The Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act 2014
The Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act of 2014 went into effect on July 1, 2015. Under the new law, California employers are now required to provide paid sick days to certain employees. Paid sick time accrues at a minimum rate of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees are entitled to use accrued sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment. Accrued paid sick days will carry over to the following year of employment.
No Retaliation for Accommodation Request
On July 16, 2015, California enacted Assembly Bill No. 987, making it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for “requesting” accommodation for a physical or mental disability or religious belief or observance, regardless of whether the accommodation was granted. The new law clarifies that a request for reasonable accommodation based on religion or disability constitutes protected activity under Government Code Section 12940 of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. An employee may not be subject to relation for making such a request.
California Cheerleaders are Employees
On July 15, 2015, California passed a new law adding section 2754 to the California Labor Code. Under the new law, cheerleaders working for California professional sports teams must now be classified as employees, and are protected by existing State and Federal employment laws, including minimum wage and overtime laws and anti-discrimination and harassment statutes.
Court upholds $300,000 punitive damages award to sexual harassment victim under Title VII.
Angela Aguilar was employed by Asarco, LLC at the Mission Mine complex near Tucson, Arizona from December 2005 through November 2006. The Mission Mine includes a copper mine from which copper ore is extracted and a mill facility in which the ore is crushed, filtered, and refined. Ms. Aguilar started as a mill laborer and became a car loader operator in March 2006. She then became a filter operator in the filter plant and later, a rod and ball mill person. Angela Aguilar claimed that during her time at Asarco, she was subjected to sexual harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and was ultimately forced to resign from her employment. She filed a lawsuit against Asarco, alleging harassment, constructive termination, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
After the conclusion of an eight-day trial, the jury found Asarco liable on Aguilar’s sexual harassment claims. Although Angela Aguilar was awarded only $1 in actual damages, she was awarded the maximum of $300,000 in punitive damages against Asarco. In addition, the Court awarded Angela Aguilar $350,902.75 in attorneys’ fees and costs. These awards were later determined to be appropriate by the Federal Court of Appeals.
In upholding theses amounts, the Court of Appeals concluded that an award of $300,000 in punitive damages — the maximum amount permitted under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a — comports with due process even though the jury only awarded $1 in actual damages.
Sexual harassment Wrongful termination
Plaintiff Esther Kim was hired in 2006 to work as an account manager, processing phone and email orders for defendant, Konad USA Distribution, Inc. From 2007 to 2010 Kim was subjected to numerous incidents of sexual harassment by her boss Dong Whang. Kim was terminated in 2010. Following her termination, Kim filed a lawsuit against her employer for, among other things, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Following trial, the court awarded plaintiff Esther Kim $60,000 in damages against her former employer and her former boss for her claims of sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Defendants appealed the award of damages, however, the California Court of Appeals upheld the award of $60,000 to Ms. Kim.
Kim v. Konad USA Distribution, Inc.