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California Employment Law Blog

Wrongful termination comes after participation in a protected act

You probably never go into a shift at work thinking that it is going to be your last unless you've turned in your notice that you're leaving the job. For some people, the unexpected loss of a job happens while they are just trying to get their work done. There are protections for workers who are wrongfully terminated, but this doesn't apply to all cases.

California is an at-will employment state so employers technically don't need a reason to fire you. There are some specific situations in which they can't fire you. If you have participated in a protected activity, the employer can't use termination as a retaliatory measure. Here are some of these activities:

  • Working with investigators: You can't be terminated for cooperating with an investigation into potentially illegal activities at the workplace.
  • Filing a complaint: Your employer can't fire you because you file a complaint with the authorities for unlawful activities at the company, including those related to sexual harassment or safety violations.
  • Making a complaint: You can't be let go because you make a complaint to human resources about harassment or discrimination on the job.

You can negotiate a California severance package

You walk into your office ready for a hard day of work. An hour later, you walk back out into the California morning sunshine with a pink slip.

In between, you sit numb, half listening as your company's human resources representative tells you when your final paycheck will be directly deposited and the status of your medical insurance. She gives you some papers to sign and get back to the company.

Pay discrepancies must be handled swiftly so you have your money

You deserve the pay that you are due for the hours that you worked. Unfortunately, some employers want to make as much money as they can, even if it means that they short their employees' pay. We understand that you might want to just get your money and not have to battle with your employer.

In some instances, employers aren't making purposeful omissions of your pay. When you bring the discrepancies to their attention, they will likely fix them and ensure that things are correct moving forward. The issue comes in when they won't acknowledge the problem or don't want to correct it.

Workers' compensation claims can't led to termination

California is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can pretty much fire you for any reason or no reason at all. There are some exceptions to this, as employers can't terminate you for a protected reason, even in an at-will state.

One factor that can't lead to termination is your filing a valid workers' compensation claim. In these cases, you can't be fired because of the impacts of the injury or because you filed a report outlining some safety defect within the company.

What damages may you seek in response to harassment and violence?

Many people take pride in the fact that California is one of the most diverse states in the union. You would think that fact would preclude harassment and hate violence in the workplace, but sadly, many workers in the state continue to experience it.

In order to combat these deplorable actions, the state passed the Ralph Civil Rights Act to protect people from threats or acts of violence. Anyone considered the member of a class protected under the act may file a complaint seeking damages for the harm suffered at the hands of an abuser in the workplace.

Sexual harassment at work demands immediate attention

Being sexually harassed at work can make you not even want to return to your job. This is a difficult position to be in, because you know that you need to go to work to earn an income. Without an income, you can't support yourself.

We understand that the impacts of sexual harassment can go far beyond the workplace seeming hostile. We are here to help you determine what options you have for handling these situations. The top priority is making sure that you don't have to deal with the sexual harassment in the future.

Sexual harassment in the military mustn't continue

Nobody should ever have to deal with sexual harassment while they are at work. It doesn't matter what job they do, the workplace should be free of this atrocious behavior. This is true even in traditionally male-dominated professions. Unfortunately, some high profile individuals don't realize that they are encouraging sexual harassment.

It has recently come to light that White House's deputy chief of staff for communication's wife believes that women who join the military should expect to be sexually harassed. While this is an older comment, the fact that it is now making headlines shows just how far women still have to go in their fight for hostile-free workplaces.

Family leave matters must be handled properly

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is meant to protect workers who need to take time off for their own medical issues or for specific family matters. One of these is that a person who has an immediate family member who has a serious illness can take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks to assist the person. While there are some requirements for notice to the employer, this isn't always possible.

One recent story that went viral showed the importance of these protections. A woman texted her boss to let her know that she wouldn't be in for her shift because her son was on life support. The manager replied that she either had to show up or be fired. The exchange went on and eventually the woman shared screenshots of the texts on social media. In the end, the manager was terminated.

Find out if the pay you are receiving meets legal standards

As an employee, you expect to get paid what you were told you were going to receive when you were hired or had a performance evaluation that resulted in a pay change. This is important because most employees count on their paycheck to pay for vital bills like shelter, utilities and food. Most of the time, there isn't any issue; however, employers aren't always upfront about pay. This can cause some issues with the employees.

When you are thinking about pay, you should make sure that you are making at least minimum wage. While there are some exceptions to the rule, you should typically be making at least the federal minimum wage or state minimum wage, whichever is higher at the time. If you aren't making at least that amount, there might be an issue that you need to address. One job that often has an exception is a server who receives tips.

You deserve to work in an environment free from discrimination

Whether you apply for a job or already have one, your employer must provide you with an application process and work environment free from discrimination. Here in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act enforces those protections.

FEHA applies to employment agencies, private and public employers with more than five employees, and labor organizations. If you suspect your employer, or a prospective employer, of discrimination, you may benefit from understanding your rights and legal options.

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