Los Angeles Office
Request A Free Consultation
Contacting us through this form or the internet does not create an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.
Top Rated Los Angeles Employment Law Lawyer
California boasts some of the most comprehensive employee protection legislation in the United States. However, these laws seldom prevent employers from violating essential employee rights. From discrimination and wrongful termination to overtime disputes and pregnancy leave violations, employees must fight for their hard-earned rights in Los Angeles.
Our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers can help you if you've experienced sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, employment discrimination because of your ethnicity, or COVID-19 leave violations, you need a dedicated L.A. employment law attorney on your side. With our no-recovery, no-fee guarantee, we help wronged employees recover needed compensation following federal and state labor law violations. Schedule your free case analysis to discuss a possible case today.
Overview of California and Federal Employee Retaliation Protections
Did you know that California has the most families living paycheck to paycheck in the continental United States? Over three million Californians rely on every dollar of their weekly income to cover the state's high cost of living expenses, and even more families have struggled during COVID-19. As such, many employees fear speaking up about hostile work environments, paycheck discrepancies, sexual harassment, or health concerns.
Fear of employer retaliation creates a dangerous cycle of labor law abuses, but legal protections exist under state and federal law. You may confidentially discuss your workplace concerns with an L.A. employment attorney to determine whether your employer violated applicable labor laws. If so, you might immediately qualify for the following anti-retaliation protections.
Whistleblower Protection Programs
Many federal legislative schemes, including the Affordable Care Act, prevent employers from retaliating against whistleblowers. This protection includes working with attorneys to report potential health, safety, tax, financial, and insurance violations to OSHA and the California Labor Commissioner's Office. For example, employers cannot penalize employees reporting potential tax evasion, overtime wage violations, or pregnancy discrimination. Retaliation includes the following employer actions in California:
- Termination/layoff/refusal to rehire
- Demotion or denying promotions
- Disciplinary reports and acts
- Unwanted transfer
- Creating hostile work environments, including harassment, intimidation, and conduct leading to constructive discharge
- Reducing pay, hours, and related benefits
- Responsive and unfair threats against immigrant workers
- Ostracizing, isolating, and falsely accusing employees of poor performance
- Threatening any of the above actions
If an employer unlawfully retaliates against an employer after discovering she reported alleged violations, the employee may recover related lost wages (plus interest) and penalties. This includes reporting potential COVID-19 health and safety concerns. Some legislation even provides for double back pay and triple damages. These anti-retaliation provisions fall under different federal statutes, each with unique reporting deadlines and limitations. As such, it's essential to work with an L.A. employment retaliation lawyer to trigger these protections.
California Retaliation Protection Laws
Federal whistleblower laws generally shield employees reporting widespread legal violations to the appropriate regulatory authorities. However, not every labor dispute involves systemic wrongdoing or merits regulatory involvement. Many cases involve single instances of discrimination, harassment, paycheck, or benefits disputes. California still provides retaliation protection to employees in these situations regardless of immigration status.
Complaining employees need not provide social security numbers or photo identification to file retaliation, equal pay, and employment discrimination claims in L.A. State retaliation protections cover employees engaged in certain protected activities, including complaining about unlawful conditions or taking steps to enforce their legal rights. This generally includes contacting state and local authorities and working with dedicated labor law attorneys. Your lawyer might help you recover compensation for the initial violation, such as incorrect overtime pay, and additional compensation for retaliation.
Common Employment Law Violations in Los Angeles
California’s worker protection laws cover everything from providing Uber drivers with healthcare subsidies to ensuring paid sick leave after domestic violence incidents. However, most employee claims fall into three main categories: (1) wage and leave disputes, (2) unlawful discrimination and termination, and (3) hostile work environments.
Wage & Leave Disputes
Employment attorneys frequently address the following wage and benefit claims:
- Equal Pay Act Violations - LAB Code § 1197.5 states that employers may not pay employees of the opposite sex different rates for similar work without valid reasons unrelated to gender. If you suspect potential equal pay violations, an attorney might demand associated payroll records and negotiate appropriate raises and back pay.
- Family Medical Leave Disputes – Both federal and state laws guarantee employees certain job protections during periods of qualifying medical leave. FMLA and California PFL provide most pregnant and new mothers with needed caretaker leave and job protection. This includes returning employees to their same or substantially similar position, including the equivalent pay and benefits, following the leave period.
- Minimum Wage & Overtime Violations – Until January 1, 2023, California's minimum wage increases annually. Currently, the minimum wage for employers with more than 25 employees in L.A. is $15 per hour ($14.25 for smaller employers). This is higher than the state minimum. Violations may result in employer penalties, back pay, and interest. Employers must also pay non-exempt employees time and a half (1.5x their normal rate) for hours worked over 40 per week. Many employers unlawfully adjust pay rates or institute cash-only payments to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.
- Healthcare Insurance & Subsidy Violations - The ACA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide certain insurance benefits to full-time workers (over 40 hours per week). This does not include part-time employees or dependents. It might also involve shared costs. Due to high healthcare premiums, many employers manipulate working hours and employee numbers to avoid providing necessary health insurance benefits. A labor law attorney can help you determine whether you qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance in California.
The above cases generally involve certain claims deadlines, government investigations, and statutory penalties. It's important to act immediately following perceived employment violations, including receiving incorrect paychecks and leave denials, to maximize the applicability of these labor protections and the value of your claims.
Discrimination & Unlawful Termination Claims
Detailed federal and state laws protect employees – including prospective and former employees – from workplace discrimination. The Equal Opportunity Employment Act (EEO) prohibits most forms of job discrimination against protected workers. If you were denied a job, promotion, or certain benefits due to the following, you might have a federal EEO claim:
- Race, color, ethnicity, or national origin
- Sex (includes sexual orientation under Bostock v. Clayton County, pregnancy, and sexual identity)
- Age (over 40)
- Disability (also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Military Service
You must show that you otherwise qualified for the job/benefit and that you did not receive the same due to your protected status. Some religious employers are exempt from these standards, and certain contracted workers do not qualify for EEO protection.
Likewise, jobs requiring certain gender or ethnic characteristics, including acting roles, have certain EEO exemptions. These claims often involve extensive litigation, as employers frequently deny discrimination by challenging your qualifications and interview/job performance. Many cases rest on circumstantial evidence, but experienced employment discrimination lawyers know what patterns to look for and evidence to gather.
The ADA and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provide similar protections to employees (prospective, present, or former). The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodates for disabled but otherwise qualified candidates/employees, and the USERRA protects prospective and returning employees from discrimination based on past, present, or future military service. Disabled veterans, for example, may have EEO, ADA, and USERRA claims following alleged employment discrimination in Los Angeles.
Wrongful termination claims are broader than discrimination claims; although, they include terminations based on protected status. These lawsuits allege that an employer terminated an employee for an unlawful reason, which may include retaliation or discrimination. Because employees generally work on an at-will basis – meaning they can be terminated with or without cause – you must link the termination to certain statutory violations.
Importantly, some employers attempt to avoid wrongful termination claims by creating hostile work environments forcing the employee to quit. This situation, called constructive termination or discharge, could still support wrongful termination claims in Los Angeles.
Harassment & Hostile Work Environments
Many women report leaving jobs due to sexual harassment and overall discomfort, especially within L.A.’s entertainment industry. However, sexual harassment can include inappropriate behavior based on your gender, appearance, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It may involve multiple, mild instances of inappropriate conduct or one severe instance of sexual depravity.
Harassing conduct impacting your work performance and emotional health could support constructive termination claims if employers did nothing to remedy the situation. Sexual harassment cases often involve lawsuits against the employer and individual harasser, and plaintiffs are generally protected from retaliation during the investigation and litigation process.
Unfortunately, it's common for employees complaining about labor violations or harassment to face increasingly hostile work environments. Examples often include managers and co-workers secretly excluding and mocking complaining employees. These little hostilities add up, especially when you're already facing challenging litigation.
You might recover compensation if employers fail to remedy reported hostility on top of the harassment, as these claims frequently go hand-in-hand. An employment lawyer can help L.A. claimants recognize harassment – whether based on sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, or religion – and take appropriate steps to stop unlawful behaviors.
Not every harassment and hostility claim necessitates complex litigation, but it’s important to speak up about your discomfort. Most harassment and hostility cases revolve around one or more co-workers – typically managers, executives, and their friends – who enjoy some level of authority within the workplace. If you're struggling, more than one co-worker has likely also faced harassment. Being the first to step up can result in various supporting claims against individual employees, resulting in a better work environment for all.
Reporting COVID-19 Safety Violations
Many L.A. employers have willingly exposed employers to COVID-19 during reopening efforts. Some small businesses cannot afford to stagger work schedules, reduce daily labor, or supply employees with telework equipment. Many more have not taken pandemic regulations seriously, resulting in sub-par sanitation and employee safety measures.
Employees are protected against retaliation for reporting COVID-19 safety violations to OSHA, which include general social distancing and mask violations along with medical leave denials. In California, employers must provide employees with up to two weeks of paid emergency sick leave for COVID-19 related events, including:
- Recovering from vaccine side effects
- Recovering from COVID-19
- Caring for dependents diagnosed with COVID-19
- Seeking diagnosis and treatment for coronavirus symptoms
- Caring for children who cannot attend school/daycare due to pandemic closures
This paid leave should cover approximately two weeks of the employee's normal hours, i.e., a total of 40 hours of paid leave for employees working 20 hours per week and 80 hours for employees working 40 hours per week. Emergency sick leave and safety violations could result in substantial public and private liability. If you don't feel safe at work and your employer violated COVID-19 safety protocols in L.A., confidentially connect with one of our labor law attorneys.
Filing Private Litigation Against Los Angeles Employers
Not every employment dispute involves wage and labor violations. Many cases arise from employment, non-compete, and non-disclosure contracts. These claims often necessitate breach of contract litigation, but they may involve related constructive termination and labor law claims.
L.A. employment attorneys can help former employees address certain non-compete, confidentiality, and contractual issues related to whistleblowing, harassment, and discrimination lawsuits. Unlawful behaviors – including discrimination, harassment, and workplace hostilities – might void certain contractual provisions preventing competing employment.
Most successful claimants, whether via the state complaint process or private litigation, can obtain the value of their lost wages and benefits. This generally includes any unlawfully denied overtime, wages lost due to wrongful termination, and back pay owed due to equal pay violations. Employers must generally pay interest dating back to the violation and statutory fees. These may include flat fees, such as $1,000 per overtime violation, or double/triple the amount of back pay owed for retaliation claims. Employment litigation might also involve separate tort claims, including:
- Battery (unlawful touching)
- Sexual assault and battery
- Negligent hiring
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Theft of personal property
- Tortious interference with a business relationship
These claims may allow injured employees to demand additional compensation from harassing co-workers and consenting employers. Financial awards might include money for counseling services, emotional anguish, embarrassment, and even punitive damages. Every case differs depending on the labor codes violated and wrongful acts committed against employees.
Schedule a Confidential Employment Law Case Analysis with Our Los Angeles Attorneys
Our dedicated employment lawyers could help you recover lost wages and fight unlawful discrimination and harassment claims without any upfront costs. Our no recovery, no fee guarantee combined with attorney-client confidentiality means there's little risk associated with contacting our dedicated L.A. employment law team. Discuss your concerns with us today by scheduling your free case analysis.