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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

How California's sanctuary law protects workers

Immigration is back in the news lately. Since immigration is largely a federal matter, the decisions made by lawmakers in Washington affect the ability of thousands of Californians to remain in this country.

However, the California Assembly has taken steps to protect foreign nationals living and working in the state. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Immigration Worker Protection Act last year, and the law officially went into effect on Jan. 1. The law makes California a “sanctuary” state in opposition to the Trump administration’s hard-line policy against undocumented workers.

How to combat sexual harassment when you’re not Oprah

In her powerful acceptance speech of the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, Oprah declared, “Their time is up!” referring to those who have habitually gotten away with sexual harassment in a variety of workplaces. Her words created quite at stir in the audience, not to mention the Twitter storm that erupted in the following days speculating on whether the television and entertainment star would run for president in the 2020 elections.

While Oprah’s declaration may give women (and men) working in hostile work environments hope, it won’t necessarily change their immediate realities. For them, sexual harassment or the threat of sexual harassment still exists, even if the “time is up” for those who hold power. What they can do is take steps to protect their rights when enough is enough.

Why doesn't HR always take sexual harassment claims seriously?

The wave of accusations against powerful show business figures, politicians and others that followed the downfall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein has put the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace at the top of the news cycle. It's a time for all of us to consider how unwelcome sexual comments, demands for sex, groping and more have hurt American workers, especially women, for decades.

Why so few harassment victims go to HR

As NPR notes, it's also a time for employees to consider if their job's Human Resources department takes sexual harassment claims seriously enough. Unfortunately, many women's experiences suggest a pattern of HR departments tolerating harassment and even blaming the victim. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that only about 25 percent of sexual harassment victims ever report it -- likely due to a perception that doing so would not improve things.

Female producer files sexual harassment suit

A segment producer who worked on a couple of major reality shows recently filed a suit against five producers, a production company and Warner Bros., alleging that she was harassed in a sexual manner while on the job. Sexual harassment is illegal in the Bay Area. For this reason, those who are victims of it in California have the right to seek justice through the civil court system.

In the producer's case, she claimed that the individuals around her repeatedly questioned her about her sexual activities. This happened most often while she was working on shows for the 2016 season. In fact, five producers allegedly asked graphic questions frequently, such as whether her vagina was shaved and if she had ever played with testicles.

Qualifying for medical leave from your job

Whether it happens to you or a close family member, a sudden medical emergency can turn your world upside down. It can force you to stop working for weeks or months, either as the patient or the primary caretaker. At the same time, you should not have to quit your job or risk getting fired because of a family emergency.

That is what makes medical leave from their job such a vital right for working people in California. Knowing that your job will be waiting for you once the medical situation passes can be a huge relief.

Whistleblowers in Bay Area protected by law

A public safety worker with a public school district in another state recently claimed that he was retaliated against in the workplace for speaking up about corruption in his department. He has therefore filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the organization. Whistleblowers in the Bay Area have the right to seek justice if demoted, terminated or otherwise retaliated against after reporting wrongdoing in their companies.

In the recent out-of-state case, the worker claimed that not only was corruption occurring in his public safety department but so was sexual misconduct that involved students -- specifically, a student was reportedly sexually assaulted. He ended up being recommended for firing after allegedly reporting this. The man, who has been with the organization since 2014, is currently on paid leave.

Sexual harassment suit filed against city and mayor

A city and mayor in another state are the subjects of a recent lawsuit filed in federal court that alleges harassment on the basis of sex. According to the woman who filed the suit, she faced sexual harassment after requesting a longer shift. Anybody in the Bay Area who faces this type of harassment in the workplace has the right to seek to hold his or her alleged harasser accountable.

The woman who filed the recent lawsuit claimed that she requested eight hours of work per day instead of the six she had been getting as a city meter officer. However, the city mayor whom she sued reportedly told her that she could receive more hours if she got underneath his desk. Three months later, the woman was allegedly told that her job was at risk.

Whistleblowers protected by California law

Sometimes, employees see conduct they know is unethical or illegal and feel obligated to speak up about it. Unfortunately, these whistleblowers may end up losing their jobs or facing other forms of punishment on the job for their actions. However, the law in California, which covers the Bay Area, protects these employees from retaliation.

Thanks to common law -- one source of protection in California -- employees may have cases for retaliatory discharge if they are fired or demoted for taking part in actions that are protected by important public policies. In addition, according to the courts, the issues that these employees raise must involve the interest of the public. In other words, the problems must impact the public at large, not just a particular person or group of people.

Pregnancy discrimination suit filed after pregnant woman fired

A woman in another state recently claimed that she was mistreated at work due to being pregnant. She reportedly ended up getting terminated due to her pregnancy and thus filed a lawsuit against her employer, an aviation parts manufacturer. Any woman who experiences pregnancy discrimination in the Bay Area or elsewhere has the right to seek justice.

In the out-of-state case, the aviation parts company is accused of violating federal law by firing the pregnant woman instead of accommodating her medical restrictions related to her pregnancy. The woman began working at the business back in July of 2015, where she packaged airplane parts in the warehouse. When she was allegedly instructed to complete a work-related task that went against the medical restrictions that her physician imposed on her because of her pregnancy, she gave the company's managers the required medical documentation detailing her physician's restrictions.

Whistleblowers may be reinstated to their jobs, receive damages

A woman in another state claimed that she lost her job simply because she was a whistleblower. However, the woman, who worked at a college, was recently reinstated to her former role. Whistleblowers in the Bay Area who are punished by their employers for reporting illegal or unethical behavior have the right to seek to hold accountable their employers.

In the recent out-of-state case, the woman was terminated back in 2014. Before being fired, she was the director of one of the campuses of a college and earned about $85,000 in benefits and salary. However, she claimed she was demoted from her position after reporting financial abuse.

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