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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

California cracks down on alleged employee misclassification

Employers in California seeking to classify employees as independent contractors should take note of a recent lawsuit filed by the Labor Commissioner's Office. Companies that intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors may subject themselves to substantial back payments and heavy fines.

A Glendale construction company is the defendant in a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed by the state. It seeks back overtime due employees, late penalties for failure to pay, penalties for failing to pay employees their final pay checks and civil penalties. The total sought from the company is in excess of $6 million.

Breastfeeding mothers can plan ahead for pumping at work

Being a mom is hard work. When you are a new mom, you have a lot going on. You are caring for a brand new baby that needs your constant care and support. It is your duty to bathe, nurture and nourish your child. For some mothers, this includes breast feeding your baby.

Emotions can be high as maternity leave comes to an end. Going back to work may mean leaving your baby in someone else’s care for an entire day for the first time. You have to navigate those feelings, as well as plan for all of your baby’s needs.

Age discrimination in the tech industry

A hearing in a California federal district court on July 26 regarding a class action age discrimination lawsuit against Google revealed that 269 plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit. Software engineers aged 40 and over are alleging that they were not hired by the company because of their age. One reported that a recruiter told her to include graduation dates on her resume so Google would know her age and that she was subsequently not hired as a result.

Surveys have found that age discrimination against older workers is a particular problem in the tech industry. One recruitment platform said that tech workers 45 and older reported salaries plateauing and job offers dropping off. The AARP conducted a survey in 2013 and found that more than 60 percent of older tech workers said they had witnessed or experienced workplace age discrimination.

Beating the bully: Can you be fired for defending someone?

Sarah was tired of seeing it happening. Her office was mostly men, and for the few women who worked there, it felt like something between an old boy's club and a fraternity. When Sarah's co-worker, Shelby, was pregnant, the men constantly commented on her burgeoning belly. They touched her stomach without permission and made crude jokes about how she had ended up "in the family way."

Shelby tolerated it, but when she returned from maternity leave, the behavior escalated from irritating to intolerable. The boss would not allow Shelby to take extra time for pumping breast milk and insisted that she do it on her breaks or lunch hour.

Big 5 Sporting Goods faces race discrimination lawsuit

Residents of California who have shopped at Big 5 might be interested to know that the sporting goods company has had a lawsuit filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit claims that an African-American employee suffered discrimination at the hands of the manager and other coworkers while he was training to become a manager himself at the establishment.

After the trainee was faced with the first racial comments, he reported them to higher management. In fact, he reported events of race discrimination to members of higher management multiple times. Nonetheless, the sports products establishment did not take any steps to address these issues.

Harassment a problem for female scientists of color

Women of color in California and around the country often find themselves struggling to achieve professional parity with their white and male colleagues. Unfortunately, the reality of sexual harassment and racial bias can hamper these women's efforts. Harassment and bias are realities in all occupations, including scientific fields.

In a study, planetary scientists and astronomers who are also women of color reported high rates of harassment in their workplaces. The nature of the harassment varied, but 28 percent of the women interviewed said they felt unsafe at work because of their race, and 40 percent indicated feeling unsafe due to their gender.

Were you terminated because of your political affiliation?

Because California is an "at will" employment state, your employer can fire you for any reason except those that are against the law, such as mental or physical disability, pregnancy, race or religion. Clearly, you do have some protections. You cannot be terminated, for example, because of your gender or age. Also, it is unlawful for your employer to fire you because of your political affiliation. 

In California, you cannot be terminated for exercising your legal and constitutional rights, such as engaging in free speech, joining a political group or association or reporting what you believe to be a violation of the law. 

When working off the clock is illegal

Depending on where they work, some California employees may find themselves staying later or working longer hours than they were originally scheduled to. If this work is unpaid or does not count towards overtime, it could potentially be illegal. Although there are a few exceptions, employers are responsible for paying their workers overtime if those workers work longer than 40 hours a week.

The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes overtime, minimum wage and other protections for the majority of workers. Unless the worker is exempt from the FLSA, the employer is legally required to pay him or her for all of the hours that he or she worked. Those who are exempt from the FLSA are administrative, executive and professional workers who are employed in certain industries. Those working on commission-based sales or who are involved in farm work may also be exempt.

Understanding religious discrimination at work

Employers in California and throughout the country are barred from discriminating against employees on religious grounds. This protection is afforded to workers by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are generally required to accommodate an employee's religious practices or beliefs unless doing so would create an undue hardship. Examples of accommodations include a flexible work schedule or allowing a worker to transfer elsewhere within the company.

An undue hardship may occur if making an accommodation for one worker hinders others from doing their job. If an employer cannot make an accommodation for safety or legal reasons, an employee may not be entitled to it. Those who are forbidden to pay union dues because of religious objections may instead contribute the amount of their dues to a charity.

Disrespect or harassment: Where do you draw the line?

Who hasn’t had a co-worker over the years that drove them crazy—constantly coming in late, avoiding work, foisting their assignments on someone else’s shoulders? Working with a co-worker who is disrespectful can take your job from okay to awful in no time. And with a third of our lives spent at work, that can start to feel like a very heavy burden.

But what about the co-worker who not only makes your workplace feel like drudgery, but who also makes you feel uncomfortable—so much so that you are this close to quitting? Someone who makes you feel like just about anywhere would be a better place to work.

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