Do I Have a Legitimate Workplace Claim? Advice From Top LA Attorneys

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Do I Have a Legitimate Workplace Claim? Advice From Top LA Attorneys

The California Labor Commissioner reported that the number of retaliation claims in California increased by over 500% between 2019 and 2023. By April 2023, the number of claims neared 4,900. It’s a lot and that’s just retaliation claims. Cal Matter studies also found that out of 1,000 workers, 38% have experienced a workplace violation, yet only 10% reported it to the state due to fear of retaliation.

What Are the Federal Employment Laws Workers and Job Applicants Should Know?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s role is to enforce federal workplace discrimination and harassment laws. Those laws include:

  • Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability in the federal government and protects anyone who files a complaint or provides a statement or testimony in an EEOC investigation or lawsuit.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person 40 or older because of their age and protects against retaliation.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 – Makes it illegal to pay men and women differently when they’re performing the same work in a workplace and protects against retaliation.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act – Makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical issue related to childbirth or pregnancy.
  • The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act of 2022 – Makes it a requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers who are pregnant, have just given birth, or have a medical condition related to pregnancy and childbirth, and the law adds protections against retaliation.
  • Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 – Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability in a local or state government agency or private employer and also protects against retaliation.
  • Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 – Makes it illegal to discriminate against applicants or employees because of their genetic information, such as a family history of schizophrenia, and protects against retaliation.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their color, national origin, race, religion, or sex, which includes gender, pregnancy, and sexual orientation.

One thing worth noting is that discriminatory behavior doesn’t have to come from a boss or supervisor. It can be a co-worker, client, or contractor who comes to your workplace. For example, you’re at the front desk and a regular client continues to make comments about illegals at the border. You’re a refugee and feel ashamed every time that client comes in. You have a valid complaint.

California Adds Additional Protections

Those are federal protections, but California law provides additional protections to keep in mind. Discrimination protections cover all of these:

  • Age (40 and older)
  • Ancestry and national origin
  • Color and race
  • Disability (Mental or physical)
  • Gender/Sex (Breastfeeding, childbirth, pregnancy, and related medical conditions)
  • Marital status
  • Medical conditions and genetic information
  • Military or veteran status
  • Religion

The California Family Rights Act mandates that employees with five or more workers must provide eligible employees with job-protected leave if they need time off to care for a family member such as a child, spouse, parent, sibling, or grandparent. That job-protected leave also covers time to bond with a new child through adoption, birth, or foster care placement.

Another benefit of this protective employment law is that it helps a parent who is acting as a single parent when a partner or spouse is deployed.

The Fair Chance Act became law on January 1, 2018, and protects job applicants from being denied jobs due to their past criminal histories. Employers with five or more employees cannot ask about an employee’s conviction history before offering a job. 

If employees need special accommodations to complete their jobs, employers must provide those accommodations unless it causes financial strain. Special accommodations can be as simple as providing a stool to someone working on a factory floor to transferring a worker to another department at the same rate of pay. 

For example, a kitchen worker is pregnant and has been ordered by the doctor to sit down as much as possible. If it’s possible to have her slice vegetables while sitting down, that’s a reasonable accommodation.

California’s minimum wage increased to $16 per hour in January 2024. Starting in April and June 2024, fast food and healthcare workers will have their own minimum wage. Fast food workers receive a minimum wage of $20 per hour starting April 1st. Effective June 1st, healthcare workers see their minimum wage increase to $25 per hour.

Plus, certain towns, cities, and counties set their minimum wages. The minimum wage in Las Angeles is $16.78, but in Unincorporated Los Angeles County, it’s $16.90. West Hollywood is $19.08.

How Do You File a Claim?

If you believe your rights are being violated, start gathering evidence. Save emails, calls left on your voicemail, and any information that your coworkers provide. Keep track of dates, times, and circumstances. 

All workers are protected by California labor laws. You do not have to have a Social Security number or photo ID, and you don’t have to worry about your immigration status.

There is a time limit on how long you have before it’s too late to file a claim. The EEOC limits it to 300 days if a state or local anti-discrimination law is violated. It can be as short as 180 days, which is about six months. You don’t have a lot of time to waste. California’s laws limit retaliation complaints to one year and Equal Pay Act violations to two or three years, depending on whether it was willful or not.

Read your employee handbook and any union contract to see what it says about filing a complaint. If you are part of a union, you may need to file a complaint with your union steward or representative first and let the union fight for you. 

Californians can report widespread labor law violations to the California Labor Enforcement Task Force. If your employer has 15 or more employees, it’s your choice if you want to file with the EEOC or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If you work for a company with fewer than 15 workers, file a complaint with the DFEH. You’re also welcome to talk to a California employment law practice for guidance.

Shegerian Conniff believes that people should feel confident to come forward if their rights are being violated. Call or email us to discuss what’s happening at work or a job interview and let us give you an honest assessment of whether your workplace claim is legitimate and what steps you should take to get the treatment you deserve. We want every worker in LA to feel that their rights matter and are worth fighting for.

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