Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

Employment Law Attorney

Bartz Law Group, APC helps employees pursue their rights in court, in arbitration, and before government agencies. We are experienced with California and federal employment laws, and understand what it takes to file a case and prosecute the case through trial, arbitration or a hearing before a government agency.

Employees depend on their jobs for their livelihood. Employers are often corporations or other businesses with vast resources at their disposal.  As such, employment disputes often pit the employee “David” versus the employer “Goliath.”

California’s employment laws generously provide employees with rights to fight against employer’s wrongful behavior.  Bartz Law Group, APC assists employees and plaintiffs in all practice areas of California labor law, including the following employment issues:

Wrongful termination law

California wrongful termination law provides remedies to employees who lose their jobs for unlawful reasons.

Most employees in California are at-will employees. This means their employer can terminate their employment at any time for almost any reason.

But there are exceptions to at-will employment in California. If your employer fires you in violation of an implied contract or in violation of public policy, you may have the right to compensation.

California employees also have the right to be free from wrongful termination or wrongful failure to promote:

  • in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act,
  • as a form of whistleblowing retaliation,
  • in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s and Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections,
  • because of the employees’ political speech or activities outside of work, or
  • as retaliation for a qui tam lawsuit (i.e. on behalf of the government),
  • based on a failure to provide reasonable accommodations to a worker with a disability

Federal and state laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees through adverse employment actions other than termination, including demoting an employee, reducing an employee’s pay or work hours, or transferring an employee.

Wage and hour law

California wage and hour law sets minimum standards for:

  • Minimum employee pay,
  • Required employee breaks, and
  • Hours and overtime.

All California employers must abide by minimum wage laws and provide employees with stipulated meal breaks and rest breaks.

As of January 1, 2022, California’s minimum wage is $14 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees, and $15 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.  As of January 1, 2023, the California minimum wage will be $15 per hour for all employees, regardless of the size of the employer. 

In certain counties and cities, the minimum wage is higher than the California state minimum wage.  For example, in the City and County of San Francisco, the minimum wage is currently $16.32 per hour.  You may call Bartz Law Group, APC to check to see what the minimum wage is that applies in your particular situation.

Employers must also comply with meal breaks and rest breaks.

In general, California non-exempt employees must be provided a 30-minute duty free meal period on or before the fifth hour of work in any given day, and another duty-free meal period if the employee works at least 10 hours per day.  A meal period is duty-free only if the employee is not subject to the employer’s control, and is not on call, is free to leave the premises, and is not interrupted during the meal period.

Employees are also entitled to paid rest periods for each shift that they work that is at least three and one-half (3.5) hours.  As such, employees must receive 10 minutes’ net rest time for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, 30 minutes for shifts of more than 10 hours up to 14 hours, and so on.  The rest periods must be duty-free, and an employee cannot be on-call or interrupted during the rest period. 

In the event that an employer fails to provide an employee with a meal or rest period in any given day, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay for a meal and rest period violation during a single shift.  For instance, if an employee is unable to take a meal and a rest period during a given shift, the employer must pay the employee two (2) hours of premium pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay.  An employee’s regular rate is his or her hourly rate, including any other compensation to which the employee is entitled, such as non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay and the like.

Employers also must pay overtime to non-exempt employees. Overtime at time and one-half (1.5x your regular rate of pay) kicks in when you work more than eight (8) hours in a day or forty (40) hours in a week, or the first eight (8) hours worked on the seventh day during the workweek.  When you work more than twelve (12) hours during the day, or you work more than eight (8) hours on any seventh day of a workweek, you are entitled to two times (2x) your regular rate of pay for overtime.

California employers sometimes try to get out of their wage and hour obligations by misclassifying of non-exempt employees as exempt. This means to classify hourly employees as not entitled to overtime, or not entitled to mandatory meal and rest periods. California employers may also misclassify employees as independent contractors to get around wage and hour laws.

Requiring “work off the clock” is another common source of wage and hour violations.

Systematic under compensation by rounding your time and failing to itemize your paystubs is another source of wage and hour violations.  Many California employers also commonly round their employees time by the quarter hour or by the tenth of an hour.  Combined with tardiness and other policies, rounding may result in an employee receiving less than they are entitled to otherwise receive if the employer simply used the actual clock in and clock out times for an employee.

California law also forbids employers from rounding the time on employees’ meal periods.  Such time rounding, or automatic deductions of 30 minutes from an employee’s time for meal periods, may also violate California law.

Have you have been subjected to wage and hour violations by your employer? Call Bartz Law Group, APC for a free consultation.  You may be entitled to compensation for the unpaid wages and unpaid overtime.

Keep in mind that your employer may NOT retaliate against you for bringing a wage and hour complaint or other labor complaints.

Workplace harassment

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from harassment in the workplace. Bartz Law Group, APC is experienced with cases involving workplace harassment.

Most people are familiar with what the definition of sexual harassment is–particularly quid pro quo sexual harassment, in which a sexual harasser promises favorable treatment in exchange for the harassment.

But harassment in California employment law also encompasses “hostile work environment” harassment (including non-sexual harassment) on the basis of, among others:

  • sex/gender,
  • race or ethnicity,
  • religion,
  • national origin,
  • sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,
  • age, and
  • disability.

Bartz Law Group, APC can advise you on the best course of action if you experience harassment at work.

For most employees experiencing harassment, the first step is to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Then you may file a lawsuit against your harasser and/or your employer once the DFEH issues you a “right to sue” notice.

Employment discrimination

California employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their:

  • race, color or ethnicity,
  • disability or medical condition,
  • national origin,
  • age,
  • sex,
  • gender,
  • gender identity or expression,
  • sexual orientation,
  • pregnancy,
  • veteran or military status, or
  • religion.

Like workplace harassment, workplace discrimination is prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The difference between harassment and discrimination is that harassment involves behavior by supervisors or coworkers that is outside of their job description – such asabusive remarks or sexual propositions.

Discrimination, on the other hand, may involve normal job practices – such as hiring, firing, and setting work conditions that are conducted in a discriminatory manner.

Bartz Law Group, APC can help you navigate the process of filing a discrimination complaint with the DFEH. If it comes to that, we can bring a discrimination lawsuit against your employer.

California employers are not permitted to retaliate against an employee who takes action in response to harassment or discrimination at work.

Family and medical leave laws

California employees have the right to various forms of protected family and medical leave under state and federal laws that include

  • the California Family Rights Act (CFRA),
  • the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL).

The FMLA gives employees the right to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn biological child, a newly adopted child, a seriously ill family member or a serious illness of their own. These family and medical leave laws only apply if:

  1. You have worked for your employer for at least (1) year;
  2. You have worked for that employer for at least 1,250 hours in the past year; and
  3. Your employer has at least fifty (50) employees working within seventy-five (75) miles of your worksite.

The CFRA is similar to the FMLA, except that as of January 1, 2021, the CFRA applies to employers who directly employ five (5) or more persons to perform services for a salary or wage, and includes private employers as well as the state, and any political or civil subdivision of the state and cities.

If you give birth to a baby yourself, you are also eligible for leave under the PDLL. This law provides an additional leave of up to four (4) months for periods when you are incapacitated due to pregnancy or childbirth.

California employment law also requires employers to provide other forms of employee leave, including

  • paid sick leave (some of which may be used to care for an ill family member),
  • paid leave if you are unable to work due to Covid-19;
  • alcohol and drug rehabilitation leave,
  • voting leave,
  • leave to serve on a jury or comply with a subpoena,
  • leave to obtain or attempt to obtain relief from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking,
  • leave for victims of crime,
  • leave to participate in children’s school activities,
  • leave to receive literacy education, and
  • bereavement leave (when offered by company policy).

California employers may NOT retaliate against employees who take the family, medical or other protected leave that is provided by law. And in most cases, they are required to reinstate you in your previous position when you return from leave.

Employee privacy

Bartz Law Group, APC is also up to date on the latest developments in the complex, emerging field of employee privacy rights.

Some of the major topics in California employee privacy law include:

  • Whether employers may videotape employees (this is generally okay in public areas of the workplace but not in restrooms, locker rooms or similar private areas).
  • Whether employers may gather or monitor your biometric data.
  • Whether employers may monitor employees’ internet usage.
  • Whether employers can ask about job applicants’ criminal records (known as “ban the box” laws).
  • Whether and how an employer can use an employee’s medical records and history.
  • Drug tests for employees (generally speaking, employers may require drug tests for job applicants but not for employees, unless they are working in safety-sensitive positions or the employer has reason to suspect drug use).
  • Whether an employer can check your credit rating.
  • An employer’s use and protection of your Social Security Number.
  • An employee’s right to make video recordings of occurrences in the workplace.

Employment contracts

Are you a California employee who has signed an employment contract with your employer? Odds are that the employer drafted the contract.  Most of the time, employers require you to sign such contracts without your input, and make sure that you sign the contract as a condition of your employment. 

California employees also should be aware of clauses in their employment contracts that restrict their behavior. For example, your contract may contain:

  • A non-compete clause, which prohibits you from leaving your employer to work at a competing company or start your own competing business; or
  • A non-solicitation clause, which may prohibit you from contacting employees that you worked with or customers of your employer after your employment ends. 

If you need to know whether or under what circumstances clauses like this in your employment contract may be enforced, Bartz law Group, APC can help.

California employment law and immigration

Unfortunately, employers sometimes take advantage of immigrant employees. We tend to see this with both those who are here legally and those who are undocumented.

But California labor laws, including wage and hour laws and laws against harassment and discrimination, apply to ALL employees. This includes undocumented immigrants. “Immigration retaliation” is illegal and subjects a company to significant penalties.

Are you in the United States on avisa sponsored by your employer – such as an H-1B visa? You may also feel uncertain about asserting your rights. You may feel that you “owe” your employer for the favor of sponsoring you. Or you may worry that your employer will not help you renew your visa if you are vocal about your rights.

But H-1B visa holders are protected by the same labor protections as any other California employee, as well as by numerous other rules and regulations surrounding the visa program. Your employer knows this. And companies know that they need to abide by the law if they want to continue hiring H-1B workers.

The bottom line is thatimmigrant employees enjoy the same rights as other employees in California.

Employment litigation

Filing a lawsuit, or even threatening a lawsuit, against an employer can be scary. Many employees feel loyal to their employers because employers are paying them.  You also may worry that you will not be able to find a new job if you assert your rights against your current or former employer.

Bartz Law Group, APC is here to help. We are familiar with the processes and procedures for employment litigation, including statutes of limitation for different kinds of employment lawsuits.

We can also guide you through arbitration of your employment dispute – something that may be required by your employment contract.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sue my employer and still work there?

Yes. And employers generally may not fire workers in retaliation. But before suing, employees are advised to consult with a labor law attorney.

Employees should also arm themselves with evidence of their mistreatment or the employer’s wrongful behavior. These could include emails, text messages, and contact information of potential witnesses.

Can I get fired based on my appearance?

It depends. FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on appearance-based characteristics such as race (including hairstyles), color, disability, sex, or age.

Companies can impose dress code and grooming standards as long as they are consistent.

How soon does my employer have to pay me if I get laid off or fired? Can I get severance pay?

California employers must pay laid-off or fired employees on their last day of work.

If workers quit without giving notice, the employer has 72 hours to pay. If workers quit with three days’ notice, then employers should pay on their last day of work.

Employers are not obligated to pay severance, unless they agreed to do so in a contract or union agreement, or sometimes if an employer has a policy or practice of paying a severance to departing employees.

Do employers have to notify me before laying me off?

Prior to March 4, 2020, the WARN Act required certain businesses to provide employees 60 days of notice before mass layoffs. But these rules are relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, businesses affected by COVID-19 just need to give as much notice as practicable.

What are my rights as an employee in California?

You have many rights as a California employee, including but not limited to:

  1. Overtime pay (for non-exempt employees)
  2. Rest and meal breaks (for non-exempt employees)
  3. Protection from discrimination in the workplace based on race, ethnicity or color, religion, gender, sex, pregnancy, age, disability or medical condition, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran or military status, or national origin,
  4. Protection from sexual harassment in the workplace (either a hostile working environment or quid pro quo harassment)
  5. Limited unpaid family leave (in most cases)
  6. Minimum wage (for non-exempt employees)
  7. Freedom from retaliation in the workplace for filing a “qui tam” claim, requesting reasonable disability accommodations, opposing workplace harassment or discrimination, or filing a complaint about it or cooperating with an investigation
  8. A safe workplace and a right to file complaints with government agencies, including OSHA or Cal/OSHA
  9. Paid sick leave (in most cases)
  10. Protection from wrongful termination for filing a workers’ compensation claim, whistleblowing, and exercising other workplace rights

Do I need a lawyer?

Businesses have one objective. To make the most money while paying out as little as possible. So employees are at a distinct disadvantage.

Labor attorneys with years of experience help even the playing field. They fight for employees’ legal rights and best interests. Otherwise, wronged employees risk getting shortchanged financially.

Bartz Law Group, APC starts every case the same way: by listening to your story. We know that every employment case is different. We want to hear your full story so that we can determine the best legal strategy for your case.

Call our law office today or use the contact form on this page to schedule a free consultation for your legal issues. We represent clients throughout the State of California, from San Diego to Riverside and Los Angeles, to Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco.

Case Results

  • Wage & Hour Case
    Wage & Hour Case

    $16.8 million – wage and hour settlement with Fortune 100 telecom provider

  • Confidential Settlement
    Employment Case

    $12 million – confidential settlement case