What is the Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit Against My Employer in California?

Employment discrimination is often a traumatic experience with devastating financial, mental and emotional after-effects. Yet there’s something that can make this experience all the more difficult to ensure — being unable to pursue compensation for the discrimination you’ve suffered.

That’s the exact scenario facing people who fail to file legal action before the statute of limitations expires.

Let’s take a closer look at how the statute of limitations works in California, and how you can avoid being locked out of the legal system if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from the illegal actions of an employer.

Statutes of Limitation Explained

A statute of limitation is simply a deadline before which a certain legal claim must be filed. Prospective litigants who fail to file their case before the relevant deadline risk losing the right to their day in court.

These statutes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and they are also variable within a single jurisdiction.

In California, employees must seek a Right to Sue letter from the California Department of Fair Housing (FEHA) before moving forward with litigation. Historically, employees have had only 12 months to file an administrative complaint with FEHA in order to receive this letter.

However, the recently passed State Assembly Bill 9 extends this window to three years for most employment violations.

Once FEHA grants a Right to Sue notice, you have one year to file a case in court. Court cases may be brought for the following violations:

  • Defamation and labor code violations
  • Wrongful termination or retaliation
  • Failure to pay wages and fraud
  • Breach of a written contract

Are There Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations?

In some cases, the answer is yes. Certain situations may cause the timer on the statute of limitations to stop running. Additionally, if an employer continues to violate the law the statute may not precisely apply.

Some litigants may also enter into so-called “tolling” agreements with employers. These agreements essentially extend the normal timeline in an effort to help both parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement.

Finding the Right Employment Law Attorney

At L&B Law Group, we have the experience to litigate even the most complex employment law cases. If you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination, don’t let the clock run out — contact us today for a consultation.

What is a Legally Protected Disability in California?

You might already know that it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because of a disability.  The definition of a disability under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is not very clear and may leave you wondering if your medical issues are protected under FEHA.  This article will help.

What Disabilities Are Protected?

Disabilities include physical conditions which impact your ability to participate in major life activities. It is enough that your impairment makes a life activity (such as working, or other physical and mental tasks) “difficult” compared to the normal or average person without such impairment.  Mitigating measures are not considered when determining whether a person is disabled.  For example, if you have a vision disability, but see fine with glasses, you are still considered disabled under discrimination law.

Unlike federal law, which requires that a disability “substantially” limits a life activity, under California law (known as FEHA) a disability only needs to “limit” an activity. This means that some conditions which don’t qualify as a disability in federal court or other states may be protected in California.

Physical disabilities, such as an orthopedic problem, and illnesses, such as a cardiovascular condition or a pregnancy-related problem, are protected disabilities.  Even mental disabilities which limit a major life activity are also protected.  Some disabilities are specifically protected, including: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, emotional or mental illness, intellectual or cognitive disability, organic brain syndrome, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Who is Protected?

Of course, disabled employees are protected from disability discrimination by their employers.  But there are other situations where you may be protected which you might not know about.  FEHA protects you if you are regarded as disabled, even if you’re not.  This includes when an employer erroneously or mistakenly believes an employee is disabled.  For example, a court held that an employee could be “regarded as disabled” for having shoulder pain, whether the shoulder pain was actually disabling under the law.

Even independent contractors are protected from disability harassment.  So, if you work as an independent contractor, and the contracting company harasses you because of a disability, they might be liable in court.  FEHA also protects applicants to a position from disability discrimination.  This might become an issue if you have a disability which is apparent, such as use of a wheelchair or a speech impediment and you feel you were not hired because of it.

How Are You Protected?

Disability discrimination can take many forms.  Discrimination can include termination, suspension, discipline, reassignment, failure to hire or promote, or any other adverse employment action which is due to the employee’s disability.  FEHA also protects against retaliation.  So, your employer cannot discharge or otherwise discriminate against you because you opposed wrongful conduct, filed a complaint, or testified or assisted in a disability discrimination case for yourself or your coworkers.

If you have a disability, your employer also has an affirmative duty to accommodate you.  This means that your employer must provide accommodation if you are able to perform your job with those accommodations.  Some types of accommodations include job restructuring, modified work schedules, providing assistive devices, providing additional training, or allowing assistive animals on the worksite (such as guide dogs or emotional support animals).  Your employer is also required to engage in a “good faith interactive process” to accommodate you, which means that they must have reasonable discussions with you to reach an agreement on what a reasonable accommodation for your disability would be.  FEHA also prohibits harassment based on disability, so people at work are not allowed to make fun of you or give you a hard time due to a disability you may have.

If you think you might have been mistreated at work due to your disability, contact L&B Law Group for a free consultation.

Four Facts About Sexual Harassment Claims You Might Not Know

With many high-profile cases in the news, sexual harassment is one of the most discussed areas of the law. You may have wondered what sexual harassment means, especially if you think you may have experienced wrongful behavior in your own workplace.  News do not always give the full picture of sexual harassment law in California.  Here are four facts you might not know about sexual harassment law in California:

1. Consent to a Sexual Relationship Does Not Prevent a Claim

You might think that agreeing to a sexual relationship with a coworker or supervisor would mean you can’t sue.  Not true!  Your consent to a relationship may not have been truly voluntary.  For example, you may have agreed to a relationship with a supervisor because of job pressure.  You may have worried that you would get fired or otherwise punished if you did not agree to the relationship.  If the sexual advances by your supervisor or coworker were “unwelcome,” you may still have a claim for sexual harassment, even if you went along with it because you were afraid.

2. A Sexual Harassment Claim Does Not Need to Be Based on Sexual Desire

This may not make much sense at first glance.  How can you have a valid sexual harassment claim without acts based on sexual desire?  The reality is that many sexual harassment claims are not based on sexual desire. There may be other reasons for the harassment, such as misogyny, misguided humor, boredom, or a personal vendetta.  For example, mocking a man for his feminine mannerisms, calling him “she” or “her” or saying that he acts “like a woman” can be hostile work environment sexual harassment.  These comments are still “based on sex” and are illegal.  Even if a claim is not based on sexual desire, it still may be wrongful conduct under the law.

3. A Single Incident Can Be Enough for A Claim

With terms such as “hostile work environment” and “severe and pervasive” used in sexual harassment cases, you might assume that you only have a strong case if the harassment is constant or frequent.  Even a single instance of harassment can support a lawsuit.  If the incident involved a physical touching or threat of physical touching, courts have held that even a single incident is “severe” enough to support a lawsuit.

4. You Might Be Able to Bring A Claim Based on Sexual Harassment of Others

Even if you were not the direct target of sexual harassment, you may still have a claim.  Conduct directed at others may still impact your work environment and lead to a hostile work environment if it “permeated” your direct work environment.  In other words, the harassment of others must have happened in your immediate work environment, you personally witnessed it, and it negatively impacted your job.  If you stood up for your harassed coworker and complained about the harassment to your employer, it may also result in a retaliation claim.  If you are fired, disciplined, or otherwise retaliated against for complained about harassment in the workplace, California law may protect you.

California law has broad protections for employees in the area of sexual harassment.  If you think you might have a claim, contact L&B Law Group for a free consultation.