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Employment Law

San Diego and Riverside County Employment Lawyer

Work can be challenging enough without employees having to deal with issues such as harassment, discrimination, not receiving proper pay, or retaliation for reporting unsafe or illegal behavior. However, many employees find themselves in these dilemmas with coworkers, supervisors, or even a company-wide policy far too often. To understand what your rights are and know what steps you can take to protect yourself, eliminate problems, and potentially get compensation for any harm you suffered, contact the experienced San Diego and Riverside County Employment Lawyers at Walton Law, APC today. Here are some basic areas of employment laws that set out protections for ALL employees – even undocumented immigrants – and regulate employer behavior.

California Wage and Hour Laws

In California, laws govern hours and overtime, required meal and rest breaks for employees, and the minimum wage an employee can be paid. All employers must comply with these laws.

All employees who are not exempt from wage and hour laws must be paid overtime at a rate of time and a half when they work more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week. It is also illegal for employers to ask employees to work “off the clock” and not pay them for all the time they have worked.

Employees not properly paid may be entitled to sue for wage and hour violations and receive overtime and back pay. It’s also important to remember that an employer is not allowed to retaliate against you if you file a wage and hour complaint or any type of labor complaint.

Some employers try to avoid complying with wage and hour laws by misclassifying employees – usually labeling hourly employees as salaried or independent contractors. Most salaried employees and independent contractors are exempt from wage and hour laws in California.

Harassment at Work

Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), you are given broad protections from harassment in your workplace.  Though most people know about sexual harassment, harassment in California also includes creation of a hostile work environment – even for non-sexual harassment – because of your:

  • Race or ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Religious beliefs or practices
  • Sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity
  • Disability

The lawyers at Walton Law, APC can help you determine the best solution for you if you experience any workplace harassment. This can include filing a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and, if given a right to sue notice by DFEH, may even progress to a lawsuit against your harasser, your employer, or both.

Discrimination

Under FEHA, employers may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of:

  • Sex, gender, or sexual orientation
  • Race or ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion

In California, one difference between workplace harassment and discrimination is that harassment involves behavior outside a supervisor or coworker’s job description like sexual comments or racial slurs, but discrimination involves performing usual job functions in an unfair, biased way. It commonly occurs in the hiring process, the decision to terminate an employee, or when setting conditions at work.

Employees who are subject to discrimination can file a complaint with the DFEH and potentially file a lawsuit against their employer. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating if you file a DFEH complaint or otherwise speak out about discrimination.

Retaliation and Wrongful Termination Protections

Many times, employees are fearful of intimidation or retaliation if they have a problem and so they fail to say anything or take action to correct the situation. Though California is an “at will” state where most employers can terminate employees for any reason, there are exceptions to that rule. Employers are not allowed to retaliate by firing or failing to promote an employee:

  • Because of their political speech or activities outside of work
  • In retaliation for whistleblower activities
  • In violation of whistleblower protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • As retaliation for a qui tam lawsuit filed on behalf of the government alleging fraud, embezzlement, or theft of government funds by the company
  • In violation of the federal government’s’ Fair Employment and Housing Act

These actions can create a valid claim for wrongful termination and California employees may be entitled to back pay, benefits, and reinstatement in addition to penalties imposed against their employer.

It is also illegal in California to engage in any type of immigration retaliation – threats to deport non-citizen workers that file complaints or raise concerns about labor violations.

Some California employees are also protected from wrongful termination because they are not “at will” employees. Termination in violation of an employment contract, an implied contract, or public policy may also entitle you to compensation.

Family and Medical Leave

In California, employees have family and medical leave protections as a result of the:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • New Parent Leave Act
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave section of the CPDA

If you have worked for your employer for at least one year, have worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the past year, and your employer has at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of your place of work, under the CFRA and FMLA you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn biological child, a newly adopted child, a serious illness of your own, or a seriously ill family member.

If you give birth, you also have leave rights provided in the CPDA – you may take an additional 4 months leave if you are incapacitated due to childbirth or during pregnancy.

California mandates that employers must also provide other leave to employees, including:

  • Paid sick leave
  • Voting
  • Jury duty or compliance with a subpoena
  • Leave for crime victims
  • Leave to complete alcohol or drug rehabilitation
  • Leave to seek relief from domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault
  • Leave to participate in a child’s activities at school

Employers are prohibited from retaliating for employees who exercise their right to take protected leave afforded by law and must usually reinstate them to their previous position at work upon return.

Contact a San Diego and Riverside County Employment Lawyer

When it comes to dealing with workplace issues or disputes with your employer, it can be confusing to know the rights you possess and keep up with changing laws about what is allowed and what is prohibited behavior at your job. To help understand what you should expect and learn how you can address problems that come up at work with your employer and coworkers, contact the skilled San Diego and Riverside County employment lawyers at Walton Law, APC. We have experience counseling clients on their rights and help employees like you navigate filing complaints with the EEOC, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), and even litigating cases in civil court when appropriate. Contact us 24/7 by calling (866) 338-7079 or using our Contact Us page to schedule your risk free, confidential case review today. The initial consultation is always free, and you don’t pay until we win your case. Let our attorneys review your situation, answer your questions, and help make sure you are protected at work.

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