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San Diego Employment Law Attorneys:You Matter, And You Deserve Justice

San Diego Employment Law Blog

Waitresses and waiters: Understanding break policies

Virtually every industry has some instances of employers conducting illegal practices at the expense of the lowest workers' wages. The food service industry arguably sees these abuses the most with the issue of employee tipping being a topic of conversation for years now. 

However, another illegal employment practice is for the employer to deny waitresses and waiters sufficient breaks. California law explicitly states that employers must give their workers enough breaks throughout the day, and employees should seek to rectify a situation if they cannot go on as many breaks as they should.

Barnes & Noble target of wrongful termination lawsuit

Working professionals in San Diego may all covet the same thing: job security. The common assumption amongst many is that almost all employees reach the point of not having to worry about being dismissed from their jobs. Yet given how often news breaks about high-ranking business officials being fired from their jobs, the idea of job security might ultimately prove to be an illusion. If managers and executives can be fired, then potentially anyone can. 

Of course, companies may not be in the practice of dismissing members of their leadership teams for no reason whatsoever. Typically, such professionals may need to be accused of serious infractions in order to warrant being fired. Such are the allegations being made by the leadership of the book retailer Barnes & Noble against its former CEO, who was fired after serving in his position for just over one year. While the company initially said that the man was fired for a violation of company policies, it was later alleged that he had been accused of (among other things) bullying and sexual harassment. 

Demographic balance in the workplace

How you act and operate at work is often a reflection of your personality. Just as is the case in your personal life, then, it might be expected that you tend to gravitate towards coworkers you can relate with. This will often include colleagues of the same sex, race, religion, nationality or political views. It is for this very reason that cliques often form in an office. Workplace cliques may not necessarily be a bad thing, yet what happens if they bleed over into operational and hiring practices? Many come to us here at the Sullivan Law Group asking whether looking to work predominantly with people similar to themselves constitutes workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer to this question. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes the following discrimination categories: 

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Capacity 

Understanding whistleblower protections

Many in San Diego may naturally feel a strong sense of loyalty towards their employers. That loyalty may end, however, if their employers place them in a position of doing something (or remaining silent regarding something) they believe to be wrong. Yet some may still be afraid to speak up un such instances for fear of being fired or subject to some other form of retaliation. While such fears are understandable, people should know that they are protected is they choose to speak up and/or act against their employers wrong or unlawful actions. 

Indeed, Section 1102.5(c) of the California Labor Code states that an employer (or one acting on an employer's behalf) cannot retaliate against an employee for doing something wrong or inappropriate. What qualifies as "wrong" can often be subjective. An employee, for example, might believe something is wrong based upon his or her own moral standards, yet his or her employer (or the employers representatives) could disagree. This might seem to leave the door open for an employer to retaliate against one of its workers for inaction by stating that it did not view the requested action to be inappropriate. 

At-will employment explained

A common assumption amongst many working professionals in San Diego is that firings are rare, so much so that it is believed that one almost has to put a good deal of effort into getting his or her employer to fire him. In reality, however, firings, dismissals and layoffs happen all the time. In fact, according to information shared by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.6 million people lost their jobs in May of 2018 alone. The ease at which employees can be discharged may be sue in large part to the concept of at-will employment. 

Many may have heard of this term, yet not have a strong understanding of what it actually means. "At-will employment" basically means that an employer or employee may terminate an business relationship at any time without necessarily needing to have cause. According to Section 2922 of the California Labor Code, the state does indeed subscribe to this doctrine, which allows an employer to fire an employee without needing to give him or her a reason. 

When your employer wants to avoid paying you

In the state of California, many employers ask janitors and housekeepers working for them to perform work tasks "off the clock." If you are a janitor or housekeeper in this situation, you may be wondering whether the practice is legal. 

The answer is that it is not. The law requires your employer to pay you for all of the work you perform. 

What are the wage laws for minors?

If you have a child who will soon be working in the state of California, then you might want to become more familiar with the laws that guide the employment of minors. One area that is often overlooked is the wages. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, there are specific laws about wages for minors under the employment laws of the state.

In general, minors are entitled to pay the same as adults. That means they must be paid at least minimum wage. If they work overtime, they must be paid overtime wages, too. If your child works for an employer who falls under the federal wage laws, then he or she is paid according to them. However, since the federal minimum wage is lower than the state's, pay is based on the state minimum wage.

Can an employer fire me in retaliation?

Employers in California are beholden to federal and state laws when it comes to termination. These regulations state that it’s illegal to discharge a worker for certain reasons, such as those based on race, sex, or country of origin. It’s also not permissible for employers to fire a worker in retaliation for lawful activities, as explained by the United States Department of Labor.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers are free to file complaints regarding conditions or other workplace issues without worry of being fired or disciplined in any manner. This includes complaints that are made orally or in writing, as well as any testimony given in court about an employer in reference to workplace practices. All workers are protected from retaliatory firings, regardless whether they are covered by the FLSA.

How to Recognize Workplace Discrimination

In San Diego, most employers strive to create a working environment free from harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately, inequalities in the workplace can still occur and it’s often difficult for workers to identify when they are being discriminated against. Knowing the common signs of workplace discrimination is extremely useful in this regard, as it can give you the tools to identify when an issue is taking place.

According to WorkplaceFairness.org, discrimination is defined as unfair treatment towards a protected group based solely on their inclusion in said group. For instance, discriminating against someone due to sex, race, or country of origin is not permitted. Federal laws are also in place that offer protection to pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions, and older people (who may be viewed as incompetent simply due to their age).

What constitutes wrongful termination?

One's place of work is not solely a place to grow financially; it is a setting in which one should feel safe and respected. Because one's success in a career often hinges on his or her opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, it is crucial that a work environment helps facilitate all employees -- not a select few. When a California employee is fired on suspicious grounds, legal action may be the next step. What, exactly, constitutes wrongful termination? 

As career resource The Muse explains, some actions at work that result in termination are simply illegal. For example, if an employer overhears an employee discussing workplace issues with peers, they cannot fire that employee for engaging in protected concerted activity. The Muse also mentions discrimination and retaliation, both of which violate employment laws. Employers cannot fire workers based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status; in addition, employers cannot fire women for being pregnant. Firing an employee for reasons related to medical history also constitutes wrongful termination.

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Sullivan Law Group APC
2330 3rd Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: 619-880-3956
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