The U.S. Supreme Court handed a significant victory to American workers in a case that started as a California employment lawsuit over forced arbitration by independent contractors working in transportation. The decision in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira was a somewhat surprising outcome given that the court in recent years has a history of favoring corporate interests over workers. (Note: Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who assumed the bench after the oral argument, did not participate in the decision, but the ruling was unanimous.) As our Los Angeles employment arbitration lawyers can explain, this will allow hundreds of thousands of independent contractors nationally to take their cases to court, rather than be mandated to settle them quietly before an arbitrator. Los Angeles employment arbitration lawyer blog

The problem with arbitration – whether it’s a case of product liability or premises liability or unfair wages or sexual harassment – is that it tends largely to favor employers and big corporations. The arbitrators are paid by the companies, the outcomes are not public (depriving the public of pertinent information regarding unfair or unsafe business practices) and even when cases are decided in plaintiff’s favor, they tend to be lesser than what one could expect to receive when cases go to a jury.

This case stems from a dispute between a trucking company employer and a truck driver, who was hired to complete some 10,000 miles of driving as an “apprentice” before he could expect payment. Even after that, he was expected to drive for 30,000 miles as a trainee, during which time he was paid $4 hourly. Then, once he was finally designated a full-time driver, he was still misclassified as an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. He was required to lease the truck he drove from the defendant, buy his own equipment from their store and purchase his own diesel fuel, often from gas pumps that were owned by the defendant. In any other employment situation, the employer would be the one footing the bill for these expenses. The result, in several cases, was that the “independent contractor” truck driver would have to deduct these expenses from his income, meaning sometimes his paychecks actually wound up being negative. He was paying this company to work for them.  Continue reading

California sexual harassment claimants can now make allegations, undeterred by the prospect of being hit back with a defamation lawsuit that turns the tables and the proof burden back on them. The change, formally in effect as of Jan. 1, 2019, came after state lawmakers last year heard testimony from experts who were clear in showing how such defamation laws had been used for decades to protect harassers. As Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys can explain, the long-existing law gives those who claim to be falsely accused and suffering damage to reputation as a result to pursue litigation for false and unprivileged statements – written or oral – made about them by either former co-workers or their previous employer. Basically if the sexual harassment was not unequivocally proven, the person who made the allegation or the former employer could be responsible to pay damages for defamation. Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney

In order to sidestep this outcome, the new law, AB 2770, considers such communications – specifically regarding sexual harassment – to be “privileged.” Some types of communication was already considered privileged under the law, such as that of a former employer to a prospective employer regarding job qualifications and performance of an applicant for a job. The new measure simply extends that scope now to also encompass statements pertaining to employees in California accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, it protects what former employers can say about whether they would rehire an applicant on the basis of the company’s determination of sexual harassment alleged to have been committed by the worker.

The law also contains a special portion that elevates communications and complaints about sexual harassment made from other employees to the employer to the level of “privileged.”  Continue reading

Wage theft is a serious problem in California. As Los Angeles wage and hour lawyers, we have seen this play out in almost every industry and at nearly every level of employment, but it tends to occur most often to the most vulnerable workers. The fast-food industry is no exception. One way that companies try to sidestep the worst outcomes in these cases is to, where possible, bar workers from banding together in class action litigation. This is achieved through mandatory employment arbitration agreements, which have largely been upheld by the courts, up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court, via an early 20th Century law known as the Federal Arbitration Act.fast food wage theft

However, using this tactic in a series of California wage theft lawsuits may have backfired in the case of one national fast-food chain, according to The Los Angeles Times. The story begins as so many do: Large, chain employers cutting corners of labor laws and allegedly committing wage theft is fairly common, as is the practice of mandatory employment arbitration. What makes the recently-highlighted situation different is that in trying to shield itself from a class action litigation for wage theft, the company may have effectively shot itself in the foot.

This particular fast-food chain has some 2,300 restaurant locations nationally, and it’s been battling some 10,000 claims of wage theft for the last six years. Last summer, the company won its motion filed in a federal court in Colorado to compel some 2,800 workers who filed lawsuits to instead participate in mandatory employment arbitration. However, employment lawyers for the company may now be wondering if this was the smartest move because now it is facing tens of thousands of individual arbitration proceedings across the country – proceedings it is compelled to pay for itself and which could cost tens of thousands of dollars each. The alternative of a class action lawsuit may not seem so burdensome considering it would require a single group of lawyers in one location, rather than thousands scattered before abitrators across the U.S. As it now stands, according to The Times, approximately 150 claims have been filed. Continue reading

Following a recent Southern California labor strike of nearly 2,000 subcontracted orange pickers from one of the largest fruit companies in the U.S., Los Angeles wage and hour attorneys are looking even more closely at this industry, wherein an increasingly substantial number of workers are employed by third-party labor contractors, rather than the farm companies themselves. As far as agricultural workers go, those in California enjoy some of the best labor law protections in the country. However, workers employed by these third-party firms are often exempted from some of the required protections they’d otherwise enjoy under state law, including overtime pay.Los Angeles farm worker rights attorney

Much of it comes down to power disparities, the wink-and-nod regulators give to the companies that fulfill demand for undocumented workers and loopholes many farms have long exploited.

This most recent strike began after one of the state’s top citrus producers slashed the price-per-bin pay on mandarins harvested. Previously, they were primarily focused on so-called “clementines,” which are smaller, but then shifted more harvest work to the larger mandarins. The rate-per-bin was dropped from $53 to $48. The company told The Los Angeles Times this was due to a “seasonal shift,” but a farm union spokesman stated employees had always been paid the same per-bin rate, regardless of the variety they were picking. Continue reading

Retailers have officially been put on notice by the California Labor Commission: If you hire trucking companies engage in unfair wage and hour practices against truck drivers, you too could be held jointly liable. Los Angeles truck driver wage and hour lawyers understand that to drive home the point, the agency posted a list of firms with outstanding court fines, tax liens and tax assessments can be held jointly and severally liable for future labor law violations committed by those companies. Los Angeles Driver misclassification attorney

The companies in question have been deemed by the commission and/or the courts to have committed wage theft against their workers, failing to pay them what they are owed by law. In many cases, the truck drivers were intentionally misclassified as independent contractors (rather than employees), in turn cheating them of pay benefits like workers’ compensation and unemployment. (This, as well as attempts to shield the firms from liability, which can be expensive, if the drivers are negligent and cause a serious truck accident resulting in someone else’s injury). Additionally some of the trucking companies are accused of failing to pay truck drivers minimum wages, overtime or other expenses.

Misclassification of employees in California is a serious problem, one that widens profit margins for the companies at the expense of everyone else – including and especially the workers. The reason this is illegal has to do with unfair competition. The idea is that these firms shouldn’t continue to pass on that unfair advantage to their retail contractors at the expense of workers and taxpayers. Continue reading

Women who work in tech are known to be at higher risk of gender disparity. Interestingly, in the early days of electronic computing, many of these jobs were strongly associated with women (as it was considered an unimportant, deskilled work). However, once it became clear that computers would be indispensable in almost every corner of industry and government, the female programmers who once held all the requisite skills suddenly were pushed out, boxed out of their jobs, denied promotions and replaced by men (especially when the women in question were married or had children). gender discrimination lawyer

In Silicon Valley, our California employment attorneys know the claims of gender discrimination have been well-documented. While companies insist they are doing their best to address these problems, the reality is progress has been slow and uneven.

Recently, another such gender discrimination lawsuit, was filed against tech giant Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, accused of systematic pay disparity that resulted in women consistently being paid less than their male counterparts for the same work – even when they had more experience or more seniority at the firm than their male counterparts. In one case, plaintiff said she was asked to step into the role of a recently-deceased supervisor, for which she was promised a promotion and a raise. Yet it wasn’t until another co-worker in a different department stumbled across financial documents with the firm that she – and others – learned she received far less pay (and no change in title) for taking over her predecessor’s responsibilities. Per The Mercury News, plaintiffs are seeking class action status. Continue reading

Nursing is a demanding profession, complete with grueling 12-hour shifts, dangerous conditions, dangerous patients and often seemingly very little time to stop for the restroom or eat a meal. Hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities nationwide often require mandatory overtime as part of standard practice, given the nursing shortage the profession is experiencing, per the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. However, California law expressly prohibits mandatory overtime and nurses do have the right to refuse to work overtime and are protected from retaliation for their refusal. Nurses can’t be required to work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period, the only exception being an emergency. Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer

Further, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires that all non-exempt employees are paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a given workweek. Hospitals and any other institutions primarily engaged in the care of sick, aging or mentally ill are covered employers per Section 3(s)(1)(B) of the FLSA. Some health care facilities track employee hours in increments of 15 minutes, and the FLSA does allow these facilities to round to the nearest quarter hour for wage and overtime hour purposes. However, an employer who always rounds down may violate the minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Recently in Oregon, which has similar workplace protections for nurses in terms of wage and hour laws, a hospital system is being sued for failure to properly pay its nurses, denying them meal and rest breaks and improperly docking their wages. They’ve filed a federal class action lawsuit against the health care chain of hospitals, according to The Oregonian. The hospital allegedly failed to compensate non-exempt nurses for their work during meal breaks and also for work they performed while they were off-the-clock. Continue reading

A recent analysis conducted by ProPublica and the Urban Institute reveals workers over 50 in the U.S. are more likely to be pushed out of their longtime jobs and careers, sometimes long before they choose to retire. In many cases, this results in an irreversible degree of financial damage. Orange County age discrimination attorneys in California know that many Americans assume that by the time they reach 50-years-old, they’ll have the benefit of steady work, they’ll have a solid start on their retirement savings and at least 15 to 17 more years of their career ahead of them – with some freedom to decide exactly when they’ll go. Unfortunately, that is no longer the reality for many workers.age discrimination attorney

Researchers conducted this analysis by examining information gleaned from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is one of the best broad-based information sources we have about aging in the U.S., tracking a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people since 1992, starting when they turned 50 and on through the rest of their lives.

What they discovered was that by the time workers entered the study to the time they they exited a paid employment role, approximately 56 percent were laid off at least one time (some more) or left jobs under circumstances that so financially destructive it was almost certain they were pushed out rather than chose to exit voluntarily. After such an event, only one-tenth of those workers went on to ever earn as much as they did before their employment setbacks. Even years later, household incomes of older workers who experience such losses are still much lower than those who don’t work. It’s not how most people anticipate ending their careers. Continue reading

For subjecting employees to religious discrimination at work with its haircut policy, package delivery company UPS has agreed to pay $5 million. Los Angeles religious discrimination attorneys understand company uniform policy was that males who interacted with customers maintain hair above collar length and never grow a beard (no facial hair below the lip). The problem with this, according to numerous former employees and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is that this rule conflicted with their faith, which required them to keep their hair and beards uncut.Los Angeles religious discrimination attorney

Business Insider reports the policy was specific to workers who had interactions with customers. Beards and long hair were allowed, however, for those employees who worked positions that were back-of-the-house. This put advancement limitations on employees from a number of religious faiths, including:

  • Islam
  • Rastafarianism
  • Orthodox Christianity
  • Sikhism
  • Native American religions

Each of these faiths has provisions that instruct men – either always or sometimes – to maintain long hair and facial hair. Applicants, employees and former employees were often forced to choose, the EEOC said, whether they should go against the teachings of their religion or whether they really wanted to land or keep that UPS job (or hoped to advance any further in it than stocking). Some applicants were told, “No haircut, no job.” Requests for accommodation by these men were rejected.  Continue reading

Next month, newly-elected Democrats will be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives, and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, likely next Speaker of the House, has vowed to make a priority of establishing widespread equal rights for LGBTQ individuals – including anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. As our Los Angeles LGBTQ discrimination attorneys can explain, polling evidence shows that since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled same sex couples are constitutionally allowed to marry, public support for LGBTQ rights has surged and religious resistance has waned. And while California and 19 other states already have anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ workers, there has never been a federal equality law for these individuals. lgbtq discrimination attorney

The Obama administration did extend some protections, issuing guidelines that protected transgender students and taking the firm position that Title VII’s law regarding gender-based employment protections apply to LGBTQ people. The Trump administration summarily began tearing that all down, banning transgender people from the military, broadening religious exemptions for federal contractors who discriminate against LGBTQ people, proposing a repeal of Section 1557 that protected transgender people from health care discrimination, arguing Title VII law does NOT extend protection to transgender workers and issuing numerous executive orders effectively rolling back LGBTQ rights.

Our LGBTQ discrimination attorneys in Los Angeles and others have been fighting back in the courts, but a federal Equality Act would offer clear, decisive protections nationwide.

Historical Fight for LGBTQ Equality 

By-and-large, the hammer of the courts has fallen squarely on the side of LGBTQ worker rights and protections. A new law would help cement very explicit protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas like employment, education, housing, credit, public accommodations, jury service and a number of federal programs. Continue reading