Holding Your Employer Accountable

In California, employees have many rights in the workplace to protect them from the wrongful conduct of employers who may not have their best interests in mind. However, employment law is very complex, and workers often have many questions about the rights they may be able to assert. They might also wonder whether they have a viable claim. Here are some of the most frequently asked employment law questions raised by employees.     

How much does it cost to hire you?

There are no upfront costs to hire us. The way we get paid is by receiving a percentage of the award or settlement we win for you—called a contingent fee. We bear the upfront costs of litigation and take the financial risks of handling a lawsuit. That is why we only take cases we feel confident in winning. If a settlement offer is made, we will break down the amount so you know how much will be taken out for attorneys' fees and litigation costs, so you know how much money will be going in your pocket. At that point, the decision to settle or not and how much to settle for is entirely up to you, based on our feedback and on your personal, emotional, and financial situation.

We structure our representation this way to help provide you the best service. By working for a contingent fee, we align our interests with yours and create a strong incentive to work our hardest for you. Additionally, many of our clients would not be able to afford all of the expensive attorney fees and litigation costs up-front. To relieve this burden, we take care of the costs and bear the majority of the risk.

What does the process involve?

The first step is as simple as picking up your phone to call us. We will analyze your case to determine if we are a good match for you. If so, we will invite you to become a client—with no upfront costs to you. We will then proceed to communicate with your employer (or former employer) to secure your rights. In many cases, this might require initiating a lawsuit. If it becomes necessary to initiate a lawsuit, we will follow all necessary procedures to complete that lawsuit—whether through trial or through a settlement. Most cases settle before trial.

How do I know if I have been discriminated against in the workplace?

Workplace discrimination can take many forms — and it is not always obvious. But if you are in a legally protected class and have been treated differently from other employees, you may have been subjected to discrimination. Common examples of discrimination include refusal to hire or promote, wrongful termination, exclusion from training, demotion, harassment, or other adverse employment actions.

What constitutes a “hostile” working environment?

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees from hostile and abusive working environments. Under California law, a hostile working environment is defined as one in which harassment is so pervasive and severe that it distracts the victim from performing the duties of their job. Harassment in a hostile working environment can be based on gender, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or any other protected class.

What is “at-will” employment?

California is an “at-will” employment state. This means that the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, as long as it’s not discriminatory or retaliatory. Similarly, an employee can quit at any time absent a contractual obligation indicating otherwise.

How do I know if I’m an “exempt” employee?

It’s important to understand whether you are an “exempt” or “non-exempt” employee. It’s not uncommon for employers to misclassify employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime or employment-related taxes. However, there are specific criteria to determine whether an employee should be classified as exempt. Workers who fall within this category include independent contractors (those who work for themselves), many employed in white-collar or administrative jobs, and other professions specified under California law.

Is it legal for my employer to make me work while I’m on a meal break?

Under California law, employers must provide a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break to non-exempt employees for every five hours worked. The meal break may be waived on mutual consent if no more than six hours are worked in a day. It’s essential to be aware that during a meal break or a rest break, an employer must relieve the employee of all duties and may not request that they perform any job-related tasks or be on call.

Who is entitled to a reasonable accommodation?

If you work for an employer with five or more employees and you have a physical or mental disability, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers are not required to offer a reasonable accommodation if it would cause them to suffer an undue hardship.

What is “retaliation,” and how do I know if my employer retaliated against me?

Retaliation in the workplace occurs when an employer effectively punishes an employee for reporting an employment violation such as discrimination or harassment, or engaging in other protected activity. Retaliation can take many forms, including demotion, firing, reassignment, shift or pay reduction, or any other adverse employment action.

How long do I have to file an employment lawsuit in California?

The amount of time you have to file an employment lawsuit in California can vary based on the type of claim you will be filing — it’s vital to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to learn which statutes of limitation may be applicable in your case. 

Are California employment lawsuits brought under state or federal law?

Both California state law and federal law offer protection to employees. Most of the time, California employment laws offer more protection and are more favorable to employees than federal employment laws. However, there are situations in which we may need to bring your claims under federal law.

When is an employer required to pay overtime in California?

Under California law, employers are required to pay overtime at one and a half times an employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 40 in a week, and for the first 8 hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. An employer must pay an employee double time for all hours worked beyond 12 in a day and for all hours worked beyond 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Contact an Experienced California Employment Law Attorney

While there are some common types of employment law violations, the facts and circumstances surrounding every claim are unique. A knowledgeable employment law attorney can answer your questions and advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies. Optimum Employment Lawyers offers responsive legal services and skilled advocacy for workers who have been discriminated against, harassed, or treated unfairly in the workplace. Contact us at (949) 954-8181 to schedule a consultation.