Sex/Gender Discrimination, Equal Pay Act Violations, and Retaliation against America’s Largest University System

A lawsuit filed this week against Cal State University, the largest university system in the United States, alleged that its athletic director, Mike Garrett (formerly the athletic director at USC), and the school violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) among others.  The Complaint lists violation of FEHA – sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Equal Pay Act, violation of Family Rights Act, and violation of California Labor Code 1102.5 – Retaliation.  These are some of the most common allegations that our attorneys handle, and therefore a closer analysis of these laws and how they are implicated is important.

For instance, by calling women in the athletic department sexist names such as “sweetheart,” “love,” “babe,” and “legs,” and the school permitting such activity, or at least not prohibiting it, allowed these actions to create a workplace environment in violation of FEHA.  The Plaintiff, Dr. Sheila Hudson, assistant athletic director, alleged that she was passed over for the athletic director position because of her gender even though she was the most qualified.  Instead, upon Garrets leaving the program, the offer was made to another male Daryl Gross.  After Ms. Hudson reported issues to the school such as gaps in pay between men and women in the athletic department, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment, she claims that the school retaliated against her. See other examples of gender discrimination and retaliation blogs here.

Complaints of unlawful sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”).  Upon their investigation, DFEH may cite the employer and/or grant a Right to Sue letter.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s FEHA prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee who belongs to a “protected class.”  Under Title VII, it is unlawful for employers to take negative action, or discriminate, against individuals in their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of their race, color, religion, sex/gender, or national origin.  Similarly, under FEHA, an employer may not, because of the gender of a person, treat that person differently in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.  (Cal. Gov’t Code §12940(a).)  One item in which the two laws differ is that Title VII applies to employers who employ at least 15 individuals in a year, while FEHA applies to California employers with at least 5 employees in a year. Moreover, California recently passed laws expanding this reach even more to enable more lawsuits to be filed against smaller employers by allowing those working in other states and those on medical leave to count towards the 5 employee threshold.

If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to sex or gender discrimination, Equal Pay Act violation, or retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is vital since the statute of limitation is a short one year.  Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.