The relationship between employers and employees in California is governed by employment and labor laws at both the federal and state levels. These laws provide a framework of obligations and rights. Disputes often arise from a failure to uphold and undertake these obligations and rights, which can lead to serious disruptions in the workplace and problems for the employer.
At the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, we are committed to each of our clients. We help employers understand their legal obligations and rights, and we take appropriate action given the unique circumstances of each case. If you want to act proactively to avoid problems in the workplace, contact us today at 310-213-7711 to schedule a 30 minute consultation.
Understanding Employment and Labor Laws in California
The workplace should be a place where work gets done. If the company is managed according to relevant laws, then that should not be a problem. Being proactive and putting policies and procedures in place that adhere to federal and state employment laws can help businesses run smoothly.
Employment law oversees and addresses different aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including:
- Wages (e.g., minimum wage, overtime pay, hours of work)
- Health and safety
- Workplace policies and procedures
- Workplace discrimination
- Workplace harassment
- Employee classifications
- Equal opportunity
- Workers' compensation
At the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, we can help employers ensure compliance with relevant laws and set up policies, procedures, contracts, and more so that you are positioned to lead a successful business.
Common Grounds for Employment-Based Lawsuits in California
Lawsuits are not uncommon between employers and employees. Oftentimes, it is the employee who brings the lawsuit, but in some situations, the employer may do so. From breaches of contracts to discrimination, below are the most common reasons an employment or labor-based lawsuit is filed in California.
Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
Parties to a contract, like employment contracts, have a duty not to harm or otherwise interfere with the other party's right to receive the benefits of the contract – this is known as an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Though a specific definition does not exist, courts have the discretion to determine its meaning and scope. As such, allegations that an employer violated the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing in employment relationships is a prominent cause for litigation.
The federal government protects against discrimination in the workplace based on certain characteristics, which include:
- Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity)
- National origin
- Age (40 or older)
- Genetic information (including family medical history)
Some states go further by protecting people based on things like military or family status. When an employee, or even an applicant, believes they have been unequally treated based on one of the above-protected characteristics, they can file a claim and possibly sue for damages and other remedies.
Disputes often arise from breaches of employment contracts, including issues related to terms, conditions, and termination clauses.
Family and Medical Leave Act Violations
Employees have certain rights when they or family members become sick or injured. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) establishes and protects these rights. When an employee believes their FMLA rights have been violated, then they may file a claim. Two common violations under the FMLA are denied requests of leave or retaliation for taking FMLA leave.
Harassment and Hostile Work Environment
Legal action can be taken when employees are subjected to unwelcome and offensive conduct that creates a hostile work environment. Cases involving harassment, whether it is sexual harassment, bullying, or any other form of workplace harassment, are common reasons for litigation.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes certain standards that employers must uphold to protect the safety and health of employees. If unsafe working conditions and other violations of OSHA regulations are present in the workplace, employees can file claims or possibly sue.
If an employer takes adverse actions against an employee in retaliation for exercising their legal rights, such as reporting workplace violations or filing a complaint, this is unlawful retaliation, and the employer can file a claim or possibly sue.
Wage and Hour Violations
Employees can pursue legal action if they are denied proper wages, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, or misclassified as independent contractors.
When an employer engages in illegal activities or violations, an employee might report it. In such situations, these employees may be protected as whistleblowers. If the employer retaliates against the employee for reporting the company, the employee might be able to file a claim or sue.
An employee who was fired unlawfully, often violating employment contracts, public policy, or anti-discrimination laws, can file a claim and sue the employer.
Unfair Labor Practices
Allegations that employers have engaged in unfair labor practices, such as interfering with employees' rights to organize or engage in collective bargaining, could be a reason for an employee to take legal action against the employer.
Types of Legal Action for Employment Issues in California
Legal actions in employment law can take various forms, but the three most common include:
- Administrative Complaints. Employees can file complaints with administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Department of Labor, triggering investigations and potential resolutions.
- Lawsuits. Employees may file lawsuits against their employers, seeking compensation for damages, resulting from employment law violations.
- Arbitration. Employment agreements may include arbitration clauses, requiring parties to resolve disputes through a private arbitration process rather than going to court.
The party against whom the claim or lawsuit is filed will have an opportunity to defend themselves, and sometimes they may have specific defenses recognized by law.
Examples of Defenses in Employment Disputes
Employers facing legal action in employment law cases may employ various defenses, including:
- Legitimate business reasons, where they assert that their actions were based on legitimate business justifications, such as poor performance, violation of company policies, or downsizing
- Lack of evidence, where employers challenge the evidence presented by the employee and argue that there is insufficient proof to support the allegations
- Bona fide occupational qualification ("BFOQ"), where employers assert that a certain characteristic or qualification is necessary for the job, and the action taken was justified based on business necessity
- Legitimate expectation, where the party asserts that they had a reasonable expectation of specific treatment or benefits based on written or implied agreements, policies, or past practices
- Good faith performance, where the party argues that they performed their duties in good faith and fulfilled their responsibilities as required
If you are an employer defending against allegations, speaking to an employment law attorney can help you make sure you put forth well-supported arguments to make your case a successful one.
Employment and Labor Law Legal Services
At the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, clients come to us because we build relationships and provide a wide range of legal services related to employment and labor laws.
If you are an employer, you would benefit from:
- Smart legal consultation. We advise clients on various aspects of employment law, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities under local, state, and federal employment laws.
- Contract Review and Negotiation. We review and negotiate employment contracts, severance agreements, non-compete agreements, and other employment-related contracts to ensure that the terms are fair and comply with relevant laws.
- FMLA Compliance. We assist employers in understanding and complying with FMLA regulations and handle disputes related to FMLA leave.
- Workplace Safety. We advise on compliance with OSHA regulations and handle cases related to unsafe working conditions.
- Training and Compliance Programs. We help employers develop and implement training programs to ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations.
Why Choose our Employment and Labor Attorney in California
At the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, our clients choose us because we understand complex employment laws, regulations, and legal precedents, and we use this knowledge to give clients accurate advice. We use our unique perspective to develop smart strategies tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, maximizing the chances of a favorable outcome, favorable contract terms, or other resolutions that meet our clients' best interests.
Contact an Employment and Labor Law Attorney in California Today
Employment law is a multifaceted field that governs and addresses various aspects of the employer-employee relationship. At the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, our employment lawyer in California acts proactively to advise employers so that they comply with the law and create safe and healthy work environments.
Contact us by filling out the online form or calling us at 310-213-7711 to schedule a 30 minute consultation and learn more about how we will help you.