It has been twice in a week that the Orange County Register has reported that two high-ranking police offers were terminated because they spoke up against their superiors. One officer complained about her superior’s mismanagement and the other alleged that his boss condoned corruption in the department according to the lawsuits filed. The lawsuits were only recently filed, so the Orange County juries will have the opportunity to judge the facts that both parties reveal at the trials. As a business owner myself, I understand that the cost of hiring and maintaining a workforce is a huge chunk of the overhead cost. The last thing we want to deal with is an employee suing you because of something that could have been prevented.
The labor law in California heavily favors employees, and rightfully so. As such, entrepreneurs must be on guard to protect themselves against lawsuits for employment discrimination as the Californian courts have ruled that employees have the right to file such lawsuits against their employers. They need to prove that they were subject to “adverse employment action” because they refused to engage in unlawful conduct or simply engaged in a “protected activity” and suffered damages.
“Adverse employment action” is action taken by an employer to penalize an employee for or prevent an employee from opposing an illegal activity by refusing to hire, denying promotion, denying job benefits, demotion, being verbally abusive, disciplining, or providing a negative job review. The most common “protected activities” in the private sector are sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion, or disability. However, it can also include other illegal activities.
The courts have broadly defined the terms of “adverse employment action” and “protected activities”; thus, employers need to take an active approach to ensure that they have written policies that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. These policies need to be comprehensible and made available to all employees. In addition, employers need to have a system in place for employees to voice their concerns. They must investigate claims and take the appropriate corrective measures if necessary. Employers need to ensure that employees who complain are not reprimanded because they filed the complaints.
Many wrongful terminations can be prevented; even if lawsuits are filed, if employers have well-publicized written policies and procedures to handle employees’ concerns and actively take corrective measures to address those concerns, the lawsuits should be fairly easy to defend.
If you currently have an issue with an employee and are not sure how to approach him or her, you need an experienced Orange County business litigation and trial attorney to ensure that you receive the proper advice. To learn more, call the law offices of Tony T. Liu today at (714) 415-2007.