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Gender Discrimination in California: ACLU's Melissa Goodman's Insight into a Legal & Civil Rights Issue

gender-discrimination-in-california-ACLU-melissa-goodman-interview.jpg

Recently, women in Hollywood have been using their influential voices to raise awareness about the staggering gender bias problem in the film industry. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has been investigating the issue of whether female directors are facing unlawful gender discrimination. In fact, if their employers are subjecting them to certain legally prohibited behaviors, they could be violating Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination against employees or applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Their employers may also be violating the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment due to race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and more. Violations of these laws not only affect those working in Hollywood, but employees across the state of California.

gender-discrimination-in-california-ACLU-melissa-goodman-interview.jpg

Recently, women in Hollywood have been using their influential voices to raise awareness about the staggering gender bias problem in the film industry. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has been investigating the issue of whether female directors are facing unlawful gender discrimination. In fact, if their employers are subjecting them to certain legally prohibited behaviors, they could be violating Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination against employees or applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Their employers may also be violating the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment due to race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and more. Violations of these laws not only affect those working in Hollywood, but employees across the state of California.


Earlier this year, the ACLU of Southern California took action on this workplace discrimination matter by sending letters to federal agencies and a California agency asking them to look into the problem. The ACLU even began its own investigation two and a half years ago, speaking to many women about the discrimination and harassment they face in the film industry. Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California says that the gender discrimination issue is both "a legal and civil rights problem."

Goodman recently spoke with Variety about why the ACLU looked into the problem, what the organization found, and what could happen in the future.

ACLU's Melissa Goodman Offers Insight into California's Gender Discrimination Problem

Why did the ACLU of Southern California decide to get involved?

Hollywood is well-known to be a a male-dominated industry, and Goodman says that there are "very glaring" statistics in reference to the exclusion of women directors in Hollywood. Goodman says that the ACLU, "has a history of looking into gender discrimination in industries that are historically male-dominated." She went on to say that a group of women directors initially contacted the ACLU and that the "numbers alone suggest there's a real problem here."

Goodman says the ACLU then launched a story-collection process during their own investigation to prove more about the long-running acts of gender discrimination and harassment affecting women in Hollywood.

Which agencies did the ACLU of Southern California bring the investigation to, and why?

Goodman says that Hollywood's gender discrimination problem "was serious enough that it was very worthy of the time, energy and resources of these government agencies to take a look at this and take it on."

The agencies contacted are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

What is the ACLU's current role in the matter?

Goodman says that the job of the ACLU of Southern California is "two-fold" and that they will continue with their efforts "to keep pushing civil rights agencies and make sure that they do something to tackle this problem and that whatever gets done makes a difference. And we continue to be public about this problem and talk about it as being a serious civil rights problem that people need to be paying attention to."

What does Goodman think might happen next?

Goodman says that, hypothetically, a government civil rights agency will go through a "long" investigatory process and will have the power to make an important decision based on their findings. "What they decide to do kind of at the end of that obviously depends on what they learn in the investigation. They have the power to do nothing or to act. Acting can take the form of potentially filing what are called in, the case of a federal agency, 'commissioner's charges.' In the case of a state agency, there would be 'directive charges.'"

Goodman went on to say that after the agencies investigate the industry as a whole, they can potentially make a finding of "systematic bias" and the agencies can then file charges against a slew of employers.

Read the full interview and story on Variety.com: ACLU's Melissa Goodman on Gender Discrimination: It's a Legal and Civil Rights Problem

If your employer is subjecting you to gender discrimination and you feel it is affecting your wages, know that federal and state laws can protect your employee rights. Contact the expert California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation today.

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