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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed nearly two dozen labor and employment bills in 2020, many of which go into effect on New Year’s Day.

Some laws are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others expand reporting deadlines and leave protections and rights for those working for large and small businesses.

Coronavirus protections for workers

The U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) has avoided a trial over four issues with the U.S. Soccer Federation as part of the team’s 2019 lawsuit alleging gender discrimination.

As part of the settlement, U.S. Soccer has agreed to put new policies in place to improve the players’ working conditions, specifically hotel accommodations, travel, venues and staffing.

USWNT to appeal ruling over unequal pay

Three former executives for United Way Worldwide say the organization fired or bullied them in retaliation for addressing sexual harassment within one of the world’s largest nonprofits.

According to their claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the women say the organization’s leadership abruptly terminated or forced them to leave after they reported misconduct.

United Way Worldwide accused of “bullying” behavior

For decades, farmworkers in California were excluded from most state and federal wage and hour laws requiring employers to pay overtime for time worked exceeding 40 hours per week or eight hours per day. Since 1976, agricultural employers were only required to pay OT to those working more than 10 hours a day or 60 per week.

That changed in 2019 when Assembly Bill 1066 went into effect. Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, a new timetable began for overtime rules affecting farmworkers. The changes are being phased-in until they receive roughly the same treatment for overtime pay as workers in most other professions.

The law only applies to larger employers for now

California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22 on election day after an aggressive record-setting $204 million campaign bankrolled by Uber, Lyft and other app-based companies.

Nearly six in 10 voters favored the measure that allows these companies to classify drivers as independent contractors, denying them benefits, such as overtime, paid sick days and even minimum wage.

Companies agree to provide “some” benefits

A lawsuit filed by a former Uber driver from San Diego claims the ride-sharing company’s system to rate its drivers is racially biased.

Thomas Liu was fired in October 2015 when his star rating fell below 4.6. In its app, Uber asks passengers to rate drivers on a scale of one to five.

Lawsuit claims race plays a role in star ratings

The California First District Court of Appeal says ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft must treat Golden State drivers as employees and provide them with the appropriate pay and benefits.

The ruling affirms state court actions and legislators’ beliefs that gig workers do not have the independence necessary to be considered independent contractors.

Ruling decides lawsuit, but voters may have a say

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibit employers from discriminating against anyone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

While limited exceptions exist – for religious institutions and companies with fewer than five employees – the vast majority of workers and job applicants in California are protected. Those exemptions do not allow employers to harass workers for any reason.

What constitutes LGBTQ harassment?

The California Court of Appeals, Third District, ruled in July that a former regional president for U.S. Bank in Sacramento is entitled to receive $17 million in compensation after a jury determined he was wrongfully terminated, and that U.S. Bank National Association later defamed his reputation.

The jury found that U.S. Bank falsely accused Timothy King of gender discrimination against employees. They also rejected the company’s accusations that King forced workers to fabricate reports. Jurors concluded it was part of a scheme to fire him to avoid paying a bonus.

Defamation in the workplace

Three years after the #MeToo movement brought workplace sexual harassment into the spotlight, a new study shows a disturbing result – nearly three-quarters of the people reporting harassment say they were retaliated against for complaining.

The National Women’s Law Center report says seven out of 10 workers, who reported being sexually harassed at work, faced consequences, up to and including being fired. The study analyzed more than 3,000 requests for legal help from the Law Center’s Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund between January 2018 and April 2020.

Study findings show rampant harassment continues

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