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

San Diego Employment Law Blog

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.

Watch out for ways employers avoid paying overtime

Many workers are more than happy to work a little overtime for the extra money. California law stipulates employers must pay their workers their wage and a half for anything in excess of eight hours. If employees work more than 12 hours a day, they should receive double their standard wage. 

To many employees' dismay, they receive their paycheck only to discover their supervisors did not pay them overtime. It is vital to bring this discrepancy to the employer's attention because it could be an honest mistake. However, if your boss gives you one of the following excuses, then you should consider meeting with an attorney to review your options. 

Understanding affirmative action

Many in San Diego might agree with the assertion that, throughout history, there have been certain demographics that have been discriminated against. Recent years have seen policies and philosophies introduced that have attempted to right those wrongs. Affirmative action is one of them. Most likely have heard of affirmative action, yet widespread misconceptions over the principle may have most confused over what it truly is. 

For example, many may believe affirmative action to be an actual law, yet it is not. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, it actually refers to policies that aimed at improving opportunities (primarily in the workplace and education) for members of the aforementioned groups that have been historically disadvantaged. Thus, a particular company or organization might have an affirmative action policy, yet the law does not require it. 

What is the prevailing wage law?

Like everyone in San Diego, you are likely familiar with the concept of a minimum wage. Such a standard (currently $7.25 nationally) ensures that laborers are paid a base amount. Yet minimum wage is meant to apply primarily to entry-level positions. However, in industries that work contractually (say, construction) what is to stop employers from lowering their employees' wages to that amount in an effort to spend less on labor to win contract bids? The answer to that question is simple: the prevailing wage law. 

In California, the prevailing wage law is meant specifically to keep managers over public works projects from doing just that. It recognizes the added skill required to do the work you do, the dangers posed by the conditions in which you do it, and the potential for a contracting manager to determine your wage. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, as long as the public works project you are involved in is valued at more than $1,000, your employer must follow the terms of the prevailing wage law (the only exception would be if the body that awarded the contract elects to enforce a CDIR-approved labor compliance program). 

Have you been fired under unfair circumstances?

As a worker in San Diego, you have a right to protect yourself from retaliatory actions at the workplace. Unfortunately, these actions can be difficult to predict, and in some cases it can even be difficult to prove that they're the root cause of your termination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that retaliation is the most frequently alleged source of workplace discrimination. Employer retaliation can cover a huge range of potential scenarios and issues that you may run into. For example, an employer may retaliate against you if you:

  • Blew the whistle on illegal practices in the workplace
  • Refused to follow discriminatory orders
  • Talked to managers or supervisors about harassment or discrimination
  • Requested accommodations for religious reasons or disabilities
  • Intervened or resisted against sexual advances
  • Reported or answered questions about alleged sexual harassment

How do FMLA and CFRA differ?

Your career should never get in the way of your health, yet that often happens. You may feel as though if you need to take time of work because of your health, your employer might view you as unreliable and this decide it does not need you. Fortunately, there are laws that prevent your employer from firing you for needing extended medical leave. These include both the federal Family & Medical Leave Act as well as the California Family Rights Acts. The question is how are these two laws different? 

On the surface, they are not. They both allow for an extended 12-week leave for the following situations: 

  • The birth of a baby
  • The adoption of a child or the placement of a child in foster care
  • The unexpected illness or injury suffered by you or one of your immediate family members

California laws about tipping

The laws on tipping vary from one state to the next. Fortunately, California has relatively strict laws on how employers treat tips in relation to their employees' wages. For example, California law states employers cannot pay workers less than minimum wage, expecting tips to make up the difference. While that is a common practice in other states, it has gone away here.

If you work in the service industry and receive tips, then it is important to be aware if your boss breaks the law. You may want to bring it to the employer's attention to try to rectify the situation on your own. If that does not work, then you may need to pursue other legal recourses.

Analyzing the Equal Pay Act

The efforts to end workplace discrimination are not solely aimed at helping people to get their feet in the door of companies in San Diego. Simply because one has been hired to a job does not mean that the opportunities that an employer can still discriminate against him and her have ceased. His or her treatment while on the job could also be classified as discriminatory. Salary discrepancies are one area where this is still evident. Fortunately, those whose work has been historically undervalued (at least in terms of their pay) are supported by the Equal Pay Act. 

This federal law was enacted in 1963 to stop employers from rewarding those of a certain race or gender with larger salaries than their counterparts. Specifically, the EPA requires that all of those performing a job that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility (and who are working in similar conditions) to be paid equally. Some may take that to mean that those doing the same job for the same company must be paid the exact same. That, however, is not the case. According to the American Association of University Women, employers may establish different pay scales based on factors such as seniority, merit and production. 

County sued by woman fired from local animal shelter

Those working in San Diego typically want to give their companies the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their practices. Yet if one witnesses something that may be unethical (or potentially illegal), he or she does have a duty to report (he or she could face consequences as well by failing to do so). Many in such cases may be hesitant to speak up, however, because they fear that by doing so they could bee endangering their jobs. Yet the law offers protection for employees from retaliatory actions by their employers in whistleblower cases. If one is fired for reporting offenses committed by his or her employer, he or she could have a case for wrongful termination

Such is the claim being made by a Georgia woman after she was fired from her position of being an animal rescue coordinator. She reported members of her department for euthanizing rescued animals that did not need to be killed. In a lawsuit filed against the local county, she claims that after doing so, she was repeatedly given field assignments that took her away from the office while the unnecessary euthanizations continued. She also claims that before being fired, she was told not to question the decisions of her supervisors. 

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San Diego, CA 92101

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