other employment disputes. We represent clients throughout Oakland, Berkeley, Pleasanton, Concord, San Jose, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County and the Silicon Valley in California.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. Using the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Heavy Burden On Employers to Reasonably Accommodate Employees

Employer’s Duty to Reasonably Accommodate Employees

Alan Foster of the Foster Law Group is one of my trusted colleagues. He is an excellent attorney and works with a number of my employer clients assisting them with corporate formation issues, general business transaction work and even some employment law. He wrote an article regarding an employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate employees. I asked his permission to share it on my blog.

The article talks about an employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate employees, and what can happen when an employer fails to adequately engage in the interactive process of determining what, if any, accommodations will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

So, without further ado, here is Alan’s article:

Heavy Burden On Employers to Reasonably Accommodate Employee Disabilities

By Alan Foster

Reprinted with permission

In the recent California Federal District Court action of Thomsen v. Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, LLC the Court held that an employer might violate their obligations under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) simply by requesting that an employee return to his doctor to obtain a note to outline additional work restrictions before the employee can return to work.

In Thomsen an employee went on worker’s compensation after injuring his shoulder and underwent surgery. He returned to work eight months later with a 30-pound lifting work restriction. Through an interactive process with the employer, the employee was assigned to a different job that was believed to satisfy the work restriction. However, after performing at the new job the employee complained to the employer that the long hours and manual operation of an overhead lever required by the job were exacerbating his condition. The employer’s Human Resources Department told the employee to return to his doctor to obtain a note so the employer could determine whether additional restrictions were needed beyond the 30-pound lifting restriction. The employee never returned to his doctor to obtain the note and the employer never followed up with the employee about it.

The employee ultimately refused to work an overtime shift and the employer terminated the employee when he failed to do so. The employee thereafter sued his former employer for disability discrimination and other related claims.

The Court rejected the employer’s argument that, because the employee failed to obtain an additional doctor’s note, his claims for failure to accommodate and failure to engage in interactive process should be dismissed. The Court determined that it was unclear whether the employee’s new position had met all of the employee’s work restrictions since the position still required occasional lifting beyond 30 pounds. The Court found the Company should have had a conversation with the employee in response to his concerns about the overhead lever and overtime hours, before it decided the employee had to
return to his doctor.

In addition, while the employee was fired for allegedly “abandoning his shift,” he presented evidence that employment termination was more severe for these infractions than the consequences provided for such conduct set forth in the Company’s written attendance policy. Consequently, the Court permitted the employee’s claims to go to trial.

The Thomsen decision distinctly shows that employers must follow up to solve many employment issues. A common sense request for additional medical information about an employee’s restrictions was found not to satisfy an employer’s duty to engage in the interactive process because the employer did not follow up on its request. The decision acknowledges that employers’ discharge their duty to engage in the interactive process is highly fact-intensive.

The Thomsen decision clearly indicates that courts expect that employers must take the lead role in the interactive process and cannot place additional burdens on employees to prove the need for reasonable disability accommodations for employees who return to work with work-related disability restrictions. Thus, before an employer decides to terminate an employee with a known disability it is imperative that the employer work with competent legal counsel to determine whether the employer’s proposed accommodations are reasonable under the circumstances.

Foster Law Group is a full-service business law firm dedicated to providing its clients with personal, responsive and cost-effective legal services. Its clients consist primarily of entrepreneurs, investors, emerging and middle market companies. Their services include strategic business planning, entity formation and ongoing counsel on operational issues, corporate finance and securities, intellectual property protection and counseling, employment and compensation, mergers and acquisitions, and real estate transactions.

Provided by Robert Nuddleman of the Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

The Nuddleman Law Firm protects the workplace. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys bring the highest level of advocacy to attain the results our clients deserve. We represent employers and employees, giving us an advantage over firms that only focus on one side or the other. Our experienced Northern California attorneys handle workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, unpaid wages, disability discrimination, retaliation and other employment disputes.

If you have questions or need assistance with how to reasonably accommodate employees contact the Nuddleman Law Firm. We represent clients throughout Oakland, Berkeley, Pleasanton, Concord, San Jose, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County and the Silicon Valley in California.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. Using the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.