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!

 

Truck Drivers Win $240,000 in Religious Discrimination Suit After Refusal to Deliver Alcoholic Beverages

Two former truck drivers requested religious accommodation to refrain from delivering alcoholic beverages based on their Muslim Faith in 2009. The employer rejected the assertion and fired the drivers, leading to a lawsuit that recently culminated in a $240,000 (plus back pay) verdict in favor of the two employees. The jury found that the employees’ request for accommodation would not have imposed undue hardship on the business.

Important to the jury’s finding, the company admitted that the employees frequently switched assignments, which provided clear evidence that it would have been reasonable to accommodate the drivers’ request, rather than terminate their employment.

Religious Discrimination Lawsuits Gaining Prevalence

This lawsuit is the most recent in a string of anti-Muslim and faith-based discrimination lawsuits in the employment law arena. These suits have brought to light the need for employers to conduct full-scale training courses to ensure that managers are well educated in the law and how it applies to situations involving requests for accommodation. All too often employers are quick to reassign or terminate employees who make religious requests that do not conform to the beliefs the managers hold, or seem to impose difficulty on schedule making or other day-to-day operations.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state fair employment laws prohibit discrimination in employment decisions based on sincerely held religious beliefs. As part of the anti-discrimination laws, employers are required to accommodate reasonable requests that do not impose undue hardship on the business (a difficult standard to pass). Because the law protects even unconventional religions, employers are often faced with the difficult decision of accommodating an unorthodox request or facing a lawsuit.

Syntrio’s Training Courses Prepare You for the Unexpected

Syntrio’s discrimination and harassment training courses provide time-sensitive and cost-effective religious discrimination training through real-life and hypothetical situations that your managers can relate to. After providing a foundation in the law and a framework for how these types of cases arise, your managers will view a series of vignettes and some text-based scenarios illustrating nuances in the law that can lead to costly lawsuits. After doing so, your managers will be better prepared to make the tough calls on religious and other accommodation requests, and reduce the likelihood that the company will face liability and wind up in court.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and costly 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 TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that impact your company!