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San Fernando Valley Employment Law Blog

When employers fail to provide mandatory breaks

Many workers in California may have to deal with situations in which their employers deny them a meal break, lunch or rest period no matter how many hours they have worked that day. However, under state law, employers have a responsibility to make sure that their employees receive sufficient breaks during the day. If you're a California worker struggling with denied rest and meal breaks, you may want to know more about the law and how you protect your rights.

Under the Labor Code, workers are entitled to receive one hour of extra pay for every day that they do not receive their mandatory rest breaks. If their meal breaks are not provided, they must receive an additional one hour of extra pay. Employers may be required to pay this additional compensation if they deprive workers of their right to take breaks or attempt to require off-the-clock work.

Nurses face sexual harassment on the job

Many nurses in California and around the country have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment on the job, and one report said that around 20 percent of nurses had done so in the past three years. As news of major scandals in the entertainment industry and the rise of the #MeToo movement have drawn major media attention to the issue of sexual assault and harassment, research indicates that these issues are also significant in the health care industry.

According to a Medscape report issued in June 2018, some nurses said that sexual harassment has inhibited their ability to do their jobs. In a study of over 6,200 clinical practitioners, nurses were asked about a number of conduct issues, including unwanted text messages or emails with sexual content, comments about sex or bodies, direct propositions for sex, offers of employment benefits in exchange for sex, threats for denying sex, unwanted groping or touching, repeated questioning about dating, crowding personal space and rape. Of the respondents, 11 percent reported being victims of sexual misconduct or harassment on the job, while another 14 percent reported witnessing such behavior directed at another person.

Silence does not mean there is no harassment

California residents are likely familiar with the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements that have given voice to many victims of sexual bullying, assault and harassment. Much of this harassment took place at the workplace, and much of it was perpetrated by men in positions of power.

Sexual assault in the workplace and harassment happen with greater frequency than some may realize. A study published in 2018 found that 81 percent of women and more than 40 percent of men say that they have experienced some type of sexual harassment or some form of sexual assault during their life.

Sexual harassment at work: Steps you can take

You never expect to be the victim of sexual harassment at your place of employment, but there's always a chance this could happen. From your supervisor to a coworker to a client, it's possible someone could put you in an awkward and potentially dangerous situation.

Here are a few steps to take if you're the victim of sexual harassment at work:

  • Speak up immediately: Don't make the mistake of sitting back and hoping that the person stops on his or her own. You need to speak up, letting the harasser know that you are not going to stand for this type of behavior. It doesn't always work, but it may be just what you need to put an end to the harassment before it worsens.
  • Read your employee handbook: This is where you will find information on sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the steps you can take if you become a victim. There should be clear language on how to report this behavior and what to expect from your employer.
  • Talk to the right people: Maybe you tell your supervisor about what's happening, hoping that he or she can step in and make things right. Or maybe you get in touch with your HR department, knowing that they're responsible for handling such situations.
  • Take notes: You should track all instances of sexual harassment, such as by writing down the time, date and exactly what happened.
  • File an administrative charge: If you can't resolve your issue internally, you should learn more about your legal rights on both the state and federal level. For example, you can consult with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the next steps to take.

Trump's driver sues for overtime pay

California residents may have heard about allegations made by employees or contractors who performed services for Donald Trump about not being paid properly. Trump's former personal driver filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization asking for 3,300 hours of unpaid overtime over the past six years. Statutes of limitation prevent him from seeking wages from before 2012. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff says that he worked 55 hours a week on a fixed salary.

In 2003, he was paid $62,700, and the former driver was given raises in 2006 and 2010. However, the lawsuit claims that by taking the pay raise in 2010, the plaintiff was required to give up his health insurance. The 2010 raise increased his salary from $68,000 to $75,000 while Trump reportedly saved $17,866 in premium payments. In the lawsuit, the man claims that he was never given an annual wage notice as required by New York state law.

How employees should deal with workplace discrimination

Even though most forms of workplace discrimination is illegal in the state of California, there are some who still experience it. Those who are actively discriminated against often find that their productivity and progress is impacted. They may also experience anxiety and work-related stress. However, there are certain steps workers can take to eliminate discrimination.

It should be noted that only discrimination in the workplace that meets the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions guidelines is considered to be illegal. Types of illegal discrimination include discrimination based on age, sex, gender, pregnancy, race and religion. Retaliation for reporting discrimination is also illegal. If a worker is experiencing illegal discrimination and the work environment has become hostile as a result, the worker should email or talk to the coworker or supervisor about stopping the behavior. Using an email provides a paper trail in the event the situation needs to be escalated.

Some veterans confront workplace discrimination

Some San Fernando Valley veterans with less than honorable discharges from the military may be concerned about the threat of discrimination when seeking jobs due to their discharge status. Many people with this discharge status were removed for minor offenses that would not be penalized outside the military. For example, one veteran said that he received a general discharge in 2007 because he attempted suicide, and he has experienced rejection when seeking jobs due to the discharge record.

In Connecticut, there has been recognition by the state's human rights commission that these types of discharges were issued disproportionately to black, Latino, gay and lesbian and disabled veterans. Therefore, the state's human rights commission informed employers that they could be responsible for workplace discrimination if they refuse to hire people with some types of discharges based on a blanket policy. The state of Illinois also prohibits discrimination in hiring on the basis of discharge status.

Chipotle settles wrongful termination claim with former manager

On May 14, it was reported that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. settled with a California former manager after she claimed that the company wrongly terminated her. According to the lawsuit, the woman was accused of stealing $626 from a safe at one of the company's restaurants.

The former manager, who had worked for Chipotle for 14 years, said that she denied stealing the money from the company. When she asked to see the video evidence, the company refused to show her the tape and then allegedly destroyed it. Initially, the company had attempted to settle her civil complaint with $1,000. Instead, the case went to a jury trial, and the woman's attorney asked for a minimum of $10 million.

New mothers who nurse or pump have legal protections at work

Bringing a new life into the world and into your family is an amazing experience. Many women like to have it all, including a family and a career. Thanks to laws that prevent employer discrimination, more women than ever before can enjoy professional success while also embracing motherhood. Sadly, despite legal protections at the federal and California state level, many women workers still deal with discrimination and harassment related to motherhood.

Women may have to deal with employers who refuse disability leave or who try to fire a new mother when she returns to work. One form of discrimination that remains common is employers who refuse to support or accommodate a new mother who is nursing her infant. Fewer women realize that they have rights that protect their ability to nurse or pump for the new child, so employers may try to take advantage of that knowledge gap.

Strategies to minimize potential age discrimination at work

As a California worker ages, he or she faces the risk of being pushed out by an employer. As a general rule, women are more likely to experience age discrimination than men. This is partially because of cultural perceptions that men get better with age while women become less valuable. While the law forbids age discrimination, proving it can be difficult.

To win a case involving alleged age discrimination, a worker would need to show that prejudice was the primary reason why an employer made a decision. Therefore, an employer could argue that it was simply terminating an older worker as part of an overall downsizing of operations. However, employees can take steps to make themselves too valuable to employers to let them go as they age.

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