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.
- Off-the-clock work. When employers fail to pay for work that is performed off-the-clock (after closing hours, prior to clocking in, etc.), it can be the basis of employment litigation. We saw this in the 1998 case of Troester v. Starbucks, when a plaintiff claimed the coffee company failed to pay for off-the-clock work. In this case, the California Supreme Court rejected the federal “de minimis” doctrine, which allows small, tough-to-track time increments to go unpaid. Instead, the court held that businesses are required to pay employees for regularly-occurring, off-the-clock work – such as opening/closing a store, donning/doffing on a special uniform, etc.
- Meal and rest breaks. California has very strict requirements for meal and rest breaks. For example, most employees must receive a 30-minute, unpaid meal break after five hours. Paid rest breaks of at least 10 minutes must be provided every four hours. The specificity of these requirements can make it somewhat challenging for employers to comply, but employers who consistently fall short on any of these fronts can easily find themselves facing litigation.
- Wage and hour statements. California law mandates employers provide very specific information on each employee’s pay stubs. If they don’t, they can face some serious fines, and legal action by their employees. This often arises as part of a larger wage-and-hour lawsuit.
- Employee discrimination/harassment/retaliation/wrongful termination. There are both state and federal laws that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of a protected class – which can include sex/gender/sexuality/gender identity, pregnancy/childbirth, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age (over 40), disability, etc. Job applicants and/or employees who are treated with prejudice or harassed based on their status (or perceived status) in a protected class may be entitled to damages. Often, these stem from cases where employees who reported this unfair treatment were retaliated against or wrongfully fired/forced to resign.
If you believe you may have cause to pursue a California employment lawsuit, our Los Angeles employment attorneys can help.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
All Workers Have Rights in California, Department of Industrial Relations Labor Enforcement Task Force