Branigan Robertson exclusively practices employment law. He focuses all of his attention on the legal ramifications of the employer-employee relationship so that you can rest assured that your legal matter is in the right hands.
This page was designed to give basic information on some of the main employment law practice areas. Situations detailed in the following sections describe what an employee might encounter when dealing with a less than ethical company or employer, from sexual discrimination, to wage theft.
It’s important to remember that nothing on this or any connecting pages is intended as a substitute for speaking directly with a qualified employment attorney. If a section of our employment law practice areas page describes your particular job situation, contact our office to see how we can help.
Major Employment Law Practice Areas
Each section links to a more in-depth page for each subject.
Of all the employment law practice areas, discrimination is perhaps the most talked about in casual conversation. Indeed, many other areas of employment law — whether sexual harassment, whistleblower protection or wrongful termination — stem from discrimination prohibitions.
While federal law provides all Americans protection against discrimination, most lawyers in California make use of the state’s Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA) law. While closely mirroring the federal law, FEHA prohibits employers from discrimination against workers based on the following:
- Skin color
- National origin
- Physical or mental disability
- Age (over 40)
- Sexual orientation
- Military status
Discrimination can pop up in the workplace in a variety of ways, some of which can be surprising to those not familiar with case law. For instance, in 1989, the U.S. District Court heard a case involving an African American woman who claimed she was discriminated against by an African American supervisor, because of her lighter skin color. The court ultimately ruled that the law distinguishes between race and skin color, and protects against discrimination based on skin color. Other cases heard in courts have involved male employees who were discriminated against by female supervisors.
Because of the variety of discrimination cases that are possible, it is always recommended you contact a qualified employment attorney to help you decide if your specific situation qualifies as discrimination. For more information, visit our main discrimination page.
California’s employment laws protect employees who take a stand for what is right. As such, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee who refuses to break the law. Likewise it is unlawful for an employer to prevent a worker from giving information to a government agency regarding workplace violations of state or federal law.
This includes violations of non-compliance with workplace regulations, regardless of whether the violation is related to the employee’s job duties. In addition, the labor code prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for disclosing information regarding workplace violations. CA Labor Code §1102.5 (a)-(c)
A recent California whistleblower case concluded in 2015 and resulted in a large award for plaintiff Janet Keyzer, a former nurse researcher at UC Davis. The suit stemmed from a 2008 complaint by Keyzer that the University was not meeting proper research requirements involving medical studies of human subjects at San Quentin State Prison. After repeated attempts to bring the matter to the attention of her supervisors, Keyzer’s husband, an information technology specialist who also worked on the project, was fired. Keyzer believed her husband’s firing was retaliation for her whistle blowing. A jury agreed, awarding her a total of $730,000. According to a November 29, 2015 article published by the Davis Enterprise, after the University withdrew its appeal to the judgment, it settled with Keyzer for a total of $1.2 million.
If you feel you have been retaliated against for engaging in protected whistleblower activities, visit our main whistleblower page for more information and call our office to see how we can help.
It’s hard to believe that this discussion continues in the modern age, but to this day, some employers violate state law by failing to offer the following:
- Rest Breaks/Meal Breaks
- Minimum wage
- Paystub violations
- Reimbursement for work-related expenses
- Pay for all hours worked upon termination
Our law office handles two types of actions related to wages and hours — those involving individual employees, as well as class actions filed in response to disputes over failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, required benefits and more. Visit our main wages & hours page for more information.
Wrongful termination is a broad description that applies to a situation where a person is fired or demoted for reasons prohibited by law. These reasons can include: refusal to provide sexual favors, the color of one’s skin, age discrimination (over the age of 40), sexual orientation, as well as religion.
Unfortunately, employers can be crafty at coming up with seemingly legitimate reasons for firing an employee, also known as pretexts. If you feel you have been the victim of wrongful termination, visit our main wrongful termination page or contact our office to see how we can help.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it illegal for an employer to harass an employee on the basis of a protected category. CA Government Code §12940 (j). This includes harassment in the form of sexual harassment. In legal terms, sexual harassment can include a variety of unwanted behaviors including:
- Sexual advances
- Offers of advancement in exchange for sexual favors (quid pro quo harassment)
- Physical touching
- Verbal abuse of a sexual nature
- Leering or lewd gestures
Though the common perception of sexual harassment involves a male employer harassing a female subordinate, sexual harassment can occur in a variety of interactions. Settlements and judgments have been awarded in cases involving coworkers of the same sex as well as in situations involving a female boss and a male subordinate. To find out more about the law and sexual harassment, visit our main sexual harassment page.
FEHA makes it unlawful for an employer to harass an employee on the basis of a protected category. CA Government Code §12940 (j). Aside from sex, as detailed above, it is unlawful to harass employees on the basis of any of the following:
- Sexual Orientation
- Military status
There are other protected categories. What you should also know is that you may file a lawsuit against the individual harasser, and not just the company. That way you can deter the individual, and not just the company, from ever harassing another employee again.
This is another general term used to describe an employer who takes an action that adversely affects an employee’s job, such as firing, demotion or harassment. In order to qualify as retaliation, the event must result from an employee’s response to workplace discrimination. For instance, a male employee who complains to management about a supervisor sexually harassing female employees might be fired or demoted. This could constitute retaliation on the part of the employer. For more information, visit our retaliation page or read CA Govt. Code § 12940(h).
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides employee protections against employers who discriminate based on disability. The law recognizes a number of physical and mental disabilities including, but not limited to, the following:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Heart Disease
- Bipolar disorder
- Learning disability
- Depression, and
- Many other conditions could qualify as a disability under FEHA
To be clear, the law does allow employers to discriminate in cases where the employee is unable to perform his or her essential duties in a manner that doesn’t endanger health or safety. However, wherever possible, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. This could include modifying work schedules, or allowing the employee to take an extra break. In the case of an employee in a wheel chair, the employer might allow that person to have an office on the first floor. For more information, visit our main disability page.
Workers in the state of California are protected by multiple sets of laws aimed at providing job leave in the event of medical, or family emergencies. The Federal law providing this protection is the Family and Medical Leave Act, while the state offers the California Family Rights Act. Both laws allow a worker to take 12 workweeks of paid or unpaid leave to deal with the following:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- A serious health condition
- An immediate family member who is suffering from serious illness
- Jury duty
- Military service
- Witness testimony
It’s important to remember however, that certain exceptions apply. For instance, in order for an employee to be eligible for this type of leave, they must have served more than 12 months with the employer. In addition, the law only applies to companies that employ 50 or more workers. Please note that this are of law is exceedingly complicated and you should consult with an employment lawyer as soon as possible.
If you feel you have been denied your legal right to a leave of absence or were terminated for taking a justified leave of absence, visit our main leave of absence page for more information.
Pregnancy discrimination has become a hot area of employment law. Employers often terminate employees because they don’t want them to be absent for three months on maternity leave. Or the employer fires the employee because pregnant women are bad for its image. Sometimes, employers terminate an employee because she has been put on bed rest, or has work restrictions that slightly interfere with the job. But employers are generally required to make reasonable accommodations for things like this. To learn more about this robust area of law, visit our main pregnancy discrimination page.
California’s Civil Code prevents a person from disclosing someone else’s trade secret without permission. Famous instances of trade secrets involve the recipe for Coca Cola, Ms. Fields Cookies, or WD-40.
State law specifically defines a trade secret as a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that derives independent economic value from not being generally known to the public. CA Civil Code § 3426.1(d). Trade secret cases, often involve an employee who left a company after signing a trade secret agreement and is accused by the former employer of trade secret theft. For more information, visit our main trade secrets page.
This type of agreement is typically designed by employers to prevent workers from leaving the company and starting a competing business of their own. California bars this type of agreement between employers and employees. Narrow exceptions apply in the case of clauses preventing an employee from disclosing or stealing a trade secret. For more information, visit our main non-compete page.
Privacy is one of the most important employment law practice areas. The Californian State Constitution protects employees against invasions of privacy by various individuals and entities. This includes invasions of privacy by employers. This practice area covers a range of issues, from information contained in medical examinations, to employee computer usage. Visit our main privacy page for more information.
Hopefully this page on the main employment law practice areas proved informative. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or some other prohibited company practice, it is important you don’t delay. The statutes of limitations on employment claims can vary depending on the type of employee. Contact our office right away to see how we can help.