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San Diego Employment Law Attorney Blog

What is workplace discrimination?

Most people know that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants, but what exactly is workplace discrimination? Workplace discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee or job applicant unfairly based on their race, gender, religion, national origin, disability or age. This discrimination extends beyond just the process of hiring and firing, and includes behavior targeted at people who are currently employed.

Discrimination can take many forms and harassment may also be a form of discrimination. Discrimination may take less obvious forms such as being treated unfairly due to a disability, genetic information, pregnancy or personal relationships.

Know your rights as an employee

As an employee, you hold many rights that you are probably not even aware of. These rights are enacted and protected by various state and federal legislation. It is important to know your rights so that you can be sure that these rights are being protected in your workplace.

While employment law can often be very nuanced and complex, and may also vary state to state there are certain basic rights that all employees have in their workplace. These basic rights include things like, the right to privacy, fair compensation, and the right to be free from discrimination. Even prior to being hired, an applicant for a job has the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race or religion; making it improper for employers to even ask questions certain questions during the hiring process.

Sexual harassment in the workplace often goes unreported

Workplace sexual harassment has been gaining significant attention recently amidst the #MeToo movement and the media coverage of high-profile perpetrators. With this movement aimed at raising awareness and addressing workplace sexual harassment many employees have become emboldened to come forward and report incidents of harassment. However, despite this positive shift, it appears that often many instances of workplace sexual harassment continue to go unreported.

A recent article written for CNBC looked at the number of victims who reported being subject to sexual harassment versus the percentage of those victims who reported this harassment, and discussed some common reasons why these instances of harassment continue to be so underreported. The poll found that roughly twelve percent of employees reported experiencing sexual harassment at work, but of these, more then 70 percent failed to report the harassment, and more then half did not even confront the perpetrator.

What are the issues covered in employment contracts?

Although not every San Diego employee is going to be offered an employment contract when making his or her next career move, many professionals with a specialized line of work and many executives would ordinarily expect to get a contract when taking a job offer.

There are several topics which employees should expect to see when reviewing a contract. The most important of these issues are how much the employee will get paid and what his or her responsibilities will be.

I filed a complaint and lost my job

Employees have certain rights and protections that are provided by both State and Federal laws. Some of these rights include fair wage laws, rights to be protected from discrimination and harassment and rights to a safe work environment, just to name a few. If an employer violates any of these rights the employee may have a variety of remedies, which could include filing a formal complaint or even bringing a lawsuit.

The law is designed to protect employees who stand up for their rights and file complaints of any nature against the unsafe or unlawful practices of an employer. These laws are called whistleblower laws. So, if you filed a complaint against your employer and lost your job, or maybe you were passed over for a promotion or a raise, or taken off of a big project, you may be protected by these whistleblower laws. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint and whistleblower laws are designed to protect employees from such retaliation.

Am I entitled to overtime?

Generally, overtime refers to an additional rate of pay that is required if an individual works over a certain number of hours in a given day or week. So, how do you know if you are entitled to receive overtime from your employer?

The short answer is that all nonexempt employees over age 18 in the state of California are entitled to overtime if they work more than eight hours in a given workday or more then forty hours in a workweek. An employee working over eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week must be compensated at a rate of one and a half times the regular rate of pay received by the employee for all overtime hours worked. Further, an employee working in excess of twelve hours in a given work day may be entitled to compensation at double the regular rate of pay.

How do I know if I have an employment contract?

Employment law differs from state to state, but the State of California affords many legal rights to those individuals considered to be employees. In doing so, California recognizes several forms of employment contracts. So, how do you know if you, as an employee, are protected by an employment contract?

One obvious way to know you have an employment contract would be that you negotiated terms and signed a contract with your employer. This type of employment contract is known as an express contract. An express contract is a formal, written contract that has been agreed to by both parties. Generally, express employment contracts will include material terms, such as conditions of employment, salary/wages, and length of employment. These contracts may also include any other terms agreed to by the parties so long as these terms are not in violation of the law.

I was hurt at work, am I eligible for worker's compensation?

As an employee you have certain rights and benefits that you may not be fully aware of. In the State of California one of these employee rights includes access to workers compensation. California requires every employer using employees for labor to carry a workers compensation insurance policy. So, if you're injured at work, are you eligible to receive benefits through workers compensation? And if so, what is it that you will receive?

Anyone classified as an employee is covered under the employers workers compensation policy. California generally defines an employee as anyone who is engaged or permitted to work. However, there are certain categories of workers who may be excluded from coverage. Some of these workers include independent contractors, business owners, volunteers, farm workers, maritime employees and railroad employees. This is why it is particularly important to understand the nature of your employment and whether you qualify as an employee for purposes of obtaining workers compensation benefits.

Could your firing be a wrongful termination?

It's quite normal when you are fired to feel that it was wrong for your employer to let you go, particularly where you have questions and are unsure of the employer's reasons for firing you. But did your employer act improperly, perhaps even illegally?

The actual legal definition of wrongful termination is quite specific and may be rather narrow in its classification of what actions constitute wrongful termination. So, how do you determine if you have a case against your employer for wrongful termination?

Asian-Americans say workplace discrimination still prevalent

Both federal law and California state law prohibit certain forms of workplace discrimination. These laws make it illegal to discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. Nevertheless, despite its illegality many people still report experiencing discrimination in their day-to-day lives as well as in the workplace.

A recent NPR survey conducted in collaboration with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health polled various ethnic groups regarding their experiences with discrimination. In a somewhat surprising result, the study revealed that Asian-Americans, the group with the highest average income of those surveyed, still reported discrimination in housing, employment and education based on race.