Unfair Employment Practices
At Ahdoot & Wolfson, PC, our attorneys help clients in California and throughout the United States pursue claims against their current or former employers. Our firm provides experienced legal representation for workers whose employers have violated California and/or Federal employment laws, including wage & hour violations, wrongful terminations, workplace discrimination, and retaliatory conduct.
No employee should be subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace. An employer that condones this unlawful conduct is civilly liable to the affected employee. While the unlawful conduct may be carried out by the employee’s supervisor directly, employers are often liable for failing to prevent, deter, or rectify a situation in which a coworker is harassing or discriminating against the employee. Failure to properly train employees regarding discrimination can give rise to civil liability as well. Discrimination or harassment is unlawful if based on race, national origin, gender, age, pregnancy, disability, or medical condition. In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) regulates instances of workplace discrimination.
Harassment based on race or gender is another common problem for which an employer may be liable, defined as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct creating a hostile work environment. Especially egregious are situations of quid pro quo harassment, where an employee’s term of employment is condition upon unwelcomed sexual advances. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against female employees based on a pregnancy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to permit up to twelve workweeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period. While many employees rely on the FMLA to care for newborn children, this law also applies to other important medical events, such as the care of an elderly parent suffering from a debilitating illness.
To bring a workplace discrimination claim against an employer, the employee will typically need to establish the following facts: (1) the employee belongs to a protected class (race, national origin, etc.); (2) the employee was subjected to an adverse employment decision by the employer (demotion, termination, etc.); (3) the employee was treated differently that similarly situated employees not in a protected class; and (4) there existed a sufficient causal connection between the employer’s adverse treatment and the employee’s protected status. Generally, the employee must first use the employer’s internal grievance procedure prior to filing a lawsuit so the employer has an opportunity to correct the discriminatory conduct.
Although some instances of workplace discrimination do not result in a termination of the employer-employee relationship, many discrimination claims allege wrongful termination on the basis of race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or medical condition in violation of state fair employment laws. Termination for whistleblower activity, in which the employee reports an employer’s illegal activity, also gives rise to civil liability. If you were terminated in violation of the law, you may be able to recover economic damages, such as lost wages and/or benefits, damages based on your emotional distress associated with the wrongful termination, and even punitive damages if the employer’s conduct intentionally disregarded your rights or your safety.
Wage and Hour Disputes
Many states, including California, have fairly straightforward laws regarding wage and hour requirements for employers. In California, if a non-exempt employee works over eight hours in any workday and/or over forty hours in a single workweek, the employer must pay the employee time-and-a-half (or 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly pay rate) for the additional hours worked. Employers subject themselves to liability by violating wage and hour laws, including policies or practices that lead to “off-the-clock” or unpaid time, unpaid rest breaks, and lunch breaks spent working. Another common unlawful practice is to erroneously classify an employee as a “manager” to render their employment status as exempt and avoid overtime pay. An employee is not exempt from overtime pay unless he or she spends over 50% of his or her time performing non-administrative, managerial tasks.
Ahdoot & Wolfson handles a wide range of wage and hour claims, including those brought as class actions against large corporate employers. To learn more about how Ahdoot & Wolfson has successfully litigated wage and hour class actions, see what we’ve done.
Whistleblower actions involving government corruption are often called “qui tam” actions, brought by individuals with first-hand knowledge of fraudulent government contracts or purchases in violation of the False Claims Act. However, any employee may have a whistleblower cause of action if he or she was improperly treated or terminated as a result of reporting the employer’s unlawful business practices. Typically, a termination based on whistleblower activity is a violation of public policy, subjecting the employer to civil liability. Types of unlawful business activity include tax fraud, falsification of financial documents, failure to adhere to health and safety regulations, violations of fiduciary duties to shareholders, and discrimination, harassment, or deceptive business practices.
Once an employee has engaged in protected activity, such as filing a lawsuit against the employer or consulting the employee’s union, an employer may be subject to additional liability if the employer subsequently treats the employee adversely. Disparate treatment in retaliation of an employee asserting his or her rights often violates both California and Federal laws. An employee may sue his or her employer for retaliation if the employee is demoted, terminated, or subjected to a hostile work environment subsequent to taking legal action against the employer or engaging in any other type of protected activity.
Seek Experienced Employment Law Representation
If you were discriminated against, wrongfully terminated, or subjected to hostile work conditions in violation of your rights, you need an attorney with employment law experience to assist you in pursuing a claim against your employer. The attorneys at Ahdoot & Wolfson provide clients with aggressive and dedicated legal representation for a wide variety of employment claims. Contact Ahdoot & Wolfson today for a free consultation. We routinely take on employment cases on a contingency basis, with no costs or attorney’s fees to the client unless a recovery is obtained.