California employers must provide a minimum two-hour training session on preventing sexual harassment in 2011. Under AB 1825, each employer is required to train supervisors to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace at least every two years. Employers with 50 or more employees can avoid tracking training of individual employees if they conduct company-wide training for supervisors during one calendar year. Because AB 1825 went into effect in 2005, the training takes place in odd-numbered years for most employers.
According to attorney David Goldman, employers should focus particularly on retaliation in the AB 1825 training. That is because complaints of retaliation increased 49% between 2006 and 2009. By comparison, charges of sexual harassment increased only 5% during the same period.
In particular, employers need to make supervisors aware that taking any negative action against an employee who files a discrimination or sexual harassment complaint in good faith is illegal retaliation. Common forms of retaliation can range from ostracizing the employee, to demoting or terminating the employee on trumped-up grounds. Even when a discrimination complaint is determined to be unfounded, retaliation against the employee is illegal. An employer can legally take negative action only against an employee who is found to have committed fraud when making the complaint of discrimination.
The Trans Bay Steel, Inc. of Napa and Los Angeles, California was fined $1 million for slavery and human trafficking. In the suit, the EEOC alleged that 48 Thai welders were exploited and discriminated against due to their national origin. The EEOC took the allegations one step farther, arguing that Trans Bay was actually guilty of slavery and human trafficking. Eventually, the judge agreed.
Sadly, a number of companies have been accused of discrimination recently—but few have been charged with slavery or human trafficking. When the EEOC receives a complaint of discrimination, they launch a full investigation. Only if the investigation turns up evidence of wrongdoing, does the EEOC file a suit. Not surprisingly, most companies choose to settle out of court, rather than fight the lawsuit.
Officials at Trans Bay probably wish that they had settled with the EEOC, but they fought the charges…and lost.
Trans Bay had obtained H2B visas for the employees through a third party agency. The EEOC charged that the employees were held against their will. Their passports were confiscated and their movements were restricted. The employees were forced to work without pay. In addition, some were confined to cramped apartments without electricity, water or gas.
At least 17 of the workers were told that if they attempted to leave, the police and immigration officials would arrest them. The EEOC contends that all the workers were forced to pay enormous fees to the recruiting company, which effectively kept them in involuntary servitude.
Eventually some of the workers escaped the slave-like conditions and were able to alert authorities.
The men were working to retrofit the Bay Bridge under a sub-contract won by Trans Bay, Inc. Trans Bay contracted with Kota Manpower Co. to bring skilled workers from Thailand. Eventually, 9 of the 48 workers were employed by Trans Bay. The remaining workers were forced to work without pay in Los Angles and Long Beach, in Thai restaurants owned by Kota Manpower. Some were also forced to work other menial jobs without pay.
“The issues of human trafficking and slavery are an enforcement priority for the Commission,” said Anna Y. Park, Regional Attorney in EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction for the southern half of California. “The EEOC is committed to the protection of all workers, particularly those most vulnerable in our society. The workers in this case sought out the American dream, but instead faced a nightmare.”
After an extensive investigation, the EEOC won the suit against Trans Bay and was awarded up to $1 million. This award includes a monetary payment to each worker, with guaranteed employment on the Bay Bridge Project. The company also agreed to provide a housing stipend for workers.
In one of the most comprehensive awards in recent history, the company is required to pay the workers relocation expenses to Napa, California. They will also train and certify the workers as welders.
The company will also pay for tuition and books at a local college for the unskilled workers to train as welders. The company agreed to guarantee minimum pay and a base pay once the claimants complete their training period.
The judgment for the U.S. EEOC vs. Trans Bay Steel, Inc. includes continued monitoring by the EEOC, training of Trans Bay employees on anti-discrimination laws, changes to Trans Bay’s policies and procedures, and developing a company-wide complaint procedure.
EEOC Los Angeles District Director Olophius E. Perry said, “Through the cooperative efforts between the federal government and non-profit organizations, a just resolution was reached that is a win/win for the workers and for the employer.”
The EEOC worked closely with non-profit organizations such as the Thai Community Development Center, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
All employers should be worried about the risk of a discrimination or harassment lawsuit. You might think you are the most open minded and fair employer in the world, but unless you have this open-mindedness and fairness instilled into your company in policies and rules, then you could be at risk for a disgruntled employee, or even an employee with a fair claim, taking you to court.
California’s legislature is looking to pass a bill for Cali employers that could actually make their lives easier when it comes to sexual harassment. The bill comes from the Fair Employment and Housing Commission actually, who is proposing the new regulation in order to help employers. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission wants the state legislature to pass a law that would make employers have to have sexual harassment training for themselves and their managers and supervisors.
The Fair Employment and Housing Commission had actually sent over the legislature a similar bill back in last November on the same issue, and the bill went to the California Office of Administrative law. (Don’t ask me how to explain how the California government works.) But the Office of Administrative law returned the bill to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, saying it wasn’t clear enough.
Now the Fair Employment and Housing Commission has refined its proposition, saying that businesses would need training from a subject matter expert on sexual harassment. The bill will have a 15-day comment period for employers and the public to review it and make any suggestions, which will end March 14. Then the Fair Employment and Housing Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed law on March 27 in Los Angeles. All are invited. You can find out more about these meetings and the proposition itself at the Web site of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission at www.fehc.ca.gov.
We have said it before—the training labor law in California that is meant to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination at the work site, AB 1825, involves employers with 50 or more employees. And for the most part, this general rule about the labor law is true. For it to affect your company, you must have 50 or more employees under your organization.
But you must make sure with that 50 employee count that you are including all of your “employees.” This could include temp workers who you only bring in during the holidays and during other busy seasons, or contractors who you bring in to do repair work around your facilities. Everyone who has earned a paycheck in your buildings and around your organization in the past year must be included in your count of employees.
Some experts in the field of California labor law would even say that regardless of how many employees that you have in your organization, and no matter where these employees may be in your organization, you should protect your company when it comes to this labor law and sexual harassment and set up a training program under the AB 1825.
This could also include the part of AB 1825 that talks about whether or not your employees have been trained before. If they have been trained before, the labor law gores, then perhaps they don’t need to be retrained under this law for another 2 years. However, the training guidelines under AB 1825 are more strict than previously, and encompass all forms of sexual harassment as well as discrimination and retaliation because of sex, race, religion, color, age, and national origin.
What’s more, you have to track all of your employees’ participation. So unless you are absolutely 100 percent certain that your previous training covered all of these bases, it is best to retrain your employees to comply with the new sexual harassment labor laws.
It is good to know that if you are an employee in the state of California that you are protected in the workplace from harassment and/or discrimination. In fact, California boasts that they have the largest state civil rights agency in the country.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH maintains the authority to investigate complaints of discrimination in the workplace. Individuals that have questions or employment complaints should contact them for information. In 1980, DFEH was established as an independent department charged with enforcing California’s comprehensive employment, housing, public accommodations and public service non-discrimination laws, as well as the State’s bias-related hate violence law.
California (CA) job discrimination law in the workplace provides protection from harassment or discrimination in employment because of Age (40 and over), ancestry, color, religious creed, disability, both mental and physical including HIV and AIDS, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and denial of family and medical care leave. Harassment because of sex includes sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Sexual harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors, making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances, visual conduct, displaying of suggestive objects or pictures, making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes, verbal sexual advances or propositions, verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations, Physical conduct such as touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements are all considered violations of the law and violators will be dealt with and punished harshly.
In my research I found that California (CA) job discrimination law in the workplace has one very unique law I thought you might find interesting. It says that employers may not refuse to allow employees to wear pants on the basis of sex unless the employer has a good cause exemption such as requiring uniforms or that specific costumes are worn.