Employment & Labor
Experience counts – and for more than 20 years, we’ve successfully represented clients in employment and labor disputes throughout California.
As Pasadena employment attorneys, we’ve both pursued and defended all kinds of employment and labor claims, including wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, misclassification, unpaid overtime, and more in both courts and administrative agencies.
We’ve handled cases in the following areas:
WRONGFUL TERMINATION & DISCRIMINATION CASES
Wrongful termination generally refers to an improper and illegal termination by an employer. This can include terminating an employee for a discriminatory reason, or it can include retaliating against the employee for his/her exercising certain rights.
California law is more favorable to employees in employment cases for two main reasons. First, 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 an employee was terminated, but only a motivating factor.
The second reason is that there are significant penalties and damages available to employees who are wrongfully terminated – lost wages (past and future), mental suffering/humiliation, litigation costs, plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages. This reason is often the primary incentive for employers to settle cases early before incurring substantial legal defense costs and a potential large jury verdict.
Discrimination issues are the basis for an employer’s “adverse action” (e.g., termination, demotion or failure to promote), where the employee’s race, religion, disability, medical condition, gender or sexual orientation was a “substantial motivating reason” for the act.
Before filing a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit, plaintiffs typically need to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within 3 years of the alleged act. This can sometimes provide an opportunity for settlement between the parties before a lawsuit is filed.
Sample wrongful termination and discrimination cases we’ve won:
- Employee harassed and assigned demeaning tasks (cleaning toilets) by supervisor, eventually being terminated on the basis of race.
- Major drugstore chain supervisor terminated employee as a result of racial discrimination.
- Employee terminated for asking for religious holidays.
- Employee terminated for taking leave of absence due to medical condition.
- Female supervisor failing to be promoted by male owner because of her gender.
WHISTLEBLOWER & RETALIATION CASES
It is illegal for an employer to punish an employee for doing things that they already have a lawful right to do – for example, filing a wage complaint, exercising free speech, taking leave of absense, reporting illegal behavior by another employee, etc. These types of cases, called “retaliation,” or sometimes a “whistleblower” claim, are actionable if the punishment that the employer takes against the employee is considered “adverse” to their employment, up to and including termination. Employees who prove that they were a whistleblower and were retaliated against can recover lost wages, benefits and other damages.
Sample retaliation cases we’ve won:
- Employee filed a workman’s compensation claim and then fired for doing so.
- Employee made complaint to the employer about being harassed by another employee and then fired for it.
- Employee complained about not being paid proper wages and immediately put on a part-time work schedule and eventually fired.
- Employee took medical leave of absence for pregnancy and upon return to work, fired under false pretenses.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT & HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT CASES
When an employee is subjected to negative, inappropriate, or unwanted sexual conduct, the harasser and/or employer may be liable for the damages from that conduct. These damages can include emotional distress, lost wages, benefits, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.
The term “sexual harassment” usually refers to conduct by a single actor. On the other hand, while “hostile work environment” is similar, it normally refers to the overall work environment created in the workplace, oftentimes by several employees (e.g., “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 a supervisor in particular, the company itself will usually be automatically liable for that conduct. If the conduct is by another employee, the employee must show that the employer knew of the conduct and did nothing, or that the employer somehow caused or ratified the conduct.
Sample sexual harassment and hostile work environment cases we’ve won:
- Female employee subjected to constant innappropriate sexual jokes by a male supervisor.
- Employee was sexually assaulted by another employee after repeated warnings went ignored by supervisor.
- Gay female supervisor of major retail chain repeatedly harassed a straight male subordinate.
- Male employee stalked a female employee after work hours – male was promoted and female was reassigned.
- Constant sexual innuendos in office toward female employees by male managers.
UNPAID WAGES & OVERTIME CASES
Unpaid wages and overtime is one of the most common labor disputes in California. When employers have employees to work “off the clock,” pay them in cash under the table, or pay them “straight time,” they risk liability for not only those unpaid wages, but double wage penalties, overtime penalties, costs and attorneys fees. An employee’s administrative claim is filed with the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Sample unpaid wages and overtime cases we’ve won:
- Car wash workers who were paid less than minimum wage after working 80 hours per week.
- Car dealership failing to pay its employees 1.5x for overtime hours.
- Major retail chain failing to provide meal and rest breaks to its employees.
- Garment district workers not paid overtime wages by employer.
MISCLASSIFICATION CASES – EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
It has become much more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors. Misclassifying an employee as a contractor can have drastic consequences.
In January 2020, California passed a new law that makes it harder for employers to misclassify their workers. Under that new law, an individual is presumed to be an employee, unless the company can prove that the worker:
- 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
- Performs work that is outside the usual course of the business; and
- Is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the company.
Having an experienced employment or labor attorney on your side is crucial. When you need someone to tell your story, call us at 626.797.0275 or contact us here.