In California, most employment relationships are at will, which technically means that you can be hired or fired for no reason or for any reason. There are important exceptions, however, of which any employee should be aware. You may be able to recover compensation if you are mistreated by a current or prospective employer based on your membership in a protected class or your participation in a protected activity. Both federal and California law provide strong remedies for wrongful termination, as well as other forms of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation on the job. Steven M. Sweat is ready to help you hold your employer accountable for violating your workplace rights.
California provides some of the broadest protections to employees in the country, which deviate from federal law in important ways. State law protects more classes of people and mandates a higher minimum wage. It provides paid sick leave and paid family leave. Employers are required to abide by federal, state, and municipal laws. Among other protections, employers are also required to give employees pregnancy accommodations, offer equal pay, protect whistleblowers, and permit employees to access their personnel files. It is crucial to consult an experienced employment attorney in Los Angeles if you believe that your employer is violating your rights under federal, state, or local laws.
It is unlawful for your employer to make important decisions about employment based on your membership in a protected class. Employment discrimination may happen more subtly than it did in the past. Protected classes include race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, and marital status. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act provides broader protection in many situations than do the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).Race Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits race discrimination in workplaces that have at least 15 employees. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to employers that have at least five employees, and it prohibits race discrimination. Race discrimination is prohibited in connection with all employment decisions, including hiring, firing, transferring, promoting, demoting, advertising for jobs, interviewing, or other terms and conditions of employment. It is also illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees due to their association with people of a particular race or a perception that a job applicant or employee is of a particular race, even if this perception is incorrect. A Los Angeles employment attorney can bring a race discrimination claim on the basis of disparate treatment or disparate impact.Sex Discrimination
Sex discrimination is prohibited under Title VII and FEHA. It includes any adverse action taken because of a job applicant or employee’s sex. For example, if you are qualified but your boss refuses to promote you to a management position because he believes that women are not good managers, you likely have a claim of sex discrimination. Sex discrimination is often associated with men discriminating against women. However, someone of either gender can be a perpetrator or a victim of sex discrimination.Age Discrimination
In California, age discrimination is prohibited by both the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The ADEA only protects employees who are at least 40 years old. It can be enforced against employers that have 20 or more workers, whether these workers are part-time or full-time. FEHA also protects older workers (people who are at least 40 years old) from age discrimination. However, it applies to employers with a minimum of five employees. An employment lawyer in Los Angeles can help you bring a claim if you believe that you have been terminated or otherwise mistreated because of your age.Disability Discrimination
Workplace disability discrimination is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as FEHA. Under the ADA, you are protected if you have a qualifying disability. A disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities. It can also include someone who is perceived as having this kind of impairment or who has a history or record of this type of impairment. FEHA also protects employees with disabilities, and in some ways it is more protective than federal law.Sexual Harassment
Workplace sexual harassment is a kind of sex discrimination that is prohibited under both Title VII and FEHA. It can include any unwelcome sexual conduct or advances, including touching, groping, memes, gestures, derogatory comments, leering, and even assault or rape. Both quid pro quo and hostile work environment are prohibited forms of sexual harassment. A Los Angeles employment lawyer can help you bring a claim even if the actions are not sexual in nature, as long as they are motivated by actual or perceived sex, actual or perceived gender identity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.Wrongful Termination
You can recover damages for wrongful termination if your employer violates a statute, such as an anti-discrimination statute or whistleblower statute. For example, if you are fired because you reported sexual harassment by your supervisor to HR, you likely have a wrongful termination case under FEHA. The presumption of at-will employment can be changed not only by statute but also by a written or oral contract between the employer and the employee. If you are terminated in violation of an enforceable contract, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. For example, if your contract specifies the precise period for which you are to be employed, and it specifies that you should not be terminated except for good cause, you may have a basis to sue for wrongful termination. It is harder to establish an implied agreement not to terminate, but factors that could be considered include any actions or words that show that there was an assurance that you would maintain your job.Retaliation
Federal law and FEHA both protect against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Understandably, employees may be concerned about utilizing the protections provided by these laws because they are fearful that the employer will try to punish them for doing so. These anti-discrimination laws include provisions to protect employees from retaliation. Retaliation can include any adverse employment action against an employee. Under FEHA, it is illegal for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or person to terminate, expel, or otherwise discriminate against you because you opposed any practice forbidden by FEHA or because you filed a complaint or testified or helped in a proceeding. In most cases, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles will need to show that an employee engaged in a protected activity to establish retaliation. This means that it is important to document any complaints that you make about discrimination or a dangerous workplace condition.Wage and Hour Law
California wage and hour law is complex. There are different classifications of workers and different requirements for how a worker should be paid and which rest periods should be granted, depending on the job. In California, the state minimum wage increases each year under the California Labor Code. Different cities and counties have their own minimum wage requirements. California employers are also required to pay overtime to non-exempt employees. This is 1½ times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight (up to 12) and for the first eight hours worked on the second day in a row of work in a workweek.Leaves of Absence
Certain leaves of absence are protected under California and federal law. In particular, federal and state law protect workers who need to take time off from work because of a medical condition or a close family member’s medical condition. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, for instance, provides 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for several different reasons to eligible employees at covered companies. The FMLA only applies to private employers with a minimum of 50 employees working within 75 miles of one another. In order to be eligible, you need to have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides a parallel to the FMLA, and it also adds certain privacy protections.Consult an Employment Attorney in the Los Angeles Area
Your job is important to you. If you are facing employment discrimination or another workplace concern, you should consult an experienced attorney. Steven M. Sweat is an award-winning Los Angeles attorney who provides responsive representation in connection with employment disputes. He represents clients throughout Southern California. Contact us at 866-966-5240 or via our online form.
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