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San Fernando Valley Employment Law Blog

Employers' right to silence sexual harassment victims restricted under new California law

Under Assembly Bill 3109 (AB-3109), any contract or settlement agreement will be deemed void and unenforceable if it contains a provision waiving a party's right to testify regarding criminal conduct or sexual harassment by the other party or the other party's employees or agents in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding.

Nursing mothers must be provided location other than bathroom to express milk per new California employment law

California employers were already required to provide employees with a reasonable break time and a reasonable room or other location, "other than a toilet stall," for the purposes of expressing milk. That, however, is no longer enough thanks to the passage of Assembly Bill 1976 (AB-1976). Employers are now required to make reasonable efforts to provide employees with use of a room or other location, other than a bathroom, for purposes of expressing milk.

116th Congress bans LGBTQ job discrimination in the House

The legislative gains advanced by the LGBTQ community in California have spread all the way to the nation's capital. With the Democrats taking control of the 116th Congress on Jan. 3, they voted to update the rules for employment at the House of Representatives by banning job discrimination against LGBTQ people. A representative who is an open member of the LGBTQ demographic pushed for the change.

Federal employment law oversees the rules for congressional staff, and it does not currently spell out protection from discrimination for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Federal courts across the country have taken a mixed view on employment rights for these individuals. Some courts have extended federal civil rights law to include LGBTQ people on the basis of sex discrimination. Other courts have taken a different view and left people exposed to discrimination on the job in places where state or local laws do not offer protection.

California employers new sexual harassment training laws

California employers may need to revisit their sexual-harassment-prevention training to ensure compliance with the newly enacted Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343). Prior to SB 1343, only businesses employing 50 or more workers were required to provide sexual-harassment-prevention training to supervisory employees.

No more secret "me too" settlements in California

Sexual harassment and/or discrimination settlement agreements have often included confidentiality provisions or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) prohibiting victims from disclosing terms of settlement and the underlying facts of their claim. Beginning January 1, 2019, however, any settlement agreement containing an NDA clause will be considered void.

Minimum wage increase for California employees

On January 1, 2019, the minimum wage in California increased to $12 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $11 per hour for employees with 25 or fewer employees*.

Don’t become a victim of whistleblower retaliation, fight back

Blowing the whistle on your employer is never an easy decision. However, if you want to do the right thing, you should know that it won't adversely impact your employment.

Even though there is no place for whistleblower retaliation, it remains a problem. Unfortunately, the concern for retaliation is often enough to scare a person away from taking action.

Entertainment unions come together against workplace harassment

The #MeToo movement and revelations about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and elsewhere have led to significant efforts to reform the industry in California and elsewhere. Harvey Weinstein, the prominent movie producer, was at the center of many of these allegations in late 2017; they have since expanded to highlight a number of well-known figures in the industry. Harassment and assault complaints have been the focus of media stories, activism and social media campaigns.

As a result, several major trade unions in the industry have come together under the auspices of the AFL-CIO's Department of Professional Employees. SAG-AFTRA, the Writers' Guild of America, the Directors' Guild of America, Actors' Equity Association and the American Federation of Musicians announced a joint pledge and campaign to fight sexual harassment. The alliance emerged from a Dec. 13, 2018 meeting between the unions in which they discussed plans to share codes of conduct, proposed contract language, training resources and other best practices that can bolster all of their efforts to fight workplace harassment in different industry sectors.

How to handle sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment can take place within retail establishments in California, so it is important that employers have a policy in place that describes what sexual harassment is and how it should be reported. Reports that are made should be forwarded to a human resources official or to anyone else trained to handle them. Furthermore, the system must ensure that allegations of harassment will be investigated even if the perpetrator is in a position of power.

As a general rule, harassment is seen as any activity that creates a hostile workplace. The victim may be targeted based on gender, race or national origin. Those over the age of 40 are also protected against harassment based on their age. If a person makes a report of sexual or any other type of harassment, a company is not allowed to retaliate against that individual.

Forest Service attempts to tackle discrimination and harassment

The U.S. Forest Service employs many people in California and nationwide. Roughly 40,000 people work at the federal agency, and it unfortunately has a long history of sexual harassment complaints and retaliation. A class-action lawsuit targeted the agency in the 1970s after female employees experienced systemic discrimination. As recently as December 2016, an oversight panel reported that sexual harassment and assault remained rampant at the agency. The new director of the agency reported to Congress about recent steps taken to address an allegedly toxic workplace culture defined by sexual harassment, misconduct and bullying.

The director said that the agency has developed a new anti-harassment policy. Outside contractors have been retained to handle investigations of sexual misconduct complaints. The independent investigators are meant to circumvent bias and favoritism displayed by internal managers and staff. The agency has also added a new office to provide support for victims.

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