Have-Your-Employee-Rights-Been-Violated-Part-1-Workplace-Discrimination.jpg (2149×1159)Businesses have always done whatever they can to improve efficiency, performance, and bring down overhead. While these goals like perfectly normal and acceptable business practices, it also linked directly to a long history of taking advantage of and even abusing employees in order to achieve these goals. We’re not saying that every employer is a Dickensian villain, but if left to their own devices without regulations and laws, many businesses would start to slide down that slippery slope of personal bias and employee underappreciation.

Where Employee Rights Start to Slip

Hours get longer, wages get shorter, and employees will be asked to take on more and more duties without compensation and sometimes seeing their rewards going to a more favored coworker. This might sound like a made up horror story for those lucky enough to have a long run of good employers and bosses, but if you’ve ever been in an under-monitored and slowly corrupting job situation, then you know exactly what we are here to talk about today.

Employee rights have always been a touchy subject in the business world precisely because the laws that defend employee rights were put into place to fight big businesses with progressively less fair or humane policies.

Civil Rights and the EEOC

While we all have certain inalienable rights defined in our founding documents, it wasn’t until 1964 as a result of the nation-wide civil rights movement that the Civil Rights Act was penned and put into action. Initially intended to reduce racial violence and discrimination during a very delicate time in history for both employers and professionals, the Civil Rights Act also paved the way for acknowledging that there are certain rights that all employees should have regarding discrimination and fair treatment in comparison to coworkers of equal or comparable rank.

Within the Civil Rights Act is a special section known as the EEOC or Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Its purpose is to ensure that employers aren’t hiring people who are only of their own culture, gender, age group, nationality, religion, or skin color. Under these rules, employers can’t consistently hire or promote one non-meritocratically-defined group of people over another, fail to give respect and responsibility, or limit the employment terms of a protected category of employees.

Employment agencies can’t fail to refer employment for specific groups of people and they can’t start sorting who they refer based on age, gender, nationality, color, and so forth. Discrimination, in general, is also against the rules and includes verbal remarks, desk placement, duty assignment, and many other more subtle aspects of workplace bias.While it’s easy to say these things and point at very clear examples of bias and unfair treatment, actually spotting and addressing existing biases in the workplace is a lot more complicated.

Cultural, Religious, and Color Discrimination

When trying to spot and clearly identify discrimination in the workplace, it’s important to know the difference between a clumsy attempt at cultural consideration and what is prejudice. Let’s say you are openly Jewish, the office knows your religion and culture, and your boss stops you to ask if you need a Kosher meal at the company picnic. This is not discrimination. If you explain that you don’t keep Kosher but they ask you every single time there’s a company event, this is bordering on discrimination.

Other examples might be grouping all ‘the foreign’ employees together for almost any reason other than that they arrived as a team is likely to be discrimination and any situation where preference or privilege is constantly given to a specific demographic over others is very likely to be illegal.

Age Discrimination

Discrimination based on age is an interesting issue because it only goes one way. It is meant to prevent companies from firing, laying off, or reducing the duties of employees over the age of 40 in favor of younger coworkers. However, it is legal to favor older employees over younger ones despite credentials.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination is one of the most hotly debated subjects in the EEOC precisely because it’s still rampant. This can be spotted as a company with female-only clerical staff and male-only professionals up to refusing to promote women from inside the company in favor of hiring men to supervise the unpromoted women instead. This issue is still ongoing and one individual manager bias is all it takes to sour a workplace.

Americans with Disabilities Act

If you are disabled or have a physical condition that could be considered a disability, workplaces are not allowed to tell you what you can and cannot do or make a big deal out of the disability status. As long as you can perform work tasks as assigned or reasonably trade tasks with close coworkers to achieve a complete work week every week, then employers cannot lay you off, refuse to promote you, or deny you future responsibilities or raises. Employers must also be ready to provide a certain amount of accommodation, like additional tools or the ability to switch job tasks, so that you can complete the duties of your position around your disability.

Watch out for identification discrimination as well. If every time you are introduced it is “This is Tom, he’s disabled”, that is discriminatory harassment and could be damaging your relationship with coworkers, clients, and even future employers.

Family Status Discrimination

There are a number of regulations relating to protecting your personal and family status relating to employment, promotion, and discrimination. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires workplaces to provide at least 12 weeks of leave time for qualified medical purposes like pregnancy and giving birth. This prevents companies from simply firing pregnant women and refusing to let them come back after they’ve recovered from having the baby.

Family status is also protected when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, and treatment at work. Employers are not allowed to ask or tell others about your marital status, sexual orientation or other outside-work life choices. It is also unlawful to refuse to hire or promote a person because they are pregnant or to make disparaging remarks about family status including ‘mama’ jokes to or about a pregnant woman or remarking on who an employee chooses as their romantic partner.

If you have been held back from career advancement, denied rewards for your work, have been penalized or even terminated based on your age, gender, color, religion, nationality, family status, or disability, then your civil rights as an employee have been violated.  Often even the threat of a lawsuit is enough to draw attention to the problem and effect changes and if it doesn’t your lawsuit can force changes for the better and fair treatment for you and others in your situation along with bringing these shameful practices to light.

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we specialize in defending the rights of employees in the face of employers who refuse to make things right when confronted. For more information about defending workplace rights or to find an experienced employee rights attorney for your case, contact us today!

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986