July 5, 2016 Category: Discrimination
Sex and gender discrimination is a significant problem for many California workers, particularly those individuals who do not identify with their biological sex. California law expressly forbids employment discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Among other things, this means an employer cannot force an employee to act in a manner that does not correspond to their gender identity.
Ex-Employee Forced to Submit Race, Gender Discrimination Claims to Arbitration
Aside from potential workplace discrimination, employees must also be aware that their employment contracts may include mandatory arbitration clauses. This means that in the event an employee suffers illegal discrimination at the hands of the employer, he or she forfeits the right to take the case to court, and must instead submit any claims to a private arbitrator. While arbitration can be a useful way to expedite the resolution of certain disputes, in the employment context employers frequently abuse their superior bargaining position to compel the employee to sign away valuable legal rights. California courts are often reluctant to interfere.
Here is a recent example from northern California. An African-American man sued his former employer on several grounds, include race and gender identity discrimination. According to his lawsuit, the plaintiff was transitioning from female to male when he interviewed for a job with the employer. The plaintiff had an engineering degree and accordingly applied for an engineering job. Instead, the plaintiff said the employer offered him a lesser position.
The plaintiff said he consistently identified as a man during his employment, yet the employer’s managers insisted on referring to him by his previous female name. The plaintiff said this effectively outed him as a transgender male, leading him to fear for his safety and privacy while at work. In addition, the plaintiff alleged he was subject to numerous racial slurs made by supervisors and co-workers.
Rather than address his complaints about discrimination and harassment, the plaintiff said the employer fired him instead, leading him to file a lawsuit. In response, the company moved to compel arbitration, citing an employment agreement signed by the plaintiff. This agreement specified “that disputes involving legal issues must be submitted to binding arbitration, and that I am waiving any right to maintain a lawsuit or have a jury trial for any such dispute.”
The plaintiff challenged the legality of the arbitration agreement. But in a June 8 decision, a federal magistrate held that the agreement was mostly valid and the employee would have no choice but to submit to arbitration. The magistrate said the agreement was not “unconscionable” on its face because the terms applied equally to the employer and employee. While the magistrate said some provisions of the arbitration agreement were likely unenforceable, that did not affect either the substance of the contract or its applicability to the employee’s discrimination claims. Accordingly, the magistrate recommended staying the plaintiff’s lawsuit pending the outcome of any private arbitration.
Need Advice From a San Jose Workplace Discrimination Lawyer?
If you have signed a contract as part of your employment, you should always take note of any provision or clause that may affect your legal rights. Additionally, a Santa Clara employment law attorney can advise you on how to deal with any subsequent act of race or sex discrimination committed by your employer. Contact the Briski Law Firm today if you have any questions or concerns.