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Vape company Juul at center of sexual harassment suit

There are several laws in place that exist to protect employees in various aspects while at work. For example, employees shouldn't have to face sexual harassment while on the job. Despite these protections, each year employees across California still have to file complaints of sexual harassment with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment. One woman recently filed such a complaint saying that she experienced sexual harassment at her job with the well-known vaping company, Juul.

The woman alleges that three different male employees made suggestive comments to her, touched her without permission and made unwanted sexual advances. She also claims that when she brought her concerns to management, they didn't follow up with any sort of investigation. She alleges that executives retaliated against her by creating untrue rumors that she was having an inappropriate relationship with a company vendor and that she shared confidential company information with a former employee of Juul.

Who does federal law protect from workplace discrimination?

An employer should treat no one differently based on a trait a person cannot control or change. The goal of anti-workplace discrimination laws is to provide everyone with the same opportunities in obtaining and maintaining gainful employment. While many California workers may know this, they may not understand what groups federal law protects as it pertains to workplace discrimination.

Anyone could allege discrimination, but federal law outlines specific groups against whom it is prohibited. For instance, employers cannot discriminate against pregnant women, people over a certain age or because of a person's skin color. They also cannot inappropriately treat people who follow certain religions, or who belong to certain ethnic groups or national origins.

USDOL Wage and Hour Division assesses fines on California growers

Agriculture is big business in California. Many of the individuals who work in the industry come to the state under the H-2A visa program. Unfortunately, not all of the growers who employ them follow the federal wage and hour laws. In fact, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor recently conducted an investigation into allegations of violations of federal laws and ended up assessing fines against certain growers, recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay owed to workers.

Specifically, 443 workers will receive their share of approximately $422,152 in back wages recovered by the agency. In addition, the growers found in violation of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act were assessed fines of approximately $85,168 worth of civil penalties. Unpaid wages were not the only violations found, however.

Some doctors face workplace discrimination in part of California

There seems to be a lack of qualified doctors in an agricultural and rural part of California. The problem appears to center around workplace discrimination suffered by minority doctors who attempt to work in the area. In contrast, doctors who do not fit into a state and federally protected group did not have the same experiences.

For those minority doctors who did experience discrimination due to race, LGBTQ+, gender, ethnicity or some other protected status, some commonalities became apparent through a survey conducted by the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences. Some of the respondents were forced to deal with vandalism of personal property, loss of professional privileges and negative comments. The problem is so pervasive that some minority doctors decided to leave the area entirely.

5 ways your workplace can welcome all gender identities

For LGBTQ workers here in California and the rest of the nation, 2019 promises to be a milestone year. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that may determine whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect gay or transgender individuals.

That legal test comes at a time when more people are identifying themselves as gender nonconforming, meaning they do not consider themselves as females or males, and instead prefer the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “she.”

Sexual harassment victims receive new protections from the law

Each year, numerous California residents become victims in their workplaces. The #MeToo movement brought the plight of sexual harassment victims to the forefront, and the state's legislature attempted to respond last year with new legislation, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. Legislators tried again this year now that Gov. Gavin Newsom is in office, and he approved important changes to existing law.

The enhancements to California's sexual harassment laws provide some new protections for victims. One change bans employers from requiring forced arbitration for these cases. Apparently, many employers were making their workers agree to it as a condition of employment. This took away a worker's right to a trial, which may keep the matter confidential, but also allows the conditions that led to the harassment to continue.

EEOC says workplace discrimination extended to social media

Federal and California laws about how employees are treated do not just extend to those who have jobs, but also to those who are looking for one. Workplace discrimination can begin when an employer is looking to fill a position. Even an advertisement for a position either could blatantly or inadvertently discriminate against a potential employee.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently took action against several companies whose job ads on Facebook discriminated against women and older applicants. A total of 66 employers, one of which was the social media giant, came under scrutiny when complaints were filed against them for employment opportunity advertisements that could allegedly only be viewed by younger people and men. The EEOC's recent decision addressed complaints against seven of the companies involved, which suggests that the remaining complaints will also be successful. 

Sheriff accused of sexual harassment

Employees typically trust that when they go to work, they will be treated fairly and respectfully. While that is true in the majority of workplaces, there are some instances where that is not the case. Some workers have superiors or other co-workers who may be unfairly discriminatory or create a work environment where not every employee feels safe and welcome. Fortunately, there are laws here in California and around the country meant to give employees recourse when they encounter these situations. One out-of-state law enforcement oversight committee made the recent choice to revoke the certification of one of its sheriffs who was accused of sexual harassment.

Local reports state that late last year, the sheriff confessed to seven different incidents of sexual harassment at his place of work. He was accused of putting sexually-explicit items on display where employees could see them and also commenting inappropriately on employees' personal lives. Commissioners on the oversight board heard the sheriff's statements and made the choice to take away his certification.

Assembly Bill 5: How could it impact gig workers and employers?

On September 10, the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill 5. It now awaits Governor Gavin Newsom's signature, who has already expressed support for the bill. He believes continuing to classify gig workers as independent contractors could lead to greater income inequalities.

Assembly Bill 5 has the potential to seriously impact companies and workers in the gig economy. BBC News reports the governor signing the bill into place would affect the one million gig workers in California. According to Capital Public Radio, 222,000 of these workers drive for Uber and Lyft. The bill stems from a 2018 California Supreme court ruling stating workers essential to the company are employees. The decision also states employees work under the company's control and lack personal agency and freedom.

If someone quits, is it still wrongful termination? Maybe

Not every employer-employee relationship works. At times, that relationship can degrade to the point where the employee decides to quit. The problem is that if the behavior of those representing the employer -- such as supervisors, managers and even co-workers -- becomes egregious, it often creates a hostile work environment. Under those circumstances, a Long Beach resident may decide to quit, which may constitute a constructive dismissal, or wrongful termination.

Where an employer may argue that the worker quit voluntarily, allowing the workplace to become so hostile that it caused him or her to quit could negate that assertion. If the evidence shows that the employer failed to live up to an implied or express employment contract or engaged in unlawful conduct, then there could be a case for wrongful termination. However, it will take more than a statement from the employee to make the case.

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