Can I Sue My Boss?

Can I Sue My Boss?

Is your boss demanding and putting down your work all the time?

Does your boss cuss at you and make you feel terrible?

Does your team hate your boss and want to quit?

Your boss may be a jerk, a bully, as well as mean, but does this mean you can sue him? The short answer is no.  There are a lot of protected actions and people that can seek further legal action but you also need to know that managers and bosses have legal rights as well.  Some of the top cases we see are:

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1)    Discrimination against women, over 65, or other protected classes.

We commonly see pregnant women, women, and older workers get passed over for promotions and treated in a manner that is not the same as their younger or male counterparts. We have noticed that these classes suffer from an unfair belief they don’t want to be a “burden” to the company.  However, it is not legal for companies to push these workers to the side and promote over them.  When this happens you need to speak with an attorney and see if there is enough evidence to support your claim.  A lot of times, one demand letter will help you regain respect from your business.

The law has created a term called “temporal proximity.”  Meaning the time between the protected activities and adverse employment action are so close in timing, that it alone can be inference of discrimination.  Please see out next blog for more information on how to build your case.

2)    Wrongful termination.

Are you scared about standing up for your rights?  Don’t worry. If you raise a sexual harassment complaint with your boss, e.g. unfair treatment based on sex or other issues, and are soon after fired, you will have an extremely strong claim for wrongful termination.  Asking about these rights is not something to ever be afraid of.  There are steps you should take to protect yourself and you should speak with an attorney ASAP if you are worried about your current position. 

As well, if you are returning from maternity leave, or if you are older and suddenly fired, you may also be in a protected class and will need to make sure the termination was legal.

3)    Sexual harassment

These are complicated cases and we strongly suggest seeking legal advice as soon as possible.  There may be times that co-workers are making comments that are sexual in nature or there may be a time when you being approached by a manager or co-worker in an inappropriate way.  We suggest you address HR as soon as possible and seek legal advice if worried about your job.

In a future blog post we are going to address how to build your case and ensure you have the evidence you need.  Please subscribe to get this article as soon as it is published.

4)    Women’s issues

The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place.  In a lot of ways, this is an amazing thing but for women in the workplace, it means they may be faced with managers from cultures unaligned with acceptable and legal business practices in the States.  It is important for women to know that your manager’s original culture does not excuse sexual discrimination.  Having been raised in a culture that treats women as lesser than does not excuse a manager, male or female, from treating you differently than a man.  If you are currently suffering from this reality, even from a fellow female manager, it is important to seek legal counsel.

-Author Marcia Wallis is an associate attorney with the Louderback Law Group

Fair Pay Amid Today's Sexual Harassment Deluge

When two female comedians ran out of the room rather than endure Louis CK’s self-indulgent naughty nonsense, his manager told them to keep their mouths shut.  Funny, since Louis CK’s comedic genius often springs from telling stories that no one else talks about.  But they didn’t shut up.  I guess they decided they didn’t have to put up with it.

After I passed the California bar, I took a contract job with a small San Francisco firm, working on a class action wrongful termination.  A few months later, the firm interviewed for a second contract attorney to help with the increasing number of plaintiffs.  After one candidate left, I heard one partner crowing to the other: “this guy went to Duke (not to one-up, but I went to Dartmouth) and he’s willing to work for only $50 an hour (my hourly was $35).”

Hopping mad, I stormed into the office and asked why they offered the new guy more money.  Explanation: he spoke fluent German and in fact had a Ph.D in German literature.  Of course!  The ability to read Goethe in the original gave him a critical edge in preparing an employment action for trial in California.  So I shut up and trained this Siddhartha scholar to do the same thing as me.

Flash forward twenty years.  Last week a young woman signed a representation agreement with Louderback Law Group to file a complaint under the California Fair Pay Act.  At her former firm, she trained a new guy how to do her job.  After the firm canned her, she got wind of the fact that his salary exceeded hers by $100K.  Unlike the younger, quieter version of me, she won’t shut up.  And she knows the law is on her side.

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On October 7, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the strictest equal pay act in the United States.  California Labor Code section 1197.5 prohibits an employer from paying women less than men for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions (barring certain specific exceptions),  even if the job titles are different or they work in different offices under the same employer. 

The employer has defenses available, of course.  Permitted difference in pay may be based on a seniority system, a merit system or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production. But a bona fide factor other than sex will apply only if it is job related with respect to the position in question and is consistent with a “business necessity.”  In other words, a German literature degree, in most cases, won’t get the employer off the hook.

More and more women are deciding not to shut up and put up these days.  And thanks to Governor Brown, women seeking justice for being paid less than their male counterparts can also recover retroactive pay discrepancies, interest, costs and reasonable attorney fees.  It will take both men and women across society, as well as some necessary legal action, to change the culture of treating women as lesser than.  However, with the help of the Fair Pay Act and the tidal wave of women coming out against the behavior of many notable men across society, ultimately changing the dynamics of male entitlement going forward seems like a reality, finally. 

-Lynn Hollenbeck, Associate Attorney LLG