Articles Posted in Employment Law

In California, there are several ways that an employer can fire an employee that is against the law. One of those ways is if the employer terminates the employee based on the employee’s disability without first engaging in a good faith effort to make a reasonable accommodation for that worker’s disability.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act demands that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The law requires many employers, in crafting the employee’s accommodation, to engage that employee in an “interactive process” in a good faith way. If you were fired because of your disability, and you were not afforded a reasonable accommodation or a good-faith interactive process, then you may be entitled to compensation and you should consult a knowledgeable Oakland employment law attorney promptly.

The case of paint store employee E.C. (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC620114 / JAMS Arbitration Case No. 1210033499) is a good example. E.C.’s position required workers to lift heavy loads up to 72 pounds. The worker’s job application stated that she had a disability and could lift no more than 20 pounds.

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When you are called upon by an investigator who has appeared at your workplace to investigate one or more of your co-workers, it can be a stressful time, even though you’re not the person under investigation. Being sought to answer questions or give testimony can be scary, especially if the knowledge you hold (and the investigators are asking for) is potentially harmful to your employer and/or your supervisor. Even if that’s true, you should be entitled to speak freely, openly and honestly, without fear of reprisals that could damage or end your employment just because you spoke the truth.

If you suffer a loss of your job simply because you cooperated with investigators’ investigation into your supervisor, then you may have a claim for wrongful termination in California. If that situation describes you, you should act without delay to reach out and retain an experienced Oakland employment law attorney to represent you.

The type of scenario described above actually happened to one state government worker recently. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, S.T. was a fraud investigator for a department within the state government when the State Auditor’s office opened an investigation into the department’s director. The director was suspected of engaging in improper hiring practices; specifically, nepotism in hiring her daughter and a friend.

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Sometimes, the key evidence in your employment discrimination case focuses a spotlight on what the employer wrongfully did or did not do. Other times, though, your disability discrimination case may turn on the acts you did or did not undertake prior to litigation. That’s because, while your employer is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation for your disability, both your employer and you are required to engage in an interactive process in good faith for determining what that accommodation should look like.

An interactive process is when employer and employee exchange essential information directly with each other to work toward an appropriate accommodation. One of the ways in which you can succeed in a disability discrimination case is by demonstrating that you engaged in the interactive process in good faith, while your employer did not. For the assistance you need in clearing this and other evidentiary hurdles, be sure that you have the legal advice and advocacy you need from a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney.

The issue of good faith participation in the interactive process was a key to the outcome of the disability discrimination case of M.M., a civil transportation engineer for the California Department of Transportation. The engineer suffered from both physiological and psychological disabilities, including a heart anomaly, anxiety and depression. The engineer’s disabilities allegedly impaired his ability to sleep properly and, as a result, limited his ability to concentrate and to deal with stress.

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In any employment discrimination lawsuit in California, there are certain things that you absolutely must have in order to have a successful case. For example, one thing you must show is that you were harmed in some way at your job. This is something that the law calls an “adverse employment action.” With evidence of it, you could be well on your way to a successful outcome. Without it, you may be vulnerable to having your case thrown out of court before you ever get to trial. To be sure your case has this and other vital pieces for a positive result, be sure to obtain legal representation from an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

There are many different things that you can point to as the adverse action you suffered at your job. They include, among other things, being fired, being demoted, losing pay or benefits, having your hours reduced or being threatened with being reported to immigration authorities.

Notice that the first item on that list was “getting fired.” The fact that you resigned does not necessarily mean that you cannot pursue a discrimination case based upon your improper termination, however; it just means that you need additional proof in order to succeed. Specifically, as one case recently showed, you have to demonstrate that your resignation met the legal standards for something called a “constructive discharge.” A constructive discharge occurs when your employer makes the conditions of your job so objectively intolerable that a reasonable person would believe that she had no choice but to resign and leave. When that happens, your resignation is treated the same as if your employer fired you.

If you’ve been the victim of discrimination at work or have otherwise been wrongfully terminated from your job, you obviously face many challenges and numerous stresses in your life. One of them may be an employer who seeks to prevent you from getting your day in court by instead forcing your dispute into arbitration. Don’t let that happen without a fair legal fight, and don’t try to handle that stressful challenge on your own. Be sure you have an experienced Oakland employment attorney on your side advocating for you.

Recently, the case of a San Francisco law partner who alleged that she was the victim of sex discrimination was again in the news, as mid-June 2019 brought the filing of a flurry of amicus briefs supporting the employer in this case. To recap, the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor the employee last year, concluding that the employer was not entitled to demand that the two sides resolve their Fair Employment and Housing Act dispute through arbitration, even though the partner’s agreement with the firm called for arbitration of disputes like FEHA discrimination claims. (In this circumstance, the partner had alleged that the firm had effectively forced her out of her job due to her being a woman.)

The reason that the partner won in the appeals court was a legal concept that is known as “unconscionability.” In contract law, a contract or contract provision is unconscionable if it is so one-sided as to be unreasonable. The partner’s arbitration agreement was not enforceable because it contained unconscionable terms related to payment of arbitration costs and attorneys’ fees. It also contained an unconscionable confidentiality term that could impair the lawyer’s ability to interview witnesses.

When your employer has fired you, or has implicitly forced you out, based upon your disability or perceived disability, it is undeniably an incredibly difficult time for you. You may be uncertain about what to do. You may be uncertain about where to turn. If you’re in this challenging position, one of your first steps should be to protect your legal rights by contacting an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

C.R. was an employee who faced that type of circumstance in his case. C.R. was a deputy district attorney for a county in Southern California. In 2013, he began exhibiting symptoms of a serious neurological problem. The attorney asked his supervisor to transfer him to a different assignment, but the supervisor declined. He later asked not to be assigned any new cases while he was undergoing testing, but that request was also initially refused.

The attorney’s doctors concluded that he had a concussion syndrome related to his past military service and also suspected he had an autoimmune disorder. The employer asked for written documentation from the lawyer’s medical providers clinic, but the attorney didn’t provide it because the clinic he used “had a practice of not supplying such documentation.” When the paperwork did not come, the employer at first refused to engage in a good-faith interactive process.

In any civil lawsuit, you have the potential to go up against well-funded opposition with powerful attorneys. To achieve a positive end, then, you must also be well equipped and ready to take on the other side. That includes making sure you have knowledgeable Oakland employment counsel on your side. You undoubtedly are intimately familiar with the facts of your discrimination case, but your skilled attorney can employ useful legal techniques on your behalf to strengthen your position and to stop your opposition from making arguments the law says aren’t allowed.

As an example, there is the case of T.F. T.F. worked as a counselor for an entity providing services to people with mental health disabilities. After 22 years with the employer, the counselor lost his job due to involuntary termination. Allegedly, the employer fired the counselor for performance-related reasons, including his improper personal use of employer equipment, requesting vacation leave “at the last minute,” excessive use of sick time, an inappropriately large number of phone calls at work, a failure to return voice mail messages and a failure to complete documentation on time.

The counselor, who was African-American, identified a different reason for his termination: his race. He asserted that supervisors treated him differently at staff meetings and gave him disciplinary punishments for violations that were not enforced against white employees.

California is often among the leaders in establishing legal mechanisms to protect workers from various employment harms, including discrimination. The California legislature is once again considering taking an important step that would expand the protections California workers receive.

The bill, already passed by the Senate, would extend the reach of the Fair Employment and Housing Act by banning workplace policies that, on their surface, discriminate against certain hairstyles but that, in actuality, amount to a form of race discrimination. Whether yours is related to your hair or some other issue, if you think you’ve suffered discrimination on the job, be sure that you reach out promptly to an experienced Oakland employment attorney to learn more about the legal options you may have, including filing suit and collecting compensation.

Employer hairstyle policies, on their surface, might seem like simple and necessary things to ensure that all workers maintain certain standards of hygiene, cleanliness and professional appearance. However, just like many things, the reality goes deeper, and is more complicated, than what’s on the surface. An employer’s hair rules, for example, could be used to punish an employee or job candidate for having a hairdo that the employer deems improper for that person’s gender. (In other words, a woman wearing a hairstyle the employer considers too masculine or a man wearing hair the employer thinks is too feminine.)

There are lots of reasons why you can be fired from your job. Possibly fewer are more frustrating that being terminated in retaliation simply because you exercised your legal rights, such as filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Of course, when an employer fires you simply because you filed for workers’ compensation, that employer has broken the law by wrongfully terminating you. That you may have known. What you may not know is… what do I do about it? What steps must I take and how quickly must I act? To get the answers you need to question like this and similar ones, be sure you talk to a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney about your situation.

A case that recently settled in Sacramento is an example of this type of scenario. M.C. worked as a program analyst for the City of Sacramento from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, she allegedly got hurt at work. As many people who suffer injuries on the job do, M.C. filed a claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

A few months after the analyst filed her workers’ compensation claim, the city placed her on a mandatory leave of absence. After that, the city fired the woman, alleging that the termination was the result of the analyst’s “misconduct” on the job. The woman sued and eventually was able to secure a settlement in which the city agreed to pay her $860,000 in exchange for her dropping her case, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

There are lots of good reasons why one might prefer to pursue litigation close to home. Having the case close by might mean lower costs and an opportunity to be more closely involved. It might mean getting a jury that’s more receptive to your arguments. It also might mean getting a judge more familiar with the legal issues you’re asserting (if the other option is to litigate out of state). Whether you’re a Californian or an out-of-stater, and whether you’re in California court because you prefer to litigate here or your employment contract forces you to, be sure your case is armed with the skill and knowledge of an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

Sometimes, litigating in a particular place is not by choice. As an example, take the case of J.N., an East Bay man working for an insurance claims services company. Although the employer was based in suburban Indianapolis, Indiana, J.N. worked in El Cerrito. The company terminated J.N.’s employment in late March, 2017. J.N. believed that he was the victim of illegal discrimination and sued in Contra Costa County, alleging wrongful termination along with several violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

J.N., though, had a problem. The employment contract he signed with the company had what’s called a “forum selection clause.” That is something that says that, if there’s a dispute between you and your employer, you must litigate in one of the designated courts. J.N.’s forum selection clause stated he could only sue the employer in Hamilton County, Indiana, Marion County, Indiana or the federal court in Indianapolis.