San Francisco, CA

Court: Insurance cannot be higher for disabled

September 12, 2000
Insurance companies in California must charge the same rates to the disabled as everyone else unless they can justify higher premiums by experience or legitimate projections of life expectancy, says a federal appeals court.
      Monday's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the case of a San Francisco attorney suffering a rare form of muscular dystrophy, involved life insurance but should apply equally to all types of coverage, said a disability-rights lawyer.
      "We get complaints from people all the time that they have either been denied insurance outright or that they've been charged an inflated amount - life, health, auto, all kinds of insurance," said attorney Alison Aubry of Disability Rights Advocates, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

S.F. Section 8 bribery detailed

August 31, 2000
The prosecution's starwitness in San Francisco's public housing scandal -- the daughter of a prominent backer of Mayor Willie Brown -- testified in federal court yesterday that although she received wages as a city employee, her job was really soliciting bribes.
      ``I sold Section 8,'' Yolanda Bradley Jones said matter-of-factly,referring to the federal program that provides rent subsidies to low-income people.``I never did my job title.''
      Instead of going to her office, Jones told a jury, she would find people willing to pay cash to bypass a waiting list for housing assistance, then put them in contact with her supervisor, who would falsify their paperwork.

Court gives Mexican gay man asylum

August 24, 2000
A cross-dressing, gay Mexican man who claims he was persecuted in his homeland because of his sexuality is entitled to asylum in the United States, a federal appeals panel ruled Thursday. 
     The decision by three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals expanded the social circumstances of persecution that immigration officials must consider during asylum hearings. 
     Federal courts already have allowed asylum for a variety of political and social reasons, including a woman's fear of genital mutilation in her African homeland. Last month, the 9th Circuit ruled that an Armenian who said he was given an ultimatum to become a Communist or leave Armenia deserved another bid for asylum. 

Fired Oracle worker awarded $2.7M

August 18, 2000
A jury has awarded $2.7 million to a former Oracle employee who was fired because she was pregnant and because she blew the whistle on co-workers who she believed had inappropriately used elements of a competitor's software.
      The Superior Court jury on Wednesday awarded Sandy Baratta about $2 million in canceled stock options, $300,000 in lost wages and $200,000 for emotional distress. The jury did not award punitive damages.

Wonder Bread ordered to pay $120M in race suit

August 03, 2000
One man complained he was forced to endure racial epithets. Another said he was ordered to do strenuous jobs despite his disabilities. A third had to work during a federal holiday.
     They were among 17 black former employees at a Wonder Bread plant who were awarded $120 million in punitive damages Wednesday in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the nation's largest wholesale baker.
     Interstate Bakeries Corp., the Kansas City, Mo.-based company that produces Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Home Pride and Hostess Cupcakes, said it would appeal the award.
     The verdict came two days after the same jury found that all 21 employees in the suit were subjected to working conditions inferior to those of their white counterparts.
     The plaintiffs, all workers at one San Francisco plant, claimed they were denied promotions, subjected to racist comments and given the worst shifts. 

Advocacy group sues Kaiser Foundation

July 26, 2000
An advocacy group has sued the nation's largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization, saying it provides inferior care to disabled people in California. 
    The suit filed Wednesday by Disability Rights Advocates alleges that Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. hospitals fail to offer accessible facilities, examination tables, scales and other medical devices to wheelchair users. 
    The Superior Court suit is the latest legal challenge for Oakland-based Kaiser, which was accused in April of requiring psychiatrists to prescribe medication to patients they had not seen. 
    Kaiser spokesman Tom Debley declined to address Wednesday's allegations, but said the institution complies with state and federal disability guidelines. Debley also said Kaiser would cooperate with the advocacy group to resolve the dispute.  

Company settles over bizarre employee questionnaire

July 08, 2000
An appliance rental company, with more than 20 stores in the Bay Area, has agreed to divide $2 million in damages among more than 1,200 employees and applicants for requiring them to answer questions about their personal sex lives, bodily functions and whether they believed ``in the second coming of Christ.'' 
     A San Francisco federal judge approved the settlement yesterday between Rent-A-Center Inc., a Texas corporation, and its California workers, including as many as 100 from the Bay Area. 
     The employees say they were required to take a psychological test, answering true or false to 502 questions, including: ``I have never indulged in any unusual sex practices,'' ``I am very strongly attracted by members of my own sex,'' ``I go to church almost every week'' and ``I have difficulty in starting or holding my bowel movements.'' 

Wells Fargo accused of racial steering on Internet

June 22, 2000
In a new twist on a familiar allegation against home lenders, Wells Fargo & Co. was accused Wednesday of using the Internet to discriminate against minorities and encourage racial segregation. 
     The allegations center on Wells Fargo's "Community Calculator," an online search tool designed to help prospective home buyers shop for suitable neighborhoods. 
     The problem, according to an amendment to a civil lawsuit in Dallas federal court, is that San Francisco-based Wells uses racial descriptions to categorize neighborhoods depicted as downtrodden areas. 
     The suit also alleges that the site steers "residents of predominantly minority ZIP codes to other predominantly minority ZIP codes." The site also funnels residents of white neighborhoods to other white neighborhoods, the suit alleges. 

New S.F. law bans "size bias" in jobs, housing

May 09, 2000
If you've been jeered at because you appear too fat, too thin, too short or too tall, the law is on your side in San Francisco. 
     The Board of Supervisors passed a law Monday banning discrimination based on weight or height and authorizing investigations into such complaints. 
     "Clearly discrimination in any form is wrong," said Tom Ammiano, president of the Board of Supervisors and the law's sponsor. "Many San Franciscans are being denied employment, housing, bank loans merely because they are perceived as being overweight." 
     Without debate or discussion, the board added height and weight to the same anti-discrimination codes that provide protections based on race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and place of birth. 
     San Francisco joins Santa Cruz, Washington, D.C., and Michigan, which have similar laws on the books. The City's law bans bias in housing, employment and accommodations, which include hotels, bars, restaurants and movie theaters.

Feds to probe discrimination claim at labs

May 06, 2000
State and federal agencies are investigating claims by Asian workers of job discrimination at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, their attorney says. 
     The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission initiated a federal probe into the claims, said San Francisco attorney Brad Yamauchi. He
represents nine Asian workers who have filed complaints of bias with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 
     The workers claim they earned as much as $4,000 a month less than
white counterparts because whites are allegedly preferred for management positions. 


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