2016 Brings New California Employment Discrimination Law Challenges

As 2015 comes to a close and we prepare to turn the calendar to 2016, employers must prepare for some important changes coming to California’s employment discrimination laws. This post will briefly cover two of the major changes to California’s discrimination and retaliation laws that prompt further training for your managers and employees in the coming year.

Protection for Family Members When an Employee Engages in a Protected Activity

Assembly Bill 1509 is effective January 1, 2016, and adds new protection for family members of employees who complain of discrimination or unsafe working conditions. This law is relevant to employers who employ multiple family members, or have client dealings wherein family members interact.

AB 1509 impacts management training directly, in that retaliation and discrimination training must cover situations where familial relationships cross over into the workplace. Many managers simply will not consider the fact that a refusal to deal with family members of an employee who has made a discrimination complaint will violate the law. In reality, AB 1509 can create liability for companies whose managers take these types of actions.

Protection from Retaliation Related to Disability or Religious-Belief Accommodation

Assembly Bill 987 (also effective January 1, 2016) prohibits employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against those employees who request an accommodation for a disability or religious custom or observance, regardless of whether the accommodation was actually granted.

AB 987 has the practical effect of making a request for accommodation engagement in a protected activity, regardless of whether the request is granted or not. While this seems technical in nature, the application of this new law will have implications on retaliation and discrimination lawsuits in California, as many managers still believe that when a request is denied for good reason there can be no retaliation or discrimination. Managers need to be trained that policies must be revised to reflect that all employees making requests for accommodation must be treated equally.

As you can see, two seemingly minor changes in California discrimination law can have a major impact on the way the law will be applied. If it has been some time since your company has conducted California discrimination and harassment training , the beginning of 2016 could not be a better time to do so.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and associate litigation) that are associated with complicated areas of employment law. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our prevention of discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your company!

 

HIV Discrimination Persistent in the Workplace

Last week actor Charlie Sheen revealed that he is HIV-positive and has known about his health status for the last several years. Immediately following Sheen’s disclosure came reports that previous intimate partners were lining up to pursue legal action against Sheen for allegedly infecting them with the disease. The recent press regarding Sheen’s situation brings to light the fact that HIV is still a frightening topic that is met with many misconceptions. Nowhere are these misconceptions and fears greater manifested than in the workplace, where after 30-plus years of HIV knowledge managers are still discriminating against HIV-positive employees, in violation of the law.

HIV and AIDS are qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Therefore, employers are prohibited from making employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s HIV status, and are required to reasonably accommodate those employees who are in fact HIV positive. Although most employers are well aware of the law, many are still making mistakes that can lead to costly discrimination lawsuits.

New Lawsuit Evidences Lack of Progress

The most recent example of HIV discrimination comes from a Subway restaurant in Indianapolis. The EEOC recently prosecuted the Subway franchise for firing a man due to a “stereotype that people who are in the restaurant business are contagious and that people can contract HIV through food.” The lawsuit filed on the man’s behalf by the EEOC alleges that he was fired in violation of the ADA. The suit seeks back pay and punitive damages.

Recent polls have suggested that the general public is still wary of HIV and does not have the requisite knowledge to comment accurately on the subject of contagion and workplace risk. Undoubtedly, this lack of knowledge extends to management, and is a real discrimination risk in the workplace. Thankfully, training courses flesh out the confusing legal principles set forth in the ADA, and provide managers and employees with the knowledge required to make fair and neutral employment decisions no matter the disability in question.

Training Courses Carve the Path to ADA Compliance

The fundamentals outlined in Syntrio’s disability discrimination courses are custom tailored to the needs of your business and include real-life and hypothetical scenarios that teach your managers the nuances of the law that may not be readily apparent. Because the courses are designed in a cost-effective and time-sensitive manner your managers will receive the instruction they need to prevent disability discrimination while minimizing the time missed from work.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and associate litigation) that are associated with complicated areas of employment law. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business.

Contact Syntrio for more information about our prevention of disability discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance issues that may impact your business!