Getting fired is never fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. As our L.A. employment attorneys can explain, certain elements need to exist in order to prove your termination was illegal, as opposed to just unpleasant. Los Angeles wrongful discrimination lawyer

Let’s start by explaining just broadly that a mix of federal and California laws prohibit employers from firing workers for a number of specific reasons, including disability, age (if over 40), use of family or medical leave, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, race or religion. Laws like the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA), the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII and others are designed to protect workers from being fired on the basis of things that are mostly beyond their control. Other provisions of law are designed to protect workers who are whistleblowers or who file complaints for things like sexual harassment, discrimination or other wrongdoing.

What can complicate some would-be wrongful termination claims is the fact that California (like most other states) practices something called at-will employment. This means that employers are allowed to take adverse employment action (cut pay, reduce paid time off, end benefits or even fire workers) at any time and for any reason – except one that is illegal. At the same time, employees are generally free to quit anytime they want without incurring any legal liability.

If you aren’t sure whether your firing was lawful, it’s best to share your concerns in confidence with an experienced wrongful termination lawyer who can explain how the law may be applicable in your case. That said, here are some examples of when your firing may be unlawful. Continue Reading ›

Nearly a dozen women are suing the Walt Disney Company for California gender discrimination, saying the corporation systemically denies fair pay to its female employees and that pay secrecy is integral to that inequality. gender discrimination lawyer Los Angeles

As our Los Angeles gender discrimination lawyers can explain, pay secrecy is a policy long used by employers that prohibits employee discussions about how much they earn. While silence over salaries tends to be the societal norm, it’s not the law. What’s more, it’s been shown to perpetuate gender pay disparity against women because it deprives female employees of the information they need to demand equal pay.

According to California Labor Code section 232, employers are banned from these types of secrecy policies and cannot discipline workers on the basis of wage disclosures. It hasn’t been a commonly litigated provision historically (it’s been a state law since 1985), but there has been somewhat of an uptick in these sorts of claims over the last several years. California law stipulates that employers cannot require employees to refrain from disclosing wages, require employees to waive this right or take averse employment action against workers who do. Employers who violate this provision (usually in conjunction with some other type of employment discrimination claim) can be compelled to pay substantial damages, including for lost wages and benefits, emotional distress and punitive damages.

There is also the California Fair Pay Act, which goes even further to shield employees’ right to discuss their own pay openly with co-workers. Beyond that, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 prohibits employer retaliation against workers who talk wages with their co-workers.

And yet, some employers persist with policies like these. Continue Reading ›

Pregnant workers have long faced discrimination in the workplace. California has some of the strongest protections for pregnant workers, but our employment discrimination lawyers in L.A. know employees in the rest of the country has not been so fortunate. That could soon change, if a new bill moving through the House is successful.pregnancy discrimination Los Angeles

The bill, called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, or PWFA, was first introduced in 2012 – and nearly every House session since. In the meantime, pregnancy discrimination lawsuits across the U.S. have numbered in the thousands – including one that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, it seems the latest effort has real promise. When H.R. 1065 was first introduced several months ago, it got 225 sponsors and included representative from both sides of the political aisle, increasing optimism about its prospects.

What Would the PWFA Do? 

The main thing the PWFA could do for pregnant workers across the country is to both clarify and strengthen the decades-old Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law made it unlawful for employers to use pregnancy as a determining factor when deciding who to hire, fire, promote, etc.

The PDA has some great intent and important protections. But as our Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyers know, it doesn’t go far enough for many workers. It was passed as an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act some four decades ago. The original federal law is frankly pretty ambiguous. Critical language is left undefined, and frequently, employee plaintiffs face an almost insurmountable proof burden to establish discrimination. Continue Reading ›

Both California and federal laws protect employees and prospective employees from discrimination on the basis of disability or perceived disability. This was at issue recently in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where a prospective police officer’s job offer was rescinded after a mental fitness test in which he revealed his diagnosis of ADHD. disability discrimination

As the court noted in its precedential decision in Gibbs v. City of Pittsburg, government agencies have the right to ensure their police officers are mentally fit. However, they are not allowed to use psychological testing as a cover for disability discrimination.

Our Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers can explain that California has some of the best employment law protections for workers with disabilities, actual or perceived. Employers are required to evaluate job applicants regardless of their actual or perceived disabilities. They can require medical or psychological exams – but only if they routinely apply them for all prospective hires.

Police departments do routinely test officer candidates for both physical and mental fitness. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that between 72 percent and 98 percent of police agencies require psychological evaluations of police officer candidates, and many states have statutory and regulatory requirements for psychological testing of public safety job applicants. But it’s imperative that they follow the letter of the law when doing so. Continue Reading ›

Is the use of a single racial epithet enough to support a legal claim of harassment in California workplaces? Two lower courts weighing a discrimination/retaliation case said no, but the California Supreme Court will decide if that was the right call.racial discrimination lawyer

Plaintiff’s employment attorneys are arguing the the highly-offensive slur, directed toward plaintiff by a co-worker, was significant enough to support claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Plaintiff worked for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and the slur was made by a co-worker. Plaintiff alleged this ultimately spurred retaliation by a supervisor.

FEHA, Previous Court Rulings on Racial Discrimination

As our Los Angeles racial discrimination attorneys can explain, the FEHA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, and harassment is one form of discrimination. Courts have held that the law is violated when someone’s workplace is steeped in a culture of discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.” Harassment can include verbal harassment, which encompasses slurs, derogatory comments or epithets.

To establish a case of a racially hostile work environment just on first impression (prima facie), the worker needs to show that:

  • He/she belonged to a protected class/
  • He/she was subjected to unwanted racial harassment.
  • The harassment was based on race.
  • The harassment unreasonably interfered with plaintiff’s work performance.
  • The employer is liable for the harassment.

Continue Reading ›

Now that there is a vaccine for COVID-19, an increasingly common question our Los Angeles employment lawyers are getting is whether employers can make employees get one. Los Angeles employment lawyer

The short answer is: Yes (probably). However, there are some caveats, and not all the relevant legal issues are clear-cut in this situation. What’s more, whether workplaces will actually fire workers who refuse probably depends on the employee’s industry, specific job, etc.

Guidance released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that employers can set forth a policy of mandatory vaccination if the need is job-related or if being unvaccinated would pose a direct risk to workers, customers or themselves. That’s an argument a whole lot of employers – from health care providers to grocery stores – could fairly make.

Still, there are likely two bases on which employees could object:

  • Potential exacerbation of an established medical condition or disability.
  • It goes against their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Continue Reading ›

A bill aimed at empowering workers to come forward about employment discrimination and harassment was introduced in the California state senate recently. Specifically at issue are provisions of non-disclosure agreements many workers are compelled to sign when settling employment lawsuits or simply as a condition of employment. The Silenced No More Act would statutorily ban such provisions in settlements that involve cases of discrimination or abuse. Los Angeles employment attorney

Sponsor of the bill Sen. Connie Levya told CNN that it is unacceptable for companies to effectively place a gag order on workers who have been victims of discrimination, harassment or assault. The idea is not just to give these workers back their voices, but also to serve as a means of accountability against perpetrators and corporations that cover for them.

The measure builds on an earlier #MeToo era law called the STAND Act, which was passed three years ago. That law prohibits settlement agreements that bar workers from speaking up about employment sexual harassment and abuse. The SNMA would extend those prohibition to other forms of workplace discrimination and harassment, including those based on race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Employment Lawsuits Often Deal With Intersectional Problems

Continue Reading ›

You can cut the corners of your sandwiches, but you can’t cut corners on employee meal breaks in California.

In a long-awaited decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that workplace policies of rounding out the start and end times of meal periods aren’t compliant with state law because they sometimes resulted in workers being underpaid their meal period premiums.Los Angeles employment lawyer

The court held in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC that in cases where company records on their face appear to show noncompliance with meal period rules, there is a rebuttable presumption that the company was non-compliant. As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, this means the burden of proof shifts from the plaintiff employees to the defendant employer.

In light of this recent ruling, employers in California would be wise to update their timekeeping policies and technology to ensure they are meeting the current demands of the law. Employees who believe there has been a violation of California’s meal period laws should promptly consult with an experienced wage and hour lawyer. Continue Reading ›

California is widely recognized as having some of the strongest worker protections in the country. Recently, a California appellate court ruled that these wage and hour laws can be applied in some cases even for non-state residents working for a non-California employer – so long as the work was primarily done in California and work operations were based here. Los Angeles employment lawyer

The case, Gulf Offshore Logistics LLC v. Superior Court, was decided in December by California’s Second Appellate District, Division Six. Plaintiffs were members of a crew of offshore oil platforms for defendants on a boat that was docked exclusively in California for over six years. Administrative functions at the company took place at their headquarters in Louisiana, which was also where the vessel was registered. During the course of their assignments, plaintiffs were compelled to travel between state, federal and international waters.

The lawsuit alleged violation of California’s wage and hour laws – specifically those pertaining to minimum wage compensation, overtime compensation, meal and rest breaks, accurate record-keeping and providing workers with wage statements. Defendants sought a summary judgment not on the merits, but rather on grounds that the proper venue for the case was Louisiana, not California. (Louisiana’s laws would also be much less favorable to employees.) Continue Reading ›

Two workplace meal break cases are headed to the California Supreme Court this year and are being closely watched by Los Angeles employment lawyers. One has the potential to greatly increase the sum of employer penalties for meal break violations, while the other may require a more advanced calculation – and higher premiums – for requiring workers to work through meal breaks. Los Angeles employment lawyer

Meal break violations are the source of many California employment lawsuits. Labor Code Section 512 states that employers can’t employ someone to work for more than five hours daily without providing them a meal period of at least 30 minutes – except if the total amount of work for the day is no more than 6 hours. (In that case, the meal period can be waived by mutual consent.) If the employee works more than 10 hours daily, than a second meal period of at least 30 minutes is required, except if the total number of hours worked is no more than 12. A second meal period can be waived by mutual consent – but only if the first meal period in was not waived.

There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, this is widely applicable. During the meal break, employees who aren’t fully relieved of all duties are considered to be “on duty,” and are only allowed when the nature of work prevents an employee from being relieved and it is to compensated at the regular rate of pay. Employees must agree to this in writing, and these agreements must indicate the employee can revoke the agreement at any time. If the employer requires the employee to remain on site during meal breaks, then that time must be paid – even if the worker is fully relieved of all duties. If an employer doesn’t provide a meal break, the employer must pay an additional premium of one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each work day that the meal period isn’t provided (though this isn’t counted as hours worked for tallying overtime).

Over the last couple years, state appellate courts have taken on numerous cases that have involved those on-duty meal period agreements, as well as the method for calculating premium pay when employers fail to provide a compliant meal period. Continue Reading ›

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