California employers have a responsibility to do their best to ensure workplaces are safe, fair, and free of harassment. Failure to do so can result in employment litigation. Los Angeles employment attorney

Here, our Los Angeles employment lawyers detail the top five most common causes of California employment lawsuits.

  • Independent contractor misclassification. There are two basic classifications of workers: Employees and independent contractors. Employees are entitled to a host of key workplace protections, minimum pay requirements, meal/rest break requirements, workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination rules, etc. Independent contractors, however, do not have the same protections – because they’re effectively considered their own employees. On the whole, employees are a lot more expensive than independent contractors. Employers have been known to improperly classify employees as independent contractors to avoid the extra expenses. But this is illegal, and employees who have been wrongfully classified, they are entitled to compensation for the wages/benefits they missed out on. The litmus test for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is the “ABC Test,” adopted by the California Supreme Court in the Dynamex Operations v. Superior Court ruling in 2018. Essentially, it asks whether a worker is free of employee control, performs tasks outside the usual course of the company’s business, and is regularly engaged in an independently-established trade, occupation, or business. If the answer is “yes” to all three, then the individual is likely an independent contractor. Otherwise, they are an employee – entitled to all the same rights and responsibilities. The legal presumption is that the worker is an employee, unless it can be proven otherwise.

Equal pay rights in California are guaranteed under both state and federal laws that promise to protect employees from disparate wages paid on the basis of gender or race.

Recently, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team reached a $22 million proposed settlement in a class action equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The settlement stemmed from a longtime legal dispute filed eight years ago alleging federal equal pay violations by five higher-profile members of the women’s national team. Each said that as a member of the women’s team, they were paid thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts – at virtually every level of the competition. This was followed by a 2019 lawsuit filed by 28 players alleging female players were consistently paid less than their male counterparts – despite consistently showing up the men’s team on field performance. That claim was filed months after the U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup, while the women’s team won its second tournament in a row. Amid the chants in the crowd were demands for, “Equal pay!” California equal pay act

In 2020, a federal court dismissed the claim by the women’s team that they were paid less for the same work (among other parts of their claim), finding there were key differences in the contract structurers of the men’s team versus the women’s team. Other aspects of the women’s team claims pertaining to working conditions were settled out-of-court a few months ago. Several of the players then filed an appeal on the equal pay claims, arguing the judge failed to analyze the rates of pay or the fact that women needed to win more often than men to receive the same bonuses. The $22 million settlement is the result of that appeal.

Our Los Angeles equal pay attorneys recognize that the settlement amount was only one-third the amount players initially sought, but it still amounts to a significant victory. It also opens the door to discuss what types of California equal pay claims are valid, and what they can entail.

The California Fair Pay Act

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When it comes to California pregnancy discrimination, it’s rarely as obvious as your boss saying, “You’re being fired because you’re pregnant.” That can lead many who have experienced pregnancy discrimination to second-guess themselves, and whether their experience was, in fact, discriminatory and based on their protected status as a pregnant person. In fact, too often, targets of pregnancy discrimination are gaslit into believing they were the problem.Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyer

Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission reports some 54,000 women a year lose their jobs due to pregnancy. 1 in 5 experience workplace harassment or negative comments due to their pregnancy. 1 in 10 are discouraged from attending their regular doctor’s appointments.

As longtime Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyers, we’re committed to helping those who have experienced these ordeals to sort through these events through a legal lens, with the goal of determining whether they are legally actionable.

The following are some red flags that you may be experiencing discrimination related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. These include: Continue Reading ›

A former human resources employee of Amazon not only won $300,000 in a California employment lawsuit alleging disparate treatment, she was also awarded $2 million in attorneys’ fees.Los Angeles employment lawyer

The Orange County Register reports the Los Angeles Superior Court granted the 34-year-old plaintiff nearly $2.5 million in attorneys’ fees in a hearing following a favorable verdict in October on claims of wrongful termination, retaliation, failure to engage in the interactive process, and violation of the California Family Rights Act. (She did not prevail on other claims for disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.) The attorneys’ fees awarded are about $1 million less than what plaintiff’s lawyers sought, but far more than the $630,000 defense lawyers argued they should receive.

According to court records, plaintiff testified during the trial that her bosses at an Amazon Fresh facility in Southern California were initially supportive when she asked for accommodations to help her get through pregnancy-related bouts of nausea and morning sickness. However, when she asked for additional coaching that would allow her to be more effective, they became less receptive and ultimately shut her down.

Plaintiff was pregnant with her third child, and “didn’t want to be labeled a complainer” – or especially to lose her job.

Attorneys for her former employer argued that plaintiff arbitrarily – and systematically – began not showing up to work after announcing her pregnancy three months after being hired. Her supervisors alleged she missed 20 days over a six-month period, though she allegedly never sought permission and, in some cases, failed to tell her supervisors or co-workers that she wouldn’t be there.

Plaintiff, who is from Santa Ana, reportedly asked for severance – and then rejected it and chose not to work – after she was informed there would be an investigation into her conduct, defense lawyers said.

Plaintiff, however, maintains she powered through months of nausea and back pain during her commute to show up for work every day – yet was fired just days before she was scheduled to take her maternity leave. This was despite her bosses saying they would support her working from home, noting she could carry out the same tasks on a laptop at home as she normally did at the office. The only thing she’d really miss out on was in-person meetings, but the communication systems in place at Amazon made it easy for her to still participate – and help employees as she normally did, while still working remotely.

However, when she returned from taking some medical leave, her boss reportedly seemed upset with the frequency of her medical appointments. The boss urged yoga and positivity – but seemed reticent to accommodate doctor visits. He also questioned whether she was even legally entitled to the amount of maternity leave she planned to take. Then, days before she was scheduled to begin her maternity leave, she was fired.

Now, she has not only prevailed in her California employment lawsuit, but has been awarded attorney’s fees as well.

When Are Employment Lawsuit Defendants Responsible for Attorneys’ Fees?

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A hospital is asking the California Supreme Court to dismiss an employment lawsuit filed by a travel nurse who has already settled with the agency that directly hired her. The court’s decision in Grande v. Eisenhower will have potential implications for the hundreds of thousands of California workers employed by staffing agencies. travel nurse lawsuit California

There are an estimated 1.7 million traveling nurses employed in the U.S., a figure that’s grown substantially in recent years given how much more registered nurses and other health care professionals can make when they work with these agencies.

Our Orange County employment lawyers know the question here will be whether travel nurses – and others who work contract positions through agencies – will have grounds to take legal action against both the agency and the company where they worked.

According to court records, plaintiff worked for the agency at a hospital she said denied her required meal and rest breaks earned, wages for certain time frames when she worked, and overtime wages. She was a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the travel agency that assigned employees to hospitals throughout the state of California. The traveling nurse agency ultimately settled with the class – including this nurse. She received $162, as well as a class representative incentive bonus of $20,000. When the settlement was signed, she executed a release of all claims against the agency.

About a year later, plaintiff filed a second class action lawsuit – based on the same labor law violations – except this time, the defendant was the hospital where she worked. The hospital had not been a party to the previous lawsuit. The staffing agency intervened in the case, and insisted plaintiff could not bring a separate lawsuit against the hospital because all claims relating to this conduct had been settled with them in the previous class action.

The trial court ruled in turn limited questions as to the propriety of the lawsuit, and found that the hospital wasn’t released as a party under the previous settlement agreement nor was it in privity with the agency, and thus could not avail itself of the doctrine of res judicata (the principle that a case of action can’t be litigated more than once if it’s already been judged on its merits).

Attorneys for the hospital filed a writ of mandate and the staffing agency appealed. The California Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision affirmed the trial court and denied the petitions of the two companies.

Now the question is before the California Supreme Court. Continue Reading ›

Wrongful termination in California is a situation wherein a worker is laid off or fired for a reason that violates state or federal law or public policy. California wrongful termination lawyer

As our Orange County employment attorneys can explain, most wrongful terminations stem from firing that resulted from:

  • Violation of an implied contract.
  • Whistleblower activities.
  • Violations of public policy.
  • Exercising rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim or reporting a work injury.
  • WARN Act violations (involving mass layoffs).
  • Retaliation for workers exercising rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or state employee leave laws.

Workers who successfully bring a wrongful termination lawsuit may be entitled to collect lost wages and benefits, back pay, compensation for emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages (the last specifically awarded for gross misconduct by an employer).

How Do I Know if My Firing Was an Exception to California’s At-Will Employment Law?

When we say that wrongful termination lawsuits stem from illegitimate reasons, we’re specifically referring to unlawful reasons. The reality is that as an at-will employment state, an employer can legally fire you for no reason at all. Just the same way an employee can quit for any reason at all.

However, if you get fired for reasons that have something to do with your race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age (if over 40), disability, marital status, pregnancy (or related condition), medical condition, being a member of the military or a victim of domestic violence/stalking, etc. – that is what amounts to a wrongful termination under federal and/or state laws. (Cities may have their own additional categories that are protected under law.)

Similarly, one can sue for wrongful termination if the termination occurred in violation of an implied contract. Employers create implied contracts by doing things like issuing employee handbooks that list specific causes for termination or telling an employee they won’t be fired unless they engage in certain behavior.

Another exception to at-will employment is when termination is in violation of public policy. The best example of this would be an employee who refuses to follow an employer’s order to break the law and is fired for it. That individual would have a case for public policy wrongful termination. Similarly, companies can’t fire workers for telling police the employer broke the law or for reporting unsafe working conditions to an agency like OSHA.

Workers can’t be fired in retaliation for reporting or cooperating with a case involving harassment, discrimination, criminal wrongdoing, wage and hour violations, or safety violations. Continue Reading ›

A California landmark law requiring benchmark levels of racial, ethnic, and LGBT diversity on corporate boards was ruled unconstitutional by a Los Angeles court. Los Angeles employment lawyer

The lawsuit, filed by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, alleged that the state law, signed last year, violated California’s constitutional equal protection clause. The law compelled the corporate boards of any publicly-traded company with main executive offices in California to have at least one member from an underrepresented community. In this case, “underrepresented” was defined as someone who is Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, or LGBT.

The Los Angeles Superior Court did not explain its reasoning in declaring the law unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the state argued that the law did not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any group or individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Rather, companies were required to include at least one board member of an underrepresented community (if they did not already have one) or add a seat that included one. Boards with 4-9 directors were required to have at least two members of underrepresented communities. Three would be required for boards with 10 or more. Companies that failed to comply with the law could face fines of anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000.

A report issued earlier this year by the secretary of state revealed that less than half (300 of 700) companies were in compliance. However, about 50 percent of boards never submitted a disclosure statement, so it may well have been more.

However, as our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, no company was ever actually fined and no tax money was ever spent enforcing the law. Perhaps part of the reason is that it was always expected to face challenges. Yet when the law was passed, in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota, many companies issued statements indicating support for and commitment to diversity among their ranks. Few actually followed through. Continue Reading ›

California racial discrimination at utility workplaces is the basis for a new employment lawsuit filed by two former employees.California racial discrimination lawsuit

According to ABC-7 News, the two plaintiffs – both attorneys – alleged that despite being in one of the most diverse regions of the state, the company’s legal department hasn’t hired a minority candidate in more than 16 years. It hasn’t hired an African American candidate in more than 22 years, they say.

Plaintiff one said she’d worked at the company nearly two decades when the second plaintiff, a Black woman, interviewed for a position in the company’s legal department. Despite being unanimously ranked as the No. 1 candidate for the position, she was passed over for the job. That prompted the longtime employee to file an internal complaint alleging racial discrimination.

About a year later, the prospective employee was invited to apply again. This time, she was hired. However, during her time at the company, she alleges she was subject to a significant degree of racial discrimination. Among her examples:

  • She was given a heavier work load than other, similarly-situated employees who were white.
  • She was denied equal opportunity to attend training and other employment benefits.
  • She was not given an office, as similarly-situated white colleagues were.
  • Her office supplies came from the junk drawer or even garbage bin, while white employees were given permission to order new supplies.

The impact, she said, was being denied the basic ability to do her job. Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a dispute over the California labor law that gives private attorneys the right to pursue litigation on behalf of workers (even if they agreed on their own to arbitrate) and to collect penalties on the state’s behalf for wage and hour violations. As our Riverside employment lawyers can explain, the case is being closely watched, as it is an important test of whether employers can shield themselves from employment lawsuits with arbitration clauses that prohibit group or class action lawsuits. Riverside employment lawyer

The case is Viking River Cruises v. Moriana. The primary question is whether the Federal Arbitration Act requires enforcement of bilateral arbitration agreements, provided an employee can’t raise representative claims, including those under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).

During oral arguments, the court’s conservative justices spoke very little, while the liberal justices were more vocal in their defense of the state labor law.

The Private Attorneys General Act was passed in 2004 and allows private attorneys in California to sue employers and collect penalties for violations of the state’s labor code. The underlying reason for the act? Rampant labor law violations, particularly in the following industries:

  • Restaurants.
  • Car Washes.
  • Construction.
  • Garment companies.
  • Agriculture.

The state simply doesn’t have enough staff to adequately police these industries. PAGA lawsuits are often complaints of unpaid overtime work or wage theft. The law allows 75 percent of penalties collected to go to the state. The remainder goes to the affected employees and attorneys. Continue Reading ›

California workers with physical and mental disabilities can request reasonable accommodations if they are necessary to assist them in their daily duties. Our Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers know, however, that the question of what, exactly, a reasonable accommodation is can be a bit unclear. Los Angeles employment lawyer

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulates that in order to ask for a reasonable accommodation, one must meet the definition of having a physical or mental impairment that substantially inhibits one or more major life activities. At the state-level, we have the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Disabled Persons Act all protect workers from disability-based discrimination.

What are Reasonable Accommodations?

Reasonable accommodations are slight changes that are made – either to the duties of the job or how/when/where/with what it’s performed. Ultimately, the goal is to provide reasonable tools that a qualified, disabled employee needs to complete the essential functions of their job while enjoying equal workplace opportunities. The requested accommodations must be within reason, and not place “undue hardship” on the employer.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations may include: Continue Reading ›

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