California has some of the nation’s most rigid legal protections for employees. Regulations covering everything from immigration, discrimination and harassment to wages, paid time off and family leave exist to ensure that every employee has a means to redress any perceived misstep by an employer.
Take, for example, this maintenance worker for the California prison system. In a recent case, an employee filed a lawsuit against the California prison system, alleging that she was the victim of sex discrimination and harassment. Believing she was systematically harassed by her supervisor over many years because of her gender, the worker lodged a complaint with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment. The complaint alleged that her boss took extraordinary steps to ensure she was treated unfairly and kept miserable during the years she worked for him.
The Department investigated her case and did not find any misconduct by the employer. Still, it gave her a right to sue her employer. She subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the employer’s alleged conduct.
Navigating the complexities
As an employer in California, you must constantly be on guard against both real and perceived violations of discrimination laws. How you handle applicants, how you screen them and how you interview them can run afoul of both state and federal employment laws.
Once you do hire an employee, their working conditions and pay are strictly governed. And transfers, promotions, separations and terminations can be delicate affairs which, if not handled properly, can easily result in a complaint or a lawsuit.
But just as every employee is given substantial rights to protect their interests, fairness allows the employer to defend their interests. A complaint filed is not a fact proven and you, as an employer, have the right to contest any allegations made against you.
Defending yourself against complaints and lawsuits alleging discrimination is not easy. The laws are complex and the issues can be fraught with emotion. Seeking a skilled and experienced attorney, one who is well-versed in the intricacies of employment law, will ensure that your interests are protected and the laws are applied fairly.