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Santa Barbara Employment Law Blog

Wrongful termination: Man embarrassed, defamed and fired

One of the worst and most hurtful experiences an employee can face is harassment from a boss or superior. Employees in California have rights and should never be forced to endure harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening more and more these days. Losing employment for any reason is difficult, but when employment is lost as a result of harassment, the experience can be humiliating and traumatic. A man in Los Angeles filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after he was allegedly harassed and fired.

The man worked for a talent agency as the head of the motion picture department. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was attending a video conference when the company's chief of human resources subjected him to weird and awkward questions. Allegedly, she asked the plaintiff if he had defecated on a bathroom floor during a recent trip to New York.

Track your pay to make sure you're paid appropriately

One of the worst things that an employer can do is to take advantage of their employees by not paying them accurately. Employers may do this in one of many ways, from "estimating" hours worked to failing to pay overtime for hours worked past the normal work week.

As an employee, you can take steps to protect yourself against unfair treatment by your employer. It's important to track your wages, so that you have evidence if you are not being paid correctly. This can also help you point out discrepancies in pay to your employer, so they can correct mistakes when made.

Millions more employees may become eligible for OT pay

California workers enjoy some of the best labor laws in the country. Even so, there is one area where many workers felt the laws fell short: overtime pay. The Obama administration did make attempts to change this, making millions more people eligible for overtime pay on a federal level. However, several states pursued legal action and a federal judge blocked the proposal.

Inc. points out that the current threshold for overtime pay is $23,660. Workers who make more than this were not eligible for overtime pay. The Obama administration tried to increase this to $47,500. Now, the Trump administration plans to increase it to $35,300 by 2024.

How to deal with and prove workplace retaliation

When workers face retaliation in California, reactions vary. Some people may struggle to keep their jobs for as long as possible. Another set of workers may move on and never look back, preferring to forget the incidents that led to the complaint and subsequent retaliation. Others may wish to seek legal recourse but first need to know where to begin.

According to NPR, retaliation claims exceed even racial discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It now makes up 45% of EEOC claims. Retaliation refers to adverse actions against a worker following the filing of a discrimination charge or making a complaint. These actions may include harassing, demoting or firing workers.

How discrimination may affect employees long term

Although there are laws meant to protect workers in California from workplace discrimination, it still occurs. Whether it is discrimination due to race, gender, disability, religion or age, studies show that over time, this behavior has negative effects on workers and their physical and mental health.

According to the U.S. Army, a stalled career is just one of the negative effects of discrimination in the workplace. In general, there is a higher incidence of problems related to health as well as psychological distress. Some of these effects include:

  • Heart problems and high blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Obesity 
  • Anxiety
  • General aches and pains
  • Suicide attempts

Men may struggle to report sexual harassment at work

Most California employees have undergone sexual harassment seminars at their jobs and understand what behaviors are unacceptable in the workplace. While most awareness campaigns about workplace sexual harassment focus on women who experience it, men may also be targets of these behaviors. However, it may be more difficult for men to report sexual harassment due to a number of factors.

According to a CNBC poll, sexual harassment at work has happened to approximately one in five American adults. The report indicates that 10% percent of men reported being survivors of sexual harassment at work. While this number is lower than the 27% of women who said they experienced sexual harassment, it is not an insignificant statistic. In the survey, there were fewer men than women who believed their employers took sexual harassment complaints seriously.

3 ways your employer could try to avoid overtime pay laws

Your employer benefits off of every moment you work, which means that you deserve to get paid for all of your time. If you aren't a salaried employee, that means that you receive hourly wages, and all hourly workers should receive overtime pay for the hours they work beyond 40 hours in a given week.

Both federal and California state laws protect the right of hourly workers to receive at least 150% their standard hourly rate for any overtime hours. With exceptions for domestic employees, most workers have the right to overtime wages for any time beyond 40 that they work in a given week or for more than eight hours in a shift.

The different types of discrimination

Although there are laws in California that protect workers from discrimination, this still occurs throughout all occupations and industries. Sometimes discrimination is more subtle, while other times it may result in someone losing their job or facing a demotion. There are different types of discrimination, and sometimes an employee may not even know it is occurring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, discrimination protection extends to a wide variety of situations. Some, such as those that refer to one's gender, race, religion or age, are more well known. Some of the others may not be as obvious. For example, marital, political or parental status should not affect hiring or pay decisions. However, victims of this type of discrimination need to report them to the Office of Special Council or the Merit Systems Protection Board as opposed to the EEOC.

Potential changes to federal overtime laws

Californians are more fortunate than many Americans when it comes to overtime pay. California is one of several states that put in place better overtime pay laws than the federal government. According to CNN Business, state law requires employers to pay 1.5 times the regular hourly wages for working more than eight hours in a day. When workers’ shifts pass 12 hours per day, employers pay double-time wages.

When state and federal laws differ on worker pay, the one that provides higher pay for workers prevails. Because of this, most Californians remain unconcerned about the proposals now making its way through America’s legislative system. Even so, it may affect people who work out of state and their families.

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace

Millennial women are having fewer children than their predecessors and one big contributing factor is how pregnancy affects career goals. CNBC notes that when a woman becomes a mother, this is the time when she may lose the career momentum she had been building throughout her adult life. After reviewing thousands of pages of documents related to this dilemma, researchers found that even the biggest and best companies sideline women after they become pregnant.

For blue collar work, women risk termination for simple requests, such as taking rest breaks or carrying a water bottle on their person. In the corporate world, pregnant women sometimes become viewed as less committed to their careers and find themselves steered into a corner away from all the bright opportunities reserved for childless and unmarried women.

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