As an employee in the state of California, workers are afforded a large collection of rights that are designed to protect them from being mistreated by an employer in a variety of forms. These protections can be confusing for both the employer AND the employee, and there are many instances where there may be problems arising from some type of work-related issue and one or both of the involved parties may not be certain of the legal guidelines set forth to help them navigate the disagreement. This is one instance where an employment lawyer familiar with California labor laws comes in handy, for either an employee or an employer.
Workers' rights are constantly evolving, and even the best-intentioned employers may find themselves wading into a legal gray area where they need to work with an attorney to ensure that they are handling each step properly. Conversely, employees must be certain that they are cared for in all ways that the State and Federal laws outline for them, ranging from issues like sexual harassment in the workplace to wrongful termination and discrimination, and many others in between.
To make sure that you understand your rights and limitations as either an employer or employee, contact the team at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates as soon as possible for a free initial consultation regarding your situation. During this time, you will be able to speak directly with an experienced legal professional about your situation, and layout any relevant details in order to understand how we can help you move forward from this spot. Read more below about some common issues and protections afforded through California workers' rights, and contact us now to get started on your own case as soon as possible.
When To Hire an Employment Lawyer in Orange County
Employees can often feel that they are indebted to their employers, for fear of losing their job or other ramifications that could impact their earning capacity, stability, and the means that allow them to provide for their family. This can lead to tension when the employee feels that they are being taken advantage of, made to feel uncomfortable due to harassment or discrimination, or they are wrongfully terminated from their position.
The specific times when you must absolutely hire an employment lawyer can be confusing, which is why we believe that it is so important to offer free consultations with our team to learn more about your rights and options. Of course, these consultations are completely confidential, meaning that you are able to have an open and honest conversation without any concern about this information getting back to your employer and possibly causing you more discomfort.
Examples of Workplace Law in California
California operates under an “at-will” employment rule, meaning that employees are free to come and go from a job without ramifications. This also means that employees are able to terminate an employment contract just as freely, but there are certain times where an employer may act in a way that is exempt from this protection. Some instances where termination may be an exemption to at-will labor rules could be in a case where the employer misrepresented or acted fraudulently with the employee, the employer violated a contract, or if some sort of public policy was violated during the termination.
Workplace Discrimination or Harassment
Harassment, sexual or otherwise, is a serious problem and is treated aggressively when it is determined to be illegal. According to California law, harassment is illegal when it meets the following criteria:
- The employee is the target of unwanted conduct such as lewd or cruel comments or actions
- The comments or actions are focused on (or because of) the fact that the member is a member of a protected class
- This behavior is enough to make the work environment hostile and uncomfortable for the target
Non-exempt workers in California are guaranteed pay equal to 1.5x their normal rate after 8 hours in a single day, and/or after 40 hours in a workweek. After 12 hours in a day, the employee is entitled to 2x their normal pay for the remainder of the day. Employers may, intentionally or unknowingly, be stealing from their employees by not paying them this lawful rate. If you are experiencing a situation where your employer is not paying you the overtime income that you are legally entitled to (meaning that you are not exempted from this guarantee because of a contract agreement or other scenario), then a lawyer will be able to help you navigate the process and get the money you legally deserve.
As referenced under the Harassment section above, California has a series of protected classes that are granted protections due to these characteristics, meaning that employers may not make hiring, hiring, or promotion decisions based on these classes. As per the California Senate, these protected classes are as follows:
- Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
- Sex/gender (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and/ or related medical conditions)
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Medical Condition (genetic characteristics, cancer or a record or history of cancer)
- Military or veteran status
- National origin (includes language use and possession of a driver's license issued to persons unable to provide their presence in the United State is authorized under federal law)
- Disability (mental and physical including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and genetic characteristics)
- Genetic information
- Request for family care leave
- Request for leave for an employee's own serious health condition
- Request for Pregnancy Disability Leave
- Retaliation for reporting patient abuse in tax-supported institutions
- Age (over 40)
If you believe that you have been discriminated against because you belong to one (or more) of these protected classes, contact us immediately to learn about how we can help.
Frequently Asked Questions about California Employment Law
The following are just a few of the questions that we commonly answer during initial calls with potential clients. Keep in mind that the specifics of the answers depend entirely on your situation, and these are only intended to give you an idea of some of the questions we are happy to discuss with you during your free initial consultation.
Does my situation qualify for working with an employment lawyer in Orange County?
There are many different details that will help us determine whether or not your situation is covered under employment laws and guidelines, and if so, how we can proceed with getting you the outcome you deserve. This will be the first question we set out to answer during our initial consultation.
What are the penalties my employer may have to pay for their violations?
As with the first step of determining whether or not your employer has violated any laws, we will need to dig deeper into the situation at hand before we are able to identify the possible ramifications for their actions. As more details emerge, so will additional insight emerge about the penalties your employer may face.
Can I be fired for reporting illegal activity that my company is partaking in?
Whistleblowers are protected under California law, meaning that you are able to report any illegal activity to the state auditor without fear of retaliation from your employer. However, it is a good idea to start working with an attorney as soon as you decide that you are planning to report this activity because you will likely find yourself wondering how to proceed at certain points in the process.