Big Win in PA Court Case May Have Big Impact

A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision may be a big win for all drivers who work for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. On July 27, 2020, the highest court in Pennsylvania held that a part-time Uber driver was not “self-employed,” The designation is significant because Uber has consistently argued in lawsuits across the country that drivers are independent contractors and self-employed, not employees.

By categorizing the estimated 2.6 million Uber drivers in the U.S. as being self-employed, Uber is not required to provide any federal or state benefits. In this case, however, the sole issue was whether his part-time work with Uber disqualified him from unemployment benefits because an applicant who engages in an independent business venture is not eligible for unemployment benefits. While the decision is not binding on other states, it could be a significant victory for all ride-hailing drivers as well as gig workers more broadly.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held that an Uber Driver is not "self-employed" which could have a signficant impact on pending litigation across the country.

The case in Pennsylvania involves a laid-off behavioral specialist who started working for Uber part-time. The driver, however, was denied unemployment benefits because his part-time work with Uber was categorized as an “independent business venture.” The court, however, ruled that the driver was not self-employed because Uber had “significant control” over his work, and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits due to losing his full-time job as a behavioral specialist. The court acknowledged that drivers do have some autonomy such as setting work hours and rejecting rides, but overall, the court found that there were more significant aspects of the contract that Uber controlled. For example, Uber sets the rate for services, drivers cannot establish work relationships with passengers, and drivers cannot subcontract their work.

While the decision is good news for drivers, the court stopped short of saying the decision should be applied broadly because “individual decisions must be made in specific cases based upon the unique facts presented in each circumstance.” Similarly, the court did not hold that the driver was an “employee” of Uber, which is the question at the core of lawsuits across the country.

Currently, under federal and state laws, independent contractors are generally not eligible for certain employee benefits such as overtime pay, meal/rest breaks, and paid sick time. While that question remains unsettled, litigation is pending in California and around the world and millions of drivers wait anxiously for a favorable decision that would provide them with the benefits and protection they deserve under federal and state law.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including the representation of ride-hailing drivers and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as a ride-hailing driver, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


Federal Government Clarifies CARES Act Eligibility

The CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits to eligible workers.

As the country continues to struggle with the challenges due to COVID-19, labor laws have been adapting to the pandemic, and employees must be aware of their rights. One area that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 is the laws regarding unemployment benefits. The federal and state laws that govern unemployment benefits have always been complicated, and are especially difficult to understand now with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) that was enacted in March 2020. CARES expanded weekly unemployment benefits by as much as $600 a week to eligible workers and have proven to be vital to many families during the pandemic. While there have been a myriad of issues and concerns regarding CARES, there is no denying that to many unemployed workers relied on the additional funds as the nation’s unemployment rate sky-rocketed. Moreover, many states were overwhelmed with the volume of applications, and benefits were delayed.

While it is uncertain whether the CARES Act will be extended, the federal government provided some clarification on July 22, 2020.  For example, a worker may refuse to accept a job offer because the job is unsafe and continue to collect the additional financial benefits provided under CARES. The states, however, will determine what is considered to be safe work conditions, and if a state determines the job or work conditions are not “suitable,” then the worker may receive the expanded unemployment benefits under CARES. Most states already had suitable work place provisions in place prior to COVID-19, and the general criteria is whether the work unreasonably exposes the worker to unsuitable safety risks. Labor laws have always guaranteed a safe work environment, which is particularly important during a pandemic. Notably, a worker cannot refuse a job offer and seek expanded unemployment benefits due to a general fear of COVID-19.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the state may also determine that a job is unsuitable if a worker refuses the job due to virus-related reasons such as increased risk of COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition. The state may also determine a job is unsuitable if a worker claims “good cause,” although the federal government has not specifically defined what is considered to be “good cause” which means that states must decide that issue. Fortunately, workers in California benefit from some of the country’s strongest state labor law protections, and this is one example of how an experienced labor law attorney will be able to argue your case by understanding state laws to protect your rights when federal law is not clear.

The federal government also clarified that some out-of-work employees are not eligible for CARES benefits depending on what caused the loss of the job. For example, if a worker is unemployed due to a reason not related to COVID-19, that worker is not eligible for expanded benefits even if jobs are not available due to COVID-19 related circumstances. The reason for this is because CARES was enacted to assist workers who faced unemployment specifically due to the pandemic, and is not broad enough to include workers who did not lose their jobs due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Fortunately, those workers may still be eligible for regular unemployment benefits.  

Prior to COVID-19, workers who quit their jobs without “good cause” were generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, under the CARES Act, certain reasons related to COVID-19 would allow a worker to qualify for expanded unemployment benefits under CARES. For example, a worker who quits a job because of mandatory quarantine, or the need to provide care to a family member with COVID-19 could be considered “good cause” for the purposes of CARES benefits.

While the federal government continues to debate whether to extend benefits under the CARES Act or perhaps craft new legislation, the states may decide to adopt new policies regarding eligibility in the meantime. However, since unemployment benefits are a hybrid of federal and state law, the states must adhere to federal law and provide at least the minimum benefits afforded under federal laws. Also, as more states work towards re-opening and more businesses are hiring, states may become stricter in determining eligibility for unemployment benefits. As we have learned, during a pandemic, it is important to be informed and be ready to take full advantage of any benefits you are eligible for. Plan ahead and consult an experienced labor law attorney so you will have an advocate that will not only understand the quickly changing laws and benefits, but will be able to guide you and protect your rights during these uncertain times.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including unemployment benefits and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations involving unemployment benefits, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


Appeals Court Gives Delivery Drivers the Green Light to Trial

A recent decision by a federal appeals court is good news for delivery drivers seeking compensation for unpaid wages and unreimbursed expenses. In an important decision dated July 17, 2020, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that Amazon delivery drivers are considered “transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce” even if they never physically cross state lines to complete deliveries.

The decision is important because this means that Amazon delivery drivers may proceed with a class action lawsuit without having to go through private arbitration. Defendant Amazon argued that plaintiffs may only resolve disputes through arbitration, and are prohibited from filing a law suit according to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The appeals court, however, disagreed with Amazon’s argument that the FAA required arbitration in this case because the FAA does not require arbitration for “entire categories of workers in the transportation industry just because those workers might not have physically crossed state lines.”

Amazon unsuccessfully argued that “last-mile delivery workers” who do not always cross state lines when traveling the final legs of the delivery did not “engage in interstate commerce” and therefore must settle claims in arbitration, not court. The court’s decision, however, firmly includes these last-mile delivery drivers as engaging in work “within the flow of interstate commerce.” The key to the decision was whether or not the delivery drivers “engaged in” interstate commerce if they did not actually travel across state lines to deliver goods. According to the appeals court, the drivers were entitled to sue employers for claims of labor law violations and it was not important that they did not actually physically cross a state line in order to make the delivery. This reasoning is based on a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held employees were engaged in interstate commerce even when employees did not actually cross a state line as long as the intrastate portion of their work was part of an overall “interstate journey.” In other words, the court did not want to penalize the drivers for being assigned delivery routes by Amazon that did not require them to cross state lines, but nonetheless was part of interstate delivery of goods.

The recent appeals court decision will allow delivery drivers to proceed in court with claims that Amazon misclassified employees in violation of their rights.

The class action suit against Amazon was originally filed in 2017 by drivers in Massachusetts who claimed Seattle-based Amazon misclassified delivery drivers as independent contractors. This misclassification allowed Amazon to refuse to provide drivers with vehicles or reimburse for expenses incurred by drivers such as insurance, gas, and mileage. Amazon argued that arbitration was the appropriate and only forum available to plaintiffs because of the FAA. Employers favor arbitration because arbitration usually favors employers, awards are binding and not subject to appeal, and arbitration is generally much less expensive than a trial. Moreover, if an employer loses at trial, often the award includes plaintiff's attorney's fees.

Additionally, Amazon unsuccessfully argued that Washington state law prohibited the class action lawsuit because the employees were bound by a class action waiver that was part of their employment contract. A class action waiver prohibits employees from filing a class action against employers, but the appeals court refused to apply Washington state law. Instead, the court relied on Massachusetts state law, which is considerably more favorable to employees. Under Massachusetts state law, the appeals court held that the class action waiver was “contrary to the commonwealth’s fundamental public policy” and invalid because it was not possible to enforce the arbitration provision independently from the rest of the relevant section of the contract dealing with dispute resolution.

This decision has significant impact on the pending litigation, as well as other class action lawsuits across the country where employees are misclassified by employers in order to violate labor laws and avoid paying certain wages or reimburse expenses, and will greatly assist employees who have had their rights violated by employers.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including unpaid wages and unreimbursed expenses and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as a delivery driver or employee including unpaid wages or unreimbursed expenses, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


AG Seeks Injunction to Protect Uber/Lyft Drivers

A bold move by the California Attorney General could have a significant impact on the estimated 500,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in California. On June 24, 2020, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced plans to file for a preliminary injunction to force the ride-hailing companies to classify drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.

According to the attorney general, “Mis-classifying your workers as ‘consultants’ or ‘independent contractors’ simply means you want your workers or taxpayers to foot the bill for obligations you have as an employer.” Specifically, by characterizing drivers as independent contractors, according to Becerra, the employers can avoid “paying a legal wage or overtime, providing sick leave, or providing unemployment insurance.” 

An injunction would force Lyft and Uber to re-classify drivers as "employees" under California state labor law.

This issue is not new, and the attorney general and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego previously sued Uber and Lyft in May 2020, claiming that the companies mis-classified drivers in violation of the newly enacted state law A.B. 5, which made it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors. Despite being controversial, A.B. 5 provides protection to many workers that were previously mis-classified as independent contractors by employers in order to limit workers’ rights to overtime pay or sick leave, unemployment benefits, workers compensation, and refuse reimbursement for driving expenses.

The test for independent contractors established by A.B. 5, which went in to effect on January 1, 2020, largely due to the CA Supreme Court ruling in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles which established a new test for independent contractor:

  • The worker works outside the “usual business;” and
  • The worker “customarily” does the same work for the alleged employer as part of an “independent business.”

Based on the new test, Attorney General Becerra argues that drivers for Uber and Lyft are “employees” under California state law, and therefore are entitled to rights afforded to all employees in California. If the injunction is granted, Uber and Lyft will be forced to re-classify drivers as employees immediately. Furthermore, a ruling against the ride-hailing companies in the on-going lawsuit filed in May would possibly result in restitution for unpaid wages owed to drivers, civil penalties, and perhaps permanently prohibit the companies from mis-classifying drivers as independent contractors in the future.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law violations by Uber or Lyft, and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as a driver for Uber or Lyft, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


Reasonable Accommodations Required During COVID-19

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects your rights as an employee with a disability.

As the country continues to combat COVID-19, employees must be aware of their rights and ensure that their employees comply with all federal, state and local labor laws including the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, federal law requires employees provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities covered under the act. However, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the most common complaint being filed by employees during the pandemic is employers failing to accommodate their disabilities.

The ADA has specific provisions regarding accommodations that employers must provide to employees with disabilities regardless of the extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19. Generally, the ADA requires employees to modify an employee’s job or work environment in order to ensure an employee with a disability is able perform the essential functions of their job. According to the law, the employer must make all “reasonable accommodations” as long as there is no “undue hardship.”  As with many statutes, the legal definitions may not be obvious, so you should consult an experienced employment law attorney to explain the law and your rights.

The protections under the California state equivalent to the ADA are found in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The FEHA protects employees with a physical or mental disability and requires employers provide reasonable accommodations such as changing work schedules, relocating the work area, modifying job duties and providing leave for medical care.

With the additional health and safety concerns due to COVID-19, all employees, particularly employees with disabilities must ensure their rights are not being violated. For example, some employees may have an underlying condition that creates a greater risk for COVID-19. Under both federal and state labor laws, the employee is entitled to reasonable accommodations to ensure their safety in the workplace if the risk is directly related to the disability.

The added health risks due to COVID-19 have impacted many aspects of labor law and the workplace, particularly if an employee has an existing qualified disability under the ADA or FEHA. Federal and state labor laws offer a wide range of protection besides accommodations. For example, all medical information of employees, related to a disability or COVID-19, must be confidential. Moreover, the ADA and FEHA provides protections to prospective employees and require hiring policies that provide equal opportunities to applicants regardless of any disability. Again, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to an applicant as long as it would not create an undue hardship.

If you believe your employee is violating your rights as an employee under the ADA or FEHA, you should consult an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your case and options.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including ADA and FEHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee including ADA or FEHA violations, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


FAQs on Productivity Quotas: Are they Legal?

Productivity quotas can result in unsafe working conditions when goals are unrealistic.

Losing your job is always difficult, particularly when you have worked very hard to be a good employee. Recently, some large corporations have been criticized for having unrealistic expectations regarding employee performance, and have fired employees for failing to be sufficiently productive at work. Here are some frequently asked questions that you may find helpful if you have been fired for failing to meet productivity quotas:

What are productivity quotas?

Productivity quotas are efficiency standards that an employer sets for employees. In other words, the employee is required to meet certain goals at work. Job performance and employee evaluations can be based on whether they meet productivity goals. For example, in a manufacturing plant, the productivity quota could require an employee to assemble "X" number of units per hour. Another example of a productivity quote would be for a delivery person to deliver "X" number of packages per shift. Failure to meet these goals would result in a poor performance evaluation.

Productivity quotes are often unilaterally established by employers, and employees have little or no input on what the productivity quotas are or whether they are realistic. As a result, employees feel tremendous pressure and stress to meet these goals to avoid a bad evaluation and possibly termination.

Are productivity quotas against the law?

No. Unfortunately, for the most part, productivity quotas are not against the law because employers have the right to evaluate the efficiency of employees. However, there are many local, state and federal laws that protect employees and productivity quotas do play a role in the larger question of whether an employee is the victim of an unlawful termination. For example, an employee may have a disability that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation which may include an adjustment to any existing productivity quotas.

Also, failing to meet productivity quotes cannot be a pretext for an unlawful termination based on age, race, disability or protected activities including collective bargaining and whistleblowing. Other factors that must be considered with productivity quotas is whether employees are forced to forgo lawful meal and rest breaks in order to meet goals. In other words, employees are entitled to breaks under the law which includes proper compensation for tasks like clocking in or changing in to uniform. Employers are not allowed to penalize employees by setting productivity goals that encourage or require employees to work through breaks or not receive proper compensation. If you have been fired for failing to meet productivity goals, you should consult with an experienced labor attorney to determine whether the termination was lawful.

Can I be fired for failing to meet productivity quotas?

There is no simple answer to whether you can be legally fired for failing to meet productivity goals. Employers should have several ways to evaluate employee performance, and productivity goals should be one of many factors. However, all employment terminations must be lawful. In other words, if the only factor that leads to losing your job is failure to meet productivity quotas, there may be grounds to challenge that decision. For example, federal labor law requires a safe and secure workplace that is free of hazards. Therefore, employers cannot create a situation where the workplace is hazardous due to productivity quotas that would require employees to sacrifice safety in order to reach the goals out of fear of being fired. 

California law offers even stronger protections for employees and requires every employer to have an injury and illness prevention program which must include safety training and safe work practices. Moreover, according to California Labor Code section 6401, employers must “adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations, and processes which are reasonably adequate to render such employment and place of employment safe and healthful.” Therefore, unrealistic productivity quotas could threaten the safety and health of employees which employers are required by law to protect. Labor law is complex and whether your have a cause of action depends on the specific facts. You should consult an experienced labor attorney to discuss your case if you have been terminated.

Is California an “at-will” employment state? What does that mean?

Yes. California is an “at-will” state which generally means an employer may fire an employee at any time for any reason without “good cause.” Good cause means a reason for an employer to fire an employee such as insubordination or dishonesty. Therefore, as an at-will employment state, employers in California do not have to have good cause to fire an employee. However, the employee may not be fired for an illegal purpose or in violation of the employee’s rights.

All employees have rights, and employees in California benefit from some of the country’s strongest protections. So, even though California is an at-will state, which seems to allow an employer to fire an employee for any reason whatsoever, including failure to meet productivity quotas, the reality of labor law is much more complex. In most cases, you will need the advice of an experienced labor attorney to assess your case and file a lawsuit if you have been the victim of an unlawful termination.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including termination based on productivity quotas and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee including termination based on productivity quotas, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to overtime wages, meal breaks and rest breaks; as well as compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


FAQs on Severance Agreements: Should I sign it?

Severance agreements are legally binding contracts. Consult an attorney to protect your rights.

Learning that you are being laid off or fired from your job is stressful, to say the least. In many cases, your employer will offer you a severance package and ask you to sign a severance agreement. Before you sign any severance agreement, you should know your rights and protect yourself financially and professionally. You should also consult an attorney to ensure your severance agreement is accurate and fair.

Here are some FAQs about severance:

Q: What is a severance package?

A: A severance package refers to a payment or other benefits an employer offers an employee upon termination of employment. Generally, an employer is not required by law to offer a severance package to every employee unless there was a previous agreement included in the terms of employment. Nevertheless, many employers voluntarily offer a severance package in order to limit liability and as a way of assisting employees. Employees who are terminated for poor performance or terminated for cause are generally not entitled to severance.

Q: What is a severance agreement?

A: First and foremost, a severance agreement is a legally binding contract between you and your employer that indicates you have agreed to accept a severance package as a result of the termination of your employment. You should realize that you are agreeing to the terms of the agreement, and the agreement will be enforceable. Signing a severance agreement will usually mean that the employee agrees to give up (or waive) certain rights in exchange for the payment specified in the agreement. The most important right that an employee waives by signing a severance agreement is the right to sue the employer for any reason, such as harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, or violations of the California Labor Code. In other words, your employer is offering to give you a payment in exchange for a promise that you will not sue them for terminating your employment. Also, depending on the severance agreement, you may be giving up other rights as well such as a confidentiality clause that prohibits you from speaking about the termination. Because you are waiving important rights, you should always consult with an attorney before signing a severance agreement.

Q: Are severance agreements enforceable?

A: Yes. Since the severance agreement is a contract, it is legally binding and courts will generally enforce the terms of the contract. That means, for the most part, you are bound by the terms of the severance agreement. Of course, there are some employment rights that are not waiveable under a severance agreement, and even if they are included will not be enforceable. These include rights that are strictly protected under California and/or federal law such as a dispute over unpaid wages or overtime pay you may be entitled to. However, for the most part, a severance agreement is enforceable absent certain theories of contract law such as duress, fraud or unconscionability.

Q: Do I have to sign a severance agreement to receive a severance package?

A: Yes. By design, you will not receive your severance package unless you sign a severance agreement. That’s why it is important to consult an attorney so you fully understand the terms of the agreement. But before you sign a severance agreement, you are free to negotiate the terms of the severance package. Remember, a severance package is merely an offer that you are free to accept, reject or negotiate. Of course, if you do not agree to a severance package, you will not receive any severance payment or benefits.

Once you are told that your employment is being terminated, you should consult the employee handbook to see what rights and benefits you have as an employee as well as any pre-employment terms and agreements to ensure the severance package fairly reflects any prior agreements. Also, there are also certain benefits that are protected by law that you are entitled to after termination such as COBRA for health care, and ERISA for retirement benefits.

Q: Do I need an attorney?

A: Yes. In all legal matters, it is best to consult with an attorney, particularly in a stressful situation like losing your job. Even if you are caught off guard, don’t rush to accept a severance package or sign a severance agreement. You have certain rights as an employee that are protected by law, and you need an experienced labor attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

Labor law is quite complicated, and losing your job is stressful. You should consider consulting an attorney to advise you about relevant local, state and federal labor laws that are enacted to protect employees. Also, an attorney should review the severance agreement to ensure the terms are accurate and lawful. More importantly, an attorney can advocate for you during this difficult situation.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including severance agreements and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee or need advice regarding a severance agreement, you should be aware of the employee rights and protections under state and federal law to ensure the severance package is fair and accurate. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


OSHA Issues COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidelines

Employees must know their rights as businesses around the world continue to adapt to the challenges due to the CoVid-19 pandemic. As social distancing and other safety precautions are put in place, businesses must comply with local, state and federal requirements for maintaining a safe work environment and ensure the good health and safety of employees. Most laws enacted in response to CoVid-19 vary depending on whether a business is considered essential or non-essential. For example, non-essential businesses may not compel non-essential employees to report to work, and it is illegal to retaliate against any non-essential employee who refuses to go to work. Essential workers, however, also have protections that require employers to ensure and maintain a safe workplace.

In March 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidelines as a result of the pandemic to clarify existing federal law that protects employees. The guidelines address the additional health risks posed by CoVid-19. Under the “General Duties Clause” enacted in 1970, OSHA (as part of the Labor Code), requires employers ensure the workplace is free from “recognized hazards” that are likely to result in serious injury or death of employees.

29 U.S. Code § 654 (5)(a)(1): shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

The new OSHA guidelines, for the most part, provide guidance that follows the advice of public health officials that are already recommended for everyone such as washing hands frequently and maintaining social distancing. While the guidelines are not legally binding, they do outline recommended precautions that employers should take in order to ensure the safety of employees.

The new guidelines address four categories, or controls, for businesses to ensure employee safety: (1) engineering, (2) administrative, (3) safe work practices, and (4) personal protective equipment. The first category, engineering, identifies safety measures to separate employees with physical barriers. Administrative controls include ensuring sick employees stay home, and creating enough space for employees to stay six feet apart. Under safe work practices, OSHA recommends that company policies and practices promote good health such as providing hand sanitizer, sufficient time to wash hands frequently, and having disinfecting products available. Finally, personal protection equipment includes providing masks, gloves and eye protection to reduce the risk of exposure to CoVid-19, and would depend on the type of work and level or risk.

Additional federal, state and local laws may provide additional protection to employees. For example, in Los Angeles County, local law requires social distancing in public as well as wearing non-surgical masks by employees of essential business as well as customers. Businesses that fail to provide employees with personal protective equipment or ensure customers are wearing masks are violating the law.

New OSHA guidelines clarify federal law protecting employees from hazards at work.

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Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including OSHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee including OSHA violations, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law. Employees may be entitled to damages as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


Employees Have a Right to be Safe at Work Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

California law protects employees in the workplace and employees are required to maintain a safe and healthful workplace particularly during the current pandemic.

The challenges we are all facing due to COVID-19 have resulted in many changes at home and in the workplace. While everyone must adapt to the rules of social distancing and the mandatory Safer-at-Home restrictions, essential businesses must also ensure their employees are safe at work during this pandemic. Employees of essential businesses continue to provide vital services despite the health risks, and will keep America operating. These front-line workers are important and have rights under California law to ensure their safety, health and well-being.

Under California law, employers must provide “reasonably adequate” safety devices and safeguards to keep the work place “safe and healthful.” Moreover, California Labor Code section 6401 requires “every employer shall do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees.” If your employer does not protect your health and safety, they are violating the law. While this is especially challenging during the current pandemic, employees have the right to be safe in the workplace.

EMPLOYERS MUST PROVIDE MASKS, GLOVES, SOAP AND SANITIZER

Even though the current COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, given our understanding of the virus and how it is spread, essential workers that have contact with the public must be provided with masks, gloves, soap and sanitizing products. In addition, employees must be given time to properly wash their hands frequently, as recommended by health care organizations. Employers must also ensure that the workplace is clean and regularly sanitized for the protection of employees and customers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and most health care organizations, properly washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other disease.

The need for safeguards in the workplace is particularly important for health care providers and first responders who are more vulnerable simply because they are more likely to be in direct contact with contagious members of the public. Every effort must be made to provide sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to every front-line worker to ensure their health and safety, and avoid further contagion.

State law also requires employers to reimburse employees for any expenses spent by employees to obtain necessary safety equipment. This also includes the cost of lodging if an employee is required to self-isolate because they live with someone who is considered vulnerable to the virus or has been diagnosed with the virus.

EMPLOYERS SHOULD ACCOMMODATE VULNERABLE EMPLOYEES    

Employees who are considered vulnerable to the virus by having a pre-existing medical condition, may request an accommodation to work from home. If the accommodation is reasonable, the employer must accommodate the request or may violate protections granted under California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA). Since California is under a state of emergency due to the virus, employees should know what changes have been made to provide workers with protection during the pandemic.

For example, while employers may ask employees whether they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, this information is confidential and the employee’s medical condition remains private. Similarly, if a co-worker has tested positive for the virus, or is believed to have the virus, the employer must follow the guidelines established by the local public health department as well as any current state or federal health recommendations. That may include closing the work place, deep cleaning and allowing employees to work remotely. Most importantly, employers cannot reveal the name of the employees that have tested positive or are suspected of having the virus.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including failure to ensure a safe and healthful workplace  and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee such as failure to ensure a safe and healthful workplace in California, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to unpaid wages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and/or be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.


Emergency Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law to Assist Workers Affected by COVID-19

Employees in California already have the right to sick leave under the Healthy Workplace Families Act of 2014 and the Federal Medical Leave Act, but recent laws have been enacted to provide additional rights during the pandemic.

On April 7, 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an emergency order to modify the paid sick leave policy enacted by the Los Angeles City Council in March. Supplemental paid sick leave provides vital financial aid to employees unable to work due to COVID-19. Specifically, companies based in L.A. with at least 500 employees locally or 2,000 nationally must provide additional paid sick leave up to 80 hours to a broad range of employees. Smaller businesses must also provide paid sick leave benefits as well. While Mayor Garcetti’s order expands the businesses that are exempt from the law passed by the city council, the law also ensures that many employees are still protected and entitled to supplemental paid sick leave during the unprecedented worldwide pandemic.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible, employees must have been an employee working in Los Angeles between February 3, 2020 and March 4, 2020. Under the law, supplemental paid sick leave must be provided if the employee:

  • is unable to work due to required or recommended self-quarantine;
  • is at least 65 years old with an underlying medical condition;
  • must provide care to a relative that is under quarantine; or
  • must provide care for an elderly family member or a child.

What businesses are exempt?

State and federal lawmakers are taking action to protect workers’ jobs and ensure employees receive adequate financial support while at the same time, lawmakers must not place too much burden on businesses. As a result, Mayor Garcetti hopes the emergency order strikes the “necessary balance of these interests.” As a result, there are exemptions for businesses such as health and emergency care providers, global delivery services, new businesses, and government agencies serving the public health. The most significant modification to the city council’s policy was the additional eligibility requirement by Mayor Garcetti that workers be based in L.A

What do the benefits consist of?

The actual paid sick leave benefits under the law largely depend on the size of the employer. For example, full-time employees based in L.A. working for an employer with over 500 local employees (or 2,000 nationally) must provide 80 days of paid sick leave. Businesses with 100 employees or more, but under 500 employees, must provide 14 supplemental paid sick leave days if the employee is affected by COVID-19.

Smaller businesses with less than 100 employees, but more than ten must provide five days of paid sick leave and access to short-term disability benefits and paid family leave. Finally, small business with less than 10 employees and revenue less than $1 million are not required to provide supplemental paid sick leave and are exempt.

As Los Angeles, and the world, cope with COVID-19 and the disruption to the economy and businesses, important laws are being enacted to provide necessary protection to employees and businesses alike.

Employees in California already have the right to sick leave under the Healthy Workplace Families Act of 2014 and the Federal Medical Leave Act, but recent laws have been enacted to provide additional rights during the pandemic.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including the right to paid sick leave and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee entitled to supplemental paid sick leave, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law. workers may be entitled to paid sick leave; and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.