Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton

Sacramento Employment Law Blog

Can my boss really fire me at any time without notice?

Since college graduation, you have been biding your time swirling lattes at the local coffee shop. Every night after work, while your friends head to the movies or the local pub, you sit down at your computer, peck away at those pesky fill-in-the-blank online applications and hope your dream job will soon rescue you from this rut. Then it happens. The technology firm in California calls, and next thing you know, you are sitting in your new apartment putting on your game face for your first day on the job. 

Sounds dreamy, does it not? The dream takes a turn toward a darker side the moment the Human Resources manager asks you to sign on the dotted line. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the company may ask you to agree to a statement that goes something like this: "I acknowledge that my employment is at will and for no specific duration. Either I or the company may terminate my employment at any time, with or without cause or prior notice. My employment-at-will status cannot be changed except in a writing signed by the president of the company."

What is quid pro quo harassment?

As an employee, you perform job duties in exchange for your paycheck and other company benefits. Trading labor for pay is a standard example of an employment situation. Unfortunately, some employers require their employees to perform sexual favors for an employment decision.

This type of situation is known as quid pro quo harassment and is downright illegal. Here is what you need to know about quid pro quo harassment.

What is a hostile work environment?

If you are a typical California resident, you head to work five days a week. Everyone knows that no workplace is ideal in all respects, and whether you love or hate your job, undoubtedly there are times when you wish you did not have to be there.

Sometimes words, actions or events at your workplace can constitute harassment. As FindLaw explains, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids workplace harassment on the basis of race, gender, religion or national origin. The number of harassment claims, particularly sexual harassment claims, has risen dramatically in recent years.

Why petty slights do not constitute workplace discrimination

Some people in the California workplace may end up on the receiving end of behavior they feel is impolite, rude, or annoying. For example, a colleague might interrupt you while you are talking, and perhaps too frequently for your taste. Although some employees may consider such behavior as a form of harassment, the truth is that for workplace behavior to qualify as discrimination, it needs to rise above just petty slights.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary website, slighting can take a number of forms. Someone may be neglectful, either involuntarily or voluntarily, by not paying proper attention to a duty or task that merits that person’s attention. This can extend to workplace interaction with colleagues. Also, a person that is acting hastily or carelessly may end up overlooking a courtesy. Additionally, some colleagues may be forgetful of workplace courtesy without malice, but others may intentionally not remember being polite or considerate, which is what is usually thought of as slighting.

Why is there suddenly a lot of sexual harassment claims?

The news has been filled with announcements of sexual harassment claims against many well-known names in California and in entertainment and politics. Some people have commented on how it seems to be a trend. The truth is that sexual harassment or abuse claims often happen in waves like this. 

According to Self, one of the main reasons is it gives women the confidence to come out with their story when they see other women talking about sexual abuse. Strength in numbers may be a good analogy. One of the reasons women keep quiet is they are afraid of being ignored or accused of lying. However, once one woman comes forward, the more women who also come forward, the better. It serves as proof that this really did happen, so all the women become more believable and are taken more seriously. 

Understanding Reasonable Accommodation

One of the murkier questions concerning disability discrimination is whether a California employer has done enough to accommodate disabled individuals seeking to apply at the employer’s workplace or who already are employed. Federal law makes it clear employers should assist the disabled, but how they should do so and to what extent requires further explanation.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to employees or applicants who have a disability. Basically, an employer alters the work environment so that an individual’s disability is not an impediment to applying for a job, carrying out the duties of the position applied for, or otherwise enjoying the privileges and benefits offered by the position. For example, an employer can accommodate a wheelchair bound employee by creating ramps inside and outside the facility so the employee can enjoy access. In some cases, an employer does not have to do anything other than rearrange the ordinary pattern of doing things in the workplace to accommodate a disabled worker.

How is overtime paid in California?

When it comes to getting paid for the work you do, one thing you may wonder about is overtime. California has its own set law about how employers must pay overtime. It is important to understand the law so you can ensure you are paid properly. 

The Department of Industrial Relations overtime pay rules apply to nonexempt employees who are over the age of 18 or 16- and 17-year-old employees who are not required to attend school. Overtime must be paid for any work over eight hours in one day or 40 hours in one week. This is regardless of whether the hours were scheduled or approved. 

3 red flags you are a victim of sexual harassment at work

When you go to work, all you want to do is complete your project and get on with your life. Unfortunately, you may have to deal with a creepy colleague or a boss who makes your skin crawl. But you may just try to ignore it because no one is touching you inappropriately or requesting sexual favors from you. 

Sexual harassment at work is not always obvious. Sometimes, it is subtle. Here are some red flags that you may be the victim of a hostile work environment due to repeating instances of subtle harassment.

What constitutes disability discrimination?

The concept of disability discrimination in the California workplace is something many people may not fully understand. However, it has been known to occur, which is why the federal government specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability. Federal law describes what kinds of people are protected from disability discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission points out that under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act, employers engage in disability discrimination when they mistreat an employed person specifically because the person is disabled. Discrimination can also occur when an employee or a job applicant is treated unfavorably due to a disability history. Such disabilities are not limited to conditions stemming from birth or injuries caused by accidents. They can also include cases where a person has suffered from a medical condition, such as cancer. The cancer could be in remission or at least under control at the time of application or employment.

What are some examples of wrongful termination?

Wrongful termination is one of those topics that can be quite confusing. It is made a little more confusing due to the concept of at-will employment, which is where your employment can be terminated by you or your employer at any point for any reason. Most jobs in California are at-will. To help you understand just what constitutes wrongful termination, here are some examples.

The Muse explains simply feeling your termination was unfair does not make it wrongful termination under the law. However, being fired for an unlawful reason could be. For example, if you were fired for reporting a safety violation in your workplace, this would be unlawful because you are protected from retaliation of this sort. 

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