Time limit if never obtained a right to sue letter?

by Just a Girl
(San Joaquin County, CA)

I worked for this company for a little over two years. I loved my job and the people I worked with. I refused to request more money when I was first hired because I didn't want special treatment (because my boyfriend's mother was a supervisor). I first started in the seasonal division, but was later transferred to the year round division, which I loved.

That all began to change when I realized that my male counter-parts were being paid substantially more than I was. I suspect because they had parents that worked in the office or were related to someone higher up in the company. I fully expected to be paid similarly to my peers after my year review - especially since they were so impressed with my job performance, they had me doing extra work at other locations.

Plus I was always having to fix mistakes that they made. This was a well-known fact. I felt I was discriminated against because after my yearly review, I was given a ten cent raise. I was still being paid far less than my male co-workers. My job performance was stellar compared to theirs.

When I complained that this was unfair, a campaign of harassment began trying to get me to voluntarily quit. It started with the extra work I had been previously been rewarded with being taken away. I was told that I was too necessary, and when my job was left to my male co-workers, mistakes were made that caused delays in production and customer complaints.

Then stickers started being placed on our paycheck stating that we couldn't tell anyone how much we were paid or we could be fired. I realized that there was a serious problem with people not being paid fairly. They installed cameras with microphones directly over key areas where I worked at. But I had nothing to hide.

I began literally feeling sick to my stomach when I knew I had to work the next day. But I stuck with my job for the simple fact that my boyfriend had warned me that I didn't want to work for this company. I didn't want to let "them" win, in a manner of speaking.

It all culminated to an emotional breakdown at work when one of the owner's children, who also worked there, came and told me that if I didn't continue to go above and beyond my usual duties that they could fire me because they had become accustomed to that being my usual. Furthermore they were not subject to the equal work equal pay laws because they were a privately held company.

They then put the general manager's son as my supervisor who proceeded to make my life at work a living hell. It was beyond being picked on - and I could do nothing about the stupid and childish behavior my supervisor subjected me to.

I went the the main office every time I had a problem with my spv. They always promised that they would talk with my spv, however nothing ever changed. Finally after a very busy holiday season, where I had to work crazy hours without getting breaks like I was supposed to, I fell ill with a horrible case of the flu and was off work for just under a week.

I made sure I called my spv every day to let them know I was still ill. When I returned to work to pick up my paycheck on Jan 4, 2013, I was told by the general manager that they assumed I quit because I didn't call in. When I explained that I had left voice mails every day on my spv's phone - because he never answered my phone calls - I was told that I had a choice, I could either be laid off or be fired. So I chose to be laid off. I can't say that I wasn't finally relieved.

Now it gets complicated. My boyfriend, who also works for them then began to be discriminated against. He and other members of his family have worked for this company for well over 10 years doing seasonal work. When I began working there, they were so happy with my performance, he was rewarded with being able to work after the seasonal work ended in my division - which was year round.

After I was laid off, not only did the extra work stop, but his seasonal work he would do every year was changed to where he earned more on unemployment the next season. They justified this reduction in hours by having a meeting about a made-up incident where he was unable to assist another supervisor from my division with something because he was unable to stop his current work for his regular seasonal position.

That resulted in his being moved to nights, a reduction in hours, earnings, ect. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend went and apologized for my behavior - like it was something bad - to the person who threatened me previously with being fired in an attempt to smooth things over. Amazingly, this year his hours have slowly begun to return to what they once were.

Everything in me tells me that what this company is doing is wrong. I heard rumors of other incidents with people who had problems with their treatment and ended up hiring lawyers. But those were very vague and people were afraid to talk about it.

The honest reality of what this company has done to me, I don't like to admit. The once confident person I was, unafraid to tackle anything, doesn't exist anymore. This company is so well-connected and has powerful people at its head. I don't dare try and apply for a job in anything remotely similar. That leaves the jobs available in my area almost non-existent.

The only work I have been able to obtain since working for them is working for vendors at the local yearly festival. I have placed a huge financial burden on my boyfriend. If it had not been for welfare, my son and I would have had to move out of state and back in with my parents.

I realize that because of this company I have set a horrible example for my son. I don't want him to think that this is how the world is supposed to work. Now that he is an adult, it's past time for me to do something.

My question is, is what my previous employer did grounds for a lawsuit? Am I able to still pursue legal action against my former employer, or did I miss the statute of limitation? How do I go about building a case against them? Thank you for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Time limit if never obtained a right to sue letter?":

Just a Girl (San Joaquin County, CA):

Thanks for writing such a detailed question. From the facts you present, it would appear your employer has been "playing favorites."

According to California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, if an employment relationship between an employer and employee has no specified duration, or is not governed by a written employment contract which sets out grounds for termination, the employment relationship is considered "at-will."

This means an employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. There are some exceptions. Employers may not terminate the employment of an employee based on discrimination by gender, ethnicity, age, religion, retaliation for participating in union activity, or because an employee refused to violate a law.

From the facts you present, you don't seem to fall into any of the above categories. As a result, you don't appear to have grounds for a lawsuit for wrongful termination or breach of a written employment agreement.

For more information about California's laws on at-will employment and discrimination go to The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development web site.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Comments for Time limit if never obtained a right to sue letter?

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by: Judge Calisi

Under California State Labor Code Section 1171-1206 (Section 1197.5):

"No employer shall pay any individual in the employer's employ at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where the payment is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any bona fide factor other than sex."

Subsection (g) states: "Any employee receiving less than the wage to which the employee is entitled under this section may recover in a civil action the balance of the wages, including interest thereon, and an equal amount as liquidated damages, together with the costs of the suit and reasonable attorney's fees, notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage."

Subsection (h) states: "A civil action to recover wages under subdivision (a) may be commenced no later than two years after the cause of action occurs, except that a cause of action arising out of a willful violation may be commenced no later than three years after the cause of action occurs."

From the facts you present, you still are within the two (2) year statute of limitations for the filing of a civil action against your former employer.

Reply to Judge Calisi...
by: Just a girl

I'm not really too concerned over the fact I was laid off. They turned a job I loved with mostly awesome people into a daily nightmare. My concern was the fact about my pay. Aren't there equal work equal pay laws?

I was paid far less than my male counterparts who did the exact same job as I did and did so horribly. I fully expected when my yearly review came around that my pay would be adjusted accordingly.

All of this was of course before the new minimum wage laws went into effect in California. My employer openly made statements as to how invaluable I was. I was the one always relied upon to fix my co-workers screw-ups.

I have another former employee who is willing to go on record stating that they specifically used the general manager's son, by making him my supervisor, in an attempt to make me quit or to find reason to fire me.

That along with the fact that I was threatened with my job if I didn't continue to do all the extra work that was not in my job description by one of the company's daughters, who did payroll.

Plus it turns out the person I was to go to whenever I had a problem with my supervisor was basically a legal guy, and was never keeping a record of my filed complaints. He was there to make sure my supervisor didn't blatantly "cross the line."

It really gets to me the dirty and underhanded way they use undocumented workers, treat them horribly and pay everyone except the few like crap too; and yes, play favorites. They use people to do their dirty work and pretend to reprimand them by firing them - but they're really just moved to a new location to wreak havoc there.

It would be nice if they would at least have to pay for what they did to me. I thought I was able to not let all the BS get to me, but it has. It has taken away my self confidence and tarnished my belief that large companies have at the very least a sliver of common decency in the way they treat their employees- who made them who they are today.

So there really is no legal grounds for a case against them for not paying me what my male counterparts were paid? Or for threatening me? Thank you.

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