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Los Angeles California Consumer Law Blog

Federal court holds salary history no excuse for discrimination

A court decision recently may help women in California and the other West Coast states get equal pay for doing the same work as their male counterparts. In that opinion, a federal appeals court held that employers cannot use a woman's salary history as a justification for offering her a lower wage.

To give a bit of background, it is unlawful workplace discrimination for an employer to offer women lower salaries then men for doing the same job. However, this does not mean that employers have to treat everyone alike.

Why sexual harassment is so pervasive in restaurants

If you have ever spent time working in a restaurant or food service setting, you may know firsthand how common sexual harassment can be in such environments. While employees across virtually all sectors are at risk of workplace sexual harassment, there are certain factors at play in many restaurants that make these settings hotbeds for harassing behavior.

According to USA Today, food service and hospitality workers logged more sexual harassment claims between 2005 and 2015 than any other industry, accounting for more than 14 percent of all complaints. Why is this number so high?

Workers under 18 in California must meet special requirements

In addition to federal wage and hour rules governing the employment of minors, California has its own set of laws when it comes to companies in this state hiring people under 18 to work at their businesses. Employers bear the responsibility for following these laws, and they can be held accountable for wage and hour violations if, for whatever reason, they do not do so.

One example of California's child labor laws is that the state requires an employee under 18 to have a permit to work, and a company must verify as much before taking on a new hire who is a minor. Basically, the child's local school and parents must acquiesce to the child's having a job, in writing and on a form prescribed by the state, before an employer can put the child to work.

State court system has settled several sexual harassment claims

Los Angeles residents probably expect better from those who are charged with enforcing this state's laws against discrimination and sexual harassment. Some California courts have found themselves defending against allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior among their various employees, some of whom are or were judges.

In many cases, the courts wound up settling the claims filed by the victims of harassment. According to records, there were $296,000 in settlement payments to resolve three claims filed against California state judges, and an additional $225,000 spent to settle two claims filed against other employees of the various courts in this state.

Can one lose their job for filing for workers' compensation?

Even in what seems like a safe occupation, a Los Angeles worker can find that he or she has been hurt on the job and will need to file a workers' compensation claim. This may make some workers hesitate. After all, employers do not like it when workers have to ask for workers' compensation benefits because it means higher insurance premiums for the employer. Higher insurance premiums in turn mean that an employer loses profit on the bottom line.

An employer may therefore be tempted to remedy this problem by sending a subtle, or even not-so-subtle, message that workers who file for work comp benefits will either lose their jobs or, at a minimum, not go any further in their careers. This sort of practice though, constitutes illegal employer retaliation in California. Under the law of this state, an employer may not in any way discipline or discriminate against a person because he or she filed a workers' compensation claim or, for that matter, reported a work-related injury. This is true even if a worker files a claim for benefits in good faith but the claim is ultimately denied.

Review of religious discrimination laws

A previous post on this blog talked about how the Department of Justice recently reached a settlement with a nursing home facility that forced a woman either to submit to a flu vaccine or face termination. While the ostensible purpose for the nursing home's rule was to ensure patient safety, the government asserted it was in fact religious discrimination given the woman's sincerely held views about vaccines.

This story makes it an appropriate time to review the rights of employees of faith who are in the workforce. California employers do not have to offer compromises or exceptions to workplace rules to everyone who happens to have a religious practice that might run up against those rules. While an employee may never be singled out or harassed because of his or her religion per se, they do have the right to maintain reasonable workplace rules and regulations necessary to conduct their business, comply with law and ensure everyone's safety and health.

4 tips for negotiating better severance pay

Falling victim to a layoff is disheartening. When your boss asks you to meet in the conference room and says you are losing your job, your heart sinks. If your boss hands you a legal document laying out the details of your departure, you may be feeling a lot of confusion and uncertainty. 

You may be worrying about how you will make ends meet once your time at your company is over. Even if your company initially offers you severance pay, it may not seem like enough. Here are some tips for negotiating a significant final paycheck.

Vaccines may be hot button employment issue

In a story that attracted the attention of national news media, the federal government is suing a nursing home in another state for unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion. The government is doing so on behalf of a nursing assistant, who claims her employer ordered her either to submit to a flu vaccine or be fired from her position.

The woman had explained to her employer that she had sincerely held religious beliefs about the human body that taking a vaccine would violate, but the woman's employer apparently disregarded her claim. In the wake of the lawsuit, however, the employer changed its practice and will no longer require the vaccine.

If you feel you're being forced to retire, you may have options

A previous post on this blog reminded our Los Angeles, California, readers that, with very exceptions, employers in this state may not impose mandatory retirement on employees once they reach a certain age. In fact, employers generally have to respect an employee's decision when he or she indicates that he or she has no immediate plans to retire.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why an employer may choose to ignore or try to get around this rule. No matter the excuse, though, pressuring or unlawfully forcing an employee in to retirement because they are getting older is illegal age discrimination, and an employee may have the right to compensation or other relief in the face of such behavior.

Can an employer broach the subject of retirement?

Although most Los Angeles, California, employees will no doubt get to the point where they will want to or even need to retire from their jobs, they have the right not to have their employers constantly bother them about the subject.

In fact, an employer who seems fixated on whether an employee is going to retire may be gearing up to engage in unlawful age discrimination or may already be doing s simply by prying excessively in to an employee's personal plans.

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