Marginalized employees are people who have been marginalized in the workplace. What is marginalization? Does a marginalized employee have legal recourse? Are you a marginalized employee – perhaps without even fully realizing it? How can an employment law firm in San Francisco help?

Here in the state of California, when you are hired as a legal employee, you have extensive employment rights that are protected under both state and federal laws.

WHICH LAWS PROTECT EMPLOYEES IN CALIFORNIA?

But in some cases, the law may not provide quite enough employee protection. You’re about to learn why.

At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s race, religion, gender, or national origin.

And if you work for an employer with five to fourteen employees, you are similarly protected under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959.

WHO IS MARGINALIZED? WHAT IS EMPLOYEE MARGINALIZATION?

However, most “marginalizations” do not fall neatly into a specific legal category like racial discrimination or sexual harassment.

Marginalized employees are people who have been marginalized in the workplace. In many cases, they are not even sure if their employers have violated the law. All they’re sure of is that their employers have treated them with disdain or disrespect.

Precisely what is employee marginalization?

Ritch K. Eich, writing in IndustryWeek magazine, says that marginalization happens when good employees are not encouraged to advance, are not mentored or counseled, are taken for granted, or are overlooked because other employees receive preferential treatment.

WHAT CAN CONSTITUTE MARGINALIZATION?

Marginalization happens in many ways. Here are just a few of many possible examples of how an employer can “marginalize” an employee:

1. by physically isolating an employee from co-workers
2. by denying promotions or recognition for achievement
3. by bullying, intimidating, and treating employees without basic human dignity

Is employee marginalization on the rise? Probably. IndustryWeek recently published an article titled “Bringing Marginalized Employees Back into the Fold.” The article offers employers six recommendations for keeping their employees from becoming marginalized.

IS EMPLOYEE MARGINALIZATION ALWAYS AGAINST THE LAW?

Not every example of marginalization is against the law. Employers have a great deal of freedom to run their businesses as they please, so an employee who is – or who feels – marginalized may not always have legal recourse.

Sometimes employee marginalization is simply a consequence of poor management.

Quiet employees might be perceived by inexperienced managers as employees who lack motivation, so they may not be recognized or encouraged to advance in the company.

WHEN DOES EMPLOYEE MARGINALIZATION VIOLATE THE LAW?

It may be poor management, and it’s clearly unfair, but a mere lack of encouragement or recognition is not enough to justify or trigger a legal action against an employer. Poor management alone is not against the law.

Older employees can feel “invisible” next younger workers who may be perceived as more dynamic and energetic.

Instead of being respected for their seniority and accomplishments, older workers often suspect that they are being marginalized – and pushed out – in favor of younger workers who can be paid less.

You can’t sue an employer simply because of the employer’s attitude. If there is a direct act of age discrimination, for instance, it’s illegal, but you can’t take a legal action based only on attitudes and feelings.

While there is usually nothing you can do about “mild” marginalization, your own case may be different.

IS THERE ANY LEGAL RECOURSE FOR MARGINALIZED WORKERS?

A legal action is more likely to prevail against an employer who actively and consciously marginalizes an employee than against an employer who has more-or-less simply and unintentionally overlooked or failed to recognize an employee.

But keep reading, because the employment laws do offer some measure of protection against some types of employee marginalization.

Because every situation will be different, you will need an employment lawyer’s advice and insights to determine which employer actions are legal – and which are not.

HOW CAN AN EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY HELP YOU?

Here in California, if you believe that an employer may have marginalized you in a way that violates federal or state employment laws, you need to speak at once – yes, it’s imperative – with an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney.

The law will be concerned with the reasons why an employee is being marginalized. If someone is being marginalized for a reason related to that person’s race, religion, gender, orientation, or disability, that person’s employer is clearly violating the law against employment discrimination.

Is an employer tolerating or committing harassment, using disrespectful or inappropriate language, or bullying and intimidating you? The law prohibits employers from maintaining a hostile work environment.

California is an at-will employment state. An employer is free to terminate any worker for any reason that is legal, but if an employee is disciplined or terminated for a reason that is not legal, that employee needs to speak with an employment lawyer immediately.

WHAT ABOUT THE MARGINALIZATION OF WHISTLEBLOWERS?

Whistleblowers receive some extra protection under the law. A “whistleblower” is an employee who reports violations of law at the workplace or by the employer. Employers may not retaliate against whistleblowers.

Unsurprisingly, the typical employer response to whistleblowers is to isolate and marginalize them. If an employer uses marginalization to retaliate against a whistleblower, that employer is breaking the law.

If you believe that your employer is marginalizing you, discuss the details with an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney. A good employment lawyer can review your concerns and determine if you have grounds for pursuing legal action against the employer.

WHAT CAN MARGINALIZED EMPLOYEES BE ENTITLED TO?

If you pursue file a marginalization lawsuit against your employer and your lawsuit prevails, you may be entitled to lost wages, back pay, pain and suffering damages, and in some cases, additional punitive damages intended to keep the employer from violating the law in the future.

Employment attorneys usually work on a contingency basis, so if you pursue a legal action, you won’t owe the attorney any legal fees until you receive a settlement or verdict.

Most employment lawyers also offer a free first consultation and case review, so it will cost you nothing to learn more about your rights and where you stand legally.

Everyone deserves to be treated with basic human dignity. No one deserves disdain or disrespect from an employer.

If respect and dignity are missing at your place of work, do not let anyone intimidate or bully you. Talk to an employment attorney promptly. That is your absolute legal right.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.