Category Archives: Race Discrimination

California Oddities, Quirky Question # 75

Quirky Question # 75:

We are a California employer and were just hit with a lawsuit by a former employee for acts that supposedly took place almost three years ago.  Our former employee alleges that in January 2006, his supervisor asked him to fire three Asian-Americans who work in an otherwise all Caucasian department.  The former employee alleges that he refused to follow his supervisor’s directive and did not fire anyone.  (Incidentally, this was the same supervisor who hired the employee who now is suing us.)

Our former employee also contends that from January 2006 through January 2008, he received very poor performance evaluations from his supervisor, which he attributes to his unwillingness to fire the three Asian-American employees.  Despite his “belief” about the supposed link between his performance reviews and his refusal to fire anyone, he never complained to our Human Resources Department or anyone on our management team.  He claims he had conversations about his supervisor’s behavior with one of his subordinates, an Assistant Manager who reported to him.

In February 2008, he quit without notice.  He immediately filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), alleging race and age discrimination.  The DFEH conducted an investigation which ended in December 2008, and issued a right to sue letter soon thereafter.  We just were served with the Complaint, some three years after the primary incident on which his lawsuit is based.

First, can he file a race discrimination claim even though he is not Asian?  Second isn’t his lawsuit time-barred?  (I thought these types of lawsuits were limited to a one year statute of limitations.)  Finally, given that the employee did not take advantage of our very extensive internal complaint procedures (designed to address precisely these kinds of issues), doesn’t his failure to utilize this internal complaint process bar his claims? Answer→

Offensive Music Lyrics as Title VII Violation, Quirky Question # 73

Quirky Question # 73:

We have a work environment where employees have cubicles that are approximately shoulder height.  Some employees have radios or CD players in their cubicles.  We generally don’t interfere with their musical selections, recognizing that people have different musical tastes.  (We do ask our employees to keep the volume down so they don’t bother their co-workers.)  We recently received a complaint from one of our African American employees.  He was upset that some of the workers occupying nearby cubicles play rap music with lyrics he finds offensive.  Is this something we need to worry about?  We don’t want to become the thought police. Answer→

Quirky Question # 29, Maintaining Electronic Records

Quirky Question # 29:

Our company has offices in California.  This year we want to improve our document retention practices.  We’ve decided to maintain electronic records of personnel files.  Can we do this in California?  We were told that California law requires the records to be available at the job site.  If this is true, can we switch to an electronic database in California? Answer→