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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 7115
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I worked for a company where my job was in California ("at

Customer Question

I worked for a company where my job was in California ("at will" state) but the parent company is in Portland, Oregon (not sure if it's "at will" too). I believe I have a discrimination case to pursue but have been told that in an "at will" state, they can lie and say anything and if there's no contract in place, there is no recourse. Is this correct?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I'm so sorry that you have been treated poorly by your former employer.

Since you worked in California, the labor laws of California would apply to your claim, typically speaking. It is true that California is an "at will" employment state, meaning that an employer can terminate an employee without a contract guaranteeing a specific term of employment for any reason or no reason, upon giving notice. (Labor Code 2922)

One of the exceptions to the "at will" employment doctrine (and there ARE several exceptions) is that an employer CANNOT terminate an employee for reasons that relate to the employee's race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age (over 40), or sexual orientation. (See Govt. Code 12921.)

Of course, employers rarely if ever admit that the reasons for an employee's termination relate to their race, religion, etc. Employers are smarter than that, and yes, they will often times "say anything" to make it seem as though the employee's termination was legitimate.

But, just because an employer can CLAIM termination was for legitimate reasons pursuant to the "at will" employment doctrine does NOT mean that they are free to terminate an employee for discriminatory reasons and then simply lie about their true motivations.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing will examine all of the circumstances surrounding an employee's termination, including the employer's past history of complaints, a culture (if any) of discrimination within the company, remarks made to the terminated employee in passing, and anything else that is relevant to determine what the employer's TRUE motivations were.

If you believe that you have been the subject of unlawful discrimination and wish to file a lawsuit, you must first file a formal complaint of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Either the EEOC or the DFEH will issue you an authorization to sue after they investigate your claim. You don't need to file with both agencies. Finally, if you decide to sue, don't miss your deadline. Under federal law in California, you have 300 days from an act of discrimination to file a complaint.

For information on how to bring a claim through California's DFEH, visit this link: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Complaints.htm For information on how to brig a claim through the EEOC, visit this link: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the very best of luck. Bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Please abide by the honor code of this website by kindly clicking on the GREEN ACCEPT button if my answer has been helpful to you. Thank you very much.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 7115
Experience: Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
Patrick, Esq. and 2 other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
thank you for your help and answer. In using my current membership, I wasn't sure if I get to continue asking you questions or if I need to go back to the "pool". If I can ask you, here are some additional questions:
If I contact EEOC, is it a complaint or a suit?
If I have grounds to pursue a lawsuit, are these normally contingiency suits or pay as you go?
Are there any legal guidelines for severence packages? how many months a person should be paid for years of service?
Thank you
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for your followup. Normally new questions must be asked separately, but I will be happy to address your additional concerns here.

If I contact EEOC, is it a complaint or a suit?

It's not a lawsuit until you file in civil court. The EEOC will investigate your claim, issue an "EEOC complaint," and then potentially issue a ruling of its own, which can have binding effect on an employer even though it is not a judgment from a lawsuit.

The DFEH is a California agency which essentially does the same thing.

For information on the EEOC complaint process, visit this link: [urlhttp://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fed_employees/complaint_overview.cfm[/url]

If I have grounds to pursue a lawsuit, are these normally contingency suits or pay as you go?

These cases are often pursued on a contingency fee basis. If you have a reasonably strong case, you should be able to find an attorney willing to take you on as a client. However, since a "contingency fee" means the attorney doesn't get paid unless you win, it might be hard to find an attorney willing to risk his time on a case that is not strong and may lose.

Are there any legal guidelines for severence packages? how many months a person should be paid for years of service?

Under the federal WARN Act, an employer with at least 100 employees that lays off at least 50 during a 30-day period must either give 60 days notice of the lay off or pay 60 days wages. This is the only circumstance in which severance is mandatory. Otherwise, there is no law, either state or federal that requires an employer provide any severance at all. Thus, the employer is entitled to impose whatever requirements it wishes concerning the severance -- including, simply changing its mind and not offering any severance -- unless it violates the WARN Act.

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