Articles Posted in Employment Law

conference roomSometimes, your case may fail because you simply didn’t have enough proof to back up your claims. Other times, civil lawsuits fail because the plaintiff decides to go forward without counsel and fails to meet court-ordered discovery or other procedural obligations. If you think you’ve been a victim of wrongful termination or discrimination at work, you shouldn’t go forward alone but instead contact an experienced California employment attorney.

An example of how a case can go wrong was the wrongful termination lawsuit launched by Dymos, a Southern California truck driver who worked for a transportation company. After the employer fired Dymos, the trucker sued the employer for wrongful termination. His lawsuit alleged several forms of damages he suffered, including “humiliation, emotional distress, mental anguish, physical anguish, and physical pain.”

When the trucker began his lawsuit, he had an attorney who represented him. At some point, the trucker and his lawyer parted ways. What the trucker probably should have done is seek out new counsel to represent him in his pursuit of damages. He could have even asked the court for a delay in his case. Courts will sometimes give parties extra time when their attorneys have withdrawn, and the party is in the process of securing new counsel.

State CapitolIn the wake of the sexual harassment scandal that rocked several prominent figures in Hollywood and the media, and the #metoo movement that followed, many various institutions began taking a fresh look at making changes when it comes to sexual harassment. Legislative bodies are among these groups. Some states, like New Jersey and California, have considered bills that would ban the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment or discrimination cases. Also here in California, the state legislature is weighing additional actions to afford greater protection to employees who are victims of harassment. If you think you’ve been a victim of harassment at work, you should reach out to a knowledgeable California sexual harassment attorney to ensure that your rights and your entitlement to compensation are properly represented and protected.

The new bill currently under consideration in the state Assembly is one that would create a dramatic shift in the way certain cases are allowed to proceed in court. Currently, employees who want to pursue harassment claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act have only one year after the last act of harassment. If passed as proposed, AB1870, the Stopping Harassment and Reporting Extension Act, would extend that limitations period from one year to three years, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors told the Mercury News that the longer statute of limitations is needed to address some of the unique problems facing victims of workplace harassment. “We have found that many of the victims fear retaliation. There’s also this shame that they feel,” Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes stated. All of these things can cause a victim to delay pursuing her or his rights and initiating a legal case.

gavelSometimes, in sports, one may hear a coach state that it is sometimes possible for players to learn more from a loss than a victory. Something similar is sometimes true in legal actions. Sometimes, another person’s unsuccessful case may offer more useful information for others than some plaintiffs’ successful lawsuits. As one recent California sexual orientation discrimination case served to remind workers, there are certain things you need in order to achieve a successful result, and, without them, your case cannot win. To make sure that your discrimination case is supported by the right amount and right type of proof necessary to prevail, make sure that you work with an experienced employment discrimination attorney.

The plaintiff in this sexual orientation discrimination case, Shawn, was a “program business leader” analyst for the County of Santa Barbara. In the wake of a budget shortfall, the county laid off 35 employees, including Shawn. After her layoff, Shawn sued her former employer. Her lawsuit alleged sexual orientation discrimination. Shawn disclosed publicly that she was a lesbian in 2003, and her employer regarded her as a lesbian when it decided to end her employment in 2009, she argued.

This employee ultimately lost her case, with both the trial court and the Court of Appeal ruling against her. Despite this woman’s defeat, there is much that other employees can learn from her case and use as guidelines when pursuing a discrimination case or, alternatively, pursuing a case based upon a supervisor or co-worker’s use of offensive slurs or epithets.

obesityThere are many different forms of workplace discrimination that violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Sex discrimination, race discrimination, national origin discrimination, religious discrimination, and disability discrimination are just a few. When it comes to disability discrimination, there are a variety of conditions that qualify. Many illnesses, whether physical or mental, may entitle a worker to the anti-discrimination protections of the law. If you think you’ve suffered from disability discrimination at work, you should contact a knowledgeable California disability discrimination attorney promptly.

While conditions ranging from diabetes to bipolar disorder, and MS to PTSD, are covered, what about obesity? A recent case from the Bay Area addressed that exact question. The employee, Ketryn, had worked at a tennis club since 1997. She had also struggled with her weight since childhood. By 2012, she weighed 350 pounds and had a body-mass index in excess of 55, placing her in the category of Class III, or extreme, obesity.

The woman’s employment with the club was successful, with positive performance evaluations, merit bonuses, and raises for roughly a decade and a half. Then, in 2012, the club hired a new general manager. According to Ketryn, the new manager mocked her size, asked her “out of the blue” about whether she’d considered weight-loss surgery, did not consider her for extra hours of work, refused to consider her for promotions, and also paid her less than a newly hired (and petite) college student, even though Ketryn had more than a decade of experience with the club.

signatureWhen you start a new employment position, it is often an exciting time filled with a sense of accomplishment (at landing the job) and anticipation (of potential future career growth and advancement). You’re probably not thinking about all of the “fine print” in the employment agreement paperwork you’re signing. That fine print, however, can be very important, especially if it includes a mandatory arbitration clause. Sometimes, though, you may be able to sue in court and avoid arbitration in your wrongful termination case, even if your contract had an arbitration provision. If you’re been a victim of a wrongful termination, it is important to contact a skilled California employment attorney right away, especially if an arbitration clause is involved.

A recently decided case demonstrates how you can get past an arbitration clause in your wrongful termination case. The case involved Khrysta, who worked for a rent-a-car agency. In September 2015, the employer terminated Khrysta after nearly four years on the job. The employee sued for wrongful termination. Based upon the arbitration policy the employer had instituted (and that the employee had acknowledged by signing a copy of it), the agency asked the court to order the parties to arbitration.

Arbitration, of course, can be a very useful alternative means of resolving a dispute. The key, of course, is to use arbitration only if you think it will be helpful. There are many reasons why you might prefer a court trial to an arbitration hearing. If you and your legal counsel believe court is the best place to resolve your dispute, you should make sure you don’t get improperly forced into arbitration.

signatureEmployers may engage in many techniques to prevent employees from suing and winning in cases of discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. One way of doing that is by stopping employees from suing at all, through the use of mandatory arbitration agreements. While these agreements are generally allowable, California law imposes some restrictions on them. If your employer has demanded that you sign one, it must not impose certain restrictions on you, or it is unenforceable. An experienced California employment attorney can help you analyze your case if an arbitration agreement is involved.

One Bay Area action in which the employee got to pursue her lawsuit despite such an agreement was the case of Maya. Five years after Maya began her employment with an asset investment services company, another entity bought Maya’s employer, and she became an employee of that company. The new employer demanded that all of its employees sign a form that, among other things, included an agreement to resolve employment disputes through a process laid out by the employer. Employees had to sign the form or else lose their jobs. Not wanting to lose the job into which she’d invested half a decade, Maya signed.

By 2011, Maya had risen to a supervisory position. At that point, she objected to certain employee evaluation forms that included age, race, and gender coding, believing that such a practice was discriminatory. Two years later, while she was out on approved medical leave, the employer terminated Maya, who was African-American, and according to her complaint, gave her job to a white male colleague.

pregnancyIn California, there are several bases upon which your employer is not allowed to discriminate. Two areas in which an employee may potentially suffer from illegal discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act are pregnancy discrimination and disability discrimination. Sometimes, as happened to one woman in San Mateo County recently, you may suffer from discrimination on multiple grounds, and your employer’s liability may spring from multiple missteps. When that happens, you need skilled California discrimination counsel on your side to help you make the most of your case.

The woman who was the plaintiff in the San Mateo County case (San Mateo Superior Court case no. CIV538881), Keri, had worked for a Northern California supermarket chain for almost a decade and a half when she became pregnant in 2013. At that time, she served as the bakery/deli manager of her store. While she was pregnant, Keri learned that she had lupus, which complicated her pregnancy. After giving birth, Keri developed post-partum depression. The combination of these conditions meant that Keri took an extended leave of absence from work, both before and after the birth of her child. The employee did, however, remain in regular contact with her store manager and with the company that served as the vendor that managed the supermarket’s Family and Medical Leave Act cases.

Eventually, with the leave still ongoing, the supermarket sent Keri a letter. The letter claimed that she had not provided the proper documentation to support the medical need for her continued absence from work. The letter demanded that she provide a response within 72 hours or face termination. The letter, however, never made it to Keri and was returned as undeliverable. The employer subsequently terminated Keri, claiming as grounds “job abandonment.”

general cleaningSometimes, very terrible events can led to important court rulings that hopefully will lead to better outcomes in the future. The rape of a hotel housekeeping worker led the California Court of Appeal to consider whether the victimized employee could sue her employer for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The court ruled that, due to the actions taken and not taken in this circumstance, the woman could proceed with her claim of employer liability for non-employee sexual harassment. The case is a reminder that the potential for a recovery in civil court may potentially exist in a wide array of employment situations, so it is wise to consult with knowledgeable California sexual harassment counsel about your case.

The employee who sued her employer in this case, called “M.F.” by the courts, was a housekeeping worker at a hotel in San Diego. According to the housekeeper, the events that led to her injury and legal action began early one morning when a drunk man, who was not a guest of the hotel, was spotted wandering around the hotel property by the hotel’s engineering manager, who, despite seeing the man multiple times, reported nothing about the trespasser.

After that, the drunk man allegedly began approaching various housekeeping workers, offering them cash for sexual favors. One worker reported her encounter to a housekeeping manager. Although housekeeping management made efforts to check on the safety of the workers, they missed the second floor of one building, which happened to be where M.F. was working, according to the lawsuit. The drunk man encountered M.F. cleaning a room, blocked her exit, and, when she tried to leave, knocked her unconscious. He then spent the next two hours raping her.

at blackboardGenerally, most laws are designed to advance some sort of public policy objective. Each law, at its core, intends to protect or advance the public good in some way. So what happens when two laws, each with strong public policy bases, come into conflict with each other? A recent case that came before the California Supreme Court regarding the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the state’s anti-SLAPP statute demonstrated such a conflict. The case shows that any case can take twists and turns and encounter unforeseen complexities, which is why your FEHA case needs the careful attention of an experienced California employment attorney.

The recent Supreme Court opinion involved a Korean professor at one of the California State University campuses. In 2013, the university decided not to grant tenure to the professor. The professor sued, alleging that the university decided not to award him tenure due to national origin discrimination.

This is where the case became complicated. The employer asked the trial court to dismiss the case. The university’s argument was that the professor’s lawsuit impaired its freedom of speech and was a violation of California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. SLAPP refers to “strategic litigation against public participation.” This phrase refers to any lawsuit filed simply to intimidate, burden, or otherwise force someone to cease engaging in protected activity like free speech or petitioning for redress of grievances.

calendarIn some situations, the key to your success in your Fair Employment and Housing Act case may be related to some factual aspect of your case. In other circumstances, it may be the procedural rules related to FEHA lawsuits that potentially stand to make the difference between defeat and an opportunity to pursue your day in court. For one Southern California college professor, he was able to proceed only after he persuaded the Court of Appeal that his case was not barred by the statute of limitations. Making sure that you are in compliance with these and other procedural rules is one area where an experienced Oakland employment attorney can provide you with invaluable assistance.

The professor was a man named Guillermo, a Hispanic male of Mexican origin. He taught at a community college in Southern California. In November 2013, the professor’s employer decided not to grant him tenure. The final written notice of the denial of tenure was dated March 5, 2014. The professor initiated a grievance review procedure. That process reached its endpoint when a committee denied the professor’s grievance on May 21, 2014.

The employer terminated the professor’s employment on June 30, 2014, the last day of the 2013-14 academic year. On June 29, 2015, the professor filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging that he was a victim of race discrimination in violation of the FEHA. The professor followed that up with a FEHA lawsuit against the employer.