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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

Odds are, you'll face subtle discrimination

Obvious workplace discrimination often makes the headlines because it's so jarring. Events take place that you almost can't believe are real. It sounds astounding to think of a world in which people of certain races are told outright not to apply for jobs, for example, because that so obviously violates the law.

Even though it's not in the news as much, experts warn that more subtle types of discrimination are more common. While the overt forms have decreased over time, that doesn't mean discrimination is dead. Unfortunately, it often means that people just know they can't be obvious.

Fox fires sports programming exec after sexual harassment report

The head of sports programming for Fox Sports is out, having been fired from the offices in Los Angeles, California.

Allegations of sexual harassment had been made, and the company started an investigation. Just about a week into it, they simply decided to fire the man. While he's not been convicted of anything, reports claim that they interviewed a number of women and then decided they had to let him go.

Jokes don't have to target an employee to be harassment

When sexual jokes are made in the workplace, it's often done at a worker's expense. This worker may then claim sexual harassment for having been subjected to these jokes, often repeatedly.

However, it's important to note that this type of direct targeting isn't always necessary. In fact, there have been cases where courts have decided that a hostile work environment had been created simply because these types of jokes were told repeatedly, even though the person who eventually complained had not been referenced or directly targeted.

Two potential issues with dating in the office

Some companies have policies regulating employee dating, but there's no law against it. However, such relationships can bring up some potential issues which could lead to a lawsuit.

For example, they could lead to allegations of discrimination against the other employees. Perhaps there are three employees who are up for a potential promotion. One of them is dating the supervisor who has to make the choice. That person gets picked for the promotion.

Uber executive stepping away amid harassment claims

Uber has been accused of allowing sexual harassment to occur in the workplace and creating a hostile work environment, and now the company's chief executive officer (CEO) is going to step away from his position -- at least for a time. He has a leadership team in place that will run things while he is gone, and he will return at an unspecified future date.

In the memo announcing the move, he said that he needed to work on his leadership abilities. He also admitted that the situation that the company was in and the scandals it has had to face were his fault.

How common are retaliation complaints?

You think you've been sexually harassed at work. Your supervisor acted inappropriately. You know that it violated your rights.

However, you're still scared to speak up. You're at a very low level in the company. You feel like it will be you up against a juggernaut. Won't they just fire you if you complain, or slash your hours, or cut your pay?

Employers can discriminate against you for being yourself

It's not illegal for your boss to show favoritism.

Maybe he or she likes your co-worker more than you because they like the same sports team and they always talk about it by the water cooler. Maybe your boss doesn't like you because you ask too many questions, rather than just making educated guesses.

Why does discrimination happen?

You believe you're being discriminated again in the workplace. What you start wondering, on top of considering your legal rights, is why discrimination happens in the first place. What are the underlying causes?

The reasoning can be different on a case-by-case basis, but some experts note that factors that can play a role include:

Can you be fired for breaking the dress code?

Your company has a dress code, but you don't agree with it. You decide not to adhere to it, get a warning and then eventually get fired when you continue breaking it. Is this legal?

It is, in many cases, but the specifics are important. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does note that companies are allowed to use and enforce dress codes. As with other workplace rules, violations can lead to termination.

Dealing with a wrongful termination

Your boss calls you into his or her office and tells you that you're being fired, effective immediately. You're instantly furious, because you think it's not just unfair, but illegal. Maybe you recently filed a sexual harassment complaint, for instance, and you believe that's why you're being fired.

It's understandable that you're angry, but the best way to deal with a wrongful termination in the moment is to stay calm. Don't scream at your boss, rant about unfair treatment, lash out at co-workers or do anything else you're going to regret. Don't react based on emotion alone.

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