Employment Law Litigation: Protecting Your Rights in the Workplace

Legal protections for workers are relatively few, especially when you consider the high aspirations that the labor movement had several days ago. Yes, there are workplace safety laws, as well as restrictions on the number of hours that teens under the age of 18 can work. Most employees work on an at-will basis, which means that their employers can fire them on short notice for almost any reason. If your workplace has a paid family leave policy, you are one of the lucky few because federal law does not require it. Lawmakers in California have successfully pushed for some worker protections that other states do not have, but conflicts can still arise over rights that the law unambiguously grants to workers, even though the employers fail to respect those rights. If your employer has treated you unfairly or has not paid you the money that you have legally earned, contact a Whittier employment lawyer.

What You Need to Know About Employment Law Litigation

Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay

At $16 per hour, California has one of the highest statewide minimum wages in the country.  Many workers in California are entitled to an even higher minimum wage, though.  In Los Angeles County, the minimum wage is $16.90 per hour, and some other counties and cities have an even higher minimum wage.  As of January 1, 2024, all California workers who work in healthcare or work for a fast-food chain restaurant with 60 or more locations are entitled to be paid at least $20 per hour.

Hourly workers who work more than 40 hours in a single week are entitled to overtime pay, which is 1.5 times their usual hourly wage, for every hour they work in the week beyond the 40th.  Several categories of workers are not entitled to receive the overtime rate, such as managers and temporary seasonal workers. Independent contractors, who receive a 1099 tax form instead of a W-2, also do not get overtime pay. This means that whenever they think they can get away with it, employers misclassify workers as managers or as independent contractors.

Protected Characteristics and Employment Discrimination

Employment discrimination is when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee because of a protected characteristic.  The following are examples of adverse actions:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Hostile work environment, meaning harassment and bullying
  • Reassignment of job duties, work location, or work schedule when not requested by the employee
  • Reduction in hours or pay when not requested by the employee
  • Denial of promotions or raises for which the employee is eligible
  • Termination of employment

A protected characteristic is a stable personal characteristic of the employee. Examples of protected characteristics include race, sex, religion, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, history of military service, and whether or not you have children.

Protected Activities and Employer Retaliation

It is acceptable for employers to take adverse actions against employees because of misconduct or poor job performance, but not because of protected characteristics because to do so would be discrimination. Likewise, employers do not have the right to take adverse actions against employees in response to the employee engaging in a protected activity. To engage in a protected activity is simply to exercise the legal rights afforded to workers. These are some examples of protected activities:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim about a work injury or occupational disease
  • Taking a leave of absence from work for medical or family caregiving reasons, pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Reporting dangerous conditions and safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Reporting employment discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Requesting accommodations for a documented disability
  • Reporting misconduct by your work supervisors to regulatory authorities or law enforcement
  • Cooperating with a civil or criminal investigation into alleged misconduct at your workplace

When an employer takes an adverse action against an employee because of a protected activity by the employee, this is employer retaliation.

If you are filing a claim about discrimination or employer retaliation, you must prove that your protected characteristic or protected activity was the employer’s motivation for taking the adverse action.  This requires careful record keeping and a sound strategy.  It is never too soon to contact an employment lawyer if your employer is treating you unfairly.

Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum About Employment Cases

A criminal defense attorney can help you follow the legal procedures to protect yourself against employment discrimination and employer retaliation.  Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates APLC in Whittier, California, to set up a consultation.




A Whittier employment lawyer can help you resolve disputes with employers over fair pay, discrimination, or employer retaliation.