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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

Sexual harassment and employer liability

As a victim of sexual harassment at your workplace, you understand that it's your responsibility to protect your legal rights. You can't sit back and hope that your company does the right thing, as this doesn't always happen.

Any employer with at least 15 employees is subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees.

3 FAQs about LGBT discrimination in California

Now that Pride Month is here, it is an important time for members of the LGBT community in California to celebrate their identities. One reason to celebrate is the fact that there are workplace protections in place for this community. It is illegal for most employers in California to discriminate against applicants or employees because of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

If you are the victim of LGBT discrimination, you may be able to file a complaint and lawsuit. Below are answers to some common questions about how California law protects workers from this type of discrimination.

A San Francisco worker wins her family leave claim

A San Francisco woman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars as a settlement in her wrongful termination case. She was let go from her restaurant job because her employer poorly handled her family medical leave situation.

The woman had worked for her employer Bon Appetit Cafe, a restaurant inside of the headquarters of the biotechnology company Genentech for 13 years before her termination from that role. Shortly before her firing, her mother-in-law in Nicaragua had become deathly ill. She asked and was given permission by her employer to travel to be with her in her final days. She died soon after her arrival in the Central American country.

Is your former employer ruining your reputation?

Not all working relationships end harmoniously. Though you expected your previous boss to be professional, it is possible that his or her actions have made it difficult for you to find new employment.

Defamation comes in both spoken and written forms – slander and libel, respectively – and it can ruin your career if you do not address it. To decide if you have a solid case against your former employer, consider if the following circumstances are present in your situation.

Are you the victim of 'hair discrimination?'

Should employers have the right to tell employees how they can wear their hair, assuming that their hairstyle has no impact on anyone's health or safety? On what basis should anyone decide what hairstyles are appropriate and inappropriate for any particular workplace?

Can some employers' lack of familiarity with hairstyles popular among cultures and ethnic groups other than their own cause them to ban those hairstyles? Can that be considered discriminatory?

California takes steps to ban hair discrimination

There are many types of discrimination that can occur in the workplace. If you feel as though you have faced discrimination on the grounds of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race or another protected class, then you need to take legal action posthaste. 

All of the above classes have protections under federal law. However, the state of California has made strides to make a wider group of people feel more accepted in the workforce. The C.R.O.W.N. Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair, recently passed the state's legislature. It will allow people to assume a wider range of hairstyles at workplaces and schools. The law passed the state's Senate and will now go to the State Assembly before it can become law.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is sued once again

A woman, who worked for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for nine years, filed a discrimination lawsuit against her former employer on April 18. In her filing, she chronicled how she was overlooked for promotions and later publicly demoted during her tenure working with them.

She also alleges that SFMTA's former director of transit once asked her fellow employees what her gender was. He cited her hairstyle and attire as grounds for questioning this.

Transgender employees and bias in the workplace

As of right now, there is no federal law on the books that protects transgender employees against unfair practices in the workplace. While laws exist protecting almost every other civil liberty, choosing the gender you wish does not guarantee equality at work.

The United States Supreme Court has recently decided it will hear three cases regarding discrimination in the workplace and transgender people. Taking a look at the implications may help understand why this hot-button topic needs addressing sooner rather than later.

What steps should you take after workplace sexual harassment?

Any form of sexual harassment in the workplace requires your full attention. Neglecting to take action may give the harasser the wrong idea, thus exposing you to additional advances in the future.

Here are the most important steps to take after an instance of workplace sexual harassment:

  • Say no: Don't give the harasser any idea that you're okay with their behavior. Speak up, tell them to stop and let them know that you'll report them if the behavior continues.
  • Review your employee handbook: This should provide more information on how to report sexual harassment. If it doesn't, consult with your HR department on the next steps.
  • Keep records of all sexual harassment related behavior: For example, write down when you were harassed, including the location, time and date. Also, record any conversations you have with your supervisor or HR department. All of this information may help you in the future.

Concerning facts about religious discrimination

Religious discrimination is as old as religion itself, and modern countries like the United States have taken steps to make it illegal, but it continues to happen. Workers may face discrimination on the job that leads to constant harassment, wrongful termination, lower pay or even the inability to get a job at all.

If you think this doesn't happen often, here are a few concerning facts you should be aware of:

  • Those of the Jewish faith account for under 1% of the world's population, but they are one of the religious groups that experience the most overall discrimination.
  • For women, the issue is often over religious dress. They face discrimination for what they wear in countries and workplaces where that type of dress is not common.
  • Any type of unequal treatment can count as discrimination. For instance, if a number of non-religious workers all make $50 per hour and a Muslim or Jewish worker who does the same job and holds the same title makes just $20 per hour, that could count as discrimination. The same is true when workers get fired, get passed over for promotions or get reprimanded and written up more than their coworkers.
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