Articles Posted in employment attorney

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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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 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 ›

Late last year, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced there would be a ramped-up effort to identify and address violations of the state’s so-called “ban-the-box” law, more formally known as the Fair Chance Act. The statute was enacted four years ago as an amendment to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and bars employers with five or more employees from directly or indirectly asking about, seeking disclosure of, or even considering the conviction history of an applicant until after the applicant is extended a conditional job offer. This includes asking questions about it on job applications (typically a yes-no question with boxes that can be checked – hence the “ban the box” language). Los Angeles employment lawyer

The law also does not allow employers to indicate on their job listings that they won’t consider job applicants with criminal history. If you see a job advertisement in California with language like, “Must have a clean record,” or “No felons,” it probably violates the ban the box law.

Despite the well-publicized passage of this statute, state regulators continue find non-compliant advertisements and other hiring materials, particularly online. In fact, the DFEH reported that in just one day spent reviewing online job ads with technology designed to facilitate mass searches. In that single day, the agency uncovered more than 500 ads containing illegal statements, indicating job seekers with criminal backgrounds wouldn’t be considered. The agency apparently decided against penalizing the offending employers, and instead issued notices of violations and warnings to remove the unlawful portions of their ads.

As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, the legal consequences for failure to comply with the Fair Chance Act can include not only the remedies pursued by FEHA, but compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees from the prospective employees adversely impacted.

California Ban the Box FAQ

California’s ban the box law is commonly misunderstood by job applicants and employers alike. The law is intended to give ex-offenders a chance to have a prospective employer review their application based on their qualifications, without simply being automatically disqualified because they have a criminal record. It became effective Jan. 1, 2018. Continue Reading ›

Workplace bullying is understood to be repeated, harmful mistreatment of one or more employees (targets) which can include conduct that is:

  • Threatening
  • Humiliating
  • Intimidating
  • Interfering with work. California workplace bully

The Workplace Bullying Institute explains that examples can include work sabotage, isolation, harm to reputation, demeaning behavior, and abusive supervision. The think tank estimates 60 million Americans are impacted by workplace bullying, with anywhere from 19-44 percent having been directly bullied. Nearly 1 in 5 have witnessed bullying behavior on the job. Of those who are targets, nearly 30 percent say nothing. Only 17 percent report seeking formal resolution – with the failure to report likely stemming from employers’ lack of responsiveness, real or perceived.

But what are your legal options? As our Riverside employment attorneys can explain, California does not have an anti-workplace bullying law in place, unfortunately. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck.

Targets of workplace bullying may have grounds for legal action in California if the conduct violates the state’s workplace harassment or discrimination laws, such as those set forth in the California Fair Employment Act (FEHA). Workplace bullying violates the law when it is based on a protected category to which a victim belongs. Continue Reading ›

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, commonly called FEHA, forbids employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of their position in a protected class. Protected classes include race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, mental disability, physical disability, medical condition, genetic information, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age (for those 40 and older), or veteran/military status.Riverside employment lawyer

As our Riverside employment attorneys can explain, those who have experienced the adverse impact of workplace discrimination in California can pursue accountability through the civil justice system by filing a lawsuit. Working with an experienced employment law team is essential.

Here, we discuss the basic steps for filing a California employment discrimination lawsuit.

Knowing Whether You Were Discriminated Against

The first step is assessing whether discrimination took place. Employers generally recognize that discrimination can lead to an employment lawsuit, so those who engage in it are often careful to avoid putting anything in writing or saying anything obvious to the job candidate or employee. Most workplace discrimination is subtle. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t signs.

An experienced employment law firm can help you make a case for employment discrimination by showing that certain groups were treated differently than others. It might also be established by showing there was an abrupt alteration in attitude toward an employee once the employer learned of the worker’s status in the protected group. Some indicators of workplace discrimination include: Continue Reading ›

A new year on the horizon, there are numerous new California employment laws for workplaces to ensure they follow. These range from expanded family leave to heightened workplace safety rules to minimum wage boosts.

Minimum Wage Increases

For starters, on the very first day of the year, Jan. 1st, the required minimum wage rate in California will be kicked up to $15 hourly among businesses with 26 or more employees. Those with fewer workers will be required to pay at least $14 hourly.Los Angeles employment lawyer

Dozens of California jurisdictions, however, have their own minimum wage requirements. For instance, minimum wage in Los Angeles was already at $15 hourly as of 2021, applicable to anyone who works at least two hours (including remotely) within a one-week period in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles. In Sonoma, the rate is $16 hourly for large employers. In Los Altos, the minimum wage is increasing next year from $15.65 hourly to $16.40 hourly. In Menlo Park, it’s going up to $15.65 at the start of the year. The employee’s employment status, where they live or where the business is headquartered doesn’t determine whether the minimum wage applies.

A Wage Order is supposed to be placed in a conspicuous spot in every job site, clearly showing both the federal and state minimum wages. Both employers and employees would do well to double check whether any more stringent minimum wage rules apply in their city or county jurisdiction. Where there is a conflict between local, state, or federal minimum wages, employers must pay the rate that is most beneficial to employees.

Note: You cannot waive your right to minimum wages. They are required by law. Continue Reading ›

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