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.
What the law says
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.
Elements of a claim of sexual discrimination
A claim of sex or gender discrimination must meet the following elements:
The employee belongs to a class protected by the law.
The employee was treated negatively at work.
The employee met the position qualification requirements.
The employer favored another employee, who was not the same sex as the plaintiff employee.
According to federal law, both sexes should receive equal pay.
California sex discrimination law spreads out its branches
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.