The rights of Los Angeles workers are protected under many state and federal laws. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act alone is meant to protect workers from being harassed and discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, medical condition and pregnancy.
Although wronged employees may be able to take legal action when they believe that their employers have violated their rights, providing the courts with sufficient proof may be challenging, especially when employers attempt to argue that their actions were based on other motivating factors.
For example, a woman who worked as a bus driver in Santa Monica was fired shortly after she told her employer she was pregnant. Although the woman's pregnancy appeared to be the reason for her firing, the employer argued that it had planned on firing the bus driver before the employer even knew the bus driver was pregnant.
The former Big Blue Bus driver sued Santa Monica in 2008 for violating her rights under the FEHA. The woman argued that she was wrongfully terminated because her employer had discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and for being pregnant. When the woman's sex discrimination and pregnancy discrimination case went to trial, a jury awarded the woman more than $177,000 in damages after the jury concluded that the woman's pregnancy was a factor when the city decided to terminate the woman's employment. However, this award was overturned last week by the California Supreme Court.
The city argued that two factors were considered when deciding to fire the employee. Although the woman's pregnancy was a factor, the city claims that it had also planned on firing the woman because of problems with her job performance. The city claims that the Big Blue Bus driver had been involved in two on-the-job crashes that she could have avoided. The city also claimed that the woman failed to inform her boss that she was running late for work on two separate occasions.
The state Supreme Court ruled last week that the former employee should not be entitled to an award for damages since the employer was planning on firing the employee before she informed her employer that she was pregnant.
Source: SantaMonicaPatch, "Award overturned in Big Blue Bus discrimination suit," Jenna Chandler, Feb. 7, 2013