Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination

To “discriminate” against someone means to treat that person (or group) differently, or less favorably, for some reason. In the workplace, this means refusing to hire, employ, or select for training programs leading to employment; discharging (firing) from employment; or unequal pay or other conditions of employment, including discipline.

In California, employers may not discriminate based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity or expression, age (40 and older), sexual orientation, or military or veteran status, unless a permissible defense applies.

California employers have an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace discrimination.

Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment (quid pro quo harassment), or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive (hostile work environment harassment).

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.

Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim

California employers have an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace harassment.

Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation occurs when employers treat applicants, employees or former employees, or people closely associated with these individuals, less favorably for:

  • Complaining or reporting discrimination
  • Participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit (for example, serving as a witness)
  • Opposing discrimination (for example, threatening to file a charge or complaint of discrimination)

The retaliation generally takes the form of an adverse employment action, which can include discipline, termination, reduction of hours or barriers to advancement.

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination is a particular variety of discrimination that may occur when an employee has or is perceived to have a mental or physical disability.

A “physical disability” includes disfigurements or diseases that affect the body and limit major life activities. This includes:

  • Physiological disease
  • Disorder
  • Condition
  • Cosmetic disfigurement
  • Anatomical loss

Physical disabilities include permanent and temporary conditions, including:

  • Impaired eyesight
  • Impaired hearing
  • Impaired speech
  • Chronic diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Diabetes
  • Loss of a limb
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy and childbirth

Mental disabilities may include chronic diseases, such as:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Clinical depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Dementia
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Specific learning disabilities

When an employer learns or believes that an employee has a physical or mental disability, it is obligated to engage in an interactive process to determine if the employer can accommodate the disability. Employers are obligated to accommodate a disability, unless doing so will cause the employer to suffer undue hardship.

Examples of reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Restructuring the job
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Part-time scheduling
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Adjustments to training materials
  • Providing readers or interpreters
  • Modifying equipment
  • Modifying work policies
  • Allowing a service dog to support the employee

Wage and Hour Claims

California and federal wage and hour laws are intended to protect employees’ rights in the workplace. The main wage and hour laws relate to:

  • The obligation to pay employees the federal, state and, if applicable, local minimum wage for every hour worked
  • The obligation to pay employees overtime premium compensation for hours worked in excess of 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week
  • The obligation to provide employees with a paid 10-minute rest period for every 4 hours worked
  • The obligation to provide employees with at least a 30-minute unpaid meal period within the first 5 hours of the workday
  • The obligation to pay an employee who is terminated his/her full pay, including accrued vacation at time of termination
  • The obligation to pay an employee who quits with notice his/her full pay within 72-hours
  • The obligation to provide employees with an accurate pay stub that complies with the California Labor Code

Employees may bring claims for Wage and Hour Law violations before the California Labor Commissioner (the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)) or in an action in state court. Employees may also pursue Private Attorney General Actions (PAGA) to enforce certain labor laws on behalf all of the employers’ “aggrieved employees” exposed to the same violations.

Negotiating and Drafting Employment-Related Agreements

We represent both employees and employers in negotiating favorable employment agreements, retention agreements and severance agreements. We also negotiate and draft independent contractor agreements, nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, “love contracts,” consulting agreements and furlough arrangements.

Developing, Drafting and Implementing Workplace Policies

We work with employers to develop, draft and implement workplace policies and procedures that both comply with the law and make sense for their business and culture. We draft robust employee handbooks, which we update annually.

California Employment Law Advice & Counseling

We get to know our employer clients to understand their business, workforce and culture so that we can provide “best practices” employment law advice and counseling that is also pragmatic and fits our clients’ needs. Many of our employer clients do not have in-house Human Resources personnel. This is not a problem. We take the time to educate our clients on the HR role so they are not disadvantaged by the lack of an HR department. Where appropriate, we partner with outside Human Resources experts to provide economically sensible solutions, particularly for required sexual harassment prevention training, investigations and layoffs.

Defense of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Lawsuits

By virtue of our extensive experience with disability discrimination claims and lawsuits, we are also experienced in defending businesses that are sued for violating ADA laws. These include claims that disabled individuals encountered “barriers” to disabled access parking, entering and navigating businesses. Rapid, cost-effective resolution of these claims is critical.


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