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LGBT persons still face sexual harassment in the workplace

In today's society, you should have the freedom to embrace your sexual orientation. In recent years, the LGBT community gained significant support from the public and the government, and for decades California has been a leader in this support. Same-sex couples can marry, divorce and more easily adopt children than at any other point in the country's history.

With all of these advances in thinking and legal protections, you would think you would have the same rights when it comes to protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. Those laws have been slower in coming, but once again, the state of California leads the way for protecting you.

4 common categories of on-the-job discrimination

Workplace discrimination takes a variety of forms and if your discrimination falls under the category of a "protected status," you may have the support of powerful state and federal laws to pursue financial justice in court. For example, if you were discriminated for any of the following for reasons -- and you can gather the facts and evidence to prove it in court -- you may have the building blocks of a successful claim:

Pregnancy: Pregnant women cannot be discriminated against in hiring, firing pay or any other part of their work.

Unlawful termination: Were you the squeaky wheel that got fired?

Sometimes, the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. Other times, it's the one that gets fired. When it comes to employees who complain about certain conditions at their workplaces, they're a bit like squeaky wheels. Good employers will listen to them, evaluate the situation and do what's necessary to fix it. Bad employers will simply ignore the employee and end the employment relationship. In many cases, this kind of termination is unlawful.

When an employee gets fired after complaining about work conditions, it's often viewed as "retaliation" by the courts. Retaliation could be any form of punishment, negative work consequences, loss of job, loss of opportunity, demotion or reduction in pay as a response to the employee doing a protected practice. These protected practices include complaining about unlawful behavior, reporting sexual harassment, taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, filing a complaint about safety violations, requesting that racial discrimination stop and more.

Are you improperly classified as an independent contractor?

Many people think that earning an income works by getting a job, becoming an employee and earning a wage. However, that type of scenario does not apply to every situation. Some people choose to work as independent contractors and some employers insist that certain of their workers provide their labor as independent contractors.

For many jobs, workers are classified as employees. This classification allows them to earn a wage or salary, typically obtain benefits, and requires that employers withhold a portion of pay for tax purposes. However, workers classified as independent contractors may have greater control over the terms of their employment. However, many employers and independent contractors do not really understand what really makes a person an independent contractor in the eyes of the law.

California employers are seeking autistic new hires

Just like other workers with disabilities, autistic workers in California face the threat of being discriminated against by potential employers. However, some employers in California have begun to see the unique benefit of hiring workers suffering from this condition. Although every case of autism is different, certain people on the autism spectrum possess special skills that exceed those of nonautistic individuals.

For example, when it comes to Hollywood and the film industry, those with autism might have:

  • An incredible attention to detail
  • An excellent ability to concentrate
  • An interest in performing repetitive tasks
  • A creative capacity that exceeds their peers

Did your employer violate equal pay laws?

In 1963, the U.S. government enacted a law that regulates employers. Whether you work for a privately owned company, a state government agency or the federal government, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) protects you. 

In the past, and even sometimes today, women often received lower wages even though they possessed the same set of skills and performed the same duties as their male counterparts in the workplace. The EPA says employers may no longer do that. If you work at the same place as a particular man, and the two of you do the same job, then you should receive equal pay. If that's not the case where you work, there are things  you can do to rectify the situation. 

Federal Agency Accuses Tapioca Express of Sexual Harassment

Tapioca Express is a franchise that sells milk-based teas. It's based in South El Monte, California. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently accused two Tapioca Express locations of creating a work environment fraught with sexual harassment of its female workers. In fact, some employees quit their jobs because of the abusive conditions they faced at work.

The EEOC says that the two locations were owned and operated by the same person. Allegedly, the man inappropriately touched female employees and made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments to them. The EEOC claims that the owner would physically press himself against the workers, put his arms around them and make frequent comments about their bodies. Some of the female employees say they left their jobs because the sexual harassment continued to escalate.

When do California employees get paid or unpaid meal breaks?

You may see that title and think, "What meal break?" If that's the case, then you may want to keep reading. It's possible that you should be getting a meal break but your employer is denying it.

Your employer may not understand California law regarding meal breaks or it may be counting on the fact that you don't. Either way, your employer may not be in compliance with the state's wage and hour laws.

Governor plans to earmark funds for monitoring sexual harassment

Gov. Jerry Brown has released his budget proposal that offers financing to help fight sexual harassment. The proposal would pay for a special program to stop those accused of sexual harassment from changing jobs inside the government. The financing amounts to $1.5 million, which would be used by the California Human Resources Department to monitor discrimination and sexual harassment complaints.

The sexual harassment tracking program would help resolve a problem relating to the state's difficulty in tracking sexual harassment complaints throughout different government departments. According to the governor's proposal request, "The recent exposure of sexual harassment cases in California revealed the need to track complaints and analyze data related to claims filed by employees and the amounts paid in judgments and settlements of those complaints."

How do I file a Family and Medical Leave Act complaint?

Federal law may protect your job in the event of a family or medical emergency that requires you to take time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects certain workers who work for large companies, as it allows workers to take unpaid leave in the event that they or their family members have a medical situation that needs to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, not all employers view FMLA time favorably. Some employers will try to discourage workers, threaten adverse consequences and even retaliate against workers who choose to utilize their FMLA privileges. This is unlawful and -- if you have suffered from this kind of mistreatment -- you might want to file a complaint.

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