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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hostile work environment vs a toxic work environment?

A hostile work environment is a legal concept that refers to workplace harassment based on a protected characteristic, which is so severe or pervasive that it significantly alters the victim's work conditions and creates an abusive atmosphere.

A toxic work environment refers to a workplace that has a pervasive negative atmosphere, often caused by difficult coworkers, bad management, or stressful work conditions. While a toxic work environment can certainly make it difficult to enjoy your job, it is not necessarily illegal.

Do I have rights as a freelancer or independent contractor?

In short, the answer is yes. Freelancers and independent contractors also have the right to work free from physical violence, injury, fraud, or harassment. General laws protecting people outside of employment relationships still apply. 

 

However, many people are misclassified as an "independent contractor", when they should actually be classified as an employee, which would entitle them to the full scope of California and federal employment protections available to regular employees.

The standard California generally uses to figure out if one is an independent contractor is called the ABC test.

A. You are free from control and direction of the hiring entity in your performance and work.

B. You do work outside of the usual course of business of the hiring entity.

C. You have an independent business operation doing the same kind of work you’re doing for the hiring entity 

It is crucial to seek the advice of an employment attorney to determine whether you are classified as an independent contractor or an employee as the legal standards are highly fact-specific, and it is not recommended to rely solely on your employer's classification.

I think I'm being discriminated against, what do I do? 

First of all, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Create a detailed timeline of any events that you believe to be discriminatory or harassing, using a personal computer, paper and pen, or personal device outside of work.

Create a comprehensive timeline on your personal device or paper documenting all incidents of discriminatory or harassing behavior including names of those involved, dates, times, witnesses, and any relevant details. It is important to save evidence such as written or photographic proof of discrimination or harassment. Keep this evidence in a secure location outside of work in case you are terminated and lose access to these things. 

It's best to consult an attorney to avoid violating any confidentiality or trade secret agreements. 

Put your complaint in writing and report it to your supervisor, human resources, or whomever the company designated to handle reports of harassment or discrimination. Use specific terms like "illegal discrimination" or "illegal harassment" and state the basis for your belief that you are being subjected to such behavior. Remember that once you report an incident that you reasonably believe constitutes illegal harassment or discrimination, your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for making that report.

If your employer retaliates against you for making a complaint, such as by firing you, demoting you, writing you up, or forcing you to quit, you may have grounds for a separate lawsuit.

 

If you reported harassment or discrimination to your employer and the issue was not resolved or became worse, or if you were punished with retaliation for your complaint, you should consult a California employment attorney to discuss your legal options.

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