Employment law issues run the complete range from discrimination and harassment at a job to unsafe conditions – but one thing remains the same: If your employer is violating a law, you have legal recourse. Here’s a look at some common employment law issues and what to do about them.
7 Common Employment Law Issues
Seven of the most common employment law issues involve things like:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act
- Minimum wage disputes
- Overtime disputes
- Salary misclassification
- Wrongful termination
Here’s a closer look at each.
Employment Law Issue #1: Discrimination
Discrimination is a significant problem in American workplaces. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen it – or worse, experienced it – yourself. Discrimination is unjust or prejudicial treatment against people who have certain characteristics. Workplace discrimination usually relates to:
Discrimination is nearly always against the law; the one exception is when something appears to be discrimination, but really isn’t. For example, an employer can require an employee to be under a certain age to model certain products (such as kids’ toys), require a new hire to be a woman to work in a certain environment (such as a women’s shelter), or require a person to belong to a specific religion (such as a Baptist preschool hiring a religious teacher).
Related: Age discrimination in the workplace
Employment Law Issue #2: Harassment
Harassment is often illegal – not just under California law, but under federal law as well. The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, prohibits harassment based on:
- Gender expression
- Gender identity
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Medical condition
- Mental disability
- Military or veteran status
- National origin
- Physical disability
- Religious creed
- Sexual orientation
There are two main types of harassment that occur in American workplaces: hostile work environment harassment, which involves harassment so severe or pervasive that it creates hostile working conditions, and quid pro quo sexual harassment, which generally involves the trading of sexual or romantic favors for favorable conditions at work.
Related: Quid pro quo harassment examples
Employment Law Issue #3: The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a form of worker protection that gives certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. This leave can be used for things such as:
- The birth and care of a newborn child
- Placement of a child for adoption or foster care
- Caring for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition
- Inability to work due to a serious health condition
Employment Law Issue #4: Minimum Wage Disputes
Minimum wage disputes are some of the most common employment law issues in the state of California. Our minimum wage is much higher than the federal minimum wage, and when a state law provides more worker protections than a federal law does, employers must adhere to those standards. Your employer is required to pay you at least the state’s minimum wage, and it cannot deduct operating expenses from your wages (like the cost of uniforms, cash register shortages, or spills and breakage). Your employer also cannot force you to work for tips without paying you other wages.
Related: California’s minimum wage
Employment Law Issue #5: Overtime Disputes
In California, your employer is required to pay you overtime if you work over a certain number of hours in a day or week. The rules are as follows:
|Hours Worked||Pay Rate|
|8 or more in one day||1.5 times your hourly rate|
|40 or more in one workweek||1.5 times your hourly rate|
|7th consecutive day in one workweek||1.5 times your hourly rate|
|12 or more per day||2 times your hourly rate|
|Over 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day in a workweek||2 times your hourly rate|
Employment Law Issue #6: Salary Misclassification
Salary misclassification occurs when an employer says a worker is exempt from overtime when the opposite is true. Sometimes employers do this to avoid paying workers what they should; in rare cases, it’s a simple and honest mistake. However, most employers understand California’s wage and hour laws.
Usually, the only exempt employees are contractors. Check out the table below to see the differences between contractors and employees.
|Can work for more than one company at a time||Typically only works for one employer|
|Sets own hours||Works at times and for durations set by the employer|
|Works from any location||Generally works in the employer’s place of business|
|Does not receive employment benefits, such as health insurance, sick pay or overtime pay||Is eligible for employment benefits, such as health insurance, sick pay and overtime pay|
|Works independently often or most of the time||Works under the employer’s control|
|Can perform tasks in any manner, without the employer’s input or direction||Is subject to the employer’s guidelines on performing tasks|
|Bears costs associated with performing the job||Does not incur costs or make personal investments associated with performing the job|
|Pays own taxes; employer does not withhold taxes||Employer withholds taxes and provides employee with a net salary|
|Cannot claim unemployment compensation benefits||Is generally eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if terminated or laid off|
|Cannot claim worker’s compensation benefits||Can claim worker’s compensation benefits|
|Can be “let go” without reason or notice||Can usually only be terminated for good cause and with notice, unless employment is of another nature|
|Receives pay according to a contract’s terms and conditions||Receives at least federal or state minimum wage, and is covered by employment laws like overtime pay|
|Is not typically protected by employment laws involving discrimination or workplace safety||Is protected by employment laws involving discrimination and workplace safety laws|
Employment Law Issue #7: Wrongful Termination
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires or lays off someone for the wrong reasons. For example, you can be fired or “let go” for a series of bad performance reviews, showing up late or even calling in sick – but you can’t be fired because of your:
- Sexual orientation
Your employer also can’t fire you because you’re a whistleblower, you’re working with prosecutors or you’re a victim of sexual harassment. It can’t fire you for refusing to commit a criminal act, taking time off to vote or serve on a jury, to participate in military service, or for claiming your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, either.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Any of These Employment Law Issues?
If you’re experiencing any of these employment law issues, we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below now. We’ll ask you some questions, answer your questions, and tell you about possible legal actions you may be able to take.