All California businesses have a responsibility to treat their employees in a fair and ethical manner. This includes avoiding any practices or policies that discriminate based on certain legally protected areas — which is why every employer needs to take affirmative steps to comply with federal and state anti-discrimina- tion laws that protect employees.
What types of discrimination are illegal in California?
Although there are many legally protected areas that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee, the most commonly violated rights of an employee include:
• Age Discrimination — Federal and California state laws protect all workers over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age.
• Disability & Medical Condition Discrimination — The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) require all employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with a documented disability or medical condition. This means the employer and the employee must engage in a “good faith interactive process” that meets the employee’s needs while not placing an undue hardship on the employer.
• Pregnancy discrimination — Both the FEHA and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act protect female employees who become pregnant from any form of harassment or discrimination associated with their status. California also requires most employers to provide up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave to eligible employees who are considered temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
• Race Discrimination — No employer can base the hiring or employment conditions of an employee or applicant based on his or her race, color, ancestry, or national origin.
• Sex or Sexual Preference — An employer may not take sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender status into account when making employment decisions.
• Hostile Work Environment — In addition to direct discrimina- tion, an employer may be sued if an employee suffers a pattern of abusive conduct or harassment related to a protected characteristic – such as race, sex, or pregnancy – such that it creates a “hostile work environment.”
If you are an employer, dealing with workplace discrimination is not simply a matter of hiring an attorney after you have already been sued. It requires a comprehensive approach that includes training supervisors and employees as to what constitutes illegal discrimination. Your business also needs to have procedures in place for receiving and handling discrimination complaints timely, properly and expeditiously.
In fact, many businesses get into legal trouble not because of the initial complaint of discrimination — but because they did not know how to prevent, properly investigate, and remedy the cause or source of the employee complaint.
There are rules and regulations covering nearly every facet of what goes on in the workplace designed to help ensure worker safety and protect workers’ rights. When there are violations, workers often hesitate to report them out of fear that the employer or a supervisor will take negative action against the employee. This adverse action is known as retaliation, and it is prohibited in California under both state and federal laws.
As an experienced attorney in the field, Alex Gilanians serves clients in the Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in California. We act as a strong legal advocate on your behalf in these situations, helping to ensure your rights are protected.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that retaliation against workers is one of the most common types of workplace discrimination. Depending on the circumstances, the EEOC advises that the following are actions which may be considered as retaliatory in nature:
- • Unwarranted employee reprimands and poor performance reviews;
- • Demotions or transferring an employee to a less desirable position;
- • Changing work schedules in order to create conflicts;
- • Increased scrutiny on the job and physical or verbal harassment;
- • Threatening to report you to police or immigration authorities;
- • Spreading false rumors or taking actions against your coworkers and staff.
Alex Gilanians, as your attorney, will provide aggressive legal representation for facing these situations. Employers and supervisors who engage in this type of conduct can be held liable for damages and losses in income or benefits you suffer, in addition to facing both criminal and civil penalties.
Alex Gilanians can help to protect you against retaliatory acts which negatively impact your career and earning potential. The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) advises that there are close to 50 state and federal laws that prohibit retaliation in a variety of situations. These include:
- • Filing a complaint based on employment or safety violations;
- • Requesting time off due to parenting responsibilities, such as school conferences or emergencies;
- • Taking time off for court appearances as a victim of domestic abuse or other crime victim;
- • Voicing political opinions;
- • Not disclosing criminal matters in which you were not convicted;
- • Refusing to work hours in excess of that which is mandated by law.
If you are faced with retaliation on the job, or believe you have been a victim of retaliation for any reason, contact our office for a free, no obligation consultation to learn the best course of action and ensure your rights and financial security is protected.
Not all employment terminations are illegal. Although employers generally have a significant amount of leeway to terminate employees without notice or providing a reason for their decision, there are situations where it is illegal to terminate a worker. In many cases where an employee is illegally terminated, the employee can seek compensation for his or her related damages through a wrongful termination action. Where the employee is required to take another approach to addressing the unlawful termination, the law office of Alex Gilanians can assist the process of navigating the process of seeking redress or recovering for your financial injuries.
Unlawful Termination as Discrimination
Firing an employee because of his or her status in a protected class is illegal. Under federal law, an employee cannot be fired because of his or her:
• Sex, Race, Color, Religion, Disability status, Genetic information, National origin, Citizenship status; or Age if over the age of 40. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act also prohibits terminations due to:
• HIV status, Sexual orientation, Gender identity, Political activities or views, Status as a domestic violence or assault survivor; or Military or Veteran status.
Other forms of Unlawful Termination
Whether your termination qualifies as unlawful or not requires an evaluation of the facts by an experienced attorney. There are many additional ways to unlawfully terminate an employee beyond the more commonly known and constitutionally protected class, which include but are not limited to:
- • Firing the employee while he or she is on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or refusing to reinstate him or her in the same or a substantially similar position upon returning from the leave;
- • Terminating the employee for an action he or she took during his or her personal time, such as engaging in local politics; and
- • Intentionally creating a work environment for the employee that is so unbearable that he or she chooses to resign. This is known as wrongful constructive termination.
A free, no obligation consultation with the law office of Alex Gilanians can help determine if you have been unlawfully terminated and if the employer can be held responsible.
Workplace harassment can make it difficult for employees to do their jobs, and it can open employers up to liability. No one should have to deal with harassment on the job. Whether you are an employer dealing with a harassment complaint from an employee or an employee who has been subject to harassment in the workplace, it is important to understand prohibitions against harassment, as well as the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees.
What is Harassment in California?
California employees and employers can face issues of harassment in the workplace that invoke both state and federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.” Similar to federal law, California law defines harassment as a form of discrimination. California law goes beyond federal law to prohibit forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Sometimes an employee can feel harassed in the workplace as a result of bullying and other unwelcome conduct. However, it is important to distinguish between conduct that actually rises to the level of unlawful harassment, and conduct that includes “petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents.” In order for harassment to be unlawful, the EEOC clarifies that it “must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
Types of Offensive Conduct that Rise to the Level of Unlawful Harassment
Certain types of unwanted conduct can rise to the level of unlawful conduct in the workplace. While it is important to recognize that each case has its own set of facts and that you should speak with an employment discrimination attorney to determine the merits of a claim, the following are examples of offensive conduct that can be grounds for a successful harassment claim:
- • Offensive jokes
- • Slurs
- • Name calling
- • Unwelcome physical touching
- • Physical threats
- • Insults or ridicule
- • Intimidation
- • Offensive objects, pictures, text, emails
Harassment can result from offensive conduct by a wide variety of individuals in a workplace, including:
- • Your boss or supervisor
- • A co-worker
- • An employee of the company in another area of the business
- • Agent of the employer
Harassment complaints do not always have to be filed by the person being harassed. Under federal law, a person being harassed, or anyone affected by the offensive conduct against another, can also file an action. Depending on the specific facts of each case, you may have a state or federal claim against the person committing the harassing conduct. California is a pro employee state providing greater protection to employees. Oftentimes the first step may be to file a grievance through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
If you are an employer concerned about protecting yourself and your business from being sued for harassment, you must take steps to prevent it — and if it happens, to correct it. Employers can accomplish this goal by creating a clear workplace policy concerning harassment, as well as by instituting a process for filing a grievance, and making clear that employee complaints will be handled promptly and will always be taken seriously. Depending on the circumstances, an employer can be liable for harassment in the workplace, particularly when a supervisor is alleged to have engaged in unlawful conduct. To avoid liability, employers need to be able to show that the employer,
- • Took steps to prevent harassment,
- • Promptly corrected the harassing behavior, and
- • Employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s preventive or corrective opportunities.
If you have questions about harassment in the workplace, contact Alex Gilanians for more information with a no obligation free consultation.