What to do Before You Quit Your Job

labor law lawyer

Time to quit your job?

Not everyone likes their job. Maybe you dislike your boss or your co-workers. Or maybe you might feel like it is time to move on to a new career, or go back to school. There are many reasons people decide to quit their jobs. But before you give in and tell them you’re ready to go (or where you think they should go), stop!  Take a step back and evaluate your situation first. Labor law attorneys agree that a little forethought and planning will save plenty of headaches once you leave. Here are a few things to do before you head out the door for the last time:

Get a Plan Together

Labor law attorneys agree that ‘planning is everything’. Once you quit, there is usually no turning back, according to most employment attorneys. Before you quit your job, look into possible alternatives, such as moving to a different department, or to a different position within the company. These alternatives may provide a better option than just quitting.

Figure out Your Finances

One of the first things you should do before you quit your job is to figure how you plan to pay for all of your expenses. Nothing will ruin a person faster than not having enough money to cover bills and expenses. Nothing is more devastating than losing your place to live because you didn’t plan out how to pay rent before you quit. Because you took the step to quit your job, say labor law attorneys, unemployment is not an option.

Take the time to evaluate your expenses and how much you will earn after you leave your job. Make a budget, and reduce expenses if necessary. If you have substantial savings or a 401K, you may want to speak with a financial advisor to understand your options before you leave.

Update your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Before you decide it’s time for you to move on, you should make sure you look as good as possible to potential employers. Take the time to update your resume and your LinkedIn profile. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile yet, now is the best time to start one. You can mention your former job in your employment history. However, it’s generally not recommended to add them as a reference, since you took the step to leave. You may also want to consider the implications of leaving their contact details if you left suddenly.

Save your Work Samples and Remove Personal Goods

Before you leave your job, it’s a good idea to gather some of your work samples and examples of your good performance and work history at your current position. If you suddenly quit and walk off your job, they may not let you return to gather much other than personal belongings (if that). Anything to show how your skills and talents helped the company you left will likely be inaccessible.

So labor law attorneys agree that you should gather a few samples of your best work and accomplishments from your former position. Be careful, however, that you do not remove anything proprietary or confidential to the company. This could put you into legal hot water beyond what a labor law attorney may handle.

Leave With Grace and Dignity

One of the worst things you can do is to go out ‘in a blaze of glory’. Although you may have seen videos online of former employees burning their bosses as they step out the door, don’t follow their example.  Labor law attorneys agree this is one of the worst things you can do. Even if you think your boss or co-workers really deserve it, making a big deal of your exit from a company is never a good option.

You will certainly ‘burn your bridge’ of ever returning to the company again. But rumors do travel, even between companies. Especially if you make a big deal of your exit. The larger you make your exit, the more people who will see you as ‘that person who quit in a grandiose fashion’. You truly never know where you’ll see any of these people later in life. So employment attorneys always say that the best exit is the graceful one. Keeping your poise and grace intact is always the best option. Let your ‘burn’ be how great your life and career is after leaving your former job.

Get Labor Law Attorneys Involved if Foul Play is Involved

If you are thinking of quitting due to a harassing boss or co-worker, labor lawyers agree that may not be the best thing to do. Workplace harassment is still common, and should not be tolerated by anyone. It is best to contact a lawyer first, and follow through from there. If you feel like you are the subject of harassment in the workplace, you should definitely call an experienced labor law attorney. And the top California employment law attorney you should call is right here, at the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard. With Cathe’s knowledge and experience, her team of expert labor law attorneys can help you get the treatment you deserve.  This way, you won’t have to take the more difficult way out.

mini workers collecting upaid wages

What Does Wage Theft Mean? Are You A Victim of Wage Theft?

Have you ever heard of the term “wage theft”? Wage theft is when your employer doesn’t pay you what you deserve, effectively stealing your time from you. You’re suffering from wage theft if you’re earning less than minimum wage for your area. Employers also commit wage theft by forcing you to clock out early even though you’re still working. Finally, if your tips are taken, or you’re not allowed your rest breaks, you’ve been a victim of wage theft. If you think this happened to you, contact a California employee rights lawyer right away.

It can be a challenge getting these stolen wages back without a good labor attorney on your side. According to a UCLA study, In Los Angeles alone, workers lose $26.2 million. That’s a lot of money!

So Why is Wage Theft so Rampant?

You’ll find a lot of different reasons wage theft happens. Despite all of California’s strong labor laws, there isn’t a lot of enforcement when it comes to wage theft. The process for fighting wage theft can sometimes take long enough for the business to shut down or change ownership, leaving victims with nobody to collect damages from. The UCLA Labor Center went through wage claim info from 2008-2011. They found that most companies that had a ruling against them ultimately never pay back the wages. 83 percent of workers who have court-ordered claims to receive their unpaid wages never get them. Even with a labor attorney, it can be a frustrating path, and many workers don’t try to fight it. The workers most affected by wage theft are the most vulnerable. The people who need their job the most, and can’t afford to put it in danger are often too afraid to seek the justice they deserve.

Who Does Wage Theft Affect?

Workers suffering from wage theft aren’t the only people affected by it. While it’s true that wage theft can be back breaking for the worker and their family, consumers and taxpayers are affected by wage theft too. When a family can’t make ends meet because of wage theft, they have to turn to public assistance programs, and strain the system. And finally, when there’s less wages, there’s less taxes, which results in less money for important programs.

 

Consider the stories of the 11 workers at a bakery in West Los Angeles. These workers were paid only two dollars an hour for two years. Some of them were made to work 17 hours a day. There’s also the story of Heriberto Zamora. Zamora worked for Urasawa, a Beverly Hills sushi restaurant. Even though he was working 60 hours a week with 12-14-hour shifts, he wasn’t receiving overtime. Finally, after an eight-hour shift, he asked to go home because he was sick, and his boss fired him on the spot. Zamora won a judgment from the California Labor Commissioner that ordered his employer to pay more than $38,000, but they didn’t. It wasn’t until the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance went to bat for him that he finally got the money he was owed.

 

So, how do We Stop Wage Theft?

On the local level, When the Los Angeles City Council raised minimum wage to $15 per hour, they also voted to establish their Office of Wage Standards. The Office of Wage Standards enforces wage and hour violations. They’re not the only city that’s done this. Of the many cities in California that have raised their minimum wages, most of them have put wage theft enforcement offices in place as well.

In addition to these local steps, California passed SB 588 at the state level. SB 588 created new tools the California Labor Commissioner can use to collect for workers. These tools, and a strong labor attorney, greatly improve your chances of getting justice.

If you think you’ve been a victim of wage theft, or any other violation of labor law, The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard will fight for you. Call (310) 488-9020, email, or use our contact form to schedule your consultation today.

Are you Protected by New Rules About Non-Compete Agreements?

Did you sign a non-compete agreement when you were hired? You should probably have an employment lawyer verify if it actually applies or not. Lots of people think that the protections given by California Labor Code section 925 apply to everyone. However, section 925 went into effect January 1, 2017. Section 925 forbids employers requiring that Californian employees agree to “foreign choice-of-forum” and “choice-of-law” agreements as a condition of unemployment. Your California labor attorney should be familiar with the case law on this subject.

Why Did We Need This?

California’s Business and Professions Code section 16600 says that “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind is to that extent void.” They enacted this to make sure you can work in your profession, even when you stop working with a particular company.

Historically, California has usually enforced section 16600 very strongly. Employers from other states usually couldn’t get around the rule. Sometimes however, they used “choice-of-law” portions in their non-compete contracts.

A good example of a choice-of-law provisions failing is Arkley v. Aon Risk Services Companies, Inc. Aon Risk Services Companies, Inc. is an Illinois based company, and they made employees sign non-compete agreements with that choice-of-law provision. In Illinois, non-compete agreements are enforceable. The Central District of California however, found that California law should apply over Illinois law in the state of California. The reason for this was California’s “materially greater interest” to protect California residents with their own laws.

How Can Employers Get Around Section 16600?

There have been a few recent cases that got around these protections. An employment lawyer can tell you about cases like the one with Synthes, a medical device company. Synthes tried to enforce the non-compete agreement against Peter Harrison, a former employee living in California. Harrison signed an agreement that had both choice-of-law and choice-of venue provisions. When Harrison went to work with a competitor, he filed a declaratory judgment action in the Eastern District of California. Synthes followed up by filing a breach of contract claim in Pennsylvania courts.

The California Court Dismissed Harrison’s action in favor of the action Synthes filed. After appeal and remand, Harrison got an injunction from the Pennsylvania Trial Court.

Another case, also involving Synthes, played out in April of 2017. Another California employee, Gregory Knapp, went to work with a competitor in California. Even though he filed a declaratory judgment action right after resigning, the Eastern District didn’t exercise jurisdiction, and let the case be held in the Eastern district of Pennsylvania. The case transferred to the Eastern District of California, but the Pennsylvania choice-of-law rules still apply.

Enter California Labor Code Section 925

Because of this unfair “loophole” California is taking measures to close it. Because section 295 forbids employers from requiring employees who primarily live and work in California to agree on foreign choice-of-forum and choice-of-law provisions, it deems these kinds of provisions voidable by the employee. Section 925 also provides for the fees of hiring an employment lawyer to enforce your rights under this statute.

So, Am I Safe?

Because section 925 only applies to contracts entered into or modified after January 1, 2017, you should talk to your employment lawyer. The Synthes opinions did not consider this new statute because they were not entered or modified after January 1st. It’s also important to note that there haven’t yet been any cases where a court invalidated the forum-selection clause under section 925.

As always, if you have any questions you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss your individual circumstances. The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard have been fighting for the little guy since 2009. Cathe makes sure average American’s rights are protected everyday. You can call (310) 488-9020, email cath@carawaylaw.com, or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.

Overtime Rules Might Change, Will They Affect You?

Chances are, you’re familiar with overtime pay – the mandated time-and-a-half compensation you earn for putting in long extra hours. Overtime rules are often the reason people look to labor law attorneys for employment dispute advice. Do you know the history behind overtime rules, and how they can affect you today?

 

Thank President Roosevelt for Your Overtime

President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards act into law in 1938. In addition to overtime rules, this law also sets the federal minimum wage and rules on child labor. However, members of our congress are ready to change the rules. First, you should understand a bit about the way the overtime rules work today. You might find you need employment dispute advice.

Overtime Pay is the Law Right Now

The law, which has been in place for over 79 years now, says that certain employees must be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked over a standard 40-hour workweek. However, these rules don’t apply to workers that are considered managers or other “exempt” salaried employees. A manager is someone who normally directs two or more full-time employees. Additionally, they must be paid a salary of more than $455 a week, and they must get to give input on hiring and firing.

States Can Have Their Own Overtime Rules Too

Lots of states use their own overtime rules. When this happens, whichever rule pays the employee more is the one that matters. If the federal rules in the Fair Labor Standards pay more, then they’re setting the minimum.

Our own state of California makes a great example. You earn overtime pay not only if you work more than 40 hours in a week, but also when you work more than 8 hours in a day. If you’re working more than 8 hours in a day, but less than 40 hours in a week and not getting your overtime pay, you should look for employment law advice.

Some People want Changes

A bill called “The Working Families Flexibility Act” just passed the House recently. This bill would let employers offer paid time off (PTO) instead of overtime pay. If you accept, you’d be given an hour and a half of PTO for every hour of overtime you work.

Proponents of the bill argue that this bill would give employees more choices. If you want the comp time you can take it, and if you need the overtime pay you can still use that. Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama, who sponsored the bill said, “We can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees use their time.”

Opponents of the bill however, argue that employers will be able to find subtle ways to encourage employees to take comp time over extra pay. Additionally, these opponents say that because employers choose when you can use your comp time, they can defer paying for overtime until the end of the year.

Many similar bills have failed over the past two decades. Finally, a similar bill passed the House in 2013, then died in the Senate.

And Some People Want to Expand Overtime Rules

In May of 2016, President Obama asked the Department of Labor to update and modernize overtime rules. The Department of Labor raised the salary requirement for overtime pay to $47,476 a year, or $913 a week. This would be about double what the rule says right now.

The new rule was going to go into effect December 1, 2016, however in November, a federal judge gave an injunction after business groups as well as 21 different states sued, which puts the change off indefinitely. It does not look likely that the Department of Labor will continue to defend the new rules.

Do You Need Employment Dispute Advice?

The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard have experience with California Employment Laws since 1989. If you’re looking for employment dispute advice or representation, Cathe Caraway-Howard’s highly trained and experienced team will fight for you.

 

Guide to Filing OSHA Safety Complaints From A Local Labor Lawyer

Ask any labor lawyer– safety in the workplace is no joke. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from safety and health issues while at work. Workers also have the right to know about possible hazards and not be forced to perform work that they believe is harmful or dangerous.

Of course, there are potential safety issues in every workplace. According to top California employment lawyers, some safety issues are more of a danger than others. Some are more easily correctable than others. However, if you do notice a potential safety issue, the first thing you should do is inform your superior (supervisor or manager) of the issue. Some states require you to give written notice to the employer, while others will allow a verbal notice.  If they are unable (or unwilling) to correct the issue, you should file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

How Did OSHA come about?

President Nixon established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on December 29, 1970. His signature on the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created a new branch of the Department of Labor. This new branch’s purpose and mission has always been to “assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.”

Gather your Evidence Before you Contact OSHA

Before you report OSHA, this employment lawyer suggests being absolutely sure you have all the information necessary to make a full report of the safety issue. You’ll need the business name, address (a district and corporate address as well, if they have one) and phone number. You will also need the name and title of your manager or superior. Finally, you’ll need a description of the type of business, as well as the type of work you perform for the business.

Next, you need to get an accurate description of the safety issue. Describe the safety issue in as much detail as you can. You’ll want to gather the following information:

  • The specific location of the issue. It is important to be as specific as possible, especially in large work spaces.
  • What tasks workers perform in an around the location. These tasks do not have to relate to the safety issue. However, if workers perform these tasks near the safety issue, the safety issue may harm them as well.
  • The number of workers who may be exposed to or affected by the safety issue.
  • Whether any workers have already suffered problems or injuries resulting in medical treatment.
  • How long the safety issue has existed, and how long you believe the issue will continue to exist.
  • Any references or witnesses who know about the safety issue, and their contact information. A brief statement from them is generally helpful as well.

Employment lawyers and other labor law attorneys agree that you should make sure to have everything documented first, before completing the form.

Completing the OSHA Complaint Form

In recent years, OSHA has made great strides to ensure that filing a complaint is as easy as possible for workers. Over the years, OSHA has adapted to new technology for a changing world. Today, you can go to the website of the California Division of OSHA (Cal-OSHA) to their online complaint form and complete all the necessary paperwork online. You can also call your local OSHA Area Office to discuss your safety issue or answer any questions you may have.

A Word About Retaliation

Every state has its own laws in regards to retaliation by an employer. However, they all are similar in that they prohibit actions that affect an employee’s hours or wages from adverse actions. Some of those actions a labor lawyer would consider retaliation include being fired, laid off, demoted, or disciplined, or by denying benefits, overtime, or even a promotion. In California, Labor Code sections 6310 and 6311 specifically allow workers to:

  • File complaints about safety or health conditions or practices;
  • Institute any proceeding related to their rights to safe and healthful working conditions or testifying in any such proceedings;
  • Participate in an occupational health and safety committee; or
  • Refuse to perform work where the worker believes that an occupational safety or health standard, or any safety order would be violated and the violation would create a real and apparent hazard to the employee or his or her co-workers.

If you believe your employer is retaliating against you due to a complaint you filed, a qualified labor attorney can help. Depending on the situation, the labor lawyer can help you file a retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner, also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

For the Best Results, Get a Labor Lawyer to help

Safety hazards are never easy to tackle alone. The larger the organization, the more difficult it feels to file a safety complaint against them. This is especially true if your employer decides to retaliate against you. That’s why it’s always important to have the services of a qualified labor lawyer on your side. With the skilled help of an experienced California employment lawyer like the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard, you need not fear even the most threatening of situations. After all, when it’s not only your own health and safety on the line but that of others you know and care about, you need to fight to make sure no future employee suffers a similar fate.

Congress is Considering National Right-to-Work Laws – But What Does Right To Work Mean?

You’ve probably heard the term “Right to Work” recently. The ideas behind right to work laws have been in the news, on political ads, and seem to be gaining support. But do you know what right to work means? It might feel like you have to be a labor lawyer to understand what these employment laws are about.

 

On this page, you’ll receive a breakdown of what the right to work law means, and what it does. Even if you’re in California with strong employment laws, federal right to work laws could affect you.

 

What is a Right to Work Law?

Right to work laws are employment laws regarding unionization. If you’re in a state like California, a company’s union might require you to join as a condition of employment. This means you’ll have to pay dues, and your union will bargain for you. In states with right to work laws you cannot be required to join your union, or pay dues to your union. However, those unions will still have to bargain for you.

Organized labor argues that because you’re receiving the benefits of union membership, you should be expected to help pay for the costs of bargaining. Proponents of Right to work laws say these laws just ensure that you have the freedom to make your own choices.

How Can Right to Work Laws Affect Me

There are many instances where you may be affected by right to work laws. When you’re being hired, if you have right to work laws in your state, you don’t have to join a union. However, if your new employer has a union contract, you can still enjoy the benefits of that contract without paying any fees to your union. Opponents of right to work laws say that this will harm the overall power of unions.

If your coworkers are trying to organize a union, or negotiate a new union contract, right to work laws matter. Because the negotiation must cover all the workers, even if you’re not a member or paying fees, you’ll probably find fewer members and even less funds for the unions.

So, are Right to Work Laws Anti-Union?

This depends on who you talk to. Most employment rights and labor groups oppose right to work laws, arguing that these employment laws result in weaker unions and fewer workplace protections. What do you think about right to work laws? Tell the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard on their Facebook page. If you have any question about California employment laws, or you have a dispute with your employer, Contact Cathe L. Caraway-Howard at (310) 488-9020. You can count on decades of experience to fight for your employee rights.

5 California Employment Laws Coming up in 2017 You Should Watch

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s important to know how California employment laws will affect you. You should always contact a labor attorney like Cathe L. Caraway-Howard if you have any specific questions. That said, it’s always good if you have an idea of what’s coming up regarding California employment laws. 2017 is already shaping up to be a big year when it comes to your rights in the workplace. The California State Legislature has already introduced these 5 bills.

 

A.B. 5

Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez and Ash Kalra introduced The Opportunity to Work Act, or A.B. 5. Gonzalez said during the press release for this bill, “Even as we’ve won increases in the minimum wage to help part-time workers, that just won’t cut it if you can’t get enough hours of work…The Opportunity to Work Act will provide a boost to the millions of workers in California who want to work more so they can afford the necessities of life and to take care of themselves and their families in a time when housing costs, student debt, and surprise expenses are increasingly difficult to manage.”

According to that press release, this piece to the puzzle of California employment laws makes sure that companies with 10 or more employees must offer more hours to existing part-time employees before hiring. They must have an employee that is qualified to do the job. This is great news if you’re one of the 1 million Californians that involuntarily have your hours limited.

A.B. 168

This bill, introduced by Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, applies to your salary history. The goal of this bill is to prevent employers for asking about your salary history during your interview. Additionally, this bill requires your potential employers to give you the pay scale for the job you’re applying for.

During this bill’s press release, Eggman said “Using Salary History to determine compensation perpetuates a system that pays women less than their male counterparts.”

SB-33

Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) Introduced this bill. This bill’s goal is to make sure consumers who’ve been defrauded can sue, even if they signed an arbitration agreement. Arbitration agreements mean if you have a dispute with someone with whom you’ve signed a contract, you must use binding arbitration instead of suing them in court.

During the press release for SB-33, Senator Dodd said, “It’s unacceptable for consumers to be blocked from our public courts to recover damages for fraud and identity theft. Allowing victims their day in court not only allows them to recover, it can prevent more victims by putting an end to illegal business practices.” He added, “With Quick Federal Action on this issue unlikely, it’s critical that California lead the nation to prevent these abuses.

Wells Fargo Bank employees used customers’ personal identification to create more than two million new accounts without consent. These fraudulent accounts caused the victims, who didn’t even know about these accounts millions of dollars of fees. Many of these victims tried to sue to recover their damages.

Wells Fargo however, had a response. They argued that customers had waived their right to sue. As such, this should be handled through arbitration. The courts upheld that argument. Wells Fargo has received over $150 million in regulatory fines Since this information came out. While this bill doesn’t directly address employment, it would affect any employment agreement with an arbitration waiver.

S.B. 62

Senator Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) put this bill forward. The purpose of this bill is to expand which family members you can take protected leave to care for. Under this bill, you can take 12 weeks of leave, while protecting your job, to care for your grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, or your adult children. The bill applies only to employers who have 50 or more employees.

This bill, and the next one on the list are being similar bills to other bills Jackson had authored that were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. During the press release, Jackson said “I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to reach an agreement on these important issues.”

S.B. 63

In addition to S.B. 62, Senator Jackson also introduced S.B. 63, or the New Parent Leave Act. S.B. 63 expands the amount of job-protected parental leave, both maternity and paternity leave, for new parents who work at smaller businesses. If congress passes this law, you’ll get 12 weeks of job-protected “Parental Leave” as long as your company has 20-49 employees. Under today’s law, only employers with 50 employees or more must provide job-protected leave.

At the press release, Jackson said, “Any new parent knows that the birth of a new baby comes with a host of changes and challenges. But losing a job should never be among those challenges. The same must be said of the impacts of serious illness of an extended family member. It simply is not right that far too many Californians who already pay into and are eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits fear that if they utilize these benefits they will lose their jobs.”

 

What do you think about these upcoming California employment laws? Tell the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard on Facebook. If you have a dispute with your employer, the Law Office of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard are ready to fight for you. Call us at (310) 488-9020 to schedule a consultation.

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7th Circuit of Appeals Court Rules the Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers, How Can This Affect You?

In what is being hailed as a significant victory for gay rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Civil Rights Act from 1964 applies protections to gay employees from job discrimination. This expands the protections the landmark law provides to include sexual orientation, great news for anyone seeking the services of California employment lawyers due to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The case started with Kimberly Hively’s lawsuit against Ivy Tech Community College. Hively alleges that she was fired from her position because she is a lesbian. In the court’s opinion, chief judge Diane P. Wood wrote that “Hively’s claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction and policing.” She also wrote that “Ivy Tech is disadvantaging her because she is a woman.”

However, the court did not rule on Hively’s lawsuit in specific. What their ruling did was allow for Ms. Hively’s employment case to continue. This comes after a lower court had previously dismissed her case. The lower court ruled that the Civil Rights Act did not provide protections for sexual orientation.

Ms. Hively represented herself in the lower court because she could not find a lawyer who thought she would win. In an interview, she said “I wasn’t doing it just for me, but for anyone who was going to be bullied in a job for who they decided to love.”

The results of this case are going to make it easier for California employment lawyers to fight for their clients. This is the highest federal court that has granted these employment protections. Because of this, the chances this issue reaches the Supreme Court are much higher. The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage already, however many legal protections, such as employment and housing have not reached gay people yet. Another ruling in an appellate court in Georgia came to the opposite conclusion. That Georgia court ruled that the Civil Rights Act does not protect against discrimination at work for gay employees.

If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, besides contacting California employment lawyers, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Bring the Issue to Your Employer’s Attention

If you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against, you should make your employer aware of the situation. It is possible that many cases of discrimination or harassment are not recognized, and go unpunished because the victim did not establish that the behavior is unacceptable or unwelcome. While your employer is unlikely to admit to discrimination, or help you draft your legal papers against them, they are responsible for complying with the law. However, you are responsible for ensuring your rights are protected.

As an additional note, if the person you feel is discriminating against or harassing you is your immediate supervisor, you can report it to their superior, or your human resources representative. It is common for employers to designate a specific managerial or human resources person for accepting complaints. If this is the case, you should report directly to that individual with your complaint.

Keep a Diary

Record the date, and if possible time, as well as where the discrimination happened. Write in your diary who was involved in your discrimination, as well as who witnessed your discrimination, and your incident’s details.

Keep or Copy any Objects Used

If pictures or other objects are used to discriminate against you, either keep it, or take a picture of it for your records. For example, if you come to your desk and see anti-gay statements printed and taped to your computer chair. While your immediate urge may be to destroy, and trash those papers, instead either save them, or take a picture of them. It’s helpful to have the actual items used to discriminate against you, rather than simply describing them.

Review Your Company’s Anti-Discrimination Policy

Your Employer probably has an anti-discrimination policy in writing. Here, they have acknowledged they will not act in ways that are discriminatory. Save your copy of your employer’s policy.

Contact California Employment Lawyers

It’s a terrible place to be as the victim of discrimination. It will rip and tear at your emotions, and can make it difficult to separate your feelings from the law. Your labor law attorney can help you look clearly at the situation and make sure your outcome is favorable.

The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard have represented many employees seeking to right injustices they’ve felt in the work place. The Daily Journal named Cathe as one of the 2015 Top Employment Lawyers in California.

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5 Ways Employers Can Effectively Handle Harassment Complaints

After a former employee at Uber made workplace harassment complaints that were not resolved to her satisfaction, her story became big news. Of course the final determination of who was right or wrong in the circumstances will ultimately be decided by settlement, or in a court of law. If you’re an employer, the description of the general atmosphere in this prominent company, and the public’s reaction to it, provides a perfect opportunity to review your basic obligations to investigate employee harassment complaints:

1. Employers Have a Duty To Investigate Complaints

The Fair Employment and Housing Act says that employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. Additionally, Government Code section 12940, subdivision (k) requires the same types of protections for employees. If you fail to enact preventative measures, you can be held liable for workplace harassment between co-workers. To avoid liability, employers should follow the law as closely as possible.

2. Precautionary Actions Might Be Necessary

Depending on the allegations and evidence, it’s important to decide if any immediate actions should be taken. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers examples of precautionary steps that include “scheduling changes so as to avoid contact between the parties; transferring the alleged harasser; or placing the alleged harasser on non-disciplinary leave with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.” That being said, the EEOC states that the complainant “should not be involuntarily transferred or otherwise burdened, since such measures could constitute unlawful retaliation.”

3. Any Investigation Must Be Thorough

The FEHC (Fair Employment and Housing Commission) states that employers are required to fully investigate allegations of harassment. This investigation must be made immediately, and be thorough and complete. The investigator must be an objective third party. Anyone with information about the incident or incidents should be interviewed. Simply deciding if a harassment claim has merit is not enough. The results of the investigation should be communicated to the complainant, to the alleged harasser, and, as appropriate, to any other employees who are directly concerned. You should take all complaints of workplace harassment seriously.

4. Investigations Need To Happen Immediately

There are a lot of different cases that have ruled differently about what time frame qualifies as immediate. It’s smarter to assume that any harassment investigation should be begun and completed as quickly as humanly possible. In Steiner v. Showboat Operating Co., 25 F.3d 1459, 1464 (9th Cir. 1994), the court decided that the employer’s response to complaints were not immediate because it didn’t seriously investigate or reprimand the supervisor until after the plaintiff filed charge with the state FEP agency.

If you look at Van Zant V. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 712 (2d Cir. 1996) they held that the employer’s response was prompt. They began their investigation the same day the complaint was made, and they conducted interviews within two days. After ten days, they had fired the harasser.  Moving on to Nash V. Electrospace Systems, Inc. 9 F.3d 401, 404 (5th Cir. 1993), the court held the investigation as prompt because it was completed in one week.

5. The Investigator Should Be Experienced and Unbiased

While your investigator could be a human resources manager, some caution is warranted. There shouldn’t be any conflicts of interest or bias toward either the victim or the person accused of workplace harassment. A superficial appearance of impartiality my not be enough. The investigator’s background, credentials, and experience could be closely examined if a lawsuit ensues, and it may uncover a bias towards one party that’s not obvious.

If you’re unsure if your business has an appropriate anti-harassment culture in place, it’s smart to consult an attorney who deals in harassment law. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, and you have any questions about how to handle a workplace harassment claim, contact The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard.

employment lawyers

4 Basic Employment Laws Every Employee Should Know

Employment lawyers are well versed in the numerous and varied employment laws. An employment law attorney usually handles cases involving these laws on a daily basis. Employment lawyers usually have several years of prior experience dealing with employment issues such as workplace harassment and workplace retaliation, gender discrimination or hostile work environments, so it’s familiar territory.

However, most employees are not as knowledgeable as employment lawyers when it comes to knowing their rights. In fact, many employees are surprised when employment lawyers inform them of the rights they have as workers. We have collected a few of the basic laws most employment lawyers agree every employee should know about. Take a look and find out some of the ways the law of the land protects workers:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

One of the earliest laws geared towards employers and their workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act into law in 1938. It addressed poor working conditions, mostly in factory settings. As a result, this law significantly improved working conditions for millions of Americans.

The law further prohibited employers from hiring employees younger than 14 years of age. It also prevented those under the age of 18 from working in jobs considered dangerous, such as coal mining. Prior to 1900, employers often preferred to use children as a labor source. Factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. The law allowed children to stop working in factories from dawn to dusk and encouraged compulsory free education for all children.

The FLSA also sets minimum standards for employee wages, and it limited the number of hours a worker could work in a seven-day week. When President Roosevelt signed the law, he set the minimum wage to $0.25 per hour, and he set the working week to no more than 44 hours. Since that time, lawmakers have amended the act numerous times to increase the minimum wage. In 1940, lawmakers amended the law by shortening the work week from 44 hours to the current 40 hours per week.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

President Nixon signed OSHA into law in 1970, responding to the rising number of employment related deaths in the late 1960s. Lawmakers designed the act to introduce important safety standards for many businesses. Since the signing of the OSHA, the number of employee-related accidents has dropped dramatically.

For example, industries with heavy machinery have standards of working and requirements for protective gear for workers. Even white collar employees benefit from this act, under ergonomic standards for seating and desks. OSHA also provides that employers educate their employees about hazards in the workplace, and how employees can take preventive steps to minimize the risk of accidents. The act also initiated standards on filing, documenting, and posting workplace hazards, injuries, and complaints.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

This important piece of legislation is one of the most well known by employment lawyers and their clients. This law is the foundation of basic civil rights for all Americans, and it was grounds for many future workplace laws.

The law, in its most basic form, abolishes segregation in all public places. It also made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, or gender. For example, businesses could not deny a person a service based on skin color. These provisions also prohibited employers from hiring, promoting, or firing employees based on their race, religion, or gender. The act gave every American equal protection and access to law, including the right of all Americans to vote.

Since the law’s inception, lawmakers have added onto these basic protections to reinforce workplace protections against discrimination. In 1967, lawmakers added the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibiting discrimination against those over the age of 40. Lawmakers amended the act again in 1972 to create the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC regulates and enforces civil rights and defines what constitutes discrimination. Further additions to the act covered pregnant women (Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978) and disabled workers (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

President Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act into law in 1993. The Federal Government passed the act to protect employees who need time off from work to take care of a serious medical condition. It also allows for time for parents to bond with a new child. If an immediate family member also has a serious health condition, you can also request leave under the FMLA. Employees can be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave while keeping their health benefits.

Reports of employer threats to fire or discipline an employee based on a request for leave have been on the rise in recent years. Employees should be mindful of this important law to make sure that they can enforce them if they have any issues with their employer due to a long-term injury or illness.

Employment Lawyers Help You Protect Your Rights

With a little knowledge on their side, employees can help protect their rights and the rights of co-workers. Of course, if an employee has difficulty in enforcing their rights, they might want to speak with competent employment lawyers. If you’re in Los Angeles, contact the the Law Offices of Cathe Caraway-Howard for more information about your rights under these important employment safeguards.