California Labor Law: 60 and White spells Age and Race Discrimination

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Northridge, CA Emma worked as a server at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) for the past 10 years and you'd think after a decade of service, maybe a raise or a nice present would be in order. Instead, she was fired, at the age of 60. Emma believes she was fired because of race and age discrimination??"a blatant violation of the California labor law.

"Last October, I went to work on Saturday morning, punched in the time clock and someone was at my waitress station," says Emma. "A few minutes later, the manager came in and told me to go into her office, which I did.
'Sorry, but I have to let you go,' she said.
"What on earth for, I'm a really good worker,' I said, completely shocked.
'I got a couple of complaints about you yelling,' she replied.
'You're gonna fire me for that? I'm almost 60 years old, where will I find another job?' I asked her.

"I know that I have a big mouth??"my voice carries and it runs in the family," says Emma. "But the only I time I ever yelled was to the kitchen staff: 'Where's the food', or 'what's taking so long,' I have said with my voice raised on occasion. I didn't yell at a customer--ever. And we aren't talking about fine dining here. It's a family restaurant -there are lots of kids are yelling.

Old Waitress'Can't you let me stay?' I almost begged her.
'It is out of my hands, Emma,' she said.' I can't do anything about it, but If anything comes up, I will call you.'

"Later on, I knew that was a load of bullshit, but I was hoping that she meant it. I didn't say anything to anyone after that, I just walked out the back entrance.

It turns out that she hired a server from the other IHOP where she previously managed??"I guess she liked him more than me. She is Hispanic and so is he??"I'm white and just turned 60. Now I know what it is like to be Hispanic or Black or any minority race discriminated against??"because it happened to me, a Caucasian.

I received my last pay check when she fired me, but I didn't get any vacation pay. We aren't unionized so I didn't receive any severance package. It has been a real financial burden--one day I'm counting on my regular check at the end of the week to pay the bills, the next day I have nothing. I filed for unemployment benefits the next day and had a two-week waiting period, so I had no income for those two weeks.

I have phoned so many places and nobody is hiring. The first few weeks after I was fired, I must have phoned 30 places and none were hiring. Some of them didn't ask my age; they just didn't need any help. But you know just as well as I do that it is hard to get work when you reach my age.

IHOP is not a good place to work, period. Apparently the boss said something to another white girl and she said it was discrimination. The boss said that was a big word for her to use. Another girl quit because she wasn't paid overtime and another girl was just fired??"she filed a claim. Nice place, IHOP. There are only two white employees left where I worked and one black woman. All the rest are Hispanic.

And they really make you work hard. They have secret shoppers so you have to push to order more. We are supposed to check tables after two minutes to see if they are OK, if they need anything else. I never filed a complaint with the labor board because I didn't think it would go anywhere. But my co-worker is claiming labor violations against IHOP for harassment??"she is still working there. She encouraged me to find a lawyer on your website."

Racial and age discrimination is not tolerated in the state of California. There are laws protecting employees on their race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, sex and sexual orientation. Age and racial discrimination can result in wrongful termination, hostile work environment, and demotion. Employers have a duty to prevent discrimination in the workplace, and they must permit employees to seek management's helping preventing it. As well, employees are protected from retaliation if they complain about racial harassment or discrimination. Employers cannot punish employees directly or indirectly for making complaints, assisting or opposing any prohibited practices such as sexual harassment and racial discrimination. If an employer does retaliate, an employee has grounds for a lawsuit.

If you have been unlawfully terminated, you may be eligible to recover the following:
past lost wages and other benefits; future lost wages and benefits; general damages including emotional distress and pain and suffering; punitive damages; and attorneys fees. It might be worth your while to seek legal help.

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