The Mathews Law Group is committed to protecting employee’s rights and has successfully represented health-care professionals, financial executives, and a wide variety of other employees in a broad-range of employment matters. We have extensive experience in litigating and arbitrating numerous employment claims, including:
- Wrongful Termination
- Whistle Blowing
- Disability Discrimination
- Pregnancy Discrimination
- Sexual Harassment
- Medical And Other Leaves Of Absence
In California, employees without an employment contract setting forth the specific reasons as to why they can be terminated are presumed to be “at-will” employees. At-will employees may be terminated for any reason, so long as it’s not illegal. It is against the law for an employer to terminate an employee or take other adverse action against an employee for reporting, opposing or refusing to participate in violations of state or federal law.
Because there are so many different laws on the books, wrongful termination cases can take many different forms. Some examples of wrongful termination cases include employers who terminated or penalized employees for:
- Advocating for medically appropriate healthcare
- Reporting discrimination or harassment
- Refusing to engage in fraudulent practices
- Reporting that the employer is violating the law
- Refusing to lie to a government agency
- Complaining about unsafe working conditions
- Reporting to management that the employer was not paying overtime wages
- Taking medical leave
- Complaining about accounting irregularities
- Filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits
Whistleblowers are brave employees who risk their reputation and career to expose the illegal actions of their employers. Because whistleblowers benefit the public, various laws prohibit employers from terminating or otherwise penalizing their employees for reporting illegal acts. Even if it turns out that an employer did not actually break the law, an employee is still entitled to whistle blower protection if he or she reasonably believed that the employer committed an illegal act.
Typically, to be entitled to whistleblower protection, an employee must report an employer’s alleged illegal act to the proper authority, such as a government or law-enforcement agency. An employee might not be entitled to whistleblower protection for reporting an illegal act only within the company. However, the employee might be protected from retaliation by laws prohibiting wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
California law prohibits employers from terminating, demoting or taking other adverse action because of the employee’s race, religion, color, national origin, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or age. Discrimination may occur at any stage of employment, including the initial hiring decision, promotions, layoffs, compensation, job assignments or termination of employment.
Under a typical anti-discrimination law, the employee must prove the following:
- The employee was a member of a protected class (based on race, religion, color, national origin, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or age);
- The employee was qualified for the job for which he or she applied, or that he or she was meeting the employer’s job expectations at the time of discipline or termination of employment;
- The employee was not hired or was not promoted, and that somebody outside of the protected class was instead hired or promoted (or the plaintiff was fired and replaced by somebody outside of the protected class);
- The circumstances of the employer’s hiring, promotion, or termination decision give rise to a reasonable inference of discrimination; and
- The employer’s nondiscriminatory explanation for its actions is a false explanation meant to cover up its discriminatory action.
California and/or federal law also prohibits employers from terminating or taking other adverse action against employees due to their “physical disability, mental disability or medical condition.” Further, employers must make reasonable accommodations for the known disabilities of applicants and employees to enable them to perform a position’s essential job functions.
When an employee has a disability, the employer must explore all possibilities of reasonable accommodations prior to rejecting the person for a job or making any employment-related decision. An accommodation is reasonable if it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. Reasonable accommodations can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Changing the job duties
- Changing the work shift
- Providing medical leave
- Accommodating work schedules
- Relocating the work area
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids
A woman should never be forced to choose between having a family and having a job. Employers will retaliate against expecting or new mothers by firing them or significantly changing their job duties when they get back from their leave. These actions are despicable and illegal. Thankfully, California has a number of laws that prohibit employers from harassing, demoting, terminating or otherwise discriminating against any employee for becoming pregnant, or for taking pregnancy leave.
In addition, California law requires employers to provide up to four months of leave for employees actually disabled by pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. This includes time off needed for prenatal care, severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth and any related medical condition. As a general rule, a woman must be unable to perform one or more essential functions of her job without undue risk to herself or to other persons or without undue risk to successful completion of her pregnancy. It is the medical opinion of the woman’s physician that determines whether she is disabled by pregnancy or a related medical condition.
Once the employee has given birth, she may also be entitled to an additional twelve weeks of medical leave.
The typical case of sexual harassment involves some form of sexual advance by a supervisor with a threat that if the employee refuses, he or she will be terminated or demoted. Alternatively, the employee may be promised better treatment, such as a promotion, transfer, raise or favorable recommendation, if the employee submits to the sexual advances.
Another form of sexual harassment is known as “hostile working” environment. Hostile working environment includes exposure to unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, sexual remarks, sexual photographs or other types of intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environments. To prove sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment, a pattern of sexual harassment must be severe and pervasive.
The right to medical leave and knowing that you have a job to return to is an invaluable benefit for employees going through an already difficult and often painful experience. A qualifying employee (who worked for his employer for 1,250 hours or more during the past year for a company with 50 or more employees) is protected by the California Family Rights Act and federal Family Medical Leave Act (CFRA/FMLA). Under these laws, an employee may be entitled to take up to three months of un-paid leave for:
- A serious health condition requiring inpatient care or continuing treatment
- A serious health condition of a spouse, child or parent
- The birth of the employee’s child or adoption of a child by the employee
Employers are prohibited from discouraging or interfering with an eligible employee’s right to take CFRA/FMLA leave. Further, employers may not terminate or take other adverse action against an employee because the employee is taking such a leave.
DISCLAIMER: This website is intended to provide general information only. Nothing contained in this article, or on this website, is intended to provide legal advice. By using this website you acknowledge and agree that you have not formed an attorney-client relationship with the Mathews Law Group and will not rely on any information contained on this website.