Category Archives: Lawsuits & Lawyers

Minimum Wage and Overtime: Holding Employers Accountable for Depriving Employees of Basic Pay

Minimum Wage KittenAs surprising as it may seem, some employers still fail to pay their employees proper minimum wage and overtime under California law. Recently, the California Department of Industrial Relations issued wage theft citations of roughly $16 million against several California restaurants. The California restaurants were cited for wages, premiums, and penalties owed to hundreds of employees for various wage theft violations. Investigations exposed a heinous amount of wage theft as it was discovered that employees, mostly waiters and waitresses, were paid an average of $1.15 per hour. Some waiters and waitresses were even either not compensated at all or were just paid a fixed rate of $200 per month. Also, kitchen employees were also never compensated for overtime. Considering some employers have trouble following wage and hour laws, let’s go over some of the basics.

As of July 14, 2014, California’s minimum wage is $9.00 per hour. Although the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, California law supersedes for employees working in California. Thus, the California restaurants were breaking both California and Federal law by paying their employees only $1.15 per hour. It is also important to note two important things. Employees cannot waive minimum wage so even if some of the waiters and waitress here agreed to be paid under minimum wage, that agreement would not hold water in court. Second, since we are talking about employees who make tips, California law prohibits an employer from crediting tips toward minimum wage and also prohibits an employer from taking any amount of tip given to an employee by a patron.

Under California law, an employer must pay 1 ½ times the employees regular wage after 8 hours worked in a day and after 40 hours worked in a week for all non-exempt employees. Sometimes employers tell an employee that it is necessary for him or her to work long hours due to the nature of the assignment and therefore overtime is not required. Or employers might tell employees that the company he or she works for does not fall under the kind of company that must pay overtime under California law. These are all fabrications and excuses not to pay an employee. All that matters is if the employee worked overtime hours and whether the employee worked with the knowledge of his employer.

Although it sad and unfortunate that employers continue to violate basic wage and hour laws, citations issued by the California Department of Industrial Relations, such as the citation discussed above, shows that employee rights are still being fervently upheld across the state. If you believe your employer is paying you under minimum wage or you are being deprived of overtime, contact an attorney immediately.

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Filed under Class Actions, Minimum Wage, Overtime, Wages and Hours

California Employment Lawyer’s Association Annual Conference was a Raging Success

CELA Annual Conference Employment Workplace Lawyer AttorneyFor the past few days I’ve been absorbing information at the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) annual conference. It has been an astounding event, full of highly intelligent and successful lawyers who deeply care about California worker’s rights.

I’ve seen presentations on wage and hour class actions, individual wage and hour cases, representing undocumented workers, updates on the evolving law concerning class waiver provisions in unconscionable arbitration agreements, and detailed analysis on the Harris v. City of Santa Monica mixed motive case. In all, if you practice employment law and you don’t go to this conference, you’re missing out on incredible tips, tricks, and strategies.

I’ve also had the pleasure to meet some highly regarded lawyers: Lawrence Bohm, Bryan Schwartz, and Glenn Kantor. I’ve seen presentations by David deRubertis, Michael Singer, and Cliff Palefsky. I can only hope that one day I’ve accomplished half of what these amazing individuals have accomplished. Keep up the good work!

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Filed under Class Actions, Employment Law, Uncategorized

Do California’s Court Closures Affect Employee Lawsuits?

Employment Attorney – During the last five years, California’s courts have lost 65% of their general funding. Many courts in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Bernardino have closed. Hours have been cut, and court fees have skyrocketed. Only 1% of California’s general fund goes to it’s judicial branch (which happens to be the largest court system in the nation…btw). In Los Angeles, 67 courtrooms have been closed and 500 court jobs have been lost.

What does this mean for the average employee seeking justice? The answer is simple – it will take longer. If you are an employee and you want to sue your employer it will take much longer to get to trial.

The California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye decried the dramatic decrease in funding for state courts. The situation is so dire that California, “normally a leader in social justice, may now be facing a civil rights crisis,” she said.

But Governor Brown has not listened. Gov. Brown’s 2013 proposed budget does not restore any of the lost funding, and the court system has had to postpone rebuilding dilapidated and unsafe courthouses. Rising fines and fees for filings threaten to make California’s court system “a user-fee institution” that particularly hurts those with lower incomes.

If you are an employee seeking an employment lawyer, should this bother you? Yes, but it should not dissuade you from seeking an attorney. You might have other options available, such as arbitration or mediation. Contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible.

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Congratulations to Jeffrey Greenman For Winning CAALA’s “Rising Star” Award

Jeff Greenman CAALA Rising Star Award

Jeff Greenman, a personal injury attorney in Newport Beach and good friend of mine, was recently awarded the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles’ (CAALA) inaugural “Rising Star” award. In his short career he has obtained some amazing results. This past year he won a million dollar medical malpractice verdict.

“The jury returned a verdict of $1,017,500, beating plaintiff’s 998 demand for $750,000. After the verdict was returned, there was pandemonium in the courtroom with the client crying and hugging the jury, and the jury crying and hugging back.”

This is an important award. It recognizes young talent and gives it a boost. But this verdict isn’t Mr. Greenman’s best. He’s obtained a $17 million dollar settlement, $12 million dollar settlement/verdict, and a $5 million dollar settlement (just to name a few) for his clients. It goes without saying that Mr. Greenman has started his career winning big.

Check out Mr. Greenman’s website at Greenman Law PC. Mr. Greenman graduated from Chapman University School of Law and has been practicing law for six years.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Employment Lawsuits and Your Medical History: What’s Fair Game?

Medical Records Attorney Employment RecordsOne of the most common disputes to arise during an employment lawsuit is access to your private medical documents. The employer who’s being sued (or more accurately, their attorneys) routinely insist that, by filing a lawsuit and alleging emotional distress, you’ve voluntarily put your health and all related records “at issue” such that it’s up for grabs during discovery.  This, however, is not always true, and you should be aware of your constitutional right to privacy while engaged in a lawsuit.

“Give Us Everything” 

Discovery, of course, refers to the window of time between filing your lawsuit and trial (usually 8-10 months) where both sides get to demand relevant documents from each other and also demand that certain questions be answered truthfully. As a general matter, a party is “entitled” to discover any documents as long as the request is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

Historically, this is a very low bar to satisfy and attorneys can get their hands on a wide range of documents with very little justification. California laws and public policy also support this notion, as courts feel that the more information attorneys have, the more likely they can make informed decisions and settle the case. With that being said, an attorney’s favorite term of art during discovery tends to be “any and all.” For example, your attorney will probably ask the employer/defendant for “any and all written complaints of discrimination by other employees.” This type of demand is permitted during an employment lawsuit because evidence of other employees’ complaints would support a discriminatory pattern or motive, thus supporting your claim of discrimination.

The problem, however, arises when the employer serves a subpoena on your doctors and therapists demanding “any and all” of your medical records. This type of demand is intentionally broad and is designed to encompass every known type of medical document, even if they have nothing to do with your lawsuit. In a recent case, for example, the defendant/employer tried to demand all medical documents from every physician our client had seen over the past five years. The demand included private medical documents from our client’s therapist, general doctors, and even her dentist and gynecologist.

Requests like that are highly intrusive to say the least, but it’s important to know that private medical records are highly protected under California law, even when you’re involved in a lawsuit. More specifically, attorneys have to meet a much higher legal burden to get their hands on that kind of sensitive material, even when you put your health “at issue” in your complaint.

Unfortunately, some attorneys take a stance that, if the documents won’t affect your case, then who cares, just let them have it, right? Of course not. What still matters is your constitutional right to privacy and your attorney should take the appropriate steps to protect it.

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Employees of Franchises May Be Able To Sue The Deep Pockets

dominospizzalogoA great case came down earlier this year that I’ve been meaning to blog about. Employee rights attorneys’ like myself are hesitant to take cases against small employers. This is true even when the employer is a franchisee (e.g. your local McDonald’s). Generally, franchisor’s (e.g. McDonalds corporate) isn’t liable for franchisee’s labor practices. Attorney’s like myself fear that we might litigate a case for two years, win a trial, but be unable to recover the full judgment because the local franchise doesn’t have very much money.

A recent case changes this in certain situations.  Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC held a franchisor can be held liable for alleged sexual harassment of an employee of the franchisee by a supervisor employed by the franchisee and for related claims.

The facts of the case are fairly common. Patterson was a teenage employee of Sui Juris, a Domino’s pizza franchisee. Renee Miranda was the assistant manager of that restaurant. Patterson claimed Miranda sexually harassed and assaulted her at work.

Patterson filed an action against Miranda, Sui Juris, and the franchisor Domino’s, alleging causes of action for sexual harassment in violation of Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation for exercise of rights, infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery and constructive wrongful termination. She claimed Sui Juris and Domino’s were Miranda’s employers and were vicariously liable for his actions under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.

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Filed under FEHA – Fair Employment & Housing Act, Franchise, Harassment, Independent Contractor, Retaliation, Sexual Harassment

California Passes New Regulations on Paystubs

Paystub Requrements - Sample PhotoWhat’s the deal with paystubs? Most employees don’t even look at their paystubs. Existing law in California requires every employer, twice a month or at the time of each payment of wages, to furnish each employee an accurate itemized statement (paystub) in writing showing certain information.

This information includes, among other things, the name of the employee and the last 4 digits of his or her social security number, the gross wages earned, all deductions, net wages earned, the dates of the period for which the employee is paid, and the name and address of the employer. Existing law provides that an employee suffering injury as a result of a knowing and intentional failure by an employer to comply with this requirement is entitled to recover the greater of all actual damages or a specified sum, not exceeding an aggregate penalty of $4,000, and is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

The “injury” required to trigger the penalty has just changed. California just amended its paystub statute (Labor Code § 226) with a new law (SB-1255 which Governor Brown signed into law on September 30th, 2012). The changes go into effect on January 1, 2013.

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Filed under Accurate Paystubs, Class Actions, Lawsuits & Lawyers, Wages and Hours

New Pregnancy Regulations on California’s Fair Employment & Housing Website

The Fair Employment & Housing Commission’s new pregnancy regulations have been approved. The regulations become effective on December 30, 2012. Read the regulations here. The California Employment Lawyers Association issued a press release detailing the regulations. It also posted this blurb on its Facebook page:

Specifically, these regulations:
* clarify that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women;
* explain that employers must continue health benefits during pregnancy leave;

* clarify that it is unlawful for an employer to require a pregnant woman to take a leave of absence when she has not requested leave;
* explain that employers must provide lactation accommodations to nursing mothers;
* list examples of conditions that entitle a woman to take up to four months of job-protected pregnancy disability leave, including gestational diabetes, loss or end of pregnancy, and post-partum depression; and
* describe an employer’s obligation to grant extended leave beyond 4 months if an employee has a qualifying disability under the FEHA.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Lawsuits & Lawyers, Pregnancy Disability Leave

Quick Overview of the Employment Litigation Process

Employment litigation, Branigan Robertson, employee rights attorneyEmployment litigation consists of four basic stages: (1) information gathering & demand, (2) pleading, (3) discovery and motions, and (4) trial and post-trial proceedings. This summary is a gross simplification of all four stages, but it should provide you with some context as to where your case may be going. Moreover, each case varies, and your lawyer will tell you how he or she thinks each stage should be approached. However, this section gives you a brief overview of the four stages and a sample path for a typical employment case.

If you are initiating the lawsuit you are the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant.

Information Gathering & Demand

Prior to the filing of any lawsuit, you and your attorney will spend time gathering information and obtaining the facts necessary to support your client’s case. This is the first stage of litigation. Sometimes the defendant is aware that a lawsuit may be filed against him, and has begun factual investigation as well.

This can be a long and cumbersome process as factual gathering is much harder than most people think. Your lawyer will be gathering specific facts to fit within elements of laws. This can sometimes be frustrating for non-lawyers. Be patient, your lawyer is trying to do a thorough job.

If your lawyer thinks it is appropriate he or she may decide to send a “demand letter” to the employer-defendant. This letter demands a settlement in exchange for not filing the lawsuit with the courts. Sometimes this results in a quick resolution to the case. Sometimes the defendant simply ignores this letter and your lawyer is forced to file a complaint with the court.

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Filed under Lawsuits & Lawyers, Litigation

California Bar Association Annual Labor & Employment Law Conference

CalBar Annual Employment Law Conference For the past two days I’ve been sharpening my skills at the 30th Annual California Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Conference.

I’ll have lots of information to post in the near future!

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Labor Law, Lawsuits & Lawyers

Lisa Kudrow & Scott Howard to the California Supreme Court? Phoebe Wants to Fight.

In 2008, Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe from ‘Friends’) was dragged into court by her former manager, Scott Howard, who filed a lawsuit because she refused to pay him more than $50,000.

In the early 1990’s, Howard and Kudrow entered into an oral agreement for Howard to act as Kudrow’s personal manager. Kudrow agreed to pay Howard 10% of whatever she earned. In 1994, Kudrow landed the role of “Phoebe” on the television show “Friends.” Amazingly, for the last 18 episodes in 2004, Kudrow made $1 million an episode, plus 1 1/4 % of the show’s “backend” earnings.

So, what is the dispute about? Well, after Kudrow terminated Howard as her personal manager, she stopped paying him. Which seems completely fine except that the custom and practice in the entertainment industry at the time was for a personal manager to be paid post-termination commissions on the services that their clients rendered when the personal manager was representing them.

Currently, the two parties are bickering over when an expert should have been admitted. A Los Angeles County Superior Court barred Howard from admitting an experts testimony, and granted Kudrow summary judgment. The appeals court reversed Wednesday, saying Bauer should be allowed to testify on remand. Now, Kudrow may appeal it to the California Supreme Court.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Discharge & Layoffs, Lawsuits & Lawyers, Leaving a Job

California Employment Lawyers Association Annual Conference

20121006-084536.jpg

Hey All, today I’m blogging while at the California Employment Lawyers Association Annual Conference in Costa Mesa. It’s been good to see friends and interact with colleagues. But I can’t wait to update this blog with all the good stuff I’ve been learning. From legislative updates to new strategies in wrongful termination cases, this conference is packed with great information coming from the most established employment attorneys in California.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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