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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

You have the right to refuse dangerous work

You and your employer may have different ideas about what unsafe working conditions entail. While you strongly believe that an activity puts your health and well-being at risk, your employer may disagree, as they want you to do what you're told.

As an employee, you have the right to refuse dangerous work, such as conditions that are unsafe or bad for your health.

Are you aware of these signs of age discrimination?

As you age, you may have concerns about discrimination at work. This is particularly true if your employer has shown the tendency to hire younger workers for your position in the not-too-distant past.

While there are many potential signs of age discrimination, these three are among the most common:

  • Older workers are being terminated or offered buyouts: This is a telltale sign that your company wants to move toward a younger workforce. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll be the victim of age discrimination, but it could happen.
  • You're hearing grumblings about your age: For example, your supervisor may slyly ask you when you're going to retire. Or a younger co-worker says something to you about not being able to keep up because of your age. These grumblings may be a sign that people are talking about your age when you're not around.
  • Bad performance reviews: In the past, you always received positive performance reviews. However, now that you're aging, your reviews are tanking, even though your performance has remained the same. Keep a close eye on anything that makes it look like you've suddenly become a subpar employee.

Is being a woman interfering with your career?

The modern workplace can be a cutthroat environment. Even if you pursue an education, develop an in-demand skillset or create an innovative process, you may have to compete with others who have similar capabilities. You should not, however, miss career opportunities simply because you are a woman. 

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 40% of working women in the United States have experienced some type of gender discrimination in the workplace. The Center also notes that gender discrimination may come in many forms. As such, you must constantly monitor your career to insulate it from long-term damage. 

Age discrimination often a barrier for older workers

Trying to find a job later in life can prove difficult, because many employers, regardless of whether they want to admit it, have some type of bias against hiring individuals once they reach a certain age. While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal for employers of 20 or more people to discriminate against workers 40 or above, job seekers 35 and over say their age is the single biggest hurdle preventing them from effectively finding employment.

Just how widespread is age discrimination in the American workplace?

Family and Medical Leave Act and serious health conditions

If you're interested in taking a leave from work to care for a serious health condition, it's critical to learn more about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). More specifically, focus on the serious health conditions that qualify for leave.

Here are four points of consideration when defining a serious health condition:

  • A condition that requires you to remain overnight in a hospital or another type of medical facility
  • Pregnancy, such as incapacity as a result of medically suggested bedrest or severe morning sickness
  • A condition that incapacitates you or a family member for three or more days, such as ongoing medical treatment
  • Chronic conditions that result in occasional and temporary periods of incapacitation that require medical attention two or more times a year

Wrongful termination and retaliation

Employers are not permitted to terminate or punish employees for their participation in a protected practice, such as reporting a safety violation or discrimination.

Despite federal and state laws in place to protect employees, termination as a form of retaliation remains all too common.

Hold your employer accountable if they wrongly terminated you

Landing a job in your desired profession in California can be hard to do. Many individuals don't have an emergency fund built up that they can tap into if they lose their job. This is why you may find it difficult if you lose your job unexpectedly. If you can prove that you were wrongfully terminated from your role, then you may be able to sue your employer.

If you and your colleagues are caught and later fired by your employer discussing labor or workplace-related matters, then you may be able to sue them for wrongful termination. The National Labor Relations Act outlines how any workers who participate in a "protected concerted activity," such as a discussion of work conditions or wages cannot be let go from their job.

Sexual harassment is often repetitive

Over the last few years, sexual harassment on the job has gotten a lot more exposure. People have been speaking up more often. Harassers are being held accountable. It's refreshing, considering how long these things were just sort of swept under the rug.

Of course, some people have pushed back against this change. They have complained, for instance, that people can no longer flirt with their coworkers. What was once seen as innocent flirting, they claim, could now be harassment. They could get fired. They say it's ruining office culture.

Identifying discrimination versus bullying

A hostile work environment can be quite discouraging for workers. In fact, some employees leave companies due to several different types of hostility.

For those facing discrimination in the workplace, it is possible to seek an end to such acts. However, it is important to correctly identify it. While discrimination and bullying have some commonalities, they are different issues.

How unconscious bias works

In some cases, discrimination in the workplace is driven by very deliberate bias. A person clearly feels like others of a certain ethnicity, age, gender or religion are less important than others and acts against them.

However, workplace discrimination is not legal, and many people are not so overt with their intentions. That doesn't mean that discrimination does not occur. It may just take a different form, such as unconscious bias.

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