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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

How to request Family and Medical Leave Act leave

Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may be able to take time away from work to deal with a major medical problem that's affecting you or an immediate family member.

However, even if you qualify for FMLA, there are steps you must take in order to request time off. Here's what you should do:

  • Learn more about your eligibility: For example, other employees in your company may be eligible for FMLA, but that doesn't mean it holds true for you. A common instance is someone asking for FMLA when the company hasn't employed them for more than 12 months.
  • Give notice: It's not always possible to give advanced notice, but you should do your best to do so. When possible, give a minimum of 30 days' notice before you want to start taking FMLA leave.
  • Provide more information: Your employer can only ask for so much information about your medical situation, so it's up to you to provide enough information to show that you're eligible for FMLA leave.
  • Wait for a response: Once you make an FMLA request, your employer has five days to respond. Hold them to this if they're slacking on getting back to you.

Sexual harassment training will soon be mandatory in California

Many positives have come out of the "#MeToo" movement. One of the more positive outcomes has been the passing of laws requiring increased sexual harassment training in the workplace. At least six states including California have passed laws requiring employers to offer this in recent months.

California's newly passed law requires all employers who have five or more workers to offer mandatory sexual harassment training effective January 2021.

What rights do you have as a pregnant woman in the workplace?

Working while pregnant or nursing can prove difficult for a number of different reasons, but you may find it especially troublesome if your employer fails to make reasonable accommodations as a result of your condition. However, if your employer maintains a staff of at least 15 people, two federal laws give you certain rights regarding being pregnant in the workplace.

More specifically, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act both protects you and sets guidelines that your employer must follow concerning pregnant employees. Just what types of protections do these federal laws allow you?

What is considered to be disparate impact or treatment?

Most workplace discrimination lawsuits that were filed around the time the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law had to do with racial discrimination. While race continues to be a leading reason that employees or prospective employees file workplace discrimination lawsuits, it's not the only reason. Many individuals have been motivated to sue because they belong to other protected classes in recent years.

Disparate impact refers to a situation in which workers belonging to protected classes such as a religion, age bracket, race or disability status are treated more unfavorably by employers than those individuals who belong to a nonminority group.

When certain associations lead to discrimination

Unfortunately, discrimination is a real issue that people still deal with in today's society. In many cases, discrimination is in the workplace, and it comes in various forms.

In fact, individuals may experience for simply associating with a discriminated class. For those experiencing such unfair treatment, it is important to understand a few things.

Can dress codes be discriminatory?

Many workplaces decide to implement a dress code. There is a certain way the business wants to present itself to the public, and the way employees dress helps in that mission. However, the state of California forbids any dress codes from being discriminatory against anyone on the basis of gender and gender identification. 

In recent years, dress codes have come under fire for how they deal with transgender employees. California has outlawed any dress codes that would require an individual to dress in a manner that goes against his or her gender identification. There are other ways in which a dress code can end up on the wrong side of the law. Employees need to be aware of when a dress code goes too far. 

Were you terminated? Review these sections of your contract

Losing your job has the potential to turn your life upside down. With so much going on around you, it's natural for your head to be spinning and for you to lose track of your priorities. If that happens, you could make a mistake that costs you time and money.

If you receive a notice of termination from your employer, immediately review these sections of your employment contract:

  • Termination terms and conditions: This is where you'll find information on what's required of your employer if they want to terminate your relationship, e.g., the amount of notice they're required to give and the manner in which they do so.
  • Severance pay: If you're eligible for severance, it can help you get by financially until you land another job. It's never too soon to review the terms of your severance agreement and consult with your human resources (HR) department about your next steps.
  • Restrictions: Your contract may state that you're not permitted to work for an employer in the same industry for a designated period of time. It may also state that you can't start a competing business.

A Silicon Valley engineer had her leave cut after losing baby

A Silicon Valley engineer has filed suit against her employer Informatica for pregnancy discrimination after she says that she was ordered to return to work early after losing her baby.

In her court filing late last month, the woman outlined how she was elated to find out about both her pregnancy and impending job promotion early in 2017. Later that same year, she found out that she was no longer in the running for a higher-level role in the company. Her baby also died less than an hour after it was born.

What to do if you suspect workplace discrimination

You try to ignore it at first, hoping that your suspicions are wrong. However, as the days turn to weeks, you're surer than ever that you're a victim of workplace discrimination.

If you suspect workplace discrimination, it's critical to take immediate action to protect your employment and legal rights. Here are some things you should do:

  • Report the incident to your employer: Let them know what happened, while also explaining your concerns. By getting the incident out into the open, you increase the likelihood of a resolution.
  • Collect evidence: You don't want your discrimination claim to turn into a "he said, she said" situation. The more evidence you collect, the easier it is to prove that you were a victim of discrimination.
  • Review your employee handbook: It's here that you'll find your company's anti-discrimination policy, including the steps to take if you believe you're a victim.
  • Get the government involved: You hope to be able to work things out on your own, but there may come a point when you need government intervention. The best way to do this is to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Text messages can subject you to unwanted content

Sexual harassment in the workplace takes many forms. Sometimes, co-workers make sexual jokes at your expense. Other times, they treat you like a less valuable member of the company because of your gender. Still other times, those in a position of power over you may use that power to harass you in this manner.

One common way that this happens is through text messages. There is something about digital communication that often makes people act rashly. They may send you a message that they would never say to you in real life. Someone who rarely interacts with you while you're at work could still send you explicit or harassing texts that change the way you feel about your job and your workplace environment.

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