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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

A Marin Housing Authority worker files a discrimination lawsuit

A 28-year-old Kentfield man, who was hired on to work in maintenance for the Marin Housing Authority last February, filed a discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Jan. 30, 2019.

In his filing against both his former employer and supervisor, the plaintiff chronicles how he was hired for the job by the Robert Half staffing agency and the discrimination he suffered.

Common examples of workplace sexual harassment

If you don't understand what workplace sexual harassment looks like, there's a chance you may let this unacceptable behavior continue. As a result, it can impact your career and personal life in a variety of ways.

There are many forms of workplace sexual harassment, with these five among the most common:

  • Sharing inappropriate material: From sexually charged images to lewd jokes, there are many types of material that should never be part of the workplace.
  • Making sexual comments: This can include but is not limited to comments regarding clothing, body parts or appearance in general.
  • Making inappropriate contact: There is never a time when one person should touch another in an inappropriate manner. This is the easiest form of workplace sexual harassment to spot.
  • Repeatedly asking for a date: Although many people meet at the office, repeatedly asking for a date is a common form of workplace sexual harassment. There are times when it's okay to ask once, but if the answer is no, that should be the end of the conversation.
  • Making comments about a person's gender: Some comments about a person's gender could be considered sexual harassment. An example of this is repeatedly saying that a coworker only received a raise because of their good looks.

Constructive discharge may be wrongful termination

At times, an employee may feel unhappy enough at work to consider resigning. Perhaps the supervisor unfairly criticizes the worker in a performance review. Maybe co-workers are rude and hostile. An employee can feel upset when inappropriate language or remarks demean the individual's gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs.

Dangerous situations arise when an employer insists that a worker must perform illegal acts on behalf of the company. Alternatively, perhaps a manager or co-worker assaulted the employee or threatened the person with violence. Maybe the worker has an impossible workload requiring heavy overtime and constant pressure to complete tasks.

What factors do courts look at in a constructive dismissal case?

"Constructive dismissal" happens when an employer creates a work environment that is so intolerable that it forces the employee to quit. This may happen when an employer wants to fire an employee but doesn't have a legally valid reason to do so. For example, the employer wants to terminate a worker because they are a member of a specific race but wants to avoid an accusation of discrimination or wrongful termination.

Constructive dismissal is a form of wrongful termination, and victims of this unlawful treatment may be able to pursue restitution in court. When deciding a constructive dismissal case, here's what the courts will focus on:

  • Did the employer request or require the employee to commit or contribute to illegal activity?
  • Did the employer investigate or acknowledge the complaints of the employee?
  • What are the specifics of the employer's conduct that resulted in the unreasonable working conditions?
  • How much time passed from the date of the unreasonable working conditions until the date that the employee resigned from his or her job?

The Equal Pay Act: How does this law protect workers?

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 makes it unlawful to pay workers unequal amounts on the job simply because of their genders. In the 1960s, this act was added as an amendment to the already-existing Fair Labor Standards Act. Lawmakers created the EPA to fix the considerable pay inequity between the genders at the time. A year later, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was also passed, and this served to prohibit other forms of discrimination -- including gender discrimination -- in the workplace.

Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination continues today, including pay discrimination. Here's what the EPA says on gender pay discrimination:

Bullying vs. discrimination in the workplace

With many people spending the majority of their time at work, one would hope that employees could enjoy positive work environments. However, this is not the case for everyone.

In some cases, people experience forms of bullying or discrimination. Is there really a difference between the two? Taking a look at their definitions can help to shed some light.

Why don't workers always report sexual harassment?

It's common to hear stories about women or men who suffered under a sexually harassing boss for years before they finally spoke up. Certainly, there are countless people who never say anything about their egregious sexual harassment compared to the ones who report the abuse. But why is this? Why do people fail to speak up when it's clear that they're on the right side of the law? Here's what psychologists say:

Denial

Watch out for these signs of discrimination during interviews

If you are currently searching for a new job, you should be aware that some employers may discriminate during the hiring process. If you recognize any of the common signs of hiring discrimination during your interview process, you may take action to enforce your rights under federal employment law.

Interviewing for a job is a stressful enough process without having to also worry about whether your potential employer is discriminating against you. Once you know the key signs, you will be better equipped to evaluate your potential employer and his or her possible bias.

Everyone should know these basics of sexual harassment

When you talk to other people about the sexual harassment you're experiencing about work, many people will want to give you their opinions on what you should do. This is understandable because they want to help you overcome the situation, heal your career and also heal your psychological and emotional state. It's all well and good to take advice and perspectives from friends, but don't' let these well-intentioned individuals distract you from the truth behind sexual harassment.

And if it's the truth you're after, there's no better resource than the Equal Employment Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here's what OSHA says about sexual harassment that's worthy to commit to memory:

How to discover if your work has a pay gap

Although companies have made progress in closing the pay gap between men and women, there is still a substantial gap between the amount of money women make compared to men. In fact, recent research suggests many women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work. The disparity grows even larger when the woman is not Caucasian. 

Many women remain unaware that a pay gap exists at their place of work because they assume their bosses are reputable and honest. However, there are certain actions and behaviors at work that suggest a wage disparity exists. If you suspect your boss does not pay you as much as you are worth, then it is vital to dig deeper and see if you can find a systemic pattern of abuse.

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