Articles Posted in employment attorney

Wage theft is a growing problem throughout the United States, and Southern California is no exception. Our Los Angeles employment lawyers are committed to helping clients recover damages when their employer fails to pay them fair wages under the law.Los Angeles employment lawyer wage theft

According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than $3 billion in wages was recovered for U.S. workers between 2017 and 2020. And those are only the cases we hear about and wherein recovery efforts were successful. Wage theft compounds the income disparity gap we are seeing broaden across the country. While the number of people with household weekly earnings below the poverty line rose to more than 65 million (a 28 percent increase just in 2020 alone), CEO pay rose by 20 percent that same year. Wage theft robs workers of their fairly earned pay.

Unfortunately, even when companies are ordered by the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement to pay, many do not. For example, in San Diego County, the state agency has awarded millions of dollars to workers who were cheated out of fair wages over a period of a decade. But without adequate enforcement, only a fraction of those employers are actually compelled to pay anything. In the opinion of our Los Angeles employment lawyers, the law extends far too many loopholes, giving companies the ability to sidestep their legal responsibilities.

But this may not solely be the fault of the state’s labor division enforcement agency. Some opine that we need stronger anti-wage theft enforcement handed won by state lawmakers. While the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement is required to hold a hearing within 120 days of a complaint of wage theft being filed, the actual wait in many cities closer to 1,000 days – or nearly 3 years.

For low-income families, this amounts to an extreme hardship. Consider this real-life scenario: Continue Reading ›

A fair share of California employment lawsuits stem from employers’ failure to pay fair wages – including minimum wage. As a Los Angeles employment lawyer, I can affirm that failure to pay the state’s minimum wage ends up costing employers far more in the long-run. This is why it’s important to point out that California’s minimum wage rates are about to increase. Los Angeles employment attorney minimum wage

As recently confirmed by the California Department of Finance, the state is increasing the minimum wage for all employers by 3.5 percent to 10 percent to keep pace with inflation. that means statewide, minimum wage is going to increase from $15 hourly for employers with 26-or-more employees (which was set January 1st, 2022) to $15.50 hourly, which will become effective January 1st, 2023.

It’s important to note that this is applicable to all employers regardless of size. That’s a notable deviation from previous California minimum wage increases, which had been separated by employers with 26 or more employees and those with 25 or fewer. That means this increase will be particularly impactful for smaller businesses, whose minimum wage was set to $14 hourly at the start of this year. They, just like larger companies, are going to be expected to increase the minimum wages to $15.50. For them, this is a 10 percent wage increase.

It should be noted, however, that with this increase in the state minimum wage also comes a corresponding raise in the minimum salary that is required for a work to be qualified as “exempt” under so-called “white collar exemptions.” (These are especially impactful when it comes time to paying time-and-a-half for overtime. Salaried employees are exempt from this, but as a Los Angeles employment attorney, I have seen far too many cases of employees being wrongly classified as exempt.) In order to be exempt, the employee must:

  • Perform specified duties in a particular manner.
  • Be paid a monthly salary that is no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2023, to qualify for a white collar exemption requires the employee to earn an annual salary of $64,480 (or $1,240 weekly).
  • Employee spends more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt duties.
  • Salary of exempt employees is guaranteed, and cannot be reduced for quality or quantity of work.

The proof burden for establishing that employee should be classified as exempt is on the employer, as established in the 1999 ruling of Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co. Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling last month limiting the California state worker protections law. Now, a group of lawyers say the SCOTUS got it wrong, and are imploring the court to hold a rehearing. They are characterizing the ruling in Viking River Cruises v. Moriana as a “gross misinterpretation.”Los Angeles employment lawyer

The attorneys represent the plaintiff in that case, a worker who sued her former employer through the Private Attorneys General Act, a statute that allows employees in California to pursue litigation against their employers on behalf of the state. The company had been late issuing her last paycheck after she quit her job, which she asserted was a violation of the state’s labor law. However, plaintiff and other similarly situated employees were bound by arbitration agreements. Thus, the employer defense argued, a PAGA claim would have been invalid. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the employer.

Lawyers for the plaintiff believe this was absolutely the wrong call, and want the court to grant a rehearing on the matter. However, as our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, such hearings are pretty rare. The majority of justices must agree in order to hold one, so it doesn’t happen often. On the other hand, what makes this case fairly unusual is that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held since its founding that it lacks the authority and jurisdiction to issue rulings on matters of state law.

California law with respect to PAGA is pretty straightforward. Attorneys for the plaintiff in Moriana argue that the Court engaged in deliberations on the case without fully grasping what PAGA is and how it works.

The Court had held that PAGA was superseded by federal law that compels private disputes to be resolved through arbitration. The court also said that such claims could be divided into two: One by the individual, and another on behalf of other workers. The Court held that even if a worker could pursue a claim on behalf of other workers, that claim could be nullified if the employer had the right to force them into arbitration. Therefore, with one part of a PAGA claim invalid, the whole thing becomes null and void.

This concept of dividing a PAGA claim in two was a decision the Court apparently reached after oral argument. Neither side was able to respond to this until after the ruling was published. Lawyers for the plaintiff say the ruling represents a “completely new analysis,” with the splitting of PAGA not being a concept on which either party briefed the Court, argued on, or asked about. They say this action is the latest in a string of actions between the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the progressive laws and policies of the State of California. Continue Reading ›

By now, everyone not living under a rock knows that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the federally-protected right to abortion that was afforded with the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade. In the most recent case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court held that states are now free to pass laws that outlaw abortions. Roe v. Wade employment lawyer California

As Los Angeles employment attorneys, we have been weighing the potential impact this might have on people in the workplace. The ripple effect isn’t yet clear, as this is a legal situation with a lot of uncertainty in the days ahead. Much of it may come down to the state where the worker is employed. (it’s generally the state where the employee works, not necessarily where the employer is based, that decides what state laws apply.) California state law protects the right to an abortion, and recent legislation also protects those in the state from essentially “aiding and abetting” abortion from individuals who cross state lines to obtain one.

But that doesn’t mean there may not be some impact to California workplaces as result of Roe being overturned. Some examples may include:

A California misclassification lawsuit was recently settled for nearly $16 million. The case involved hundreds of franchisees for an Ohio-based tool company, which was accused of wrongly classifying employee distributors as independent contractors. The business model include selling the company’s tools at wholesale costs ,to be sold to consumers at retail prices. California employee misclassification lawyer

The class action litigation accused the employer of signing franchise agreements in California mobile stores. By wrongly classifying these entities as contractors, the employees were denied proper reimbursement for business expenses, paid overtime, meal and rest breaks, and accurate wage statements. The California labor lawsuit was filed last year, with the primary plaintiff alleging he worked approximately 20 hours of overtime weekly. The franchise agreement also reportedly required distributors to pay the tool company an initial fee, distribute only approved tools from the company’s brand using its own system, attend distributor training programs (while paying their own costs associated with this training), lease/purchase a branded truck from the company, wear the tool company’s branded uniforms, and operate their branded truck only within a company-identified territory.

Despite holding this tight control over the workers, the company insisted they were independent contractors. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California disagreed, recently approving a settlement in Fleming v. Matco Tools Corp. that grants each class member $35,000 in cash. Those eligible for debt relief may be entitled to approximately $42,000 each.

Employee v. Independent Contractor: What is the Difference in California?

There are many reasons why a company would have motivation to label a worker as an independent contractor versus an employee – most of them financial. While workers are entitled to minimum wages, overtime pay protections, travel reimbursement costs, and breaks, independent contractors are pretty much left to cover these things on their own. Companies don’t have to pay workers’ compensation insurance or unemployment insurance for independent contractors – but they do for employees.

Employees receive critical protections and benefits – which is why misclassification is such a big problem. California law skews heavily in favor of the presumption of an employee-employer relationship. Continue Reading ›

Immigration status discrimination, also sometimes referred to as citizenship discrimination or national origin discrimination, happens when an employer treats an employee or applicant differently based on their citizenship or immigration status. It can also occur when employers demand excessive documentation or specific documentation of prospective employees’ right to work in the U.S. People who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, asylees, and refugees are legally protected against immigration status discrimination under federal law. immigration status attorney San Bernardino

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with a fast food chain franchisee allegedly committing immigration status discrimination in Southern California. According to a DOJ news release, the franchisee in question owned four restaurants in Southern California. The investigation indicated the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens during the hiring process when verifying their permission to work in the country.

Companies are not allowed to treat people differently in hiring, firing, recruitment, or referral for a fee because of either their citizenship status or national origin. Federal law (specifically 8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(6) ) prohibits employers from discriminating against workers by demanding more documents than necessary – or specific documents – to prove their permission to work, immigration status, or national origin. Workers have the right to choose which valid, acceptable documents they want to provide when establishing their permission to work in the U.S.

This investigation was launched after a complaint from a prospective employee (native to another country) asserted the company refused to accept his valid documents proving his permission to work. The fast food franchise demanded he provide different documentation. The DOJ launched an investigation, and discovered the company routinely engaged in discrimination against non-U.S. residents. In particular, their discrimination was against lawful private residents. These individuals were reportedly refused employment until they provided an extensive (DOJ would say excessive and unnecessary) among of documentation.

All employers should be educated about the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision bars employers from requesting more records than necessary (or specifying the type of documents workers should present). Continue Reading ›

California workplace discrimination can be broadly explained as a job candidate or employee is treated unfavorably due to their age (if over 40), disability, genetic information, national origin, ethnicity, pregnancy, religion, race or skin color, or sex. Federal law make it illegal for employers to retaliate against applicants or employees who assert their right to be free of employment discrimination.Riverside employment attorney

Here, our Riverside workplace discrimination lawyers explain the basics of employment discrimination laws.

Title VII

One of the primary sources of our federal workplace anti-discrimination laws is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This statutes makes it unlawful to discriminate during hiring, discharge, referral, promotion, termination, or any other aspect of employment on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII is enforceable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Title VII banned workplace discrimination against LGBT employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. (Prior to that, protections for LGBT workers was only specified in certain states, California being one of them.) Furthermore, federal subcontractors are required to implement affirmative actions to ensure equal employment opportunities regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, race, color, or religion. Continue Reading ›

It’s been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many offices. For many white-collar workers, that has meant getting creative with office space – in cramped basements and cluttered bedrooms. It has also meant carving out new social norms between employees and employers. One of those involves the blurred lines when it comes to reimbursement for work-related expenses while working from home. As Los Angeles employment lawyers, we’ve noted an increasing number of up-and-coming California employment lawsuits are focused on this front. Los Angeles employment lawyer

Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported on this phenomenon, saying there are dozens of pending cases in Southern California stemming from incidents like:

  • Unpaid, work-related telephone and internet fees.
  • Extra energy needed to head/cool a home during business hours.
  • Office supply needs that were previously picked up by the employer.

For the average worker, it can all add up to between $50 and $200 monthly in extra expenses. That may not sound like a lot, but compounded by the number of workers at home, and companies that saw some significant savings due to work-from-home may now need to pay the piper. If we take that same average employee and compile the total amount of they’ve incurred in expenses due to the work-from-home arrangement, the Times anticipates it’s somewhere around $5,000 each.

In addition to these types of expenses, some workers are seeking reimbursement for lost rental revenue. That is, they allege they have lost out on rental income opportunities because they had to utilize their home office space for their own employment.

We recognize that while work-from-home has been an option for some individuals long before the pandemic, many companies were thrust into the arrangement suddenly, and with little blue print of how all the particulars were going to work. When presented with evidence that their employees are being underpaid, some companies will simply ask for the bill and cover it. Others may take a little more persuasion, but it does appear that at least half of these lawsuits are being settled pre-trial – with terms favorable to plaintiff employees. Continue Reading ›

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

Continue Reading ›

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