Employment law covers a wide range of topics, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and compensation. There are many different state and federal laws that outline current and prospective employees’ rights in the workplace. These laws ensure that employees are treated fairly, compensated for their work, and encouraged to do the right thing when they witness wrongdoing. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every employment law, but you should understand the rights that you have so you can protect yourself.
If you believe your employer has violated an employment law, seek legal representation from one of our experienced attorneys as soon as possible. Discuss your case with our team today by calling 818-714-1634.
Both state and federal laws protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace. However, California state laws offer more protection than their federal counterparts. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects individuals from being discriminated against based on any of the following:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Genetic information
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Military/veteran status
FEHA applies to any public or private employer, labor organization, or employment agency with at least five employees. To comply with this law, employers cannot be discriminatory when making any job-related decisions. For example, employers cannot decide who to hire, fire, promote, reassign to a new position, or lay off based on one of the characteristics listed above. Deciding to fire someone simply because of that person’s race or national origin, for instance, would be a form of discrimination that is prohibited by FEHA.
The FEHA also makes it illegal for employers, co-workers, and even clients to harass employees based on one of the protected classes above. Employers have an obligation to put an end to workplace harassment as soon as they are notified of it—even if the harasser is someone who is not employed by the company.
Harassment is any form of unwelcome conduct, including insulting jokes, physical threats, intimidation, or offensive gestures. There are two types of harassment: a hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. In order to be considered a hostile work environment, harassment interferes with the employees’ ability to perform their job duties. This means an isolated incident will typically not be viewed as harassment since once joke or gesture is not enough to affect the working environment.
Quid pro quo is a type of sexual harassment only, which is one of the most common types of harassment in the workplace. Quid pro quo translates to mean “something for something” or “this for that.” Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor offers some kind of benefit to an employee in exchange for a sexual favor. For example, a manager may offer an employee a promotion if she agrees to engage in a sexual activity with him. Unlike the first type of harassment, quid pro quo only needs to happen once for it to be illegal.
It’s important to note that anyone within the workplace can be a victim of harassment—not just the person who is being directly harassed. Someone who only witnesses the harassment has the same right to file a harassment claim as the person who is actually being harassed.
People often stay silent when they are discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because they fear retaliation. Other employees may know their employers are engaging in unethical or illegal activities, but choose not to blow the whistle so they don’t suffer the consequences of angering their employer. Retaliating against an employee for reporting wrongdoing is illegal, however many employers do it anyways. In fact, retaliation is the most common form of discrimination that is reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) every year.
By law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for:
- Filing or participating in an investigation into a discrimination or harassment complaint.
- Reporting discrimination or harassment to a supervisor.
- Refusing to discriminate or harass someone at their boss’s request.
- Rejecting sexual advances.
- Making accommodation requests.
- Asking managers or peers for salary information to determine if the employer is complying with equal pay laws.
What exactly is retaliation? There are a number of ways that an employer can retaliate against an employee—some that are more subtle than others. Examples of retaliation include firing, demoting, verbally abusing, scrutinizing, reassigning, or spreading false rumors about an employee. Employers often retaliate against employees to punish them for speaking out and to show other employees the consequences of reporting wrongdoing. But, employers who choose to retaliate against someone will face legal consequences.
California is an “at-will” employment state, which means that employers can generally fire employees at any time, for any reason. Of course, there are many exceptions to this law that you should know about to protect your rights in the workplace. If you are fired for an unlawful reason, it is known as a wrongful termination.
For example, an employer cannot fire you for discriminatory reasons such as the color of your skin, your age, or the religion that you practice. It is also unlawful for employers to fire someone solely because she reported discrimination, harassment, wage violations, or unethical behavior in the workplace. In this case, the wrongful termination would be a form of retaliation, which is illegal.
Some employees sign employment contracts, which outline exactly how long the employee will have a relationship with the employer, and the conditions in which the relationship can be terminated. Employers who breach an employment contract by firing a contracted employee for a reason that is not included in the contract may face legal consequences for this wrongful termination.
In order to win a wrongful termination case, the victim must be able to prove that the employer was motivated by unlawful reasons and not job performance or any other factor.
Wage & Hour Issues
Employers in the state of California must compensate their employees fairly, otherwise they will face penalties for violating wage and hour laws. One of the most well known wage and hour laws deals with minimum wage. California has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, and many cities within the state have set their own laws that raise the minimum wage even further. Employers must abide by their state or city minimum wage and pay their employees accordingly.
Another common wage and hour issue has to do with an employee’s classification and right to overtime pay. In California, most employees are considered either exempt or nonexempt. Nonexempt employees are entitled to receive overtime pay, but exempt employees are not. Many employers try to limit the amount of overtime that they will have to pay by illegally classifying an employee as exempt when she should be nonexempt. Other employers may just refuse to pay their nonexempt employees the overtime that they have earned. In either situation, it’s important to seek legal representation to discuss your options.
Legal Help For Victims
Don’t let your employer get away with infringing on your rights in the workplace. If you are a victim of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, or a wage and hour violation, speak to an experienced employment law attorney at once. To discuss your legal options, call Javanmardi Law, P.C. at 818-714-1634 or email us at Peter@Javanmardilaw.com today.