California Attorneys for Employment Law
Because California is an at-will employment state, employees may be terminated by their employers at any time, with or without reason or advance notice. Even more frustrating for workers is that there doesn’t have to be a reason for this termination. However, both federal and California state laws prohibit discrimination in employment. But the worker has the burden of proving employment discrimination in these cases. If you feel you were let go due to your race, gender, orientation, or disability – or in retaliation for reporting workplace violations – reach out to the Bay Area employment law attorneys at Vanegas Law Group. We regularly represent individuals purposely let go for illegal reasons and will work with you to build a strong case and get you the compensation you deserve.
Both federal and California state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against certain protected classes of people in hiring, firing, promotions, and other terms and conditions of employment. Below is a brief overview of these laws:
Federal Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Laws
Title VII is a federal law prohibiting employment discrimination based on an employee’s religion, gender, color, race, or national origin. Title VII also prohibits sexual harassment and racial harassment. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII to clearly include discrimination against pregnant women as a form of discrimination based on sex. Additionally, Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to religious employees whose workplace obligations conflict with their religious commitments.
Other federal laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), prohibit discrimination based on an employee’s physical or mental disability or age (if the employee is over 40 years old). This legislation also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees upon request. They must oblige so long as the employee, with or without the accommodation, can perform the job’s essential functions with or without it.
Reasonable accommodations can include:
- Physical changes to the workplace to improve accessibility
- The provision of interpreters or specialized computer and communications equipment, or both
- Job restructuring
- Flexible work schedules
- Job transfer
- Disability leave – so the employee can recover form the disabling condition.
Lastly, the Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women equally when performing the same type of work. If you feel you are the victim of unequal pay practices at work, speak with the employment law attorneys of the Vanegas Law Group about your case to learn more about your rights.
California Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Laws
Employees who work in California receive additional protection from the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This act encompasses more protected classes than the federal statute. It includes both age and disability discrimination and harassment and discrimination based on a variety of other protected classes.
The California FEHA prohibits sexual orientation, gender-based, or gender-identity discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgender, or transsexual workers. It also recognizes marital status as an improper basis for employment decisions. Thus, the firing, hiring, and promotion of a worker must be without regard to whether they have a family, are single, or are divorced. Similarly, military or veteran status is a protected class. This state law applies to employers with five or more employees. In comparison, the federal laws only apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the state agency charged with enforcing the FEHA. To exhaust their administrative remedies, California employees must file a complaint of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation with the DFEH. The complaint must be filed within three years of the last instance of discriminatory or harassing conduct. We advise you to obtain legal representation at the earliest possible stage of your case to ensure your rights are properly protected. Trust the employment law attorneys of the Vanegas Law Group to resolve your discrimination or harassment complaints.
The California Labor Code makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against or punish an employee for filing a complaint about a violation of the law with a state or federal government agency. It’s also illegal to discipline an employee for otherwise engaging in a recognized protected activity. Examples of protected activity include:
- Filing a wage complaint with the Labor Commissioner
- Reporting violations of the law or regulations to a supervisor
- Reporting hazardous work conditions to Cal-OSHA
These laws also further protect workers who refuse to follow their employers’ requests or demands to engage in activities that violate state or federal laws.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act and federal anti-discrimination laws also prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who files a complaint of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation internally with any of these agencies:
- Their company’s Human Resources department
- The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
Retaliation can take the form of an explicit adverse employment action, such as a termination of employment or a demotion. It can also take the form of cumulative harassment, including name-calling, negative performance reviews, and exclusion from important meetings. At Vanegas Law Group, a team of experienced workplace harassment attorneys will assist you with resolving your retaliation complaints.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) require most businesses to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to an employee suffering a serious medical condition. This benefit also applies to those obligated to care for a family member suffering from such a condition.
Generally, an employee must work for a company for at least one year before qualifying for protected leave. In addition, employees must have worked for a certain number of hours with the employer in that previous year. The employee must also meet several documentation requirements.
The employee, if possible, must provide advance notice to the employer that they need the leave and must provide a medical certification from their doctor or their family member’s doctor supporting this need. If the employee is eligible for FMLA leave, their employer should ensure that they can return to their job or a comparable position after the leave ends. Their employer cannot retaliate against the employee for needing or requesting this time off.
For example, suppose an employee qualifies for and takes FMLA leave. In that case, it is impermissible for an employer to punish, fire, or harass the employee for missing work during the time of the protected FMLA leave. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) investigates complaints of violation of the California Family Rights Act (CERA) while the federal government’s Department of Labor handles FMLA violations. However, FMLA leave can sometimes overlap with Title VII requirements concerning leave for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions and ADA and Rehabilitation Act requirements concerning leave as an accommodation for an employee with a disability. In such cases, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will have enforcement authority.
The employment discrimination lawyers at the Vanegas Law Group have immense experience with these proceedings and are ready to take up the mantle of advocating on your behalf.
The Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA, is a powerful legal avenue in California for enforcing wage and hours laws throughout the state. Since 2004, employees who are victims of specific employment law violations by their employers can pursue penalties against them as if they were enforcing the law on behalf of the state. This law is unique in that it allows employees trapped in mandatory arbitration agreements to seek justice without having to file a class-action lawsuit. Because the state oversees these types of suits, it can intervene when it sees fit. Further, settlements in a PAGA case must be approved by both a judge and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
To bring these actions successfully, it’s highly advised you first consult with an experienced employment law attorney at the Vanegas Law Group about your case. Our Bay Area wage and hour lawyers have successfully obtained swift and significant settlements of these types of claims.
Severance pay is compensation that employers pay to terminated workers, often in exchange for a release of the right to file a lawsuit for employment violations the company may have committed. If you are being offered a severance package in exchange for a release of rights, speak with the employment law attorneys of Vanegas Law Group before agreeing to anything. It may be disadvantageous for you to accept the agreement as it is offered to you. Our legal team can review the particulars of your situation and may be able to negotiate with your former employer for a better deal that addresses the full scope of your circumstances.
Employment Law Attorneys Fighting for Your Rights
If you have questions about an employment matter where you are being harassed, discriminated against, or treated unfairly, seek counsel immediately. Our firm has offered reputable legal services to workers in the Bay Area since 1979. Because we represent both employees and employers, the Vanegas Law Group can provide you with invaluable insight into how companies defend against wage and hour disputes and workplace retaliation claims.
As experienced employment attorneys, we understand the importance of being treated fairly in the workplace. You deserve to be paid the wages you rightfully earned, regardless of whether you are an immigrant, pregnant woman, or senior citizen. Call the skilled labor and employment attorneys at Vanegas Law Group today to schedule a free initial consultation and receive advice about your rights.