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Unfair treatment is not always illegal treatment


It is likely that readers in California hear a lot in the news about disgruntled employees who feel they are being treated unfairly and, as a result, bring a lawsuit against their employer. Often in these employee-related lawsuits, the employee ends up with a windfall in a final judgment against the employer.

These windfall cases are the ones that most often make the news. However, employers in California will be interested to hear about a recent case that did not end up so rosy for the employee.

A county sheriff in California recently filed a lawsuit for alleged retaliation and discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. He claimed that he had trouble getting along with his co-workers and that his partners were frequently asking for transfers. When he and one of his partners got into a heated argument that resulted in the two yelling at each other, he claimed he worked in a hostile environment. The lawsuit was filed shortly thereafter.

Many individuals may believe that an uncomfortable or unfair work environment means there are illegal practices occurring, such as a violation of the FEHA, which entitles them to legal compensation. However, this is not always the case. This sheriff’s case was thrown out by the court. The court said that since he did not raise his membership in a protected class as the motivator for the argument, he was, at the very most, a victim of unfair treatment. However, unfair treatment is not always illegal treatment.

It is important that the courts do the necessary work to discern between employees who are truly the victims of an illegal workplace practice and those that are simply complaining about legal activities that make them unhappy. In business law, it is always important to protect employees from illegal business practices and treatment. However, it is also important to protect employers from those individuals that are making claims that lack merit in the interest of recovering extra compensation.

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