San Diego and by extension California have some of the most employee-friendly labor laws in the country. That’s good to know if you’re having problems in your workplace. However, if you want to stop the behavior or environment that’s impacting your emotional and physical well-being, you must take action. That’s because in most cases, it won’t suddenly stop on its own.
The San Diego employment lawyers at The Dominguez Firm have over 30 years of experience dealing with all types of legal labor problems. We’ve successfully helped clients with their sexual harassment, wage and hour, and retaliation cases, just to name a few. Below we’ll outline what your rights are and how to proceed if they’re being violated on the job.
If you’re having problems at work, contact The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 for a free consultation today.
How Does Labor Law Define Sexual Harassment?
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment.” This covers any type of sexual harassment regardless of gender.
The law doesn’t differentiate as to the sex of the victim or the perpetrator. It also doesn’t have to be a supervisor. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by a colleague, freelancer or even an outside vendor.
Some examples of San Diego workplace sexual harassment are:
- Making inappropriate suggestions, jokes or comments of a sexual nature
- Repeatedly asking an employee out on a date
- Offering a positive work action in return for sexual favors
- Threatening an employee with negative work actions if they don’t comply with a request for sexual favors
- Being fired for reporting sexual harassment
- Unwanted touching of any part of the body
- Watching or posting pornographic images or videos in the workplace
Note that you do not have to be the direct target of the sexual harassment to file a claim. For instance, if you are working in a space where pornography or explicit photos are freely shared or displayed, you would have a sexual harassment claim due to a hostile work environment. This is one of the most common types of sexual harassment claims even though it doesn’t usually involve physical touching. A hostile work environment occurs when the offending behavior is so severe and widespread that it interferes with an employee’s ability to work.
Now that you have a definition and examples of what sexual harassment is, here’s how to proceed:
Report it – You should report it to your San Diego employer’s human resources department immediately and in writing. If your employer doesn’t have an HR department, report it to a superior you trust. Again, make sure you do so in writing. California mandates that employers with 5 or more employees must have a written anti-harassment policy. It should outline how to report workplace sexual harassment.
Keep all evidence – As upsetting as the behavior you’ve been subjected to might be, keep all offensive notes, images, texts, emails or any other evidence of the harassment. Also, save records of your complaint and all correspondence with your employer.
Give your employer a chance to resolve the issue – Before you can take legal action, you need to let your employer investigate the problem and try to resolve it. They are legally obligated to do so.
If your employer fails to resolve the problem or worse, takes a negative action against you like cutting your hours or firing you, you should then take the following steps.
Hire the San Diego employment lawyers at The Dominguez Firm – Our employment attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully handling sexual harassment cases. If your employer refuses to correct the problem, we can assist you in taking legal action against them.
File a complaint with the EEOC or the DFEH – Our employment lawyers will advise you regarding how to proceed and work on presenting your sexual harassment case in the strongest way possible. We will also assist you with filing a complaint with the EEOC or DFEH (The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing).
You must start the process as soon as possible. Unfair as it may sound, waiting will be used against you and could weaken your employment case.
I Was Fired For Reporting Unsafe Work Conditions. Can the San Diego Employment Attorneys at The Dominguez Firm Help Me?
If you were fired after reporting unsafe conditions at your job, you would have two possible lawsuits; one for wrongful termination and another one for retaliation. Other examples of employer retaliation include being fired for:
- Filing a sexual harassment claim
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Reporting an employer’s illegal or unsafe work conditions (whistleblower)
- Filing a wage and hour claim
- Needing to take family or health leave
Sometimes a San Diego employer won’t retaliate by firing the employee, but they will take other negative actions against them. For example, an employee may suddenly be given the overnight shift or transferred to a location that requires a much longer commute.
How Long Do I Have to File My San Diego Employment Law Case?
The time limit you have for filing your labor case is legally known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of employment case you have.
Generally speaking, you have three years to obtain a Right to Sue letter from the DFEH and then one more year to file a lawsuit for discrimination. Discrimination can be defined as any of the following:
- Being discriminated against at work for being part of a protected labor class
- Experiencing workplace sexual harassment
- Being wrongfully terminated for discriminatory reasons
If you were fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you have two years from the date of the incident to file your case.
In response to the #MeToo movement, the statute of limitations for filing a work discrimination lawsuit in California was extended from one year to three in 2020. While this was welcome news, it doesn’t mean you should delay filing your claim.
At The Dominguez Firm, we understand that some victims of discrimination, especially sexual discrimination fear coming forward. Nonetheless, delaying justice will not just extend your suffering, it could considerably weaken your case. There are several reasons for this:
The process can involve multiple deadlines – Labor claims can mean a lot of red tape, which take time to sort out. Waiting can cause you to miss important deadlines and jeopardize your case.
Key evidence can disappear – The longer you wait to file your labor claim, the more likely there will be personnel changes, including in HR. Files and other vital evidence can also be lost if you wait weeks or months to file your lawsuit.
You could lose contact with important witnesses – Even if you can still reach key witnesses, defense attorneys will question their and your recollection of events if two to three years have passed.
As you can see, employment law deadlines and procedures aren’t always the same. Our lawyers will guide you through the process and work to get you the compensation you’re entitled to for your labor complaint.
Should I Try to Resolve My Work Problem Through My Employer’s HR Department or Hire a Lawyer?
As previously noted, you need to give your employer a chance to remedy your employment law problem. If you have done so and been given an unsatisfactory response or worse, been ignored, then you should certainly seek out an attorney who specializes in employment law.
Do this even if your Human Resources department discourages you from doing so. Remember, Human Resources employees work for your employer, not you. They have the best interests of the company in mind above all else.
If you go through the complaint process by yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll be facing your employer’s lawyers in a deposition or hearing. Is that a scenario you want to confront? Probably not unless you’re trained in negotiating and presenting evidence. Let the employment lawyers at The Dominguez Firm handle your employment law case for you. Our attorneys will fight for your rights and the maximum compensation you’re entitled to.
I Was Fired so My Boss Could Hire a Family Member. Can a San Diego Employment Lawyer Help Me?
It depends on the circumstances. California is an at-will state. That means your employer can let you go for any reason and without giving you any warning. This works both ways. You can also quit without giving any notice. However, California does allow for some important exceptions to firing employees at will. Some of the most significant are being fired for:
- Being part of a protected class
- Reporting unsafe or illegal workplace conditions
- Needing to take family or medical leave
- Reporting sexual harassment
If you were fired to make room for a supervisor’s relative, you probably wouldn’t have any legal recourse unless you were one of the exceptions outlined above. The same holds true for layoffs. Normally, you can’t sue your employer if you were laid off along with other employees. But if all of the employees laid off were Latina women, for example, there are very likely grounds for wrongful termination lawsuits.
Which Employees Are Considered Part of a Protected Class Under Federal and San Diego, CA Employment Law?
According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA), your employer can’t discriminate against employees who share a characteristic as outlined below. That discrimination includes being fired solely for belonging to one of these protected classes:
- Age 40+
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity and/or expression
- Marital status
- Political activities
- Medical condition
- Mental or physical disability
- Being the victim of domestic violence or stalking
- National origin
- Needing to take family leave
California’s protections are even broader than those outlined by the federal government. If you don’t see your situation outlined here it doesn’t mean you aren’t protected under California law. Speak to one of our San Diego employment lawyers for a free consultation.
How Do I Pay the Employment Lawyers at The Dominguez Firm?
Our lawyers work on a contingency basis. That means we get paid from a fixed percentage of your final settlement or verdict. That percentage will be clearly outlined in the client representation agreement you sign with us. You don’t have to deal with any out-of-pocket expenses whatsoever. That includes upfront fees and legal retainers.
When J.J. Dominguez founded The Dominguez Firm over 30 years ago, his goal was to provide quality legal representation for all employees who have had their labor rights violated. By working on a contingency basis, The Dominguez Firm ensures these workers can hire a lawyer without worrying about the expense. And in the rare event we can’t secure any compensation for you, you owe us nothing.
The San Diego, CA Employment Attorneys at The Dominguez Firm Can Help
You don’t have to suffer in silence at your job in San Diego. As a California employee you have more labor rights than employees in most other states. But to obtain justice and the best compensation possible, you need to take action.
The top-rated attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are ready to fight for your right to a safe, welcoming workplace. Our lawyers have been recognized numerous times for their outstanding work in the area of employment law. Plus, we are a real law office with real lawyers, not a referral service. Call The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation today at 800-818-1818.
Serving employees in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and all of Southern California for over 30 years.