Knisbacher Law Office – San Francisco Bay Area Employment Law – Legal Issues at Work

Some Important Employment Laws

California and federal law protect employees from certain conduct, and give employees various rights.  Below is a general outline of some laws that protect employees at work.  Employment law is complicated, and depends on the specific facts of each individual case.  You should consult with an attorney to determine whether you were treated illegally.

Wrongful Termination
Employers are prohibited by law from firing employees who have complained about not being treated legally.  An employee, who is fired for complaining about illegal practices or for exercising a legal right, is said to have been fired “in violation of public policy.”  An employer is not allowed to fire an employee for actions which are legally protected such as,

  1. Complaints about illegal activities at the workplace.

  2. Complaints about discrimination at work.

  3. Complaints about being sexually harassed.

  4. Complaints about not being properly paid.

  5. Requests for accommodation for a physical or mental disability.

  6. Taking family/medical leave.

  7. Filing a workers compensation claim.

  8. Complaining to a state or federal agency about an employer’s illegal acts.

  9. Refusing to commit illegal acts.

Employers are required by law to create a workplace that allows employees to work without illegal interference from their co-workers or from their bosses.   Taunting, race-baiting, name-calling, use of offensive words, is usually prohibited by law.  The employer is required to monitor the workplace and make sure that its employees do not pick on certain employees based on their sex, their age, their race, their disability, or their sexual orientation. 

Sexual Harassment
The law protects your right to go to work, and be free from comments based on your sex, be free from co-workers or bosses making suggestive comments or unwanted jokes, or looking at your body, or requiring that you engage in sexual activity.  The law protects men and women equally.   The Supreme Court recently ruled that men who were “horsing around” with other men, by making sexually suggestive comments, etc. could also be sued for sexual harassment.

Harassment Based on Age, Disability, Race, Sexual Orientation
It is also illegal for employers to allow employees to use racial slurs, make racial jokes, or to make jokes or comments about people’s disabilities, age, or sexual orientation.  

California employers who employ more than 5 people are required to treat all employees equally regardless of the employee’s race, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability.   This means that when an employer hires, disciplines and fires employees, the employer must use “neutral criteria” that are not based on protected characteristics such as employees’ race, age, or disability.

Employers are also not allowed to discriminate in the rate of pay, the types of jobs, promotions or benefits given employees.