Updated June 15, 2020
Top California labor law attorneys working for you
The California employment law attorneys at Shouse Law Group help employees pursue their rights in court. We know the ins and outs of California employment litigation–from settlement negotiations to arbitration agreements and proceedings to jury trials.
Our labor and employment law firm has locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley.
Fighting for employees’ rights
Employment disputes are almost always David vs. Goliath.
Employees are individuals who, more often that not, depend on their jobs for their livelihood. Employers are often corporations or other businesses with ample resources at their disposal.
Many California employment law firms focus on representing employers who can pay large fees up front. These firms’ “legal strategies” may consist of trying to intimidate an employee who dares to assert his/her rights until s/he goes away.
That’s where we come in. The California labor and employment law attorneys at Shouse Law Group focus on employees–the “little guy.”
We know that California employment law has plenty of provisions protecting employee rights–something your employer may not want you to know. And we know the best way to use the legal system to YOUR advantage.
Types of employment cases we handle
The employment law attorneys at Shouse Law Group help employees and plaintiffs in all areas of California labor and employment law, including:
California wrongful termination
California wrongful termination law provides remedies to employees who lose their jobs for the wrong reasons.
Most California employees are at-will employees, which means their employer can terminate their employment at any time for almost any reason.
But there are exceptions to at-will employment in California law. If your employer fires you in violation of an implied contract or in violation of public policy, you may have the right to compensation.
California employees also have the right to be free from wrongful termination (or wrongful failure to promote)
- in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act,
- as a form of whistleblower retaliation,
- in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower protections,
- because of the employees’ political speech or activities outside of work, or
- as retaliation for a qui tam lawsuit
You may also be entitled to receive back pay and benefits under the California WARN Act if your lose your job as part of a mass layoff or business closure/relocation with less than 60 days’ notice.
Also, several California wrongful termination laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees through adverse employment actions other than termination.
California wage and hour law
California wage and hour law sets minimum standards for
- Minimum employee pay,
- Required employee breaks, and
- Hours and overtime.
All California employers must abide by minimum wage laws and provide employees with stipulated meal breaks and rest breaks.
They must also pay overtime (time and a half) to non-exempt employees who work more than eight (8) hours in a day or forty (40) hours in a week. Learn more about suing for overtime pay.
California employers sometimes try to get out of their wage and hour obligations by misclassifying non-exempt employees as exempt (i.e., classifying hourly employees as salaried). California employers may also misclassify employees as independent contractors to get around wage and hour laws.
Requiring “work off the clock” is another common source of wage/hour violations.
If you have been subjected to wage/hour violations by your employer, our California wage and hour law attorneys can help you file a claim to get the compensation you are entitled to.
It is also important to remember that your employer may NOT retaliate against you for bringing a wage and hour complaint or other labor complaints.
California workplace harassment
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from harassment in the workplace. Our California harassment lawyers are experienced with the complex legal definition of workplace harassment.
- race or ethnicity,
- national origin,
- sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,
- age, and
Nother common illegal practice is immigration retaliation – where an employer threatens to have non-citizen workers deported if they speak out about labor violations.
The California harassment attorneys at Shouse Law Group can advise you on the best course of action if you experience harassment at work.
For most employees experiencing harassment, the first step is to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Then you may file a lawsuit against your harasser and/or your employer once the DFEH issues you a “right to sue” notice.
California employment discrimination
California employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their
- race or ethnicity,
- national origin,
- sexual orientation,
- pregnancy, or
Like workplace harassment, employment discrimination is prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The difference between harassment and discrimination in California employment law is that harassment involves behavior by supervisors or coworkers that is outside of their job description–such as abusive remarks or sexual propositions.
Discrimination, on the other hand, involves normal job functions–such as hiring, firing, and setting work conditions–that are conducted in a discriminatory way.
The California employment discrimination lawyers at Shouse Law Group can help you navigate the process of filing a discrimination complaint with DFEH and–if it comes to that–filing a discrimination lawsuit against your employer.
California employers are not permitted to retaliate against an employee who takes action in response to harassment or discrimination at work.
California family and medical leave laws
California employees have the right to various forms of protected family and medical leave under laws that include
- the California Family Rights Act (CFRA),
- the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),
- the New Parent Leave Act, and
- Pregnancy Disability Leave under the (CPDA).
The CFRA and the FMLA give employees the right to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn biological child, a newly adopted child, a seriously ill family member or a serious illness of their own. These family and medical leave laws only apply if:
- You have worked for your employer for at least (1) year;
- You have worked for that employer for at least 1,250 hours in the past year; and
- Your employer has at least fifty (50) employees working within seventy-five (75) miles of your work site.
If you give birth to a baby yourself, you are also eligible for leave under the CPDA. This law provides an additional leave of up to four (4) months for periods when you are incapacitated due to pregnancy or childbirth.
California employment law also requires employers to provide other forms of employee leave, including
- paid sick leave (some of which may be used to care for an ill family member),
- alcohol and drug rehabilitation leave,
- voting leave,
- leave to serve on a jury or comply with a subpoena,
- leave to obtain or attempt to obtain relief from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking,
- leave for victims of crime,
- leave to participate in children’s school activities,
- leave to receive literacy education, and
- bereavement leave (when offered by company policy).
California employers may NOT retaliate against employees who take the family, medical or other protected leave that is provided by law. And in most cases they are required to reinstate you in your previous position when you return from leave.
Our California employment attorneys are up to date on the latest developments in the complex, emerging field of employee privacy rights.
Some of the major topics in California employee privacy law include:
- Whether employers may videotape employees (this is generally okay in public areas of the workplace but not in restrooms, locker rooms or similar private areas).
- Whether employers may monitor employees’ internet usage.
- Whether employers can ask about job applicants’ criminal records (so-called “ban the box” laws).
- Whether and how an employer can use an employee’s medical records and history.
- Drug tests for employees (generally speaking, employers may require drug test for job applicants but not for employees, unless they are working in safety-sensitive positions or the employer has reason to suspect drug use).
- Whether an employer can check your credit rating.
- An employer’s use and protection of your Social Security Number.
- An employee’s right to make video recordings of occurrences in the workplace.
The labor and employment law attorneys at Shouse Law Group are committed to helping employees explore their rights to privacy vis-a-vis their employers–and enforce these rights through the legal process when necessary.
If you are a California employee who has signed an employment contract with your employer, odds are that the employer drafted the contract–and, in your excitement about starting a new job, you may not have had the time or inclination to read it carefully.
But it is important to be able to spot situations in which your employer may have breached your employment contract–such as in matters of termination, employee discipline, working conditions, job expectations, or failure to pay hazard duty pay. You have the right to take action in that situation.
Our California employment lawyers are experienced in reading and interpreting employment contracts and advising employees on how best to protect their rights under these contracts
California employees also need to be aware of clauses in their employment contracts that restrict their behavior. For example, your contract may contain:
- A non-compete clause, which prohibits you from leaving your employer to work at a competing company or start your own competing business; or
- An IP ownership clause stating that your employer owns the intellectual property (patent or copyright) to any innovations or inventions you create while working for the employer.
If you need to know whether or under what circumstances clauses like this in your employment contract may be enforced, our California employment contract attorneys can help.
California employment law and immigration
It is a sad fact that California employers sometimes take advantage of immigrant employees (both those who are here legally and those who are undocumented).
But California labor laws, including wage/hour laws and laws against harassment and discrimination, apply to ALL employees–even those who are undocumented immigrants. “Immigration retaliation” is illegal and subjects a company to significant penalties.
And if you are in the United States on a visa sponsored by your employer–such as an H-1B visa for work in California–you may also feel uncertain about asserting your rights. You may feel that you “owe” your employer for the favor of sponsoring you, or worry that your employer will not help you renew your visa if you are vocal about your rights.
But H-1B visa holders are protected by the same labor protections as any other California employee, as well as by numerous other rules and regulations surrounding the visa program. Your employer knows this–and knows that s/he needs to abide by the law if s/he wants to continue hiring H-1B workers.
The bottom line–which our California employment lawyers try to convey to our clients–is that immigrant employees enjoy the same rights as other employees in California.
Employment litigation in California
Embarking on a lawsuit–or even threatening a lawsuit–against an employer can be terrifying. Many California employees feel that their job is their home and their coworkers are their families. You also may worry that you will not be able to find a new job if you assert your rights against your current or a former employer.
The California employment law attorneys at Shouse Law Group are here to help. We are familiar with the processes and procedures for employment litigation in California, including statutes of limitations for different kinds of employment lawsuits.
We can also assist you in filing complaints with administrative agencies such as
- the California Labor Commissioner,
- the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing,
- the United States Department of Labor, and
- the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
We can also guide you through arbitration of your employment dispute–something that may be required by your employment contract or may be preferable for you for a number of reasons.
Can I sue my employer and still work there?
Yes. And employers generally may not fire workers in retaliation. But before suing, employees are advised to consult with a California labor attorney.
In most cases, employees should try to exhaust all other options before filing a lawsuit. These may include speaking with management and HR and filing a claim with the EEOC or DFEH.
Employees should also arm themselves with evidence of their mistreatment. These could comprise emails, text messages, and contact information of potential witnesses.
How long do I have to sue my employer in California?
It depends on the claim. And there may be exceptions depending on the case. In general, the statutes of limitations are as follows:
Statute of limitations to sue
|Harassment, discrimination, or retaliation||1 year after the DFEH or EEOC gives the employee a “right to sue” notice|
|Breach of oral contract||2 years after the breach|
|Failure to pay wages||3 years after non-payment|
|Breach of written contract||4 years after the breach|
Can I get fired based on my appearance?
It depends. FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on appearance-based characteristics such as race (including hairstyles), color, disability, sex, or age. In addition, various California counties have ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination based on other factors, such as weight and height.
Companies can impose dress code and grooming standards as long as they are consistent. But if an employee’s tattoo or piercing represents his/her religious beliefs, FEHA arguably should protect the employee from being fired over it.
How soon does my employer have to pay me if I get laid off or fired? Can I get severance?
California employers must pay laid-off or fired employees on their last day of work. (Learn more about final paycheck laws.)
If workers quit without giving notice, the employer has 72 hours to pay. If workers quit with three days notice, then employers should pay on their last day of work.
Employers are not obligated to pay severance. Unless they agreed to do so in a contract or union agreement.
Do employers have to notify me before laying me off?
Prior to March 4, 2020, the WARN Act required certain businesses to provide employees 60 days of notice before mass layoffs. But these rules are relaxed during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, businesses affected by coronavirus just need to give as much notice as practicable.
Do I need an employment lawyer?
Businesses have one objective. To make the most money while paying out as little as possible. So employees are at a constant disadvantage.
Experienced labor attorneys help even the playing field. They fight for employees’ rights and best interests. Otherwise, wronged employees risk getting shortchanged financially.
Contact us for a free consultation
We start every case the same way: by listening. Our California labor and employment attorneys know that every employment case is different. We want to hear your full story so that we can determine the best legal strategy for you.
Call us today or use the form on this page to schedule a free consultation.
Work in Nevada? See our article on our Nevada employment law attorneys.