Articles Posted in Employment Law

There are lots of good reasons why one might prefer to pursue litigation close to home. Having the case close by might mean lower costs and an opportunity to be more closely involved. It might mean getting a jury that’s more receptive to your arguments. It also might mean getting a judge more familiar with the legal issues you’re asserting (if the other option is to litigate out of state). Whether you’re a Californian or an out-of-stater, and whether you’re in California court because you prefer to litigate here or your employment contract forces you to, be sure your case is armed with the skill and knowledge of an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

Sometimes, litigating in a particular place is not by choice. As an example, take the case of J.N., an East Bay man working for an insurance claims services company. Although the employer was based in suburban Indianapolis, Indiana, J.N. worked in El Cerrito. The company terminated J.N.’s employment in late March, 2017. J.N. believed that he was the victim of illegal discrimination and sued in Contra Costa County, alleging wrongful termination along with several violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

J.N., though, had a problem. The employment contract he signed with the company had what’s called a “forum selection clause.” That is something that says that, if there’s a dispute between you and your employer, you must litigate in one of the designated courts. J.N.’s forum selection clause stated he could only sue the employer in Hamilton County, Indiana, Marion County, Indiana or the federal court in Indianapolis.

Sometimes, even others’ unsuccessful discrimination actions can provide very helpful knowledge for those workers who follow. For example, a musician recently lost his age and disability discrimination lawsuit against his employer. However, the musician lost his case because of a very narrow free speech exception that protected his employer. The rest of his case, however, offered many of the pieces one might need in a discrimination complaint. When it comes to getting the most out of the rulings that precede your case, whether those workers won or lost, be sure you have an experience Oakland employment attorney who can provide you with up-to-date knowledge of the law.

The case involved G.S., a drummer in a rock-n-roll singer’s band. Although the singer had not scored a top-40 record or album since 1991, he and the band continued performing live concerts throughout the 2010s. Immediately after each concert, the drummer staffed a booth that sold t-shirts, CDs and other souvenirs.

In 2015, the singer laid off the drummer. The drummer was 61, had suffered a back injury and also was a cancer survivor, a condition which caused him to have incontinence. The singer sometimes referred to the drummer on stage as “Chemo the Drummer” and stated jokingly that the concert tour was sponsored by a brand of adult diapers used by people with incontinence.

Many people, when they hear the phrase “employment discrimination,” may associate those words with women, people of color, older workers, LGBTQ+ people or religious minorities. The reality is, however, that anyone can pursue a claim for discrimination in California if they can show that they suffered discrimination on the job on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. If you think you’ve been the target of illegal discrimination, act with all due speed to protect your rights. Contact a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney right away.

A case recently filed by an employee of a major package shipping company is an illustration in point. According to Patch.com, M.M. had worked for the company for 12 years. In 2017, his job duties included assigning driving duties to the employer’s delivery drivers serving Los Angeles County. Allegedly, a driver shortage led M.M. to assign extra work to the existing drivers, which angered P.F. According to M.M., the driver responded in several ways, including speaking in an insubordinate manner and making false allegation about M.M. to the employer’s human resources department. The alleged falsehoods included M.M. physically assaulting P.F.

According to M.M., the employer knew that the driver’s accusations were false, but the employer feared that P.F., who was Latino, would escalate claims of racism and file additional grievances or sue the employer. The employer also allegedly feared upsetting other Latino drivers, leading it to terminate M.M. in an effort to “appease” P.F. and the company’s other Latino employees, Patch.com reported.

Sometimes, helpful and encouraging knowledge can come even from others’ unsuccessful cases. As an example, there’s the recent case of a Los Angeles restaurant server, who lost his race discrimination case. Even though this server lost his discrimination case, his outcome in the appeals court is an important one for anyone who is considering pursuing a discrimination action in court under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Some people might be frightened away from pursuing their rights and seeking their day in court by the possibility of not just losing but ending up with an outcome where they are left in the position of having to pay the other side.

If you are considering taking on your employer or former employer in court, you should not let it discourage you. As this case revealed, even if your employer makes a statutory settlement offer that you refuse, and you later receiving an unfavorable verdict, you will still not be “on the hook” for any of the other side’s attorneys’ fees or costs, as long as your case wasn’t frivolous or unreasonable. In other words, fear not, and if you have any questions about pursuing your claims, talk to a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney today.

The server, F.H. worked at a five-star luxury hotel in Los Angeles. While at work, F.H. and another server became embroiled in an altercation. According to F.H., the other employee had uttered various racist slurs toward him, including “beaner” and “[expletive] Mexican.”

No one wants to think about being wrongfully terminated from their job as a result of doing something that would otherwise be a joyous thing, such as having a baby Unfortunately, though, it does occur. When it happens, the law gives those harmed workers certain legal options. And, sometimes, depending on the facts of the case, the options available to the harmed worker may be even more extensive than one might think when it comes to the damages available. To make sure your wrongful termination case yields everything it should for you, have a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney on your side.

K.L., a teacher whose case was reported by NBC Los Angeles, was an employee who found herself in that position. K.L., a science teacher at a Catholic school in South Los Angeles, was seven months pregnant but was not married in the summer of 2012. The parish pastor, who oversaw the school, allegedly told the teacher that the teacher’s pregnancy outside of wedlock would “morally corrupt” the impressionable teenage students at the school, according to NBC Los Angeles. The pastor also allegedly referred to the teacher’s unborn child as “it,” even after the baby’s gender had been openly revealed.

The teacher complained to the school principal but, allegedly, was merely told to “pray,” with no other action being taken. Following the end of the 2012-13 school year, the school did not renew K.L.’s contract for the 2013-14 academic year. The school claimed that it decided not to renew K.L.’s contract due to performance problems she had in the classroom; specifically, a recurring problem with tardiness and several instances of taking phone calls during class.

Many times, employers will seek to resolve Fair Employment and Housing Act discrimination disputes through arbitration as opposed to litigation. They do this because they believe that the arbitration process will be cheaper than litigation and that the resolution will be more favorable than they would receive in court. For a multitude of reasons, you, as an employee, might prefer to present your case to a jury or judge, not an arbitration panel. The key, then, is avoiding being forced into arbitration, such as by a mandatory arbitration provision in your employment contract. For options on achieving these and other goals in your discrimination case, contact an experienced Oakland employment attorney.

Sometimes, there are ways to avoid arbitration even if you signed an arbitration agreement. Take the case of C.R. C.R., who would eventually become the plaintiff in the case, was someone who had amassed an impressive resume. She had a law degree from UC-Berkeley and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the same institution. Her experiences in the law and the sciences in the Bay Area allowed her to obtain a substantial position as a patent lawyer with a prestigious law firm in 2014. The attorney’s title was described as an “income partner.”

Shortly after she started work, she signed a partnership agreement. That agreement contained an arbitration provision in it that she was required to handle disputes first by submitting them to “mandatory, but non-binding, mediation.” If the dispute remained unresolved after 60 days, then either side could submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

California law provides various forms of protections for workers here. One area where those protections comes into play is retaliation against a worker for exercising her legal rights. There are many acts that a worker may do and the employer cannot punish the worker for it or, if they do, they are in violation of the law. One of these rights is availing yourself to the legal system to challenge your employer’s violation of employment laws, such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job in retaliation for exercising your rights, you should contact an experienced Oakland employment attorney about your situation.

A.Q. was a worker in a similar and unfortunate situation. She was an employee who worked at an Orange County restaurant and who sued after the employer allegedly failed to pay overtime wages in accordance with federal “wage and hour” laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act. A.Q. won that lawsuit.

Along the way, though, the employer fired A.Q. This allowed the employee to pursue an additional claim against the employer–wrongful termination. The law forbids employers from firing employees in retaliation for exercising their constitutional right to pursue civil litigation in court. This kind of termination is illegal if the employee has proof that the exercise of a constitutional right (such as filing a FLSA lawsuit) triggered the firing, unless the employer can persuade the court that there was a different, valid and independent reason that was the actual basis for the termination.

Sometimes, when a party to a case wrongfully destroys an important piece of evidence, the other side may be entitled to seek, and obtain, a penalty from the party who caused the destruction. The remedy to which you may be entitled for the “spoliation” of evidence can vary depending on the facts. If the destruction of the evidence was due to negligence, the penalties would be less severe than if the destruction was intentional. In some cases, you may be able to obtain money sanctions, or you may be able to persuade the trial judge to give the jury a specific instruction that says that they, the jury, may make in their deliberations certain negative factual inferences against the party who destroyed the evidence. This might include such things as making an inference that the destroyed evidence was relevant and was harmful to the destroying side’s case.

When it comes to demanding evidence, discovering that evidence has been destroyed and seeking remedies for improperly destroyed evidence, there may be many procedural options available to you. The key is having a detailed understanding of the rules and the law. That means having a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney on your side.

The Fresno Bee reported on the wrongful termination case of a restaurant manager in Fresno, which was an example of this type of scenario. J.O. was the general manager of a restaurant chain’s location near Fresno State University. The manager had been with the employer for more than a decade, receiving “outstanding performance reviews” along the way. In 2014 and 2015, things allegedly changed, however. The manager developed carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist and filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits based upon the workplace injury to her wrist. After that, the employer’s upper management allegedly hatched a plot to retaliate against the manager for filing the workers’ comp claim, according to the report.

On September 30, Governor Brown signed into Law Senate Bill 1300. While that name and number may, by themselves, mean nothing to you, it is important to know what this new law does. This law substantially strengthens California’s law surrounding workplace sexual harassment and sexual harassment lawsuits. Importantly, the new law clarifies that even as little as a single incident of sexual harassment may be enough to give a victimized worker a valid sexual harassment claim in court. With this new law’s provisions in place, victims of harassment have an even greater opportunity than ever to get much-needed compensation. To learn more about your legal rights, and how they may have changed since the law has changed, talk to a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney.

In the past, many courts have required that the victimized worker prove that the harassment she/he endured was either severe or pervasive. That standard, the California Employment Lawyers Association concluded, was not sufficient, which led it to advocate for S.B. 1300. Too many times, advocates for the bill argued, the old standard allowed harassers to escape responsibility, and victims were closed off from compensation for their damages, because the incident was isolated. This new law is designed to wipe out that “one free grope” rule.

The new law bars employers from requiring their employees to sign certain agreements in exchange for raises or continued employment. The types of agreements covered under this provision of the law included agreements to release claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and “gag” agreements that prevent victimized workers from disclosing illegal acts that they suffered in the workplace.

For many people, applying for a job is a relatively stressful process, and sometimes starting a new job can be, too. Imagine in the midst of these stresses being asked to sign a document written in a language you don’t read or speak. For some Spanish-speaking workers in California, that is what happens to them when they seek or start a new job. If you sign an agreement to arbitrate your employment disputes as part of the application or “new hire” processes that is written in a language you don’t understand, you may not be able to assert that that language barrier created a lack of mutual assent and therefore a lack of a valid contract. You may, however, have other avenues to assert that the foreign-language arbitration agreement you signed is not enforceable. If you find yourself in this type of scenario in your discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuit, you should be sure you have skilled California employment counsel representing you in your case.

The above general scenario is essentially what happened in M.M.’s case. M.M. had worked at a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant for five years when she filed a complaint against her employer. Among other things, the CNA alleged that her employer had engaged in disability discrimination and constructive wrongful termination. In response, the employer sought to take the dispute out of the courts and move it into an arbitration hearing. The employer argued that it was entitled to arbitration because it and the CNA had signed an agreement, as part of her employment application, agreeing to arbitrate all disputes that arose in relation to M.M.’s employment. M.M. also signed two subsequent documents in which she agreed to be bound by the employer’s “Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy,” which included arbitrating all employment disputes.

The CNA’s argument was that the agreement was not valid. Specifically, she asserted that she read and spoke Spanish, did not understand spoken or written English, and never received a copy of any of the arbitration agreement documents in Spanish. Because she allegedly never understood any of the arbitration agreement documents she signed, she argued that there was no “meeting of the minds” that is necessary for a valid and enforceable contract. She also argued that enforcing the agreement was unconscionable because the entity seeking to enforce the agreement did not sign the document. (The entity took over control of the operations at the facility where M.M. worked three years after she started in 2011).

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