As employers throughout California are tackling unprecedented challenges brought about by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made. However, employers would do well not to exacerbate their financial woes by erring when it comes to employee pay, sick leave and wrongful termination.
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court made it significantly harder for workers to join together to stand up against their employer. The highest court in the land determined it is permissible for employers to include language in hiring contracts banning employees from joining class-action lawsuits, according to an ABC News report. This disheartening revelation flies in the face of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which was drafted to protect employees’ rights to organize and take collective action to fight for their own interests.
The supporting justices seemed to favor instead the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, which validates arbitration clauses, making it legal for employers to bind an employee’s right to sue their employer as a term of employment. This forces employees who have signed an arbitration agreement to address their grievances without filing a lawsuit. Instead, they would have to handle disputes individually through a third party arbitrator, often hired by the company whose actions are in question. Continue Reading ›
With the fast-paced growth of the gig economy, the line between independent contractors and employees has become more and more blurred. This has led to employee misclassification lawsuits filed by workers, claiming employers have taken advantage of their independent contractor status.
Those lawsuits could have a more clear outcome after U.S. District Court for the California Northern District filed a decision in a lawsuit against GrubHub Inc., according to Los Angeles Times. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley Judge ruled GrubHub’s drivers are independent contractors and should not be classified as employees, and therefore will not receive the perks that come with that identifier.
Maintaining a workforce primarily made up of independent contractors is at the heart of the gig economy. Services like Uber, Lyft, Grub, Postmates, and others will often identify their companies as services that connect customers with contractors, rather than the providers of those services. That way they can work around supporting a staff of employees, and reap the benefits of massive cost reductions. Meanwhile, drivers and delivery people are beholden to the companies they contract for while being burdened with costs associated with the work they do without reimbursement. Continue Reading ›
Recent projections by economists indicate that the job growth currently enjoyed in Southern California will slow dramatically in the coming years. This is problematic for employees, who are already at a disadvantage in negotiating the employment relationship. Employers, who traditionally hold a stronger bargaining position, are further strengthened in a job market which favors employers. Nonetheless, employees still have workplace rights which must be protected. Learn more about how a Southern California employment lawyer can protect employees’ rights in a tough job market.
The Job Projections
The Orange County Register reports that economists from California State University at Fullerton have recently released projections for job growth across Southern California during the next three years. While 2016 saw an expansion of 2.6 percent in payroll jobs, 2017 is projected to see only 1.6 percent, and 2018 growth is estimated at 1.7 percent. 2019 payroll jobs are estimated to grow at only 1.9 percent. While these percentages may seem small, they represent thousands of jobs, and thousands of families which depend on the income from those jobs. The economists found no obvious trigger for the current drop in employment.
A new report finds that the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs available in the Bay Area will soon vastly outpace the number of skilled workers who are available to fill such jobs. On the surface, this appears to be good news for STEM workers, who will soon have a wider range of job opportunities available to them. However: such market conditions can also place greater pressure on employees once they have been hired, and increase the potential for wage and hour disputes. These conditions can also increase the potential for workers to be misclassified as independent contractors. Learn more about the projections for the STEM market, and how a California employment attorney can help STEM employees negotiate the working conditions to which they are legally entitled.
The San Francisco Business Times examined the future of California’s STEM job market by analyzing a series of statistics. In May 2015, the California Employment Development Department reported that there were twice as many online job postings for STEM jobs as the number of unemployed STEM workers. This current scenario is likely to be exacerbated in the coming years by a series of factors. First, California is projected to add about 200,000 STEM jobs over the next five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reports issued by the State of California. Next, many STEM employees will soon age out of the job market. Over half of California’s STEM employees face retirement in the next five to ten years. Finally, STEM jobs require advanced degrees that greatly narrow the field of suitable applicants. For reference: 33% of the working population in California holds college degrees, but 75% of STEM jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Continue Reading ›
Employees’ rights to take family leave are protected by federal law. The Family Medical Leave Act ensures that employees will not be terminated for taking leaves of absence for qualifying circumstances. California employees whose rights are violated can take legal action against their employers.
According to the Department of Labor, the FMLA provides employees with up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year. The employee may not be fired during this time, and group health benefits must be maintained by the employer. Qualifying family leave can be obtained for: birth or care of a newborn; placement of a foster or adoptive child with the employee; to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or when the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition. Despite the fact that FMLA has been the law since 1993, employers continue to violate this law.
Every year new employment laws affect California employers. Businesses which are not compliant with such laws face civil liability, fines, and even regulatory sanctions (such as suspension of a business license). CBS Los Angeles reports on new 2017 employment laws which all California employers should take note of:
Increased Minimum Wage: As of January 1, 2017, businesses with twenty-five employees or more must pay workers a minimum of $10.50 per hour. GovDocs reports that this will increase in annual increments to set minimum wage at $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2023. Businesses with fewer than twenty-five employees start at a lower minimum wage of $10.00 per hour, but they, too, will experience annual increases, and be subject to the $15.00 per hour minimum wage requirement by January 1, 2023.
Overtime Laws: The California Department of Industrial Relations describes the current California overtime requirements as follows:
- Any employee must be paid one and a half times his or her hourly rate for any hours worked in excess of eight per day, or forty per week. “Time and a half” also applies to the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of a workweek.
- Any hours in excess of twelve per day must be compensated at twice the employee’s hourly rate. Double time also applies to any hours beyond eight worked on the seventh day of a workweek.
There are various exceptions to the overtime requirements, and employers should carefully consider these when staffing needs arise.
We often hear about the unemployment rate when the economy is down. In good times like we are experiencing now, the employment rate in California has been rising steadily, and it’s important to note that too.
New data released by the California Economic Development Department suggests this trend is likely to continue, according to one recent article from the San Francisco Bay News.
Numbers released in July show the state unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2 percent. The previous rate for the month of June was 6.1 percent, so these numbers are slightly better, which is a good sign.
However, because to month-to-month fluctuations can and do happen without regard to the national and local economy, it is often helpful to look at year-over-year rates. Last year at this time, the California unemployment rate was 7.4 percent. Unlike the 0.1 percent rise we saw from June to July of this year, we can see that the unemployment rate has fallen significantly overall in the past year. Continue Reading ›
Wellness tracking programs are increasingly under scrutiny by employee rights advocates, health care professionals and other policy makers. In yet another case that challenges the legality of the employee wellness program, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Honeywell International to stop the company from penalizing employees who refuse to undergo medical testing under the purported corporate wellness program. This is the third such case filed by the EEOC since August, but Honeywell is the largest corporation targeted so far.
Advocates for wellness programs say they can boost employee morale, ensure healthy habits among employees and reduce overall medical costs. While companies may have incentive to track the health of employees, critics point out they are invasive and could violate medical privacy laws. Despite the potential abuse of corporate wellness programs, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) actually promotes and encourages employee wellness tracking. Honeywell has been charged with penalizing employees up to $4,000 each through surcharges and other lost contributions for failing to participate. The employees can incur such losses if they or their spouses refuse to comply with the biometric testing.
Under the Honeywell corporate wellness tracking system, employees must undergo screening for blood-sugar levels, nicotine, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. According to the lawsuit, the testing was to occur the last week of October this year. The EEOC is the law agency that enforces federal labor laws and instances of discrimination. According to the EEOC, Honeywell’s employee testing program is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The agency filed the lawsuit asking for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to stop the company from imposing penalties.
A recent report has exposed the myriad abuses committed against Indian high-tech workers employed by American companies. According to The Guardian, brokers have “hijacked” the professional visa program, creating a system of “bondage” resulting in wage theft and other abuses against Indian workers. Many workers who have quit or tried to leave the system have even been sued by the brokerage companies. In the United States, professionals can obtain a temporary visa to work for companies who are seeking “uniquely talented employees” for specific jobs. In the tech market, labor brokers will often sponsor the visas and contract out employees to tech companies and government agencies.
The workers are specifically trained and offer special skills in building databases, testing software and other high-tech projects. Critics of this indentured service-like arrangement for high-tech workers have pointed out that workers are exploited through humiliation, intimidation and other legal threats. In some cases, Indian workers have been sued for upwards of $50,000, just for trying to leave the company. The firms are also capitalizing on workers’ hopes for achieving the American Dream and finding permanent employment in the U.S.
Workers who obtain an H-1B visa through a brokerage firm are forced to comply with illegal working conditions, and are threatened if they report abuses. Based on government and external reports, there have been thousands of documents filed that evidence intimidation, restrictions on employment contracts, and other legal loopholes that deprive workers of their rights. According to The Guardian, there has been at least $29.7 million illegally withheld from 4,400 tech workers between 2000 and 2013. The numbers are alarming considering they barely scratch the surface in identifying wage theft that may have occurred in other firms and underground financial arrangements.