Granowitz, White & Weber provides knowledgeable assistance on labor and employment matters to businesses and employees. In this highly regulated area, employers require reliable counsel to remain in compliance and to defend themselves against accusations of wrongdoing that can disrupt operations and drain company resources. Likewise, workers need sound advice and strong representation to assert their right to fair treatment in the workplace. Since 1983, we have served clients on both sides of labor and employment issues. This experience makes us well-suited to managing your employment law concerns.
State and federal law prohibits certain employers from making employment decisions based on an employee’s identification with a protected class. However, in most instances, California law is more sweeping. For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act lists more protected classes than the U.S. antidiscrimination statute. These include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, and military and veteran status. Therefore, an employer cannot discriminate against, fire, demote, reassign, harass, or refuse to hire a worker based any of these factors.
State and federal laws also treat sexual harassment as a form of illegal discrimination. Employers can be liable for damages when a worker suffers quid pro quo harassment, where a superior conditions job benefits on the worker’s response to unwanted sexual advances, or hostile work environment harassment, where unwanted sexual conduct is so pervasive the worker cannot do the job. Under California law, an injured worker may also recover damages against a coworker who is not a superior.
California law also affords greater protection to disabled workers and limits an employer’s right to an “English only” workplace.
State and federal laws protect employees who cooperate with authorities investigating a company for illegal practices or who come forward on their own initiative to “blow the whistle” on illegal activity. Workers who have knowledge of fraud against the state or federal government can also bring a qui tam action, where they sue on the government’s behalf and share in the recovery. Under state and federal law, employers may not retaliate against or punish whistleblowers for whistleblowing activity or for protesting or refusing to engage in illegal activity.
California recognizes employment “at will,” which generally allows an employer to terminate a private sector employee for any reason or no reason at all, except for an illegal reason. A firing cannot be discriminatory and cannot be in retaliation for a legally protected act, such as whistleblowing or filing a harassment complaint. An employer must have just cause and good reason to terminate an employee who is not at will. A worker who brings a wrongful termination lawsuit may be able to recover damages and even win reinstatement. A worker who resigns a position might still bring a wrongful termination suit if there is evidence that an employer’s unlawful conduct drove the worker to resign. This is known as constructive termination.
To prevail in a wrongful termination case, an at-will worker must show by the preponderance of the evidence that there was an illegal basis for the firing. On the other hand, an employer must show a neutral basis, such as poor job performance, employee misconduct or company downsizing.
Frequent issues in today’s economy are those involving claims of unpaid wages, meal and rest break violations and overtime claims. Disputes arise when a worker feels entitled to time-and-a-half for more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, but the employer maintains the worker is exempt from overtime laws because of his or her status as a salaried worker or independent contractor. Often, a worker can make a claim based on terms of employment that overcomes the status argument. We provide guidance on either side of these issues, so employers and employees can avoid future conflicts and make fair agreements that comply with applicable laws. We also provide determined representation for either side when conflicts arise.
Employment law conflicts hurt businesses and workers, and they can be very difficult to resolve. Fortunately, the experienced employment law attorneys at Granowitz, White & Weber are prepared to help. We provide no-nonsense advice and creative solutions to potentially damaging disputes. But, when aggressive litigation is required, we vigorously assert your rights in court. Call us today at 909-890-1717 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.