The legalization of recreational use of marijuana in several states, including California, has left many employment policies vague and confused. This article offers insights to questions every employer should be asking in light of legalization.

California’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana

California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (“Prop 64”) on November 8, 2016, legalizing recreational marijuana use. However, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control only began accepting, processing, and issuing licenses to commercial marijuana dispensaries as of January 1, 2018. As of April 2018, the Bureau has granted over 5,000 licenses for a variety of commercial uses, including retail sales and distribution.
Continue Reading It’s High Time to Update Your Marijuana Policies

In Franchina v. City of Providence, 2018 WL 550511, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1919 (1st Cir., Jan. 25, 2018), the First Circuit offered no sympathy to the City in its appeal of a jury award that found the City’s fire department liable for tormenting a former lieutenant on the basis of her sex. The court’s sentiments were readily apparent from the outset of its opinion, which admittedly “decline[d] to put out flames of the Department’s own making.”

Harassment at the Firehouse

In the underlying trial, the plaintiff testified at length about the workplace harassment she experienced, which began after a superior filed a complaint on her behalf about another firefighter’s sexual misconduct toward her. Following the harassing firefighter’s discipline, the plaintiff was exposed to escalating verbal and physical mistreatment. The plaintiff’s colleagues referred to her in derogatory terms, physically assaulted her, gave her poisoned meals, refused to cooperate in providing emergency care at the peril of civilian lives, and once even flung the blood and brain matter of a suicide victim into her face. Despite awareness of these incidents, the Department failed to intervene. On these facts, the jury awarded the plaintiff front pay in the amount of $545,000  and a separate figure for emotional damages.
Continue Reading Sex + Discrimination = Liability, Says First Circuit

In December 2017, the California Court of Appeal published a decision confirming obesity is a protected disability in California if it has a physiological cause.

In Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 18 Cal. App. 5th 908 (2017), Plaintiff was a woman diagnosed as severely obese, weighing over 350 pounds, at five feet five inches tall. Plaintiff began working for Defendant the Berkeley Tennis Club in 1997. Over the course of her employment, Plaintiff worked as a lifeguard, pool manager, and night manager. During her employment, Plaintiff received positive reviews, merit bonuses, and raises.
Continue Reading Obese Employees May Be Protected Under FEHA

A New York appeals court recently ruled in Edwards v. Nicolai (153 A.D.3d 440 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2017)) that an employment termination motivated by the sexual jealousy of an employer’s spouse may support a claim for gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”).
Continue Reading Yoga and Massage Therapist Fired for Being “Too Cute” Sees Gender Discrimination Claim Revived on Grounds of Unjustified Spousal Jealousy

The 2017 California Legislature adjourned on September 15, 2017, and resulted in more than 700 bills being sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval. Although the deadline for the Governor to sign new bills into law does not officially expire until October 15, the Governor has already given his stamp of approval to a handful of new employment laws that will take effect on January 1, 2018, including one from the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual list of “Job Killers.” Below is a summary of the major bills recently signed into law.
Continue Reading 5 New Laws: California Governor Approves Employee-Friendly Laws

The new year will bring along a variety of new obligations for California employers.  Although some of the new laws clarify existing law and provide helpful guidance, several impose additional requirements.  This update highlights key provisions of some of the more notable changes taking effect in 2017.  Links to the statutes and/or prior updates regarding the same are provided where applicable.
Continue Reading California Employers – New Year, New Rules in 2017

In Luis Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, the California Court of Appeal held that California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) – which requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities – now requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees who are associated with a disabled person.  This is an unprecedented decision and will likely to be appealed.  Until that time, employers should train supervisors to seek assistance from human resources when making accommodations decisions, and to treat any such decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Continue Reading Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express: The Reasonable Accommodation of an Employee’s Family