Discrimination and Harassment FAQ

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Employment Discrimination

What is employment discrimination?

Employment discrimination refers to unfair treatment of employees or job applicants based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or genetic information. This includes discriminatory practices relating to hiring, firing, promotions, pay, job assignments, training opportunities, and other aspects of employment.

We at Waltman Employment Law understand the intricacies involved in employment discrimination and harassment cases and are committed to defending your rights. Rick Waltman, a seasoned attorney, leads Waltman Employment Law. He honed his skills defending corporations at national law firms; however, his passion led him to champion the rights of employees.

How can I prove employment discrimination?

Proving employment discrimination can be challenging, as direct evidence is often scarce. However, one can rely on circumstantial evidence to establish a discrimination claim. This may include demonstrating a pattern of discriminatory behavior, unfair treatment compared to similarly situated employees, or the presence of discriminatory comments or actions by supervisors or coworkers.

What should I do if I believe I’ve experienced employment discrimination?

Proving employment discrimination can be challenging, as direct evidence is often scarce. However, one can rely on circumstantial evidence to establish a discrimination claim. This may include demonstrating a pattern of discriminatory behavior, unfair treatment compared to similarly situated employees, or the presence of discriminatory comments or actions by supervisors or coworkers.

What is considered sexual harassment in the workplace?

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature that interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

What are my rights as an employee in a sexual harassment case?

As an employee, you have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. California law prohibits sexual harassment in both private and public workplaces. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you have the right to file a complaint, seek legal action, and be protected from retaliation.

How should I report sexual harassment in the workplace?

If you are experiencing sexual harassment, it is important to report it promptly. You should follow your employer’s designated procedures for reporting harassment, which typically involves notifying someone in management or human resources. All supervisors and managers have a duty to act in response to good-faith complaints of workplace harassment. If your employer fails to take appropriate action, you may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Can I seek compensation for the damages caused by sexual harassment?

Yes, California law allows employees who have suffered from sexual harassment to seek financial compensation for various damages, including emotional distress, loss of wages, and attorney fees. It is crucial to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to understand the compensation you may be entitled to in your specific case.

Is there a time limit to file a discrimination or harassment lawsuit?

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the last act of harassment or discrimination. However, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to understand your legal options and the applicable deadlines in your case.

Whistleblower Protections

What is a whistleblower and what protections do they have in California?

A whistleblower is an employee who reports illegal activities, fraud, or wrongdoing in their workplace. California provides robust protections for whistleblowers under various state laws, including the California Whistleblower Protection Act, the False Claims Act, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. These protections ensure that employees cannot be retaliated against, such as termination, demotion, or harassment, for reporting violations of the law or engaging in protected activities.

What should I do if I witness illegal activities or wrongdoing in my workplace?

If you become aware of any illegal activities or wrongdoing in your workplace, it is generally advised to document the details and gather any evidence that can support your claims. Report any issues to your supervisors, management, and/or Human Resources department. If they fail to act or retaliate against you, contact us or other employment attorneys to discuss your rights.

What protections do I have against retaliation as a whistleblower?

California law provides strong protections for whistleblowers against retaliation. If you experience any adverse actions such as termination, demotion, pay cuts, or harassment due to your protected activities, you have the right to take legal action against your employer. Compensation for damages, reinstatement, and attorney’s fees are some of the potential remedies available under whistleblower protection laws. It’s essential to promptly consult with an employment attorney if you believe you have faced retaliation for blowing the whistle.


Disability Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities

What are the rights of employees with disabilities in California?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers of five or more employees have to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with a physical or mental disability. These individuals have to be able to apply for jobs, or if they are already employees, to be able to perform the crucial parts of their jobs unless it would cause an undue hardship to the employer.

Employers have to initiate an “interactive process” when an applicant or employee requests reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodation can include changing work schedules or job duties, Relocating the work area, as well as providing leave for medical care. Employees with disabilities may have separate rights to unpaid leave under the California Family Rights Act or the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

What is the interactive process, and what does it entail?

The interactive process refers to the dialogue between employers and employees with disabilities to identify potential accommodations that would enable the employee to perform essential job functions. This process requires both parties to engage in good-faith discussions, exchange information, and explore reasonable accommodation options. The goal is to find solutions that allow the employee to carry out their job duties effectively.

Can an employer deny an accommodation request?

An employer must engage in the interactive process and make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees with disabilities unless it would cause the employer undue hardship. Undue hardship generally means significant difficulty or expense. However, if an employer refuses an accommodation and fails to engage in the interactive process, it may be considered a violation of California law and potentially give rise to legal claims.

Read more here: Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities.

How long does the interactive process typically take?

The duration of the interactive process varies depending on the circumstances. Employers must initiate the interactive process promptly upon receiving a request for accommodation. While there is no fixed timeline, the interactive process should be completed within a reasonable period. This timeframe can be influenced by factors such as the complexity of the accommodation, the need for medical documentation, and the availability of both parties for discussions.

Family, Medical, and Pregnancy Leave

What is Family and Medical Leave (FML)?

FML refers to a protected leave of absence granted to eligible employees who need time off work due to their own serious health condition, the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill family member. FML allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period without the fear of losing their job.

Can my employer deny my request for FML?

An employer cannot deny your request for FML if you meet the eligibility requirements and have provided sufficient notice for the requested leave. However, employers may request medical certifications to support your request or inquire for additional information in certain situations.

Do I need to use all my vacation or sick leave before taking FML?

California law does not require employees to exhaust their vacation or sick leave before taking FML. However, your employer may have policies that mandate the use of paid time off concurrently with your FML. It is recommended to review your employer’s policies and consult an attorney to understand your rights.

Pregnancy Leave

What is pregnancy leave in California, and who is eligible?

Pregnancy leave in California is provided under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (“PDL”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Eligible employees under the FMLA, who have worked for at least 12 months and for a total of 1,250 hours in the previous year, can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. During this time, employees are entitled to continue their health benefits. Under California’s PDL, a pregnant employee is separately entitled to up to 4 months of protected leave.

Can I be fired for taking pregnancy leave?

No, California law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who take pregnancy leave. Retaliation may include termination, demotion, or any other adverse employment action due to an employee’s decision to take pregnancy leave. Employers are required to provide the same or an equivalent position upon the return from leave, ensuring that employees are not disadvantaged or treated unfairly due to their parental responsibilities.

What steps should I take if I experience retaliation for taking pregnancy leave?

If you face any retaliation for taking pregnancy leave, it is crucial to document all incidents, including dates, times, and individuals involved. You should report the situation to your supervisor or human resources department immediately. If the issue is not resolved internally, you may need to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or seek legal assistance to protect your rights.

Are there any additional protections for pregnant employees in California?

Yes, California provides additional protections for pregnant employees under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). These protections include the right to reasonable accommodations, such as modified work schedules, temporary transfers, or the provision of necessary equipment. Employers are obligated to engage in an interactive process with employees to determine appropriate accommodations that will ensure the health and well-being of the pregnant employee.

Reclaim Your Peace of Mind

How Can an Employment Retaliation Attorney Help?

If you want to significantly increase your chances of success, contacting a highly experienced attorney in employment discrimination cases is highly recommended. They have the experience to navigate complex Employment laws and legal processes, as well as vigorously advocate for your rights.

An employment retaliation attorney can determine whether you have a case and guide you on the most effective course of action.

Experienced attorneys at Waltman Employment Law excel at interpreting complex laws. We can provide clear explanations and guide your case to the best possible outcome. We can help fight against many abusive employment practices, including whistleblower retaliation, sexual harassment, disability discrimination, as well as family and pregnancy leave issues. If you have more questions, contact us today so we can discuss your case further.