The high-profile sexual discrimination lawsuit by Ellen Pao against the Silicon Valley giant venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers has moved closer to trial. In September 2013, the California Supreme Court rejected the defendant venture capital firm’s motion to move the case to arbitration. Pao, a former partner, filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and retaliation. Considering the allegations of sexual advances, office affairs and sexist behavior, the trial is likely to continue to be a hot topic at the water coolers in Silicon Valley.
The California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination against employees or job candidates in their hiring, firing, promoting or any other decision affecting the work environment based on the employees’ or candidate’s sex or gender. Under California law, sex refers to the biological differences between men and women and gender denotes the cultural aspects of each sex.
A claim of sex or gender discrimination must meet the following elements:
According to federal law, both sexes should receive equal pay.
According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California labor law, sex discrimination includes treating a person negatively on account of pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical conditions. This year, California amended FEHA to include breast-feeding in the definition of sex discrimination. An employer may not fire, refuse to hire or create a hostile work environment for a woman who is breast-feeding. In addition, under California’s Sex Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to treat a person less favorably because of his or her family responsibilities to an immediate family member or dependent child.
If you or a loved one has suffered differential treatment at work because of your sex or gender, consult with our experienced employment discrimination attorney, who can evaluate whether the differential treatment violates California law.