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San Diego Employment Attorneys

Employment law broadly controls how employers must treat employees, former employees, applications for employment, interviewees, job applicants, and independent contractors. Labor laws are designed to protect workers' civil rights. The veteran San Diego trial lawyers at Fitzgerald Knaier LLP understand the vitality of employment and labor law in creating safe, productive, and fair work environments. Our overriding commitment is to represent all of our clients vigorously and thoughtfully, with civility, integrity, and professionalism. If you or someone you know needs counsel for an employment matter, please contact us. All California employees who are not members of a union and who are not under contract for a specific duration of time are generally considered to be "at-will" employees, unless the employee and employer have entered into a contract specifying that the employee can only be terminated for "cause." In California, "at-will" employees can be terminated with or without cause, but they cannot be terminated for an unlawful reason or for a purpose that violates a fundamental public policy.

Some common legal issues that arise in the employment context include:

  • Discrimination based on gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, religion, medical condition, or other protected traits
  • Failure to accommodate a disability or medical condition
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Hostile work environments
  • Retaliation and whistleblowing
  • Breach of employment contract
  • Wrongful termination
  • Wage and hour violations
  • Violation of the California Family Rights Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Violation of the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law
  • Violation of an employee's privacy
  • Illicit use of an employer's equipment or premises for illegal activities
  • Embezzlement
  • Stealing of trade secrets
  • Theft of an employer's property

Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment

Several federal and California laws protect employees' rights. Even if an employee is an "at-will" employee, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are illegal. Retaliation often occurs when employees are demoted or terminated after making complaints, reporting illegal conduct, or filing charges against an employer or supervisor. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") is a federal statute that prohibits unlawful employment discrimination, retaliation, or harassment based on race, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII also prohibits retaliation in order to prohibit retaliatory measures against individuals for becoming involved in a Title VII matter. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), which applies to employers with 5 or more employees, is a California law that provides additional protection for employees. FEHA prohibits unlawful employment discrimination, retaliation, or harassment based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, ancestry, disability, color, marital status, medical condition, or the denial of family and medical care leave. If an employee is entitled to take family or medical leave, the California Family Rights Act ("CFRA") and the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles that employee to take a total of up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Employers are prohibited from harassing, discriminating against, or retaliating against employees for exercising this right. An employee may be entitled to family or medical leave by one of the following conditions:

  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her main job functions.
  • The care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition.
  • The birth and care of a son or daughter of the employee.
  • The adoption or foster care of a son or daughter of the employee.

Additional laws exist that provide protection for pregnant and disabled employees. For disabled employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") not only prohibits disability discrimination, but also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to ensure that disabled employees are able to perform their main job functions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons unable to perform their job functions. The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law requires employers that employ five or more employees to provide pregnant women disabled by their pregnancy up to four months of leave, and also prohibits pregnancy discrimination. An employee may take up to four months leave, in addition to the 12 weeks allowed by the CFRA.

State and federal law also allows "at-will" employees to bring legal action against their employers or supervisors when they experience hostile work environment harassment or quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when sexual conduct results in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Such sexual conduct may constitute verbal or physical conduct, visual harassment, or physical interference with work activities. Quid pro quo harassment involves supervisors linking job benefits to sexual propositions or comments, which may or may not be linked with threats of demotion, denial of a promotion, loss of job benefits, termination, or promises of promotions, raises or other job benefits if the employee submits to the sexual request.

Wage and Hour Violations

The Labor Code and Wage Orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission protect California employees' right to minimum wage, rest and meal periods, and overtime pay, among other things. Despite the common misconception that salaried employees cannot be entitled to overtime pay, it is the nature of an employee's job duties that determines whether or not an employee is entitled to overtime pay.

In general, the following categories of employees are considered exempt from overtime pay: executive, administrative, and professional employees; outside salespersons; state and local government employees; members of the employer's family; employees licensed under the Fish & Game Code; live-in employees in substance abuse alternative housing; student nurses; carnival ride operators; certain retail employees receiving sales commissions; certain motor carrier drivers; movie projectionists; broadcasting industry workers employed as announcers, news editors, or chief engineers in cities or towns with populations of no more than 25,000 people; irrigators; taxicab drivers; babysitters; and personal attendants employed by nonprofit organizations.

Legal Help with Employment Law Matters

If you or someone you know needs counsel for a matter involving employment law, contact the experienced trial lawyers at Fitzgerald Knaier LLP today. Statutes of limitations could apply to employment or labor claims, so act now to ensure that your legal rights are not lost. We offer a free, no obligation consultation to assess your case. Contact us today by telephone or using the form on this website.