Most Common Types of Workplace Lawsuits
California law gives workers a right of action for violation of state labor law. Workers may also have a claim under relevant federal laws. Below, we discuss the most common types of workplace lawsuits brought against California employers. If you are an employee who has been treated unlawfully, or if you are an employer facing labor law allegations, call our Orange County labor law attorney for seasoned advice and representation.
Wage & Hour (Overtime, Minimum Wage)
Wage and hour claims are among the most common workplace lawsuits. Wage and hour claims arise when an employee is not paid a fair and appropriate wage in light of the hours they’ve worked. California law guarantees non-exempt employees a minimum wage, the right to overtime for extra hours worked beyond set limits per day or week, the right to pay upon termination, the right to be free from unlawful paycheck deductions, the right to reimbursement for covered expenses, and the right to meal and rest breaks. Employers who violate these regulations can be held accountable to employees who have not been fairly compensated.
Employees often sue when they experience discrimination in the workplace. Unlawful discrimination occurs when an employee is treated poorly or otherwise denied the benefits of employment as a result of their membership in a protected class. Discrimination can be based on an employee’s race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, race, political views, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or other protected characteristics.
Discrimination can take many forms, including:
- Rejecting a job applicant
- Denying a bonus or other benefit
- Lower wages
- Transfer to a less desirable position or location
- Improper workplace conduct targeting an employee’s protected characteristic, such as racist jokes or sexist comments
- Refusal to employ reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee
Victims of harassment in the workplace may have a claim against their employer. Harassment is unlawful when it is based on an employee’s protected characteristics, including those listed above. Harassment claims fall into two categories: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.
Hostile work environment claims arise when an employee is subjected to conduct that is so pervasive or so severe as to make their work life unsustainable. Employers may be automatically liable when the conduct is perpetrated by a supervisor, and they may be liable for the conduct of the employee’s coworkers when they fail to act reasonably to prevent or respond to incidents of harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment is a form of sexual harassment that occurs when an employee is subjected to unwanted sexual advances or other conduct and threatened with an adverse employment action if they refuse or report the conduct. The adverse employment action may be the denial of a benefit, such as a promotion, or negative consequences such as termination, transfer to a less desirable position, or reduced pay.
California employees are at-will, unless they are protected by an employment contract. At-will employees can be terminated for almost any reason, or no reason at all. Employees, however, can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit whenever they are fired for an unlawful reason.
Unlawful termination includes discharge involving:
- Retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct in the workplace, including criminal activity, harassment, discrimination, safety violations, or other conduct that violates state or federal laws or regulations (e.g., filing a discrimination lawsuit or being a whistleblower)
- Retaliation for participating in an investigation of the employer for violation of a law or regulation
- Discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, advanced age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or other protected characteristics
- Retaliation for exercising a protected right, such as taking protected medical leave, filing a workers’ compensation claim, requesting an accommodation, or attending jury duty
- Mass layoffs without proper advanced notice
- Violation of the employee’s contract
- Violation of other public policy
If you are an employee facing sexual harassment, discrimination, or other labor law issues in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, or San Diego counties, or a California employer dealing with employee rights allegations, wage & hour issues, employee contract disputes, or other employment law issues, contact a thorough and diligent California employment law attorney at Coast Employment Law at 714-551-9930 for a free consultation.