Los Angeles California Employment Law Blog

Age discrimination is illegal, but difficult to prove

For any worker, being patronized, stereotyped, maligned and mistreated can be crushing, demeaning and hurtful. Such feelings are compounded when you are an older worker. Age discrimination is alive and well in the American workplace, but not enough has been done to combat something so destructive to a person’s soul or his or her livelihood.

Age discrimination is illegal and can surface in a number of ways. You’ve been asked to vacate your office to work in an open space or cube. You now must share a computer with others, or you’ve been demoted to a position with no sick pay or benefits. Or you’re called age-related epithets.

Am I protected from workplace discrimination for being gay?

Picture this: You work as a skydiving instructor. You love your job, and you’re a good employee. You arrive on time each day, and you dedicate yourself completely to your work. One day, you’re preparing for a tandem skydive with a female student, and she seems uneasy about being strapped so closely to you—a male. You reassure her by letting her know that you’re gay. A few days later, you get fired.

While the above may seem like a clear case of employment discrimination, there is debate over whether sexual orientation is a category that’s legally protected under federal law surrounding workplace discrimination. This question has been batted around different courtrooms since 2010. Here’s why the answer hasn’t been so cut and dried:

Do you know if you've been wrongfully terminated?

Wrongful termination laws are in place for a reason: to protect workers who have been illegally fired. Most people on the job are considered "at will" employees, and can be fired for any reason as long as it is not illegal. However, employees or contractors cannot be terminated for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

In a recent case near Oakland, a California appeals court upheld a lower court's decision to award $1.3 million to a female self-storage employee wrongfully terminated because she was pregnant. This is a prime example of wrongful termination as it was a discriminatory and illegal for her former employer to fire her.

Reporting sexual harassment

Maybe it was a joke about your body or a comment on what you were wearing perhaps it was even a "mistaken" touch that made you realize you had been sexually harassed. The modern day working environment presents more of a struggle than ever for workers seeking help after experiencing sexual harassment on the job.

Toni Jaramilla, an attorney and partner at Toni Jaramilla, A Professional Law Corporation, recently contributed to the LA Times helping to guide victims of sexual harassment who want to report their aggressors. As former chair of the California Employment Lawyers Association, Jaramilla is well versed in supporting victims on their legal and emotional journey after suffering from harassment.

Attorney Toni Jaramilla featured in LA Times article

Our own Toni Jaramilla was featured in an LA Times article about sexual harassment in the workplace. She commented on what constitutes as harassment at work and the importance of documenting the incidents.

For most people, work is a part of daily life. You go to work and do your job so you can support yourself, but what happens when unwelcome harassment becomes part of your work environment? In some cases sexual harassment is obvious, but in more nuanced instances it can be difficult to tell if you are being harassed.

After a sexual harassment complaint, is HR on your side?

If you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment at work, you probably realized that what was happening was illegal. Typical cases involve far more than an innocent compliment or a friendly arm around the shoulders. As we’ve all seen in the news recently, sexual harassment commonly involves blatant, persistent sexual advances, unwanted sexual touching and worse.

Since sexual harassment is illegal and often shocking, you might assume that your company will respond sympathetically to an honest, good-faith complaint. Ideally, they will. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that HR will consider you -- not your harasser -- to be a problem employee.


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