California Employment Law
California Employment Law Questions Answered by Legal Experts
Hello and thank you for your question today
Are you online with me?
Have you been terminated or has any adverse employment action been taken against you?
Welcome to the chat
Thank you. XXXXX here.
In order to best assist you, please tell me what adverse employment action has occurred to you to date. Have you been fired or demoted?
No adverse action has been taken against me yet. I'm very fearful though that retaliatory measures will be taken.
I'm so afraid, that I'm bleeding every time I go to the bathroom.
Okay, so you have a couple of options here, but before I go into them, I want to make sure I understand your employment relationship. Do you have the ability to fire or reprimand these individuals? Also, do you know if you are part of a union or if you have an employment contract where you can only be fired for cause?
Normally I would. However, I don't think that's an option since they complained. I'm not part of a union and have no contract. My employment is at-will. The company I work for is a Medical Device Manufacturer and I work as the Sr. Compliance Manager. I have a Masters degree, so it's a professional type of work.
Okay, first regarding these employees, California is an at will employment state. This means that you are allowed to terminate an employee for any reason that does not violate their civil rights or is in breach of contract. Thus, if they were a union employee, or if they have an employment contract that says they must be fired for cause, then you might not be able to fire them. Additionally, if they argued that the reason that they were terminated could be related to a protected category, such as their age (40 or older), gender, race, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, national origin, creed, or disability then the termination would be deemed wrongful and they would have a cause of action. Otherwise, if you have the power to fire them especially if they are not meeting their quotas, you are legally allowed to do so.
However, if they are otherwise good employees, then there is an easy fix to this. You can simply make an open door policy, or set up an email for concerns where either you put in writing that they can come to you whenever they want, or they can come to you for any reason during a particular hour of the day.
Then, if it is in writing that you are "approachable" or that they have an avenue to allow input then the company would have no reason to believe that you are any of the things you are being accused of.
Bosses are allowed to yell, scream, be mean, and or do anything else that does not fit into one of the categories I mentioned above.
However, you definitely want to appease your boss.
That being said, concerning the bleeding you mention, you could file a workers compensation claim, or could take legally protected leave depending on the circumstances.
Well, that's the funny thing. I have piles of emails showing I have requested input from them. I also told HR that to this very date all of my employees continue to come to talk to me about work and non-work related matters. I believe the two people who complained were upset because I raised the bar.
HR is clearly biased on the employees' side. My boss is not helping either but adding fuel to fire. I don't know where this is coming from because people tell me she likes me. I feel I'm in the twilight zone and there's a plot against me.
Why aren't my emails sufficient to prove my character? I asked HR to give me objective evidence of the employees' "claims" against me, but none has been given to me so far. I've given HR the names of witnesses they can call to attest to the way I treat my employees. HR has not called anyone yet. This is maddening and makes no sense to me at all.
The problem is that people only know what they are told. Especially if that is the side of the story they are told first. You have no idea what lies have been spread behind your back by these people. When there are multiple people telling them, it is hard to refute them. HR's job is to make sure that everyone at work is happy. It is their responsibility to do an investigation concerning any report and decide what they want to do about it. i.e. if there is anything illegal going on, (i.e. discrimination) or if it causing a loss of productivity. Your job is to make sure that your department gets the job done. If there are people who aren't meeting the bar they need to be terminated. Their complaint is not going to save them.
The problems with emails, is that someone has made a complaint. So, to deal with this, you can put something in writing to the employee stating that they are welcome to come to you with ideas, or that you have that open door policy I mentioned above.
Bosses get reports like this against them all of the time. They usually lead nowhere other than to the possible termination of the employee.
Unless there is a specific policy in place which protects an employee from being retaliated against for making a complaint, no law protects them, unless the complaint is as a result of a protected category
I have asked the employees to give me input on emails. I have plenty of evidence. I didn't want to fire anyone because I always believe in giving people a chance. I gave final warnings to two employees last year for not meeting expectation. When I did, I had stack of evidence to back up my decision. Why is HR acting against me without objective evidence though?
Did they inform you of the complaint? Or are they actually doing something as a result of the complaint?
They are required to bring the complaint to your attention.
That is their job.
You can then simply say "I have an open door policy (as referenced by this email) as well as ask for input on all tasks. If there is a specific instance I would be happy to rectify it if you would like to tell me what I have done."
HR told me the employees' claims on 05/23. I was shocked that day, but could still perceive the bias tone of the HR VP. So, on Memorial Day Weekend, I wrote two factual letters rebutting all the accusations that had been communicated to me on 05/23. I also compiled a dossier of emails to back up my rebuttal.
I gave this to HR on 06/04. HR did not give me objective evidence on the employees' claims. HR and my boss insisted there was a "theme" about my being unapproachable. Every time I told them how do you explain the employees come and talk to me then? How do you explain they
sharing personal info with me? The VP of HR and my boss would just exchange looks.
Two of my employees had previously complained about their previous manager (my predecessor) and the guy ended up fired. I told HR this, and again by boss and HR just exchanged glances. I smell a rat in all this.
One of the reasons you have been promoted into the managerial position that you have is because of your straightforward and direct attitude. Unfortunately, this same attitude can cause people (like your boss) to take such accusations as truth. For example, if the complaint is that you are unapproachable, and your immediate reaction is to become defensive (which is completely justified) it is easy to jump to the conclusion that you do not take the time to evaluate what the person is saying to come to a solution. In that instance, the concept that you have an open door policy and that you are open to ideas as to be more approachable would have gone a long way.
Those two employees have likely figured out what words to use when making a complaint.
For example, if they stated that you are unapproachable to all people of color, then HR has to take this complaint seriously.
Because a failure to do so opens up the company to a serious lawsuit.
of racial discrimination.
However, if you address the concerns, ask how to improve, and replace problem employees, then your boss will see you as taking the initiative in this matter.
The rat that you mention could be 1 of three things. 1) they just want to get rid of you and this has nothing to do with it (unlikely as you are an at will employee so they could just fire you if they wanted. 2) one of the employees has a close personal relationship with your boss (nothing you can really do here, or 3) they made legal allegations concerning a protected category.
The third one is the one you really have to be careful of
because only in that instance are you prohibited from retaliating against these employees
I asked HR to give me examples of unapproachability because otherwise it would be hard for me to modify this behavior especially considering that the employees still talk to me. I don't think they're hinting at discrimination. Although 3 of my employees are older than me (in their 40s and 50s), I'm in my 30s. The other employee is in his 20s. I'm Hispanic, one employee is White, two are Hispanic, and the other is bi-racial. I really want to know if I'm obligated to sign anything. What are the ramifications of my refusal to sign anything incriminating that will go in my file?
Unfortunately, because you are an at will employee, your employer is allowed to terminate you for any reason other than the reasons I mentioned above. Because of this, you could be terminated for refusing to sign the paperwork in your file. That being said, you can and should refuse to sign it without adding an addendum to it concerning all of the policies you have in place so that your employees can come talk to you. Thus, if you have something in your file, all of the information is there, the good with the bad.
When there are no specific examples of unapproachability, then it is good to have specific examples of approachability. I.e. emails to employees asking for input, a memo or policy where there is an hour a day or week where they can come to you for anything, an open door policy, etc.
OK, thanks. I'm currently looking for work to get out of this horrible company. I keep on having my staff meetings and talking to ALL of the employees as usual. Deep down, I'm hurting at having being back-stabbed by my employees, but above all by my boss for whom I have worked so hard and I expect better from her than the employees. I'll ask to attach the addendum then.
I am glad that I could get you pointed in the right direction. Have I fully answered your question today?
Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.
Yes, you have. Thank you very much.
Not a problem. Before you go, please do not forget to provide a rating in the middle or above so that I may receive credit for my time with you today.
Have a wonderful rest of your day
and good luck
No problem. I will give you a rating of Excellent Service. You've been really helpful and patient.
Have a great weekend!!
Thank you. I have an update on this case. My Company hired an external "HR investigator." I met with her yesterday and the type of questions she was asking were very biased, along the lines of: "Do you think you put people down or make them feel dumb,?" "the world isn't fair, why do you expect fairness here,?" etc. Very few open-ended questions. The way I look at it is that the Company is ultimately paying her, so she's going to write whatever they have paid her to write. I'm desperately looking for work, but there seem to be no positions out there.
Thanks. I do know you are not my attorney. I was merely following up on an invitation I received for the 7 day free trial on this website. I appreciate your efforts in trying to help me and give me good advice. Thanks again!
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).