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California Labor Law Protection for Discrimination and Retaliation?

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Bakersfield, CA The State of California’s Division of Labor Standards investigates complaints that allege discrimination in the workplace. It states that “As an employee in the State of California…your employer cannot fire, demote, suspend or discipline you for answering any questions or providing any information to a government agency.” Although most employees know their basic rights and that discrimination is a violation of the California labor law, they are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation. Juan feels he has nowhere to turn.

Many people are afraid to file a complaint. Perhaps they will be singled out for something at a later date, even if it isn’t their fault. Perhaps they will be passed over for a promotion. And maybe they will get so worn down and so stressed out that the only option is to quit.

Juan has been working just over a year in shipping and receiving for a large warehouse. He also trains employees. Juan was hired through a temp agency a few months before the new General Manager was hired.

“My first year anniversary came up and I did the mandatory drug test along with other applicants - the same tests that the new GM had to do,” says Juan. “The difference between us is that he passed the background checks and tests and I failed, according to our branch manager. That was really weird because just before I started with this company I applied as a County Sheriff and passed everything except for a physical test. So why can I pass the County test but not pass the test for this company?”

Juan believes it is because he is Hispanic. The new GM is African American and so is the boss. Juan says that Hispanic employees are constantly harassed and belittled.

“My wife is scheduled to have a caesarean section next month so I applied for one-day leave,” Juan says. “I asked our department head and he said okay, just make sure the branch manager and warehouse manager know. When I told Harvey, the warehouse manager, he screamed at me because I ‘went over his head.’ We have an open-door policy so I have no idea why he got so upset, except to single me out.

“The next day I inadvertently got an e-mail from the branch manager that was supposed to be sent to Harvey. It said ‘Juan needs to clear the c-section with the temp agency and we need to approve or replace the employee since he is a temp.’

“But the agency already knows what is going on and they approved my day off. Now I am afraid they are going to try to find some excuse to fire me. This is so stressful and I have a baby on the way.”

Juan saved the e-mail. And he told his contact at the temp agency that he was being discriminated against. She was shocked and disgusted with the e-mail and asked Juan why she wasn’t told sooner. “I told her that I am afraid of retaliation, just like the other Hispanic employees here,” Juan explains. “I told her that only one person out of three sent here from the temp agency last month was hired - he is Harvey’s friend.

“This company is run like a frat house: If you don’t belong to Harvey’s church or know him personally, he will treat you like you are nothing. From what I heard this has happened to many employees over the years but they too are afraid of retaliation. I was told that some people did complain but he made things difficult for them, such as assign lousy hours or a shift he knows will be difficult to juggle with their personal life, just to show that he is the boss.”

Juan is hopeful that an attorney experienced with the California labor law can advise him whether or not to proceed with a California labor lawsuit. He is too afraid to call the Retaliation Complaint Unit.

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