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Joseph
Joseph, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 5002
Experience:  Extensive experience representing employees and management
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Hi there. I have been on disability for 11 weeks now due

Resolved Question:

Hi there.
I have been on disability for 11 weeks now due to a back injury at work. I have been recieving worker's compensation. When I initially hurt my back on May 17th, 2013, I was given advil from the owner and forced to keep working! I was crying! I didnt even have an option to sit down or take a break. It wasn't until 4 hours later that the owner left, and another manager sent me home due to being in so much pain! I am a waitress in Southern California. I returned to work the next day. Then on May 27th 2013 I re-injured my back doing the same movement at work! I sought treatment due to my severe pain from my own doctor and was prohibited from returning to work for one week.
Being on worker's compensation it has been recommended that I return on modified duty. I am a waitress and have to continually be on my feet for 8 or more hours a day. "Modified Duty" is not possible with my job so I havent been working at all due to no position available. Here is the twist... When I initially hurt my back I was 10 weeks pregnant. I did not disclose this to my employer because I was at an early stage in my pregnancy. Now that I am 22 weeks pregnant it has become an issue! My boss found out by going through my medical records. I have been getting several calls from staff at the restaurant asking if the rumors of my pregnancy were true. I have not told a single person at that restaurant that I was expecting and I most definitely did not choose to tell my management. I assumed she would find out though seeing that I was open and upfront with my doctors. I had to tell my doctors at U.S. Healthworks (Worker's Comp) because of x-rays and possible treatments that could potentially hurt my developing baby. I was told clearly by my personal physician, several chiropractors, and U.S. Healthworks Doctors that my injury had NOTHING to do with my pregnancy and that it is a totally seperate issue. Because I am pregnant the doctors can't perform x-rays to examine me until I give birth. So, right now, it's a lot of rest, ice, heat, and massage.
I was recently told by several employee who did not know that I was pregnant that my boss/manager is telling everyone that i am pregnant and faking my injury! Along with disclosing my personal information, he is making disparaging comments to the staff stating, " I hope she never comes back to work because I hate her".
I have been harassed by my boss and this male manager several times before. I have worked for this company for over 13 years! For example, my manager said to me one day out of nowhere, "You're lucky someone else hired you because I dont hire women who are overweight, over 30, or a single mom!" I was personally disgusted by these comments because, I'm slightly overweight, and over 30! Additionally, the owner, while interviewing me for a management position 10 months ago asks, "Don't you want to have a baby soon? What kind of birth control are you on?" Can you believe it? These are just a few examples.... This place has a long history of harrassing employees and encouraging its management to make it a hostile work environment for those longtime staff menbers that they want out of there.
What are my rights for protecting myself? I am devestaed to know that I have been personally slandered, talked badly about and that my personal and private medical information was made public to other employees. My pregnancy had nothing to do with my back injury! HELP!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome to Justanswer.

I'm very sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

There are a number of causes of action that you may have against your employer, so I'll go through them one by one.

1. Defamation

Your employer is making statements about you that are untrue and are damaging your reputation at work, stating that you are faking your injury and are doing so because you are pregnant. Since your boss is making these statements as fact and they can be verified as being untrue (by looking at your medical records of the injury) you have a good cause of action against your boss for defamation of character.

2. Discrimination on the basis of gender, disability (pregnancy), and age.

Your boss' statements and questions to you when you were applying for a job are completely illegal. Your boss was obviously making snap judgments and inquiries that would not have been made about male employees, including that you would be looking to be pregnant soon and inquiring about your birth control method. This is a clear cut case of gender discrimination, which you should report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for violating your rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

California also considers pregnancy to be a disability. Since your reputation is being maligned and you are subject to greater scrutiny because you happened to injure yourself while pregnant (although the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other) you also have a cause of action against your boss for violating your rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act for discriminating against you on the basis of your pregnancy.

The comments regarding your age are also actionable, since your employer has discriminated and made derogatory comments about your age. Age discrimination normally only applies to people over the age of 40 (and from your statements I take it that you're in your 30s) so that may be a difficult cause of action to prove, but it's the only one that you'd have any trouble with.

(Unfortunately, the law doesn't yet provide discrimination on the basis of being overweight, but that may happen eventually).

3. Hostile work environment

You also have good claims for a hostile work environment due to your gender and pregnancy, since your boss has lied about you to other employees and stated that you are faking your disability due to your pregnancy. Additionally, the previous comments about your gender, birth control, having a child soon all demonstrate that your workplace environment was hostile to women.

4. Violation of your right to privacy/HIPPA

Your boss doesn't have any business telling other people about your pregnancy when you didn't disclose that to your co-workers. It certainly is more damaging that your employer is choosing to disclose your pregnancy in such a hostile and vengeful attitude, insinuating that you are somehow using your pregnancy to gain the system. On top of defamation, discrimination, and hostile work environment, you can then add a violation of your right to privacy (called public disclosure of private facts).


The first and most important action you need to take is to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for discrimination on the basis of your sex/gender, pregnancy, and age. You can do so using the information available online, including an online application option, here:

http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Complaints_ComplaintProcess.htm

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing will investigate your complaint and either file suit on your behalf or issue you a right to sue letter so you can pursue your claim against your employer and boss through a private attorney.

From the facts you've mentioned, you have a pretty great case, so you should not have any trouble finding an attorney to represent you in suing your employer for discrimination, hostile work environment, defamation, and violation of your rights to privacy.

While JustAnswer experts are prohibited by the site from making specific recommendations, I can give you the following sites as good starting points:

www.lawyers.com

www.avvo.com

www.martindale.com

I hope the above information is helpful.

Please let me know if you have any follow up or clarifying questions.

Thanks and best of luck!

Joseph, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 5002
Experience: Extensive experience representing employees and management
Joseph and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello Tawnya,

Please let me know if you have any follow up or clarifying questions regarding the above.

If not, please remember to rate my answer positively so I get credit for my work.

Thanks again and best of luck!

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