We help our clients to understand and preserve their rights, and to promote fairness in the workplace. We handle employment matters across the San Francisco Bay Area, including Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley.
Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under both California and Federal employment law. Employees cannot legally be discriminated against based on characteristics such as national origin, race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, or pregnancy.
California is an at-will state, so companies are generally within their rights to let people go for unspecified reasons. However, if a business or corporation chooses to lay people off based on legally protected characteristics, that is illegal. It is also illegal to fire an employee for taking leave, either under the Federal FMLA or under California's leave laws.
If you have questions about a termination, resignation, or severance/separation agreements, please contact us.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination which violates both federal and state laws. Courts often distinguish between two types of sexual harassment: "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment."
What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?
Quid pro quo ("give me this in exchange for that") harassment occurs when an employer makes submitting to certain sexual conduct a specific requirement of the job, or bases employment decisions on whether someone rejects or accepts that conduct.
What is Hostile Work Environment?
Sometimes sexual jokes, comments, requests, activities, and behaviors become so pervasive at work that you no longer want to go to work, you feel uncomfortable while at work, or you may even feel apprehensive during your entire workday. When this intimidating or offensive environment exists, it is considered a "hostile work environment".
Many types of workplace harassment are not illegal--the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not "extremely serious." Please contact us to determine if a particular form of harassment is a violation of the law.
Severance and Employment Agreements
Often, employers will offer severance packages to ease the transition when they let an employee go. It's not a legal obligation, but it can give the employer a legal advantage. It's not uncommon for the employer to ask in these agreements that the employee release certain rights the employee may have. This is a severance agreement.
Severance agreements are usually drafted by the employer's lawyers. We can help you understand the document before you sign, retain more of your legal rights, and even determine if you are in a position to negotiate a better deal.
For employers, we help to protect your business by determining the most appropriate terms to include in the severance packages you offer terminated employees.
California has "at-will" employment laws, meaning employment can be terminated at any time, with the exception of certain situations.
In order to provide a bit more of a framework around the employment arrangement, employers and employees often create formal "employment agreements" or employment contracts. These agreements can cover a wide range of conditions and terms. Some things commonly specified in an employment agreement include duties of the job, titles, compensation, benefits, and the length of the engagement, especially with high-level executives. It is not unusual for an employee to give up his/her rights to take the employer to court by signing the agreement.
Other types of employment agreements that we assist with include non-compete, nondisclosure (NDA), and confidentiality agreements. These dictate what an employee can and cannot disclose after leaving the company or business.
Negotiating Employment Agreements
As an employee or employer, you have the right to negotiate the terms of an employment contract. We are available to review or assist in preparing your employment agreement. We are also happy to assist in negotiating the terms of the contract.
Please contact us with your employement law questions, or to discuss a specific matter.