Discrimination occurs when you are treated differently for some unlawful reason – because of your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, or for any other reason protected by law. In California, those protections extend to your religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability/medical condition, marital status, gender identity, age and pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Further, they cover an employer’s actions in hiring, promoting and terminating.
While the term “discrimination” is often used broadly to describe unfair conduct, it in fact refers to a specific type of action by an employer. An employee experiences discrimination when he or she is subjected to termination, or another adverse employment action, such as demotion or being passed up for promotion, because of his or her race, sexual orientation or other protected characteristic. For example, if you are female and are not selected for promotion because you are female, your employer has violated the law. Many such cases involve the more subtle types of discrimination which can be difficult to prove — this makes having a skilled and experienced attorney a critical part of your success. Mozaffari Law frequently prosecutes these types of matters, and will use its expertise in putting forth your best case.
What is harassment?
Harassment can occur in the workplace in two primary forms. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when, for example, you are offered something of value in exchange for sexual favors. This could be a promotion, or even assurances that you will not be terminated. By contrast, hostile work environment harassment occurs when you are subjected to hostile working conditions that in some way prevent you from being able to do your job. As with discrimination, harassment must occur because of your race, your gender, or other protected characteristic. Those protections extend to your religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability/medical condition, marital status, gender identity, age and pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, among other things.
Notably, unlike many employment claims, anti-harassment rules apply to small employers and to independent contractors as well as employees. In addition, harassment by your coworkers may also be actionable. Employers are required to take steps to prevent workplace harassment and are required to investigate your harassment complaints promptly and thoroughly.
As with discrimination cases, harassment claims can be difficult to prove, and getting help from a skilled and experienced attorney is important. Mozaffari Law is experienced with these types of cases, and can guide you through the process of taking action against your employer.
What is retaliation/whistleblowing?
Retaliation or “whistleblowing” occurs when you report or protest illegal conduct in your workplace and are treated adversely as a result. For example, if you report a workplace safety concern to your employer and are terminated shortly thereafter, you may have been subjected to retaliation. Importantly, a retaliation claim is based on your reasonable belief that you were reporting a violation of the law. Even if you turned out to be wrong, you may still have a claim against your employer if you were subjected to adverse action based on that report.
Mozaffari Law has assisted many employees in retaliation/whistleblower cases and has been successful in representing employees who are treated unfairly and in a retaliatory manner.
What types of wage claims exist in California?
While some employees are exempt from California’s wage and hour laws, many employees have protections in the form of minimum wage, overtime and meal and rest break laws, among other things. These rules can be complicated and will apply differently to different classes of employees.
As a threshold matter, it needs to be determined whether you are properly considered an “exempt” or “nonexempt” employee. This is based on your pay and the type of work you do. Generally, more “professional” types of jobs tend to be considered “exempt” from wage and hour laws, but there are some important exceptions.
If you are a “nonexempt” employee, you are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for each hour that you work. With some exceptions, you are also entitled to overtime or premium pay when you work more than 8 hours in a day, work more than 40 hours in a week or work 7 days in a row. Employers are also required to provide you with a paid ten-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work, as well as an unpaid 30-minute meal period for every 5 hours of work.
Employers are also required to pay you on time, are required to pay you for all hours worked, and are required to provide you with accurate wage statements that include certain information.
In addition to the question of exempt/nonexempt work, many employees are wrongfully classified as independent contractors, such that they are not paid properly according to the wage and hour laws based on the improper classification by their employers.
When should I call, and how should I prepare for the call?
If you feel you are being subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation, are about to be wrongfully terminated, or are not being paid properly, contact Mozaffari Law as soon as possible. We strongly recommend that you consider calling when you perceive a serious problem in the workplace. Seeking legal advice before you are terminated gives you an opportunity to better navigate your workplace situation and protect your rights.
In order to assist us in evaluating your case, it is very helpful to first write down what happened to you, why you think that may be occurring, and the relevant dates or your best estimation of them. Gather any documents you may have received from your employer, including any written or verbal counseling forms, and any hiring or termination paperwork.
Should I quit my job?
Every case is different. However, as a general rule, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice regarding your workplace situation before resigning your position.