Traveling nurses have long been relied upon to help fill gaps in healthcare demands. During the pandemic, traveling nurses were a life raft to hospitals who were swimming against the tide and trying to remain afloat. But now that the worst of the pandemic has subsided, we’re seeing a growing number of California labor law violations and contract breaches involving traveling nurse agencies and the hospitals that use them. Nurses say agencies have dangled carrots of huge sign-on bonuses, substantial hourly rates, and monthly living expense stipends – only to slash these payments mid-contract due to tapering demand.travel nurse pay disputes

Further complicating matters is the unique way these employment arrangements are structured: It’s the travel agency that’s technically the employer, but it’s the hospital that has control over the schedule, the assignments, the uniforms, the breaks, how the work must be done, etc. As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, this level of control is the basis of some employment lawsuits by traveling nurses that seek to hold both the agency and the health care facility responsible.

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a growing chorus of travel nurses alleging a “bait-and-switch” by the agencies that hire them. The agencies say they have no control over employment demands at hospitals, and have no choice but to cut hours if the need for nurses declines during a contract. Hospitals, citing their lack of a direct contract with nurses, say they shouldn’t be a part of any employment disputes.

Our Los Angeles employment lawyers have seen a few cases coming down the pipeline – in California, as well as other states, and so far, it seems that in disputes among these nurses, staffing agencies, and hospitals, rulings have leaned in favor of the nurses.

For example, last summer, the California Supreme Court ruled in an employment lawsuit of Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center that a hospital and a nurse staffing agency had no privity between them. We wrote about this case several months ago on our California employment lawyer blog. Privity is when two or more parties in contract with each other are bound by that contract and obligated to each other in some way. A lack of privity in employment litigation means that two entities can be considered separate employers of the same worker. In the Grande case, the nurse settled her employment lawsuit against the staffing agency, but thanks to the state high court ruling, she was also free to pursue additional remedy directly against the hospital. Although her contract technically was with the staffing agency, the hospital maintained control over shift assignments and required nurses to use its own time and attendance system. The hospital argued it should be precluded from litigation because of its contract with the staffing agency. But the California Supreme Court ruled there was no privity because the staffing agency and the hospital had two different legal interests. Continue Reading ›

Workers who have been shorted wages, break time, or other benefits can pursue claims for damages in two ways: An administrative process through the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and/or with a civil lawsuit. With both avenues, there are time limits on how long workers have to file these claims. California wage theft

The deadlines are called statutes of limitations, and they apply for just about every type of case and claim under the sun. For employment wage and hour or breach of contract claims, deadlines are typically somewhere between two and four years, depending on the type of claim. There may be a few narrow exceptions that allow for more time to file, but courts are generally inclined to stick to the hard stops.

If you have a strong suspicion that you’ve been cheated out of fair pay and other compensation, it’s important to discuss your legal options with an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer.

What is a Wage and Hour Claim?

When our legal team talks about “wage and hour” claims or lawsuits, it’s terminology that’s sort of a catch-all for many different kinds of employer misdeeds or oversights that result in employees not being properly compensated for their time and labor. California wage and hour claims can refer to:

  • Not paying workers minimum wage. (This has been an especially outsized problem for industries/companies that pay workers by-the-piece or the “piece rate” rather than an hourly wage.)
  • Not properly and fully compensating workers for overtime.
  • Denying workers the meal and rest breaks to which they are entitled.
  • Failure to reimburse workers for business expenses (gas/mileage, office supplies, work tools/materials, etc.).
  • Not properly maintaining worker pay records.
  • Bouncing worker paychecks.
  • Failure to pay workers their last paycheck.
  • Unauthorized deductions, including skimming workers’ tips.
  • Requiring workers to engage in work-related tasks without pay. This includes being on-call (call back or standby), off-the-clock bag checks every shift, refusing to pay workers for “unproductive time” (time spent at work/under the control of the employer, though not actively engaged in production work), and encouraging employees to work off-the-clock.
  • Not providing hazard pay, when it’s provided as part of the employment agreement.

Most of these rights are limited to workers properly classified as “employees” as opposed to “independent contractors.” Knowing that employees have far more rights under the law than independent contractors, some employers intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors. This allows them to avoid paying for things like minimum wage, sick leave, workers’ compensation, meal breaks, etc. Workers can successfully challenge a misclassification as an independent contractor in court by establishing the level of control the operation had over the worker’s day-to-day tasks, how closely related the worker’s contributions were to the employer’s core mission, and how the worker was paid.

Workers who are properly classified as independent contractors can still pursue wage theft claims, though they typically do so by alleging breach of contract or unfair competition rather than labor law violations.

California Employment Law Statute of Limitations

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Two new employment laws in California went into effect Jan. 1, 2023 – one expanding worker protections when a loved one dies, and another expanding existing sick leave laws when caring for a loved one outside of their immediate family circle.California employment law

As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, California has some of the strongest worker rights protections in the country – and these two new statutes are good examples.

Let’s start with Bereavement Leave – or more specifically, Assembly Bill 1949. This is a measure amending the California’s Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act to allow workers to take paid bereavement leave, also known as funeral leave or grievance leave.

New California Bereavement Leave Law for Employees

A fair amount of employers in California already offer some type of bereavement leave to their workers as part of their benefits package. Most have a set number of workdays that employees can take off if a loved one dies. Some require that workers first exhaust all their vacation and/or sick days first before they can be permitted to take any additional days for bereavement. Additionally, there are a number of cities throughout the state that require employers operating in those jurisdictions to provide workers with bereavement leave. But these policies are a patchwork of rules, with broad variations on how many days off are permitted, how close in relation the worker must be to the decedent for the worker to claim benefits, how the time must be taken (consecutively, broken up, etc.), and how requests must be made. Smaller employers may not have a set bereavement policy, but rather make determinations on a case-by-case basis.

This new law requires private employers with five (5) or more employees to provide any eligible employees (having worked there at least 30 days) to at least 5 days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. Some companies already offer more than this, but any employer who offers fewer days than this will need to amend their policies.

“Family member” in this case can mean: Continue Reading ›

A judge in Sacramento has halted a California employment law bolstering fast food worker protections that was slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. Los Angeles employment lawyer

The judge’s decision, issued Dec. 30, 2023, was in response to a lawsuit filed by a large restaurant coalition and corporate trade groups seeking to overturn the law, Assembly Bill 257 (aka the FAST Act or Fast Food Recovery Act). The industry group, Save Local Restaurants (which includes half a dozen other large franchise, restaurant, and business associations), submitted a petition signed by 1 million+ California voters to take the issue back to the ballot in November 2024.

Precedent set decades ago with the right of referendum many presuming that the announcement of the petition itself would trigger the state to put a hold on implementing pending legislation as previously planned. However, as our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, the state Department of Industrial Regulations said it intended to proceed as planned with AB 257 – and would pause only if the petition signatures were verified and the referendum was approved, a process that typically takes several weeks. To qualify for referendum, 66 percent of the signatures would need to be verified. The process is still ongoing, but as of this writing, the verification rate is about 76 percent.

California employment retaliation occurs when employers unlawfully punish workers for engaging in lawful activities, such as filing a complaint for sexual harassment, cooperating with an OSHA investigation, or filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Oftentimes, employer retaliation involves the use of pretextual reasons to justify the adverse employment action. For example, the employer may indicate the adverse employment action is justified by an employee’s poor work performance, when in reality, the motivation was retaliation for “rocking the boat.”California employment retaliation

Many studies have established that workers in low-paying industries are especially prone to wage and hour violations, unsafe working conditions, and unlawful discrimination. They are also more likely to be retaliated against if they speak out.

Because retaliation is rarely blatant, it can be difficult to prove. As Los Angeles employment lawyers, we recognize the obstacles that wronged workers face in proving their retaliation claims. We also have the skill, experience, and resources to help them establish the truth in a court of law.

Targeting Workplace Inequalities By Tackling California Employment Retaliation

A recent report prepared by the National Employment Law Project examined the widespread problem of California employment retaliation, noted some of the reasons unlawful employment retaliation persists despite laws and accountability through litigation:

  • Power imbalances between workers and their employers.
  • Financial instability among workers, particularly those in lower-wage jobs – especially those who are immigrants. Threats of being reported to immigration authorities or simply the risk of bearing a substantial financial burden for speaking out keeps workers silent.
  • California’s system of “at-will” employment that allows employers to fire workers for almost any reason (or no reason at all) – so long as it’s not discriminatory or fall under some other categorization that’s prohibited (such as retaliation). It creates an environment of fear that undercuts workers’ ability to speak up about unlawful treatment, inequality, or unsafe employment practices.

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When it comes to employment discrimination in California, we tend to presume that the complainants facing unfair treatment are those in the social minority group or otherwise at a systemic disadvantage. And they usually are: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, women, religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, those with darker skin, those born outside of the United States, those who are pregnant, those with disabilities, etc.  These are the individuals most commonly adversely impacted by personal biases and systemic inequalities that bleed into the workplace. employment attorney Los Angeles

That said: State and federal anti-discrimination laws generally do not limit these protections solely to minority groups. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states it’s an unlawful employment practice for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Nowhere does it mention that certain races or religions or genders are the only ones covered by the law.

In other words, as our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, it is entirely possible for a White, Christian, heterosexual, young male born in the U.S. to be a plaintiff in an employment discrimination lawsuit. The key question is going to be: Was the worker treated unfairly on the basis of any of those characteristics? 

Discrimination against employees on the basis of race or gender is illegal under both California and federal law. And yet, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports those are two of the top three most common types of employment discrimination claims filed. Racial discrimination on-the-job accounts for about 33 percent of all employment lawsuits, while gender discrimination accounts for 32 percent of claims. racial discrimination attorney Los Angeles

As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, where workplace discrimination exists, it’s fairly common for there to be more than one protected status on which it’s based. When different types of unfair treatment at work overlap each other, it’s referred to as intersectional discrimination. It’s common because discrimination is rarely about a single person, but rather an entire workplace culture that clings to the familiar and eschews any type of “otherness” – actual or perceived.

A recent example of intersectional discrimination at work was laid out in a federal employment lawsuit against a Los Angeles food company.

Both California and federal statutes protect employees and job applicants from religious discrimination. Employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs and related practices of workers, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.religious discrimination lawyer

This may seem pretty straightforward, but as one recent case revealed, religious discrimination can take many different forms. In a federal employment discrimination lawsuit out of New York, an Buddhist airline pilot and recovering alcoholic sued his employer over medical clearance stipulation that required regular attendance at AA meetings.

AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s a widely-known 12-step alcohol addiction recovery process that’s been around for 80+ years. Those familiar with the tenets of AA will recall that one of those 12 steps involves faith in a higher power. Specifically, it involves the “belief that a higher power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” According to alcoholicsanonymous.com, while a significant part of the AA model draws from belief in a higher power, which higher power is not actually defined. Members are encouraged to “define a higher power based on their own personal understanding of the concept.” But as the plaintiff argued in this case, there’s little denying that the entire AA program has strong Christian overtones.

As our Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys can explain, this aspect of the program can be problematic if/when employers mandate participation in the program as a condition of employment. Continue Reading ›

As of last year, about 19 percent of people in the U.S. with a disability were employed – a notable increase from just a few years ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics. That’s a notable increase from just a few years ago, though companies in California and throughout the country still have a ways to go when it comes cultivating inclusive workforces. disability discrimination

For job applicants with disabilities, knowing the basic foundations of your rights is important. The ability to clearly identify unfair treatment in the workplace is important, as is knowing what recourse may be available and who you can turn to for help.

Our Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers recognize that most disability discrimination claims are going to be rooted in The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Disabled Persons Act, and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

FEHA applies to California employers with 5+ employees, and prohibits disability discrimination of job applicants and/or employees. The Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code Section 51, provides protection from discrimination against all business establishments in the state on the basis of disability (among other things). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, and applies to all government employers and any workplace with 15+ employees.

Understanding Disability Discrimination and Employee Rights

Our state-level provide greater anti-discrimination protections for workers with disabilities compared to federal law. Continue Reading ›

Federal and state laws prohibit California pay discrimination, which is a workplace disparity in pay based on an employee’s gender, race, color, religion, age, disability, and national origin. Plaintiffs in California pay discrimination lawsuits do not need to prove there was discriminatory intent. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the employer didn’t mean to be discriminatory; the impact is what matters. equal pay discrimination

Pay discrimination claims in California are primarily based on one of a few laws:

  • The California Equal Pay Act, Labor Code section 1197.5. This state law has been in place for decades, and aims to ensure equal pay regardless of race or gender. In 2016, lawmakers expanded these protections to workers who do “substantially similar work.” It also eliminated the requirement that comparative workers be operating in the same establishment. The law also explicitly states retaliation against employees who seek enforcement of the law is illegal, as is punishing workers for discussing or asking about co-workers’ wages.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963. This federal statute requires employers to compensate men and women equally for doing the same work at the same workplace.
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act. FEHA prohibits discrimination of applicants and employees of companies with 5 or more employees. Pay discrepancies based on gender in violation of FEHA.

As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, these statutes cover all forms of pay, including salary, overtime, bonuses, vacation/sick leave, insurance, and other benefits.

California Equal Pay Lawsuits Underscore Persistent Problems

The fight for equal pay isn’t a new one, but companies continue to violate the law. The tech industry has become quite notorious for persistent equal pay problems. In a survey conducted by Bloomberg last year, male employees received higher pay than 59 percent of women for the same work. The average disparity in pay was about 3 percent. That can amount to thousands of dollars per year for every employee. Continue Reading ›

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