Pasadena Employment Attorney

 

We represent those who have faced discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, unpaid wages and overtime, and more.  We are selective about the employment cases we take on, though, limiting our practice to no more than a handful of cases at a time so that we can be fully engaged in your case and responsive to you.

Whether it’s an administrative matter or a lawsuit, Our Pasadena Employment Attorney can carefully plan an appropriate course of action that meets your goals.  When necessary, we will advocate on your behalf in court or before any of the administrative agencies involved, including DFEH, DLSE, or the EEOC.

We have the experience and track record of helping Southern California employees collect damages for unfair and illegal employment practices.

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Our fees

In most cases, we charge a percentage of what we recover for you.  This is called a “contingency” fee.  In contingency fee cases, we will typically cover all costs associated with the lawsuit, including filing fees, subpoenas, documents, deposition/witness fees, jury fees, etc.  Those costs will only be charged to you when there is a recovery.  Our typical contingency rate is anywhere from 33-50% of the case, depending on the facts of your case, complexity, and likelihood of success.

In other types of employment cases, however, an hourly fee arrangement may be more appropriate, i.e., limited engagement, non-litigation matters, such as writing a letter on your behalf, negotiating a severance agreement, or reviewing a proposed contract.

Wrongful Termination

– Discrimination

– Retaliation

Discrimination

– Race

 – Gender

 – Age

 – Disability

 – Pregnancy

Sexual Harassment

– Hostile Work Environment

 

Retaliation

– Filing a Worker’s Compensation Claim

– Taking a Disability Leave

– Taking a Pregnancy Leave

– Complaining About Discrimination

– Complaining About Wages

Misclassification - Employee vs. Independent Contractor

– Paid as a 1099 vs W2

Unpaid Wages & Overtime

– Made to Work Off the Clock

– Paid Straight-Time Only

– Paid Cash

– No Paystubs

How an employment case works

When there are no other options to get your employer to comply with the law, it is sometimes necessary to file a lawsuit in court.  Before most employment lawsuits in California can be filed, however, an administrative claim must first be filed with the CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing.  There are strict timelines for filing claims, so you should contact us as soon as the wrongful act occurred.

After we file an administrative claim, we can proceed with the court action.

After we file the complaint and the opposing party answers the lawsuit, the case will proceed for many months into what is called the “discovery stage.”  This is when both sides get the opportunity to request documents and information from the other side.  They may also decide to take depositions of the parties or of third parties to gather more facts in preparation for the case.

During this time, the judge will often set hearings for both attorneys to appear before him/her and provide updates on the status of the case, including discovery disputes, mediation efforts and when the parties expect to be ready for trial.  This process parallels the discovery efforts as the case progresses.  There can also be motions filed with the court to have the judge decide on discovery disputes and other issues in the case.

Eventually, once both parties agree they are ready to proceed, the judge will set a trial in the matter.  Most employment cases can either be tried by a jury or decided by a single judge.  The advantages of one or the other will be discussed with you.

Employment cases are often complex, with lots of facts and witnesses to present, so the trials can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks.  Clients must be available during this time to assist counsel in presenting the evidence, cross-examining witnesses and make arguments to the court.  Luckily, our team is extremely organized and has the experience to juggle the many tasks involved in trying cases in court.

California Employment & Labor Law – The Basics:

What does being an “at-will” employee mean?

Nearly all employees in California are “at-will.”  One of the most misunderstood concepts in employment law is the concept of an at-will employment relationship. An at-will employment relationship is one in which the employer can terminate you for any reason, as long as that reason is not “illegal.” This means that even if the employer is rude, unfair, immoral or unprofessional, they can fire you, not promote you, reduce your wages, or ask you to do work that you don’t want to do or not do any work at all (layoff).

Here’s an example a law school professor once gave that still works today: If an employer doesn’t like the color of your shoes, he can fire you for it because it has nothing to do with your race, gender or disability. It may be rude, unfair and unprofessional, but it’s not illegal.

Two common examples: Example 1: you and your supervisor don’t like each other.  It has nothing to do with race or gender, you simply don’t like each other and your supervisor recommends firing you. Example 2: someone reported that you stole something at work and it turned out not to be true.  Although you didn’t have proof, you told the employer that it wasn’t you, but he didn’t believe you and fired you anyway.  Are either of these scenarios illegal?  No.

Before we file a lawsuit against your employer, we’ll help you find the real reasons beyond personality conflicts or misunderstandings.

Discrimination

Discrimination refers to an employment act (termination, demotion or failure to promote), where a person’s race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person was a “substantial motivating reason” for the act.

When an employer takes an “adverse employment action” (termination, demotion, etc) against you, motivated by a discriminatory reason, it is illegal and subjects your employer to damages, penalties, and attorneys fees.

Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination is a broad term that refers to any improper and illegal termination of an employee by an employer.  This can include terminating an employee for a discriminatory reason, or it can include retaliating against the employee for something that he/she did (see below).  

California law is extremely favorable to employees when it comes to wrongful termination – for two big reasons.  First, the amount of proof to win your case is lower in California than many states.  In California, an employee only has to show that the illegal reason for the employer’s decision was a “substantial motivating factor.”  Discrimination, for example, does not have to be the only reason why you were terminated, but only a motivating factor.

The second reason is that California law provides additional penalties for employees who were wrongfully terminated – lost wages (past and future), mental suffering/humiliation, interest, additional civil penalties, attorneys fees and costs.  This factor is often the motivating factor for employers to settle cases early before a judge and jury get to decide a higher amount.

Retaliation

One form of wrongful termination is called “retaliation,” or sometimes referred to as “wrongful termination in violation of public policy.”  This simply means that you, as the employee, took some action in furtherance of a right that you had in either a statute or the constitution and the employer retaliated against you for doing it.

This can include filing a workman’s compensation claim and being fired for it; making a complaint to your employer about being discriminated against and demoted for it; or complaining about not being properly paid for all your wages and then being put on a part-time work schedule.  Any of these scenarios, if proven, would constitute an illegal act by your employer in California.

Sexual Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

When an employee is subjected to negative, inappropriate, or unwanted sexual conduct, the harasser and/or employer will be liable for your damages that resulted from that conduct.

Sexual harassment refers to conduct, usually by a single actor.  A hostile work environment is similar, but refers to the overall work environment created in the workplace, oftentimes by several employees (referred to sometimes as “company culture”) who repeatedly make sexual remarks or jokes or act in a way that is offensive to the opposite sex.

When the conduct is by one of your “supervisors” in particular, the company itself can be liable for that conduct.  If the conduct is by another employee, then we’ll need to show that your employer knew of the conduct and did nothing, or that your employer somehow caused or ratified the conduct.

Damages can include emotional distress, lost wages and other benefits.

Misclassification – Employee vs. Independent Contractor

Employers don’t like paying all the taxes owed for employees or giving them the benefits California gives to employees, such as overtime, sick pay, etc.  

Whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor involves a multi-factor analysis.  However, California recently made it much hard for employers to claim that workers are independent contractors.  

On January 1, 2020, California passed a new law, commonly referred to as Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), using the “ABC test.”  Under the ABC test, an individual is presumed to be an employee, unless the company can prove that the worker:

  1. Is free from control and direction of the company in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and
  2. Performs work that is outside the usual course of the business; and
  3. Is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the company.

This new law makes it very hard to claim that someone is an independent contractor outside of this test.  If you have been misclassified, you may be entitled to significant overtime wages, penalties, interest and attorneys fees.

Unpaid Wages & Overtime

Unpaid wages and unpaid overtime is one of the most common ways employers try to cheat the system.  There are all kinds of methods to do this – make employees work off the clock, pay them in cash under the table, pay them straight time, and many more.

We know all the tricks and where to look for those proverbial “skeletons in the closet” that employers try to hide.

 In California, unpaid wages impose high penalties against employers, including 2x the unpaid wages for unpaid minimum wages, attorney’s fees, interest, up to $250 per pay period for paystub penalties and break time penalties, and more.

Call us for a free consultation to discuss any of these types of cases that may be affecting you at your job.