California Employment Law
California Employment Law Questions Answered by Legal Experts
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First, let me say that I am terribly sorry to hear that you are in this situation. It is a shame when an employer makes a decision without legitimacy, especially when that decision is quite frankly wrong. However, that does not necessarily mean that the decision is unlawful. The law defines a hostile work environment as an environment where an employee experiences workplace harassment due to a protected category such as their age (over 40), gender, race, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, national origin, creed, or disability. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents, unless extremely serious, will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.So, if there was a claim made for a hostile work environment, it would be based on you intimidating this other employee due to a disability. The argument would be that your stating "take your meds" was a statement truly intended to discriminate against this person due to their disability. It would be the equivalent of yelling a racial slur and the person making a complaint based on racial discrimination. That being said, legally speaking, this statement would not be enough for this person to be able to bring a cause of action against the employer. However, there is some bad news. If you are not part of a union, or if you do not have an employment contract stating that you can only be terminated for cause, then you would be an at will employee in the state of California. Accordingly, your employer would be allowed to terminate your employment or write you up for any reason that does not violate your civil rights or is in breach of contract. Thus, the best approach here may just be an interpersonal approach, where you set up a meeting with your supervisor, and explain in a calm and professional manner that you really like your job, really like working there, and that there was no intent to create a hostile work environment as the statements made were made back and forth between two friends.
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I realize that the law is not entirely in your favor here and I am truly sorry to have to deliver bad news. Nonetheless, I trust that you will appreciate an accurate explanation of the law and realize that it would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.
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As for needing a lawyer, you can definitely bring a lawyer with you to any future discussions, but it would not necessarily do you any good unless you believe the boss is treating you unfairly because of a protected category. If you can point to a protected category of your own, then you should consider getting an attorney involved, or at a minimum making a complaint with your union steward, or the DFEH, or EEOC.
However, if you cannot point to a protected category, and you are an at will employee, an attorney will not be able to do much for you in this situation, other than to act as a witness to the statements that are made. If you decide to hire an attorney a great resource is www.Martindale.com. This is a nationwide directory that is useful in finding highly qualified legal specialists in various fields of law. The lawyers in Martindale are not selected because they paid to be included, but rather because they have been rated by other attorneys as qualified experts in their field. Consider consulting with two or three different attorneys willing to take your case prior to selecting the one you feel most comfortable with.
Thank you for your advice,,,i will see what the decision will be,,,i brought up another element of what happened while we were returning to our seats, that i had no intention of bringing up,,,but i didnt want to be the only accused of saying words that created a hostile working environment .
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