Wrongful Termination and Employment Discrimination Litigation
In California, an employee can be terminated for no reason, or for any reason. This is known as "at will" employment. Unless the employee has an agreement or is given other assurances to the contrary, all employment in California is considered "at will." However, the law prevents employers from terminating, from demoting, from failing to promote, and from engaging in many other adverse employment actions, if the employer's actions are motivated by an intent prohibited by law. Pedersen Lawcan aggressively and successfully protect an employee's interests when employers wrongfully discriminate or terminate employees in violation of the law.
Our experienced litigators can handle a wide variety of employment litigation matters:
- Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy
- Disability Discrimination
- Age Discrimination
- Gender Discrimination
- Race or Culture Discrimination
- Sexual Harassment
- Retaliation Claims
- Family Medical Leave Act Claims
- Wage/hour disputes
Many times, employers attempt to force their employees into arbitration on these kinds of disputes. This is because arbitration before a retired judge usually results in a much lower damage award than if awarded by a jury. We are very aware of the law regarding when an employer can get away with that move, and we have been successful many times in defeating the employer's attempt to take the matter away from a jury and give it to a judge. In those cases where the employer prevails and the matter is arbitrated, we have effectively arbitrated matters to successful conclusion nonetheless.
It is unlawful to terminate someone when the motive to do so is in violation of a fundamental public policy of the State of California. If you have been terminated for engaging in a protected activity (such as reporting wrongful conduct or refusing to engage in improper conduct) or because you are a member of a protected class of employees, PL can prosecute your claim. If successful, you will be entitled to recover your financial losses and emotional distress caused by the employer's wrongful conduct, along with possibly other elements of damage.
It is generally unlawful in this State to fail to accommodate persons with disabilities in the workplace. However, we have seen time and again where an employer essentially discards an otherwise good employee simply because they have suffered an injury or condition that makes them a little slower or different. If you suffer an injury or serious medical condition while employed (whether work-related or otherwise), your employer is required by law to try to work with you to find a way to accommodate your medical restrictions. If your employer fails to engage in a proper interactive process with you, or fails to provide you with reasonable accommodations for your restrictions such that you can go back to work, the employer may be liable to you for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If proved, a violation of FEHA allows you to recover for all financial loss and emotional distress caused by the violation. FEHA also allows successful plaintiffs to recover attorney fees from the offending employer, and there is a possibility of punitive damages as well.
Unfortunately, many employers believe it is better to favor the faster, stronger, younger generation over the most experienced and wise of our society when making employment decisions. However, both state and federal law aggressively protect persons of age against discrimination in the workplace. If you have been terminated, demoted, refused a promotion, or paid less because of your age, your employer may have violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act or other laws that protect you.
Despite the advances made in our society, there still exist vestiges of gender discrimination in the workplace. Failure to promote women because they are still of child-bearing age, failure to pay male or female counterparts equally, and gender-based differences in job requirements are all possible bases for a gender discrimination claim. If you have experienced an adverse job action because of your gender, your employer may have violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act or other laws protecting you.
Discrimination based on your race or culture is categorically prohibited in this State. Nonetheless, there are still those who, through ignorance or prejudice, treat those who are different from them inappropriately. If this occurs in the workplace, your employer may be in violation of several laws related to elimination and prevention of race and culture discrimination.
An employer is required to protect its employees against unwanted sexual harassment. A failure to adequately do so is a violation of California law. Sexual harassment can be many things. It includes, of course, the obvious - sexual touching or demanding sexual favors in return for employment opportunities. However, it also includes the less obvious but similarly offensive - crude joking and discussions of a sexual nature with you or in your presence, leering, inappropriate advances or propositions, and the like. If you inform your employer that these things are occurring, and your employer fails to immediately investigate and resolve the problem, your employer may be violating California law.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to retaliate, emotionally or materially, against someone who attacks us. In the workplace, retaliation occurs when an employee says or does something that causes another to face discipline, embarrassment or worse. When the trigger for that retaliation is a protected activity - that is, an activity that the law says should be protected - then there can be liability for the person or company that engaged in that retaliation. Common forms of retaliation are for reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace, or for reporting other wrongdoing in the workplace. Another form of retaliation is where an employee refuses to engage in wrongful conduct, or where one employee stands up for the protected rights of another. In any case, if retaliation can be proved, your employer can be held liable for the financial and emotional loss you suffered as a result.
California and federal law have recently been changed to allow employees (of certain qualifying employers) to have time off to deal with medical issues for themselves or their families. If you have been required to take time off to tend to your own medical issues, or those of your immediate family, and you have suffered an adverse job action as a result, you may have a claim for violation of the Family Medical Leave Act.
Many employers still refuse to compensate their employees properly under the law. Several employers still characterize employees as "exempt" salaried employees (even though the law does not support that characterization) so that the employer need not pay overtime wages. Still others fail to give the required rest periods and meal time periods. If you believe you have not been paid properly, we can assist you.