What rights do employees have against extortion, harassment and discrimination in the workplace?

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What rights do employees have against extortion, harassment and discrimination in the workplace?

My mother has worked at a franchised hotel for 10 years. During this time, there has been a pattern of harassment from one manager to another with no responsibility accepted by the owners of operation as well as wrongdoing on their part paying employees cash without reporting to the IRS, renting dilapidated rooms which are unsuitable by county requirements, etc. More recently, the current manager had been asking my mother for money via texts for months on end, and the manager had ceased written warnings/termination threats for alleged incompetence coupled with the owners signature once my mother complied in giving money. Then, 2 weeks ago, my mother told her no and the following week she was given a written warning for 3 alleged mistakes with grounds for suspension without pay, and plausible termination in the future. When my mother protested to one of the owners, it was found that one of the major errors was conducted by another employee during another shift. The

operations owner who has been signing off on the managers written warnings,

has not been conducting any investigations to see the legitimacy of accused mistakes, and has not been issuing any warnings to other employees. There was no apology made by the manager or the operations owner who wrote the written warning and there was no suspension of pay for the other employee who conducted the mistake. This has to be discrimination. She is an aging immigrant with low pay voices silenced and exploited.

Asked on September 16, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The only harassment which is illegal in the workplace is harassment directed against someone (based on) one of a handful of specifically protected characteristics or classes, the main ones of which are age over 40, sex, race, national origin, disability, and religion. If harassment is not because of a protected characteristic, it is legal: an employer can simply be cruel, malsocialized, or a bully, or simply not like a given employee, for example. There is also no requirement to treat employees fairly or legally, so employee A, for example, can be blamed or suffer for something done by employee B. In our "employment at will" system--and all employment is employment at will, unless you have a written contract (or union) agreement to the contrary--you have no right to your job, which means no right to be treated professionally or well: the idea is that if you don't like where you work, go work elsewhere. 
So if your mother believes this treatment is discriminatory in that it is aimed at her due to some characteristic like her race or being over 40, she can and should contact the federal EEOC or her state's equal/civil rights agency to file a complaint. Otherwise, while unfair, it is most likely legal.


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