Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton

Sacramento Employment Law Blog

Volleyball coach demands millions for firing

Workers in California and across the United States are entitled to certain working conditions, including a safe work environment free from harassment and discrimination. When people feel as though they have been the recipient of discrimination and harassment, they may file a claim against the company.

This is what happened when former USC women’s volleyball coach was fired last year. He alleges that he is the victim of harassment and age discrimination and filed a report with the American Arbitration Association. In addition to seeking $2 million in economic damages, he is asking for compensation for attorneys’ fees, emotional damages and punitive damages.

5 steps to take if you are experiencing sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment is a widespread issue across all industries. If you are a woman who is bearing the brunt of inappropriate behavior at work, you may have no idea what to do. While you want the harassment to stop, it can be confusing and intimidating to take action.

While you may feel afraid to report sexual harassment, it is the best way to make it stop. Here is a step-by-step guide for handling a sexual harasser at the workplace.

A look at the Fair Labor Standards Act

When most California employees go to their jobs, they are not wondering whether the company will pay them or treat them fairly. Pay for completed work and fair treatment of employees are routine aspects of life in the U.S. labor force. It was not always so, though, and a look back to the establishment of the Fair Labor Standards Act will provide some perspective. 

The History, Art & Archives website of the U.S. House of Representatives shares the story, highlighting the life of Mary Norton - "the first woman to represent an East Coast state in the House of Representatives." An acclaimed activist and reformer, Norton "fought for the labor and working-class interests of her urban New Jersey District." Her accomplishment in getting the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in Congress was, perhaps, her proudest achievement. 

What you should know about employer retaliation

When your employer hires you as an employee in the company, you have certain rights and are protected under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One of these rights involves protection against employer retaliation, which is the most frequently alleged type of discrimination given by workers in California and across the nation. It is important that you understand your rights and know what to do if you feel you have been victimized employer retaliation.

According to the EEOC, if you engage in certain tasks, employers cannot punish or take action against you. These include the following:

  •          Protecting others or yourself against sexual advances.
  •          Asking for an accommodation because of a disability.
  •          Asking for an accommodation because of a religious belief or practice.
  •          Refusing to do something that might discriminate against other employees.
  •          Going to a supervisor to report harassment or discrimination.

Wage violations cause car wash owner millions

Workers in California and across the nation are protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which defines employee hourly wages, breaks and other benefits. Employers who do not follow these regulations may be charged with violations and face serious fines as a result.

This is what happened to a car wash owner in Southern California who failed to pay minimum wage to more than 800 employees throughout Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties. The business owner took advantage of employees, including Spanish-speaking workers who were unaware of United States labor laws and encouraged them to work off the clock. Prosecutors are working to find the names of all workers who were employed at the 12 car washes from 2013 to the present.

Understanding disability discrimination

At the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton in California, we empathize with the difficulties you sometime encounter in finding and maintaining a job when you are disabled. As you likely know, and as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reminds you, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against you in any aspect of employment from hiring and firing to pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, etc. based on your disability. In addition, the ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate your disability.

To qualify for protection under the ADA, however, you must not only possess the necessary qualifications to perform the job for which you apply, but also meet one of the following three disability criteria:

  1. You have a physical or mental condition that substantially restricts your ability to walk, talk, hear, see, learn, etc.
  2. You have a history of disability, such as cancer currently in remission.
  3. Your employer or prospective employer believes you have a major and lasting physical or mental condition, even if you actually do not have that condition.

3 fears in reporting sexual harassment at work

Many women may justifiably worry about reporting incidents of sexual harassment they experience in the workplace.

Following are three of the top fears surrounding reporting sexual harassment at work, and how women can mitigate these fears to move forward with a claim when they feel ready.

Can sexual harassment be subtle?

When you hear about sexual harassment in the news, the story may talk about overt acts committed by creepy managers and lecherous customers. While you may know that sexual harassment in the workplace is common in California, you might not recognize its different forms. Many types of sexual harassment are subtler than the headlines suggest. In fact, sexual harassment often starts in less obvious ways before increasing in intensity, or it may remain subtle, yet equally damaging.

As we have explained before in this blog, sexual harassment describes behaviors of a sexual nature that are unwanted and ongoing. Business Insider describes numerous subtle forms of sexual harassment, which you may not have realized qualify as such, including the following:

  • Your manager often standing uncomfortably close while talking to you
  • Comments or jokes about your gender or your body that you find offensive, sexually suggestive or demeaning
  • Casual touches that could be explained away as accidental, such as a hand brushing against any part of your body or hugs you find uncomfortable
  • Nicknames that are demeaning or sexist, such as “Honey” or “Busty”
  • A co-worker insisting on discussing sexual topics, asking you about your intimate life or trying to share suggestive content with you
  • Persistent requests to go on a date or meet outside the workplace

What is an adverse employment action?

As a California employee, you have many rights and protections under Title VII of the U.S. Code. One body of rights applies not only to your right to challenge workplace discrimination by reporting it to your employer or notifying the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but also your right to suffer no retaliation or reprisal from your employer if and when you do.

One of the things your employer cannot do is take any action that could deter you or any other reasonable person from exercising your protected right to report workplace discrimination. As the EEOC explains, an adverse employment action is one your employer takes against you that punishes you for your discrimination challenge or materially affects your likelihood of reporting similar discrimination in the future. Examples of adverse employment actions include the following:

  • Relieving you of your supervisory responsibilities
  • Threatening you with a work reassignment and/or a decrease in wages
  • Threatening you or a family member with deportation or other immigration actions if you are a foreign-born worker
  • Terminating your employment
  • Overly scrutinizing your work
  • Disparaging you in the media

How do tips factor into an hourly wage?

If you work in a job field where tips are a part of your income, it is important to understand how these tips can affect your wages. According to California Labor Law, employees who receive tips as part of their job can be paid a lower wage when compared to the minimum wage required to be paid by other employers. The amount of cash wages you are paid as a tipped employee, however, can vary depending on how many people are employed with the company. For example, companies that have less than 25 employees must pay a cash minimum wage of $10.50, while companies that have more than 26 employees must pay a minimum wage of $11.00.

As a tipped employee, you often receive varying amounts of tips depending on the day. However, you are guaranteed to make at least the cash wage amount. For instance, if your tips for the day calculate out to $6.00 an hour, your employer is responsible for making up the difference so that you are paid the cash minimum amount indicated. As a tipped employee, there is the possibility that you could make over the minimum cash amount on a good tip day. Furthermore, broken items and cash register shortages cannot be taken out of your paycheck under federal law.

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