The average American spends approximately one-third of their entire life at work. While most of us think quite a bit about our home lives, we don’t often consider our time at work and what that can mean for our quality of life. 

If you have ever experienced a hard, or even toxic, workplace environment, you understand this on a deep level; our work lives are just as important as our home lives. We believe that earning a living should be a life-enhancing — not a life-draining — experience.

US labor law and California law grants employees important rights to ensure that they are not taken advantage of, but when your employment rights have been violated, it can be hard to know what to do next. 

It can even be hard to know if your feelings of having been discriminated against are valid. You may need legal advice to understand whether your rights have been violated and whether you’re eligible for compensation or participation in a class action. 

Some violations, such as blatant discrimination based upon sex or race, can be fairly obvious, while others can be more difficult to identify, understand and combat without the support of an employment law firm.

Employment Law FAQs

Employment laws regulate how employers and employees work together, ensuring everyone is treated respectfully and fairly. Federal and state employment laws provide protections from discrimination, unfair treatment, unsafe working conditions, and provide rules for how an employee should be paid.

We Take Employees’ Rights Seriously

At Perkins Asbill, our range of practice areas allows us to represent California employees across various workplace discrimination cases. We have experience working with both national laws and the California labor code to help our clients get the help they need with employment cases, including:

  • Sexual harassment: occurring when a person of power, whether that be a manager or supervisor, promises a raise or promotion in exchange for sexual favors or unwanted sexual advances, which are severe, pervasive, and inhibits one’s ability to complete their work.

While the first line of defense should always be your employer’s human resources department, there are times when the employer is unwilling to act upon sexual harassment claims from their employees. If this is the case for you, an attorney can help protect your rights and pursue legal action to stop the harassment.

Employment discrimination includes any type of discrimination. Talk to our Sacramento employment lawyers about:

  • Age discrimination
  • Racial, ethnicity, or national origin discrimination
  • Gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression discrimination
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Disability discrimination 

This type of discrimination may also include violations of an employees’ rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California’s equivalent law.

Whether you are seeking financial compensation, personal retribution, or simply to ensure this type of discrimination does not happen to others in the future, an attorney can assist you in clarifying your goals and evaluating the potential benefits and costs of filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. Some examples could be: 

  • Wrongful termination and retaliation: happens when an employee is fired unfairly because they reported the unlawful behavior of a co-worker, manager, or owner of the company, filed a workers’ compensation claim, reported sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct, or testified in a sexual harassment investigation.
  •  “Whistleblowerclaims: where a claim may be brought against an employer by an employee who is wrongly fired because they reported misconduct, acted as a witness in a company investigation or cooperated with such an investigation.

An employee does not need to prove that the employer actually committed misconduct, only that the employee was punished because the employee reported suspicious activity. An attorney can help present the evidence necessary to show this direct link, such as:

  • Wage and hour disputes: involving employees who are lodging a complaint against their employer due to unpaid wages, unpaid overtime pay, failure to provide adequate and lawful meal times and work breaks, or minimum wage violations.

In a successful claim against an employer, an employee may be entitled to receive the fair wages previously denied, additional monies in the form of penalties and interest paid by the employer, and even accrued legal fees. 

An employment law attorney can help you decide upon a course of action that is most likely to produce the desired results in a timely and cost-effective manner.

What is a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is characterized by a difficult or uncomfortable workplace for one or more employees. Minor annoyances and isolated incidents will not qualify as contributors to a hostile work environment. Instead, the US Department of Labor considers the following criteria:

  • The conduct is discriminatory against an employee’s race, religion, gender, age, orientation, disability, or nation of origin
  • The behavior is ongoing and pervasive
  • The behavior is consistently aggressive, threatening, or oppressive
  • The conduct is unwelcome and inappropriate, including vulgar jokes or images, unwanted sexual remarks, physical contact, or invasive personal questions
  • The behavior is unwanted and can qualify as harassment or sexual harassment
  • The employer was aware of the conduct and failed to intervene or investigate
  • The employee’s ability to perform their duties is affected
  • The conduct consists of bullying or other aggressive behavior in retaliation or designed to make an employee resign

An isolated incident will not qualify as a hostile work environment. Working with rude and unprofessional colleagues can be difficult, but their behavior may not be illegal. The following are common examples of a hostile work environment:

  • Displaying sexually inappropriate cartoons
  • Telling racist or offensive jokes
  • Unwanted touching, including uninvited hugs or back massages
  • Purposely endangering a co-worker’s career
  • Using discriminatory language, like slurs about a co-worker’s gender or race
  • Unwanted comments about a co-worker’s physical qualities
  • Graphically discussing sex or asking invasive sexual questions
  • Inappropriate gestures

A hostile work environment will have many signs. Employees may miss more workdays than average, show indications of burnout, and feel insecure due to layoffs. In addition, frequent altercations may break out amongst co-workers.

What should I do if I think my employer is doing something illegal?

If you think your employer is doing something illegal and wish to report it to the authorities, you have certain protections under federal and state laws.

A whistleblower is an employee who exposes the illegal, unsafe, illicit, or immoral activities of their co-workers, managers, or employers. A whistleblower may come from a public or private organization or work within the government. While an employee is protected if they report the illegal activity to law enforcement, whistleblowers are also protected when they make internal complaints or report wrongdoing to the media.

Under federal law, a whistleblower is protected from employer retaliation for reporting the following concerns:

  • Transportation services
  • Health insurance
  • Fraud and financial wrongdoing
  • Workplace and employee safety
  • Environmental protections
  • Consumer food and product safety

The State of California also has whistleblower protections. According to California Labor Code Section 1102.5, an employer is prohibited from:

  • Retaliating against an employee for reporting illegal or illicit conduct
  • Retaliating against a worker for refusing to participate in unlawful activity
  • Adopting or enforcing a rule, policy, or regulation that prohibits an employee from exercising their right to be a whistleblower

For employees to receive whistleblower protections, they must have compelling evidence to support their allegations. The evidence does not need to be first-hand. Second-hand information and circumstantial evidence can qualify.

Whistleblowers are generally vulnerable to the following types of retaliatory behavior:

  • Intimidation or threats by co-workers, managers, or employers
  • Reassignment to a less desirable location
  • Reducing working hours
  • Demotions or being passed over for a promotion

Can my employer retaliate against me for filing a complaint?

No, your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for filing a complaint. An employee’s right to submit formal complaints regarding harassment or discrimination is a protected activity under federal law. Employees have a right to:

  • Refuse a task requiring them to engage in discriminatory behavior
  • Resist, report, or intervene on behalf of another unwanted sexual conduct
  • Inquiring about the salaries or wages of co-workers to reveal potentially discriminatory pay
  • Participating in an investigation, complaint, or lawsuit for an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) charge
  • Asking an employer to make accommodations for a religious practice
  • Asking an employer for accommodations for a disability
  • Speaking directly with a supervisor or manager about harassment, discrimination, or other prohibited conduct

While retaliation is illegal, organizations may participate in direct or indirect forms of retaliatory behavior. It is important to keep any evidence that can support your claim. Test messages, emails, and a log of events with date and time can help establish retaliation.

Some examples of workplace retaliation may include:

  • Exclusion: Being excluded from important meetings, group projects, or other company activities
  • No promotion or raise: Being passed over for a promotion or raise that you were qualified or entitled to
  • Workplace aggression: Being subjected to aggressive behavior from superiors, including verbal abuse and bullying
  • Ostracized: One of the most common forms of workplace retaliation is being shunned by supervisors and co-workers
  • Coworker retaliation: In some cases, colleagues will learn about a complaint and participate in bullying or verbal abuse
  • Termination or almost losing employment: Being reprimanded for a multitude of offenses when co-workers were not, encouraging job insecurity

What should I do if I think I was wrongfully terminated?

If you think you were wrongfully terminated, you need to know your rights. A wrongful termination is when an employer dismisses an employee for reasons prohibited by law, including:

  • If the employee is protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA)
  • If the termination breaches the terms of an employment contract
  • If the dismissal violates federal protections against discrimination and harassment
  • If the termination can be considered retaliation for a complaint about discrimination, harassment, or a hostile work environment

If an employer lays off an employee due to budget cuts, poor performance, or violating company policies, it is not considered wrongful termination.

In states that have “at-will employment” laws, an employer may dismiss any employee at any time for any reason, barring the strictly prohibited motives above. 

The best way to protect yourself after a suspicious termination is the following:

  • Find out why you were terminated by speaking directly to your supervisor or who signed the termination letter. It is useful to gather any documents, including your personnel file, to see if there are any warnings or citations issued before the termination.
  • Collect critical evidence, including emails, text messages, voicemails, photos, documents, and witness statements. Create a detailed timeline log of all pertinent events leading up to the termination.
  • File an official complaint with the agency that best fits your situation, including:
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
    • Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
    • US Department of Labor
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Speak with a knowledgeable wrongful termination attorney. Lawyers who are experienced in this field will answer any questions and help advise you on the best course of action.

Can I file a lawsuit against my employer?

Yes, you may file a lawsuit against your employer. Knowing your rights as an employee is the first step. Every employee has a right to work safe, inclusive environment free of discrimination and harassment. When your employer fails to protect your rights under the law, you may be entitled to remedies.

The following are possible reasons to file legal action against your employer:

Numerous federal laws protect workers from the above violations. Before filing legal action against your employer, it is important to take these steps:

  • Speak to your employer about the problem using clear and concise language
  • Document all conversations, events, emails, and text messages with the date and time
  • Seek legal advice

If your employer dismisses your complaint for failing to provide the employment protections you deserve, you may be entitled to seek compensatory and punitive damages. Damages are any financial and emotional losses that an employee suffers as a result of an employer’s wrongdoing, including:

  • Lost benefits, like health, vacation, sick leave, pension
  • Reinstatement
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost front or back wages

Under some circumstances, a case may qualify for punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer.

I’ve experienced workplace discrimination. What do I do next?

If you believe your employment rights have been violated, the first thing to do is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. We recommend that you do your research and make sure that the attorney you choose is knowledgeable and experienced in this area of the law.

At Perkins Asbill, we are passionate about fighting for the rights of employees regardless of their job title or industry in which they are/were employed. We take each attorney-client relationship seriously and provide the support you need throughout the case. 

As a comprehensive employment law practice, we represent employees dealing with all sorts of legal issues, including sexual harassment, wrongful termination, whistleblower claims, and wage disputes.

Our attorneys have years of experience. We have successfully represented employees in high-stake cases — prevailing against powerful corporate employers and sending a strong message to employers that we will not hesitate to go the extra mile on behalf of employees who have been wronged.

Do you need our legal services? Contact us to find out if our law firm can provide the help you need.

To schedule a consultation with a skilled and experienced employment attorney, call (916) 446-2000 or fill out our online request form.

Employment Lawyers In Sacramento, California

Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation, is located at 707 Commons Dr #201, Sacramento, CA 95825, United States. From Sacramento International Airport, get on I-5 S from Aviation Dr and Airport Blvd. Follow I-5 S and US-50 E to Howe Ave in Sacramento. 

Afterward, take exit 9 from US-50 E. Continue on Howe Ave to your destination. Use the left two lanes to turn left onto Howe Ave and then turn left onto University Ave and turn left again. Turn right, and [Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation] will be on your left.

We can support employees from across California, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Elk Grove, 
Our law office is open Monday – Friday 9 AM – 5 PM.
For additional questions, you can call us at (916) 446 2000.