Before you think that California is just a crazy state (it is), you should know that approximately half of these laws are also Federal laws applying to all states. Also, many of these protected categories exist in other states.
This is a cautionary list for all employers, no matter where you are located in the U.S.
You should know, too, that the courts can make additional case-by-case categories based on “public policy.”
Here is a list of protected categories. Remember that this list grows all the time.
- Challenging illegal employment policies/agreements
- Citizenship and immigration status
- Crime victim
- Disability or perception of disability (mental or physical)
- Filing a worker’s compensation claim
- Jury duty service
- Marital status
- Medical condition, including cancer in remission
- Military status
- Missing work to accompany a child to school who is under threat of suspension
- National Origin
- Parent Status
- Participation in union activities
- Personal relationship with a person employed by a competitor
- Political beliefs
- Sex or Gender (including transgender)
- Sexual Orientation
- Taking up to forty hours off each year to attend school with a child
- Taking time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter
- Use of family and/or medical leave
- Use of First Amendment rights (including on social media and subpoenas)
- Use of leave
- Use of sick time
- Veteran status
- Victim of domestic violence
- Victim of sexual harassment
- Wage complaint/question
The sheer volume of laws means that you must have an expert to hand on employment laws to help you prepare policies and train managers to avoid violations. There are many nuances, too. For example, some of the laws apply to all employers, and some only apply to employers who have certain types of employees or a minimum number of employees.
But there is no need to panic. Quite honestly, there is a lot I can do as a defense attorney to minimize the damage of any employee accusations, if it gets to that point. I’m not a wizard, but I did once win a pregnancy discrimination case despite a text message that said “you are fired because you are pregnant.” (Seriously, though, please do not do that because then you will have to pay me A LOT to work my black arts.)
But the real reason to not panic is that with a little prior planning, you can avoid many problems as employers. I typically start with a client as the result of a catastrophic lawsuit. After working my black arts, I get to work on revamping the employment policies and training managers. Once those things are in place, and we have the bat phone connection established in case anything comes up, lawsuits rarely happen. In fact, to date, I can say that I have a perfect record: after doing this for clients, I have never had one sued (knock on wood).
So what can you do now? Think about 2015 and how you can update and improve your management practices and your policies. Start with scheduling a free 30-minute business planning session with me so we can identify weaknesses, quick-fixes, and any serious dangers.