Will Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Force Google HR Changes?

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The recent settlement Google reached for an age discrimination lawsuit included wide range change in the company’s HR practices – particularly their recruiting practices and employee surveys. This lawsuit was different than others with similar claims due to the management changes the plaintiffs demanded. It is a good example of the potential impact discrimination lawsuits can have on hiring and firing.

The original complaint was filed in 2015. The Google age discrimination lawsuit alleged that the median age for U.S. workers is 42, but that Google’s median employee age is 29. The suit further claimed that Google favored job applicants under 40 in their hiring process. The lead plaintiff in the case was Cheryl Fillekes, who has a Ph.D. in geophysics. She was invited to four separate job interviews with Google from the age of 47+, but she was never hired. She claimed it was due to age discrimination and filed a complaint in federal court in California.

The age discrimination class action case was settled in federal court for $11 million. Over 200 parties were involved. As a result of this case, Google was required to train their employees and managers regarding age-based bias. They also had to create a subcommittee for their recruiting operations that focused solely on age diversity in their engineering departments. Google will need to make sure that their marketing reflects age diversity, and that employees leaving the company are surveyed about any possible discrimination.

The plaintiffs in the case hope that the training and survey requirements included in the settlement raise awareness of the issue of age discrimination as well as help to decrease bias against older, highly experienced tech professionals who struggle to find employment. The purpose of the subcommittee is to make sure the hiring process is not structured to discriminate against older applicants and the increased diversity in marketing materials is intended to encourage a more diverse group of applicants.

If you have experienced age discrimination during the hiring process or in the workplace, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP so we can help.

Muslim Employee Brings Claims of Harassment and Discrimination

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L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) is facing a harassment and discrimination lawsuit from an employee. Saiara Shams filed the lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court alleging she was the target of derogatory comments about her religion made by co-workers. She also alleged that her co-workers retaliated after she reported wasteful contracts and that she was blocked from promotions at the company.

Shams claims she was the victim of a years-long campaign of harassment, retaliation and discrimination in the workplace. A spokesman from the company, DWP, refused to comment other than to state that litigation was pending, and they take any allegation of discrimination seriously. Other DWP cited in the lawsuit did go on record publicly regarding the lawsuit: Ana Romero, Henry Williams, Zebbra Corbin, and Glenn Barry.

Shams was born in Bangladesh but moved to California in 1997 and became an American citizen in 2000. She was employed by DWP on their team managing the power grid. She was the only Muslim woman in the department. Romero, cited earlier, was her supervisor. Romero allegedly made fun of her accent, made comparisons between her and Islamic terrorists, advised her to take an English writing class because she wasn’t US-born, and openly voiced her regret over not hiring a Latinx person.  

Romero, according to court documents and an interview with The Times, allegedly made fun of Shams’ accent, compared her to Islamic terrorists, told her she “needed to take an English writing class because she was not born in the U.S,” and lamented that she would have rather hired a Latinx employee. Shams claims that the harassment and discrimination escalated with other employees getting involved. The comments began to come more frequently if there was a terrorist attack.

Shams claims that she reported the behavior repeatedly, but that management at DWP did not stop or punish those who were involved in the harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

If you need to file a discrimination lawsuit, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP, our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation. Let us help you protect your rights as a California employee. 

Discrimination Lawsuit: Wilshire Hospice Allegedly Denied Reasonable Accommodations for Disability

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Victoria Thorp, a former employee of Wilshire Health and Community Services alleged in a recent discrimination lawsuit that she requested reasonable accommodations for her disability and was denied. She also claims that Wilshire Health fired her due to the request for reasonable accommodations.

Thorp filed the discrimination lawsuit against Wilshire Health on August 8th, 2019. Allegations include discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.

Thorp was a full-time employee of Wilshire as a licensed registered nurse. Her employment with the company started on Sept. 26, 2017. She was diagnosed with a serious medical condition qualifying as a disability under applicable provisions of California Fair Employment and Housing Act on October 28, 2017. After her diagnosis, Thorp claims she informed her managers as well as Wilshire human resources of her disability and requested accommodations that would enable her to fulfill her job duties and continue in her employment with the company. According to the lawsuit, Wilshire and its managers involved in the incident refused to even engage with Thorp in discussing how the situation could be managed.

Thorp claims that the company refused to provide her with accommodations even though she was completely honest in her communication regarding the matter and offered them all the necessary medical information. According to the timeline presented in the lawsuit, Wilshire took action on March 28, 2019. They allegedly made false accusations that Thorp violated her stated physical restrictions, informed her that no further accommodations would be offered, denied her the chance to apply for other vacant positions with the company that she was qualified for (in violation of Fair Employment Housing Act) and forced her to take a leave of absence.

Less than a week later, Wilshire demanded Thorp appear to sign documents and turn in her phone and laptop. The demand was for her immediate appearance, and Thorp requested a postponement until she had a chance to confer with legal counsel. Her request was allegedly refused. Wilshire then issued Thorp a letter of termination.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or if you are being denied reasonable accommodations for a disability, please contact Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience to help you protect your rights in the workplace.

YouTube Facing Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by their LGBTQ Creators

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In recent news, GNews!, a group of LGBTQ creators, are suing YouTube, the popular video platform, and their parent company, Google. The group is alleging that YouTube restricts their abilities to generate revenue with their videos due to their sexual orientation. The discrimination lawsuit was filed in federal court in California in August 2019 and is seeking class action status.

The plaintiffs’ legal counsel argues that YouTube regularly engages in discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unlawful conduct. The standard practice is harmful to LGPTQ, a protected group of persons under California law. A spokesperson from YouTube responded to the lawsuit on record stating:

“We’re proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community. All content on our site is subject to the same policies. Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like “gay” or “transgender.” In addition, we have strong policies prohibiting hate speech, and we quickly remove content that violates our policies and terminate accounts that do so repeatedly.”

The GNews! group consists of Bria Kam, Chrissy Chambers (BriaandChrissy), Chase Ross (uppercaseCHASE1), Lindsay Amer (Queer Kid Stuff), and Amp Somers (Watts The Safeword). The group’s lawsuit claims that YouTube labels their uploads offensive and sexually explicit, but only because of their sexual orientation and that their videos are consistently demonetized. They also claim that YouTube changes the GNews! thumbnail videos and excludes them from content recommendations. As a result of YouTube’s actions, the group claims that they receive suppressed view counts.

The group further claims that while YouTube actively discriminates against their account due to the creators’ sexual orientation, the company does nothing to enforce their own content policies against LGBTQ harassment. The group of LGBTQ creators published a video on YouTube discussing YouTube’s mishandling of homophobic speech by one of their users and YouTube CEO’s apology for the situation described in the high-profile case involving a far-right YouTube commentator named Steven Crowder who mocked gay Vox journalist Carlos Maza on the platform. GNews! claims this was simply a PR exercise and that YouTube does not take these issues seriously.

If you have questions about how to protect your rights in the workplace or if you need to file a discrimination lawsuit, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation.

Gender Discrimination: Female Pilot Too Short to Fly the Phenom is Fired and Male Pilots Too Tall are Reassigned

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The company hired Drerup in 2015 to fly the Phenom aircraft, a light jet aircraft with the capacity to carry up to 11. The company publicly claims this plane is one of the finest small, private jets in the industry. While Drerup was in training it became obvious that she could not fly the Phenom because her legs were too short to reach the pedals. Drerup claims that NetJets responded by advising her to buy a booster seat or wear platform shoes…whatever she needed to do to make it work. Drerup does not argue the fact that she cannot fly the Phenom, she admits she is too short to do so. She claims she even advised her trainers of this fact as well as letting them know that she was trained and rated to pilot five other types of aircraft, including the Cessna which NetJets actively uses in their operations.

When Drerup attended a meeting the next day, she expected to be transferred to another airplane. Instead she was given a termination letter, they took her badge, her credit cards, her iPad, and her cellphone. She claims they treated her like a criminal. To make the entire situation worse, Drerup claims that three male co-workers were transferred to other planes because they had the exact opposite issue piloting the Phenom, they were too tall.

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation.

Recent News Labels Litigation Trend “Shakedown” Lawsuits

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In response to a recent uptick in the number of lawsuits – particularly employment law claims against restaurants, the restaurant industry is scrambling to come up with standard advice for owners and managers in the industry. In response to what they are labeling "shakedown" lawsuits, restaurant owners and managers are encouraged to employ precautions and counter strategies to mitigate and avoid lawsuits. Corporations and business owners desperately want to avoid the costs of paying out thousands or even millions in settlements due to class action employment lawsuits.

Common Alleged Violations Cited in Class Action Employment Suits Against Restaurants:

Discrimination Lawsuits: While many businesses have inclusive company policies, diversity standards, clear, supportive LGBTQ policies, etc. this does not guarantee that managers and supervisors will behave in accordance with stated company policy. Many companies with positive, inclusive, and diverse standards supported by written and enforced company policy still face harsh allegations due to other employees, supervisors and managers who are acting against company policy as a representative of the company.

Fair Credit Reporting Act Lawsuits: Employers are required to offer job applicants and employees with notice when information is collected through third party credit reporting agencies including credit reports, background checks, prior history info and ownership asset reports. As the general public becomes more aware of their rights to know prior to having their data accessed, the number of lawsuits citing fair credit reporting violations increases.

Fair Labor Standards Act Lawsuits: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuits focus on wage and hour violations with the most common being overtime violations and minimum wage violations. One of the main issues that crop up when employees claim FLSA violations is misclassification. Employers seeking to save money and maximize their workforce sometimes willfully deny their workers benefits and pay they have a legal right to by misclassifying them as exempt or as independent contractors.

If you have been misclassified on the job, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation.

Dynamex and Its Effect on Worker Classification

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The 2018 Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County from the California Supreme Court upended decades of precedent by setting out a new, stringent, three-factor test to determine proper worker classification for purposes of California’s wage order rules. In 2019, the Ninth Circuit applied Dynamex retroactively. But then they reversed that ruling and returned the question to the California Supreme Court. Also in 2019, Assembly Bill No. an attempt to codify the Dynamex test, is before the California Senate. So where does that leave employers and employees in California? The information currently available on the issue conflicts – we’re still working towards a standard practical application of the Dynamex ruling.

First, it’s important for employers and California employees to remember that worker classification affects numerous areas: wage and hour, employee benefit plan participation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), state and local laws not preempted by ERISA, and federal income and employment laws. Each area applies specific tests that determine a standard regarding whether or not any particular worker’s proper classification: employee or independent contractor. The recent developments apply specifically to wage and hour law.

California employers need to review how they classify workers for all purposes. They should also consider the fact that there are different tests that apply for classification in different areas of employment law and some are stricter than others. If a California worker is considered an employee for wage and hour purposes, they are entitled to all the protections California state law offers as well as the protections of the FLSA (including minimum wage and overtime).

As Dynamex continues to make waves across California, employers need to be taking a really good look at how they classify their workforce, each of their workers under the different tests, and pinpoint exactly how they can manage their workers to comply with both state and federal wage and hour law.

If you have a misclassification claim, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP, our employment law attorneys. Our California employment law attorneys prepared to be your advocate, making sure you get ALL of the wages you are owed when your employer violates California labor law.