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Employment Law Frequently Asked Questions

At Feldman Browne Olivares, we believe in educating our clients and helping them determine if, and when, they have a viable lawsuit. The practice of labor and employment law encompasses both wage and hour class action claims, as well as individual and class action claims for discrimination, wrongful termination, and violations of the medical, pregnancy, and disability leave laws. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions around employment and civil rights law.

What is a labor lawyer and employment attorney?

Labor and employment attorneys specialize in labor and employment law, which encompasses many disciplines, including wrongful termination, civil rights, workplace discrimination, harassment, fair wages, and more. Labor law may more specifically focus on union relationships, while employment law is defined more broadly as “the negotiated relationships between employers and employees.”

At Feldman Browne Olivares Firm, we handle employee claims for violations of California labor laws, including Whistleblowing, Overtime Pay Violations, Class Action Lawsuits, Wrongful Termination Lawsuits, and many more. As labor and employment attorneys, our class action cases often  involve claims for denial of overtime, meal and rest breaks and illegal taking of employee tips by employers and/or their agents (supervisors), and violations of the medical, pregnancy, and disability leave laws. But these are just a few examples of how we help employees and our discipline ranges to incorporate many different cases.

What are California’s labor laws?

There are a lot of things to know about California labor laws, but the main takeaways are:

  • California is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employer can dismiss an employee with no prior warning, and for any just reason. Likewise, in at-will employment states employees can also leave a company without reason or warning.
  • Non-exempt employees are entitled to one 30-minute break if you work more than 5 hours a day, and 10-minute breaks for every 4 hours of work.
  • Employers must pay overtime (at a rate of 1.5 the employee’s regular rate of pay), for anything over 8 hours a day (or 40 hours a week).
  • Employees must be paid at least minimum wage ($10.50/hour as of 1/1/17).

These are just a few of the most notable labor laws in California. The State of California’s website has the whole labor code for those that are looking for specific rulings.

What is wrongful termination?

In California, wrongful termination means that an employer violated specific public policies contained in our statutes, regulations, or constitutional provisions. For example, it is unlawful for a California employer to fire an employee due to gender, pregnancy, age, race, disability, taking of a medical leave, requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability, national origin, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or because the employee engaged in whistleblowing by complaining about or otherwise opposing certain specified unlawful, fraudulent, or unethical conduct.

if you feel like you have been wronged by your employer, it’s important to build and defend your case. We have represented hundreds of California employees in wrongful termination lawsuits and have obtained more than $100 million dollars in monetary awards and settlements on such wrongful termination claims on behalf of California workers. Wrongful termination is never something someone should have to face and we have dedicated our careers to helping those that have been wrongfully terminated protect their rights.

What is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women who perform the same responsibilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has worked to make sure both men and women have fair wages and that they aren’t discriminated against when it comes to pay.

Unfortunately, though, this isn’t always the case. Despite legislation, people are still discriminated against in their workplace, including their wages. If you or someone you know has been treated or paid unfairly, we may be able to help.

What is a civil rights lawyer and how do they help plaintiffs?

Every citizen in the United States is entitled to fair and equal treatment and basic human rights, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Civil rights attorneys focus on cases involving issues such as equality, human rights, social freedom, and discrimination. This may include litigating police brutality cases, unreasonable searches and seizures, racial discrimination, or failure to receive equal pay for equal work. In particular, the First (freedom of speech, religion, and press), Fourth (unreasonable search and seizure and unreasonable police force), and Fifteenth (right to vote) amendments are civil rights lawyers’ areas of focus and expertise, but they work to defend all of your constitutional rights.

Civil rights lawyers help plaintiffs by using evidence and building a case if they feel like their civil rights have been violated. Our civil rights attorneys represent individuals throughout the state of California in civil rights cases involving police misconduct, excessive force, false arrest, and violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, among other cases.

What is the difference between harassment and discrimination?

While the two are often used interchangeably, in employment law harassment and discrimination are significantly different. Harassment can be between coworkers, and can also refer to when an employee is treated poorly because of a protected characteristic (such as gender, sexual preference, or race, among others). Discrimination is between an employer and an employee and refers to an adverse action, such as being fired, caused by a protected characteristic.

For example, if someone is the victim of lewd or inappropriate comments because of their gender, this is harassment. If someone is fired or denied a promotion based on their gender, this is discrimination. The attorneys at our firm can help you understand the difference and build a claim if you feel you have been either harassed or discriminated against.

How do you file a harassment lawsuit?

The first thing to do when filing a harassment lawsuit is to make a complaint with your company. Talking to HR before hiring a lawyer will protect your rights in the long-term because if the case goes to court, you will be able to hold your company liable. Liability is derived from the fact that your company knew about the problem but didn’t solve it.

You will also file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A civil rights attorney can help you navigate this paperwork and get all the information you need to build your case. The EEOC will then investigate your charge and take action in whatever way they feel is justifiable. Often times, there are short deadlines between all of the necessary steps, so it’s wise to work with a credible lawyer throughout the process.

What is age discrimination?

There are a number of protected classes in California, and age is one of them. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, payment, job duties, promotions, and more. It also forbids any harassment based on age. For example, if a candidate doesn’t get a job solely based on their age (with some outlying circumstances), that could be classified as age discrimination.

The attorneys at Feldman Browne Olivares specialize in age discrimination lawsuits, and other discrimination cases. Contact us today if you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of their age or another protected class.

What is racial/national origin discrimination?

Like age, race and national origin are protected classes. Racial discrimination is defined as “being treated less favorably than another person because of race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.” More specifically, national origin discrimination involves treating people unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of their accent, or because they appear to be of a particular ethnic background (even if they’re not).

Both racial discrimination and national origin discrimination is unlawful by California Labor Laws and our skilled attorneys can help you build a case if you feel like you have been discriminated against or harassed.

What are other protected classes I should be aware of (pregnancy discrimination, disability discrimination, sexual orientation, sex)?

In addition to the federally protected classes, California also protects additional classes. In totality, including both federal and state law, California prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Race, color, and national origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Citizenship status
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity and expression
  • Medical conditions (including pregnancy, childbirth, and HIV/AIDS)
  • Political activities and affiliations
  • Military and veteran status
  • Status as a domestic violence victim

All of these cases can be grounds for a harassment or discrimination lawsuit and the attorneys at our firm can help build your case and get the justice you deserve.

What is a class action lawsuit?

Class action lawsuits are those brought by a single employee, or group of employees, on behalf of all other similar employees who work, or have worked, for a particular employer. California class action lawsuits are the most efficient means of recovering on behalf of a large group of employees for systematic labor code violations committed by a single employer.

One major advantage of class action lawsuits is that the claims of each worker strengthen the claims of all other California workers. At Feldman Browne Olivares, we focus on class action lawsuits and employment law because we believe that everyone should have a voice, no matter how large or powerful their employer may be.

How do you file a class action lawsuit?

Class action lawsuits are generally the best option when a large group of people want to sue one (or a few) defendants. To get started, the class action must have one or a few representative plaintiffs to file the suit. Then, you will want to file your class action lawsuit with an experienced class action attorney, like those at our firm. Your attorney will help you build your case and get the class action certified in court.
Everyone deserves a safe, fair, and comfortable work environment. Discrimination, harassment, or any other unfair treatment should be dealt with promptly and professionally and our labor and employment attorneys can help. Contact us at Feldman Browne Olivares today for a free consultation.