Posts in Discrimination & Harassment.

As has been widely reported, companies throughout the country are facing pandemic-related labor shortages, including because of workers’ childcare obligations, concerns about returning to in-person work, and the continuation of unemployment benefits.  Employers attempting to address this labor shortage are offering hiring bonuses, increasing wages, and improving benefits and flexibility.  It also appears they are hiring teenagers to fill these vacancies, which coincides with the general uptick in youth employment between April and July each year.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), the unemployment rate among teenagers this month stands at 12.3% and is anticipated to fall further, providing a stark contrast to teen unemployment last summer.  (In July 2020, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 18.5%, about twice as high as the year before, according to the BLS.)

One of the many downsides to the current pandemic is that so many people have exhausted their family leave taking care of themselves as well as sick family members.  The non-COVID-19-related issues of families have not gone away, however.  Who is taking parents to chemo treatments?  Who is taking spouses to physical therapy?  How do employees and employers deal with these issues?  If family leave is no longer an option, employees may turn to associational discrimination and reasonable accommodation of associational discrimination if they are denied time off to take care of family members.

Can California Employers Be Liable For Failure To Prevent Something That Never Happened?

If this sounds like an oxymoron to you, join the crowd.  For years, California employers have relied on the principle that plaintiffs cannot prevail under Government Code section 12940(k) for “failure to prevent” discrimination (or harassment or retaliation) if the plaintiff does not prevail on the underlying claim.  The failure to prevent cause of action has been viewed as a derivative cause of action that stems exclusively from a finding that discrimination, harassment or retaliation actually occurred.  Carter v. California Dept. of Veterans Affairs (2006) 38 Cal. 4th 914, 925, fn. 4.  The Carter rule has been used as a successful tool for employers when filing motions for summary judgment and eliminates “failure to prevent” tag-a-long claims when the underlying law is not broken.

 In a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the ministerial exception set forth in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).  (Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, Case Nos. 19-267 and 19-348 (July 8, 2020)(“OLG”)).

In an effort to provide employers with more tools to make their workplace safe, the EEOC gave the green light on Thursday April 23, 2020, to test employees for COVID-19.  This announcement comes on the heels of guidance issued last week that confirmed that employers may take temperatures and make inquiries of their employees relating to symptoms of COVID-19. 

In Anthony v. TRAX International Corp. (April 17, 2020, Case No. 18-15662), the Ninth Circuit held the limitation of using after-acquired evidence to merely mitigate damages did not extend to evidence used to show that an Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) plaintiff is not a qualified individual, an element of a prima facie case of disability discrimination.

In an age discrimination case filed by a federal Department of Veterans Affairs employee, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a federal employee or applicant may establish that an adverse personnel action took place by showing that their age was simply a “motivating factor” in the federal employer’s decision.  Babb v. Wilkie 589 U.S. __ (2020).

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Issues New Guidance on Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training

In light of recent amendments to SB 1343, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) issued an updated FAQ which sheds light on areas of ambiguity for employers regarding sexual harassment prevention training.   

Deadline for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Extended to January 1, 2021 for Some Employees

On August 30, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed urgency legislation to extend the deadline to provide certain employees required sexual harassment training until January 1, 2021.  (Senate Bill 778).  Last year, Senate Bill 1343 amended Government Code section 12950.1 to require employers with five or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees and one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020.   

California Courts Issue Twin Decisions Enforcing Arbitration Agreements

In two decisions issued within the last month, the California appellate courts broadened the circumstances under which agreements to arbitrate civil claims can be enforced. One court held that an employee effectively entered into an agreement by continuing to work for the company around the same time a claim was filed, while another held that an arbitration agreement applied to a claim even after a lawsuit was filed. The two cases clarified the availability of arbitration agreements to insulate employers from the prospect of jury trials in both such situations.

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