The law regarding employee compensation in California is a complicated system of overlapping state and federal statutes, regulations, and precedent, including the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as its interpretation by courts agencies at the federal level, and the Labor Code and Wage Orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission at the California state level. Taken together, these laws safeguard an employee’s right to be paid for his or her time and work, and obligate employers to provide compensation.
Navigating this tangled web of rights and obligations can be tricky, regardless of whether it’s to enforce your rights as an employee under the law or to protect yourself as an employer against liability or penalties. Whether you need guidance on minimum wage rules, overtime requirements and exemptions, questions regarding tips, meal and rest breaks, sick and vacation pay, final paychecks or unpaid wages, we can help determine whether you have a claim or, alternately, assess your potential for exposure and offer assistance in developing policies that will minimize your risk.
Harassment and discrimination in the workplace can take many forms. California law protects employees against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, sex and sexual orientation. Additionally, employers are prohibited from terminating employees for public policy reasons, such as reporting fraudulent business practices or unsafe working conditions, to name a few. Workplace discrimination can lead to demotion, being refused promotion, or even wrongful termination.
Employers also have a duty to provide a non-hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can be one in which an employee is either exposed to offensive remarks or behavior, is asked to submit to unwanted advances in order to keep his or her position or receive a job benefit, or where an employer fires an employee or denies benefits in response to an employee’s complaint about unwanted remarks or advances. If you are an employee who feels you’ve been the subject of a hostile work environment, or an employer who is either the subject of a discrimination/harassment claim or wants to minimize exposure to that risk, we can help you evaluate your work situation, determine your rights, and give counsel on how to proceed.
California is one of several states which observe an “at will” doctrine for employment. This means that an employer generally may terminate an employee for any reason, at any time. This general rule, however, is subject to a narrow band of exceptions, such as terminations stemming from discrimination based on an employee’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, sex and sexual orientation. An employer also may not terminate an employee for other protected activities, such as reporting illegal or discriminatory conduct, filing workers’ compensation claims, or taking medical leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. Our office can help assess whether a potential violation has occurred, and if we accept your matter, can help a former employee pursue a claim seeking damages, or counsel employers on how to proceed when a claim has been filed by a former employee. Other issues such as unpaid wages, meals/breaks and expenses may be present, and we can help determine whether you still may have a valid claim even in circumstances where a wrongful termination did not occur.
In circumstances where an employee has not been terminated, but instead has been subject to reprisals, their employer may be liable for acts of retaliation. These reprisals include suspension, demotion, denial of a promotion, or harassment. California labor law forbids an employer from engaging in retaliation against in activities protected by the Fair Employment and Housing Act, including actions taken by an employee to oppose discrimination in the forms listed above, whether that discriminatory conduct is directed at that employee or a co-worker.
Our office understands how difficult and emotionally-charged these situations can be, and are available to help provide support, guidance and effective counsel to our clients.
If you’re an employer, the Office of Scott R. Dallas can provide assistance in complying with state and federal employment laws so that potential exposure to litigation, penalties and damages related to workplace issues can be minimized, if not avoided entirely. We provide guidance and support to employers who are developing employee policies and protocols for the first time as well as established employers who require counsel to review existing policies, evaluate them based on current developments in the law and, if necessary, propose revisions or overhauls that fit their business needs while bringing them into compliance, eliminating problems before they even begin.
We provide legal counsel and assistance to employers with preparing and reviewing employee handbooks, employment contracts, disciplinary and termination letters, confidentiality agreements, severance and settlement agreements, to name just a few. We invite the opportunity to learn about your business, listen to your needs and help enable the success of your business.