Employment & Labor Law

Experience counts – and with over 20 years of legal experience, we’ve successfully represented individuals and business clients in various labor and employment matters throughout California.

We will take the time to hear your story and provide you with an honest, neutral evaluation of your case in any of the following areas:

  • Employment & Labor Litigation
  • Wrongful Termination
  • Discrimination/Harassment/Retaliation
  • Wage and Hour Disputes/Overtime/PAGA
  • Disability Issues
  • Employer Counseling / Claims Advice
  • Complaint Investigation
  • Drafting Handbooks / Agreements / Policies

Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination is a general term that refers to any termination that is “unlawful.” It is normally the result of either discrimination or retaliation.

However, what is unlawful is often misunderstood. Not every act is unlawful or illegal. For example, conduct or a decision that may be factually wrong, illogical, negligent, rude, unprofessional and even unethical, does not necessarily mean that it was unlawful. To be unlawful, it has to be based on a discriminatory or retaliatory act and alter the conditions of employment.

Discrimination

Discrimination arises only in specifically defined areas. In California, the primary types of discrimination include:

  • Racial or ethnic discrimination.
  • Sex, gender or gender identity discrimination.
  • National origin discrimination.
  • Religious discrimination.
  • Disability-based workplace harassment or dangerous conditions.
  • Age discrimination.

Discrimination can be in the form of a hiring decision, ongoing employment conduct or decisions, or a termination. Discrimination can also be a single act of discrimination, or an accumulation of acts or conduct. It can also be indirect, i.e., allowing another employee to discriminate and failing to correct the behavior. In order for discrimination to be actionable, however, it must be shown that the discrimination (in one of the above categories) was a “substantial motivating factor” for any adverse employment decision – see Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004 (Cal. Feb. 7, 2013). That means that if there was more than one reason for the decision, and in many cases the employer can point to more than one, this California Supreme Court case requires the jury to determine if the alleged unlawful portion of that decision was “substantial.”

Retaliation

Retaliation, otherwise known as a wrongful termination in violation of public policy or aTameny claim (after the California Supreme Court case ofTameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 Cal.3d 167), is a type of wrongful termination. These are terminations either: (a) in violation of a statute that expressly prohibits an employer from discharging an employee for a specified reason, i.e., discrimination; (b) terminations for exercising constitutional or statutory rights or privileges; (c) terminations for refusing to engage in unlawful conduct; or (d) terminations for reporting unlawful activities by the employer or others at work (whistleblowing).

Examples of cases in which employees could be wrongfully terminated in violation of public policies include:

  • An employee terminated because of his/her physical disability, religion, gender, race, national origin, medical condition, marital status or sexual orientation.
  • An employee fired for refusing to sign a covenant not to compete.
  • An employee discharged for reporting on the employer’s failure to pay overtime wages.
  • An employee discharged for reporting on the employer’s failure to provide meal periods or rest breaks.
  • An employer discharged employee to avoid paying him accrued commissions and vacation pay.
  • An employee laid off for reporting the misappropriation of public funds.
  • An employee fired for reporting sexual harassment.
  • An employee terminated for testifying or participating at a court hearing, deposition or investigation regarding a coworker’s complaint about harassment or discrimination.
  • An employee suspended without pay for discussing wages with his coworkers.
  • An employee terminated for demanding to be paid the same wages as her male counterparts.

In order to prevail on these types of claims, an employee must show sufficient connection (also known as a nexus) between the employee’s action and the employer’s decision to take some adverse action against them.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo means, in Latin, favor for a favor. It is a type of conduct where one employee in the company (supervisor, coworker etc), either offers to give an additional employment benefit or refrain from taking one away, in exchange for something from another employee. The typical examples that most people think of are:

  • A supervisor requesting sexual favors as a condition for hiring, promotion or other employment opportunities.
  • A manager threatening to terminate if sexual favors are not given or continued.
  • A supervisor promising or giving an employee a raise or promotion because of real or expected sexual favors.
  • A director giving an employee a favorable assignment or a spot at the annual convention in Hawaii, with the expectation that the employee will repay the favorable assignment with sexual favors.

Although quid pro quo is usually thought of as involving sexual favors, it could also involve an employee, for example, “looking the other way” on a safety violation, in exchange for a promotion.

Because quid pro quo most often involves sexual favors, though, the claim is usually part of gender discrimination and harassment claims.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates both California and federal law. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals; and/or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Sexual harassment is not just about sexual advances. It can also be verbal, written, or physical in nature. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwanted sexual advances;
  • Requests for sexual favors;
  • Sexual jokes or comments;
  • Displays of sexually explicit materials;
  • Physical touching or sexual assault;
  • Making threats or bribes in exchange for sex and/or
  • Leering or staring, or other sexually suggestive sounds or gestures.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a few examples of what could be considered sexual harassment in the workplace. In the workplace, such behaviors are wrong and illegal. While you might think that someone would know better than to engage in this type of behavior, it happens more often than many people realize, and it’s important to know the rules to avoid unnecessary harm and disputes.

Wage & Hour Disputes/Overtime/PAGA

Employees’ claims for unpaid wages, overtime or misclassification are common in California. Wage and hour disputes under the Labor Code can be costly as some claims bring with them the right to recover attorney’s fees.

Having an experienced labor and employment attorney on your side is crucial.  When you need someone to tell your story, call us at 626.797.0275 or contact us here.

Pasadena Employment Attorney at work for you!