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California Continues To Work On Discrimination Complaint Process

In California, if you feel that you’re not being treated fairly by an employer, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A couple years ago, a move was made to streamline this process by taking everything online, but as evidenced by recent developments, this actually created a challenge of its own. The biggest issue in the wake of that switch is the fact that many citizens of California were confused when it came time to actually input details of their complaint into the system. Although the new methodology was supposed to expedite the complaint process, in practice, it led to more difficulties given that investigators were lacking the proper information. Seeking to improve the process even further, the Department has now instituted a new measure in which the complaint filing system stays in place, but before a person can get to that online step, they will be put into contact with an investigator who will help delineate the nature of the complaint and assist with filling things. The hope is that this will allow the tens of thousands of complaints that come in every year to get properly examined by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This would also allow persons to more quickly file lawsuits, something that becomes incredibly helpful in the process of filing a complaint. A lawyer can help get things resolved in a way that a standard bureaucracy cannot. For more information, follow this...

Don’t Be Afraid To Report Discrimination Or Other Unlawful Practices That Occur At Work

Quite often I will receive a call from an employee who is concerned that they are being discriminated, harassed and/or retaliated against at work. The first thing I will ask the employee is whether or not they have notified their employer that such unlawful practices are taking place. I am not surprised when they tell me they have not. The employee may be afraid to do so for fear of retaliation, and/or concerned that the employer will ignore their complaints. Employees are, however, expected to utilize their employer’s internal complaint procedures, if available, in order to show that they used reasonable care to avoid the harm resulting from the unlawful conduct. California Employers Are Required to Take All Reasonable Steps To Prevent Discrimination In The Workplace In California employee protection against workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation is governed by Fair Employment and Housing Act (California Government Code §12940, et. seq.), otherwise known as the “FEHA” statute or, simply, FEHA. The FEHA is the state counterpart to Title VII of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act, and is generally considered to provide broader protection and remedies than Title VII. The FEHA prohibits unlawful employment practices by employers who the FEHA statute defines as any person or entity with five or more employees. Pursuant to FEHA employers are required to “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination” in the workplace. (Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 (k)). Reasonable steps included a prompt investigation of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation claims, as is required to ensure a discrimination free environment. Employers are also required to establish antidiscrimination polices and to implement effective procedures...

Employee Responsibility in Internal Company Investigations

A recent California case demonstrates that employers might be allowed to reprimand or terminate an employee for interfering with an internal company investigation.  This decision highlights how important it is for employees to provide truthful information during internal company investigations, even if the employee’s conduct is the subject of the investigation. McGRORY v. APPLIED SIGNAL TECH, INC. In McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc., an employee (“McGrory) filed suit against his employer (“AST”) for wrongful termination.  McGrory had been accused of discriminating against another employee on the basis of her sexual orientation.  AST hired an external investigator to determine whether McGrory had indeed acted with a discriminatory bias.  While the investigator determined that McGrory did not discriminate against the other employee, AST discovered through the investigation that McGrory had been making various inappropriate sexual and racially/ethnically charged statements in the work environment.  In addition, the investigator concluded that McGrory had not been fully cooperative with the investigation, and had even made false statements during an interview. AST subsequently terminated McGrory’s employment due to these findings.  McGrory then filed suit against AST, alleging that, among other reasons, his termination violated a public precluding retaliation for statements made during an internal investigation.  AST successfully moved for and obtained summary judgment in its favor.  McGrory appealed and the California Court of Appeals Sixth District affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals began its analysis by attempting to define the scope of a public policy that might protect an employee for participating in an internal company investigation.  In doing so the appellate court turned to language in the Fair Employment and Housing...
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