U.S. Dept. of Labor Increases Minimum Salary Requirement for Certain Exempt Employees Effective December 1, 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor has published its Final Rule increasing the minimum salary that must be paid to employees classified as exempt under the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions to no less than $913 per week ($47,476 per year) effective December 1, 2016.  This is significantly higher than the $41,600 minimum annual salary ($800 per week) currently required by California law for an employee to retain exempt status.

By way of background, as a default rule, all employees are presumed to be “non-exempt,” that is, eligible to earn overtime pay, and, in California, eligible for meal and rest breaks. However, certain employees may be considered “exempt” from these rules, meaning, not entitled to overtime or breaks, provided that they meet an “exemption” recognized by federal and state law.  The most common exemptions are the executive, administrative, and professional  exemptions, known as the “White Collar Exemptions.”  To fall under one of these exemptions, an employee must satisfy both a (1) duties test, by performing duties that qualify for the exemption, and (2) a salary test, by earning a salary that meets or exceeds minimum requirements set by law.  In California, an exempt employee must earn no less than twice the state minimum wage (currently $10 per hour) for full time employment.  As we blogged about here, Governor Brown recently passed legislation increasing the statewide minimum wage, and as the state minimum wage goes up, so will the minimum salary that must be paid to exempt employees in order for them to retain their exempt status under California law.

Because the new federal floor of $47,476 will be higher than the current state floor of $41,600, California employers who pay their exempt staff more than $41,600 but less than $47,476 may risk federal law liability while avoiding state law liability.

The Final Rule contains nuances, including allowing employers to count non-discretionary bonuses and other incentive payments, including commissions, that are paid at least on a quarterly basis, to satisfy up to 10% of the minimum salary level.  The law also contains a mechanism whereby the minimum salary levels will automatically update every three years to adjust for inflation starting January 1, 2020.

The DOL has published a Q&A and a Fact Sheet that answer many questions regarding the Final Rule.

Now is a good time for employers who pay their exempt staff less than $47,476 per year to reevaluate these employees’ compensation and determine whether such employees should receive an increase in pay to retain exempt status or otherwise be re-classified as non-exempt.  Employers should also be sure that all exempt staff are primarily performing duties that make them eligible for exempt status.

If you have any questions about this or any other employment law-related matters, please feel free to reach out to Polina Bernstein or Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.  

Posted in Exempt/Nonexempt Misclassification, Wage and Hour | Leave a comment

New Law Effective July 1, 2016 Increases Annual Paid Sick Days For Many Employees Working Within the City of LA to 48 Hours Per Year

As we blogged about here, on July 1, 2015, most California employers became legally obligated to provide their employees up to 3 days or 24 hours (whichever is greater) of paid sick leave per year pursuant to the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act.  The City of Los Angeles has now enacted its own ordinance increasing the amount of paid sick leave that must be made available to many employees who work in the geographic boundaries of the City of LA to 48 hours per year.  Below are more details about the law, which is available here.

Applicability.  Businesses with 26 or more employees who perform at least two hours of work in a particular week within the geographic boundaries of the City of LA must comply with the law as of July 1, 2016.  Businesses with 25 or fewer employees working at least two hours a week within the City of LA are obligated to comply with the law as of July 1, 2017.  A helpful tool to assess whether a particular address is located within the City of LA is the City of LA’s Office of Finance website, available here, where you can type in an address under the prompt at the bottom of the page stating, “Determine if an address is within the City of Los Angeles.”

Eligibility Requirements.  The Office of Wage Standards has taken the position that the law applies to only non-exempt workers.  Moreover, similar to California’s paid sick leave law, employees are only eligible for paid sick leave if they work for the same employer in the City of LA for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment.  Employers may prohibit employees from using paid sick leave until the 90th day of employment.

Accrual and Use.  Employers must provide sick leave either (1) by providing the entire 48 hours to an employee at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period (“frontloading method”); or (2) by allowing the employee to accrue one hour of sick leave per every 30 hours worked (“accrual method”).  Employees must be allowed to take up to 48 hours of paid sick leave each year, and accrued, unused paid sick leave must carry over to the following year of employment, up to a cap of no less than 72 hours.  Employers may institute a higher cap or no cap at all.  The law also contains a provision stating that “if an employer has a paid leave or paid time off policy or provides payment for compensated time off that is equal to or greater than 48 hours, no additional time is required.”

Purposes for Which Sick Leave Can Be Taken.  Employers must provide paid sick leave upon the employee’s oral or written request for any of the following purposes:

  1. The diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member.
  2. To enable an employee who is a victim, or whose child is a victim, of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to take time off of work to obtain medical care, including psychological counseling, to seek a restraining order, or for other related reasons.

“Family member” includes any of the following in relation to the employee:  A child (including biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, legal ward, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis) regardless of age or dependency status; a parent (including biological, adoptive, foster, stepparent, or legal guardian of the employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child); a spouse; a registered domestic partner; a grandparent; a grandchild; a sibling; or any other individual “related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Documentation. The law allows employers to require employees to provide reasonable documentation of an absence from work for which paid sick leave is or will be used.  However, because the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act has been interpreted to prevent employers from seeking documentation justifying paid sick leave, employers should be certain to comply with state law when requiring such documentation.

In other respects, provisions of the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act govern.

In addition, employers with 26 or more employees in the City of Los Angeles need to ensure that they are in compliance with both this sick leave law and the new (increased) minimum wage of $10.50 per hour that must be paid by such employers as of July 1, 2016.  If you would like assistance with this or with any other employment-related matters, please feel free to contact Polina Bernstein or Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.  

Posted in Sick Leave, Wage and Hour | Leave a comment

New ‘Defend Trade Secrets Act’ Requires Employers Seeking to Protect Their Trade Secrets to Update NDAs and Confidentiality Agreements

The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) signed by President Obama today creates a new federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation and enables employers to obtain injunctive relief and monetary damages in federal court to prevent the misappropriation of their trade secrets and obtain compensation for financial harms stemming from trade secret misappropriation.  The law goes into effect immediately and imposes important obligations on employers seeking to protect their trade secrets by entering into NDAs and confidentiality agreements.

Specifically, the law contains an immunity provision that protects individuals against civil and criminal liability under any federal or state trade secret law with respect to the disclosure of  trade secret information made (1) in confidence by the individual to a government official or to an attorney solely for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law, or (2) in a complaint or other document filed in a lawsuit or other proceeding if such filing is made under seal.  Employers must provide notice of this immunity in any contract or agreement that governs the use of trade secret or other confidential information entered into with an employee, contractor, or consultant.  If such notice is not provided, then the employer may not be awarded exemplary damages or attorneys fees in an action alleging trade secret misappropriation against an individual to whom notice was not provided.  This obligation applies to contracts and agreements entered into or updated after May 11, 2016.

Employers who seek to protect their trade secret information are well advised to update their current policies and agreements to reflect this new law in order to preserve all potential remedies available to them for trade secret misappropriation.  If you would like assistance with this, please feel free to contact our office.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.  

Posted in Trade Secrets | Leave a comment

California Passes Law Increasing the Minimum Wage

A new law increasing California’s minimum wage to $15 per hour applies to all businesses with employees in California – and not just to those employing minimum wage workers.  The law, available here, implements a phased approach to increasing the statewide minimum wage and distinguishes between employers with 26 or more employees and employers with 25 or fewer employees, giving these smaller employers one additional year to “catch up.”  The rate increases are as follows:

Employers with 26 or More Employees

  • January 1, 2017:  $10.50 per hour
  • January 1, 2018:  $11 per hour
  • January 1, 2019:  $12 per hour
  • January 1, 2020:  $13 per hour
  • January 1, 2021:  $14 per hour
  • January 1, 2022:  $15 per hour

Employers with 25 or Fewer Employees

  • January 1, 2018:  $10.50 per hour
  • January 1, 2019:  $11 per hour
  • January 1, 2020:  $12 per hour
  • January 1, 2021:  $13 per hour
  • January 1, 2022:  $14 per hour
  • January 1, 2023:  $15 per hour

The law does contain provisions allowing lawmakers to suspend increases depending on economic conditions.  It also contains provisions requiring that by August 1, 2023, and continuing each August thereafter, the minimum wage be reviewed and potentially adjusted depending on various economic factors, including the national Consumer Price Index.

Employers’ failure to pay their hourly workers at least minimum wage for every hour worked exposes them to substantial liability for unpaid wages and penalties.

Impact on Salaried Exempt Workers.

Increases to the statewide minimum wage also impact whether or not an employee qualifies as “exempt” from the overtime and meal and rest break requirements of California law.  That’s because to be considered “exempt,” employees must earn at least two times the state minimum wage based on a full-time work schedule (defined as             40 hours per week or 2080 hours per year).  This means that as of January 1, 2017, with respect to businesses with 26 or more employees, employees properly classified as exempt under California law must earn an annual salary of at least $43,680, or $840 per week (as of January 1, 2022, the minimum annual salary would be $62,400 assuming the increases are implemented as set forth above), with the exception of (1) Computer Software Employees, who today must earn no less than $87,185.14 per year to be considered exempt, and which amount may increase as of 2017, and (2) certain commissioned salespeople, whose earnings must exceed 1.5 times the state minimum wage per hour worked to be considered exempt.  This is in addition to the fact that exempt employees must spend more than half of their work time engaged in what the lawmakers consider “exempt” duties.  Workers who are misclassified as “exempt” may be entitled to significant unpaid wages and penalties, including for unpaid overtime, missed meal and rest breaks, and paystub violations.

Note that the federal government is currently considering increasing the minimum salary that must be paid to exempt “white collar” employees to approximately $50,000 annually. More information about those proposed changes to federal law is available here.

Cities and Counties, Including the City and County of Los Angeles, Have Enacted Even Higher Minimum Wage Regulations That Must Be Followed.  

Several California cities have enacted even more stringent minimum wage laws, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Long Beach, and numerous Northern California cities.  For example, businesses operating within the cities of Los Angeles or Santa Monica that have 26 or more employees must pay a higher minimum wage of $10.50 per hour beginning July 1, 2016 and increasing each year thereafter as follows:

  • July 1, 2016: $10.50 per hour
  • July 1, 2017: $12.00 per hour
  • July 1, 2018: $13.25 per hour
  • July 1, 2019: $14.25 per hour
  • July 1, 2020: $15.00 per hour

Businesses operating in the cities of Los Angeles or Santa Monica that have 25 or fewer employees must comply with the following minimum wage schedule:

  • July 1, 2017: $10.50 per hour
  • July 1, 2018: $12.00 per hour
  • July 1, 2019: $13.25 per hour
  • July 1, 2020: $14.25 per hour
  • July 1, 2021: $15.00 per hour

In determining whether their business is operating within a particular city, employers should look beyond the “city” identified in connection with their physical address.  In general, a business that pays taxes to a particular city is likely covered by that city’s minimum wage ordinance.  Accordingly, not only those businesses with “Los Angeles” addresses are considered part of the “City of Los Angeles.”  To determine if your business is located within the City of Los Angeles, you can visit the City of LA’s Office of Finance website, available here, and type your business address under the prompt at the bottom of the page stating, “Determine if an address is within the City of Los Angeles.”  All Los Angeles employers must also post the notice available here in a conspicuous place accessible to employees.

In addition, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to implement the same minimum wage schedule applicable to businesses operating in the city of Los Angeles to those businesses operating in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.  For the most recent list of unincorporated areas within the County of LA that has been published by the County, click here.  Employers that have employees who spend at least two hours per week in unincorporated areas of LA County should also post the notice available here.  In addition, the LA County Registrar’s website has a tool enabling users to determine whether a particular address is associated with an incorporated city.

For many employers, these new laws will require a reevaluation of existing employee pay structures to ensure legal compliance.  If you would like assistance with this or with any other employment-related matters, please feel free to contact Polina Bernstein or Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.  

Posted in Exempt/Nonexempt Misclassification, Minimum Wage, Wage and Hour | Leave a comment

New Regulations Require Most CA Employers to Update their Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies by April 1st

The California agency tasked with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation laws, the Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH), has recently implemented new regulations that will require California employers with five or more employees to revise their workplace policies and/or employee handbooks by April 1, 2016.  Specifically, the regulations require employers to say more to employees about the topics of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment than was ever required in the past.  Below is a summary of the new regulations.

Effective April 1st, all of the following must be communicated to employees in a written policy:

  1. A list of all currently protected categories (e.g., age, race, religion, sex, disability, etc.) covered under the state’s anti-discrimination law.
  2. A clear statement that the law prohibits coworkers and third parties, as well as supervisors and managers, with whom the employee comes into contact from engaging in discriminatory, retaliatory, and/or harassing conduct;
  3. The company’s complaint-handling process that ensures all of the following:
  4. Confidentiality of the complaint and investigation, to the extent possible;
  5. A timely response to complaints;
  6. Impartial and timely investigations by qualified personnel;
  7. Proper documentation and tracking of a complaint for reasonable progress;
  8. Appropriate options for remedial actions and resolutions; and
  9. Timely closures and resolutions.

The complaint process must allow complaints to be made to an individual other than the employee’s immediate supervisor, including but not limited to the following options:

  1. Oral or written complaints through direct communication with a designated company representative (i.e. human resources manager, EEO officer, or other supervisor); and/or
  2. A complaint hotline; and/or
  3. Access to an ombudsperson; and/or
  4. The identification of the DFEH or the federal equivalent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as additional avenues for complaints.
  5. Supervisors must be instructed to report complaints of misconduct to a designated company representative, such as a human resources manager, so the company can try to resolve the claim internally. Employers with 50 or more  employees are required to include this as a topic in their mandated sexual harassment prevention training.
  6. Employees must be informed that when the employer receives allegations of misconduct, it will conduct a fair, timely, and thorough investigation that provides all parties appropriate due process and reaches reasonable conclusions based on the evidence collected.  Employees must also be informed that confidentiality will be kept by the employer to the extent possible (but not that the investigation will be completely confidential).  In addition, the policy must state that if misconduct is found as a result of the investigation, appropriate remedial measures will be taken.
  7. A clear statement that employees shall not be exposed to retaliation as a result of lodging a complaint or participating in any workplace investigation.

In addition, employers with five or more but less than 50 employees should post the notice available here in a place that is conspicuous and accessible to employees.  Employers with 50 or more employees should post the notice available here.  Electronic posting is sufficient as long as the posting is in a place where employees would tend to view it.

The full text of the amended regulations can be found here.

For more information about the amended regulations, or if you would like assistance with drafting policies compliant with the requirements of this new law, please contact Polina Bernstein or Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. 
Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.  
Posted in Discrimination, Employee Handbooks, Harassment, Retaliation | Leave a comment

What California Employers Need to Know About the State’s New Sick Leave Law

As of today, most California employers are now required to provide their employees no less than 3 days or 24 hours—whichever is greater—of paid sick leave per year. An overview of the most important parts of the law is below:

1.  Who Does the New Law Apply To: All California employers. The only employees exempt from the law are those covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement, certain providers of in‐home supportive services, employees of air carrier flight deck or cabin crew members, and certain government employees. This means that temporary, seasonal, and part‐time employees are protected by the law to the same extent as
full‐time workers.

2.  How Much Paid Sick Leave Are Employees Entitled To: No less than 3 days or 24 hours, whichever is greater, of paid sick leave each year. To comply with this accrual provision, employers have several options:

  • Accrual Method: As of each employee’s date of hire, allow the employee to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of no less than one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours worked (0.033 hours of sick leave accrued per every hour worked). Under this option, accrued, unused paid sick days must carry over from year to year of employment; however, employers may cap employees’ accrual of paid sick leave to 48 hours or 6 days, whichever is greater, at which point accrual would cease until the employee used sick time to get below the cap.  Under this option, employers may limit employees’ use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment. Therefore, while an employee might accrue 6 days of sick leave in a year, he or she can only use 3 of those days each year, with the remaining days carrying over to the next year.
  • Frontloading Method:  Allow employees as of their date of hire to take 3 days or 24 hours, whichever is greater, of paid sick leave per year of employment, per calendar year, or per some other 12‐month basis. With this option, keeping track of accrued hours is not necessary and there is no need to allow accrued, unused paid sick days to carry over from year to year because the full amount of paid sick time is given to the employee upfront.
  • Alternative Accrual:  Allow employees to accrue paid sick leave at a rate different from 1 hour for every 30 hours worked as long as the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee has no less than 24 hours of accrued sick leave by the 120th calendar day of employment, each calendar year, or in each 12‐month period.
  • Unlimited Sick Leave: Allow employees to take an unlimited amount of paid sick leave.

3.  Notice & Posting Requirements Effective January 1, 2015: The law requires employers to give notice to employees about the contours of the law by posting in a space accessible to employees information about the law. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has come out with a template poster employers may use, available here, to comply with this requirement.

In addition, all employees must be provided with a new Labor Code Section 2810.5 Notice to Employee filled out by the employer and signed by the employee within seven days of hire or within seven days of the employer making changes to any of the information on that notice (including implementing policies regarding the sick leave law). That notice is available here.

4.  Limits Employers May Place on Employee Use and Accrual of Paid Sick Leave

  • Employers may prohibit employees from using accrued paid sick days until their 90th day of employment.
  • Employees should be allowed to determine how much paid sick leave they need to use, but employers may set reasonable minimum increments not to exceed two hours for the use of paid sick leave.

5.  Limits on Employers

  • Employers can’t require as a condition of using paid sick days that the employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the days the employee needs to miss for sick leave purposes.
  • Employers can’t deny employees the right to use accrued sick days, discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend or in any manner discriminate against employees for (1) using or attempting to use accrued sick days, (2) filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner alleging a violation of the sick leave law, (3) cooperating in an investigation of an employer alleged to have violated the law, or (4) opposing any policy or practice that is prohibited by the law.

6.  Rate of Pay Applicable to Sick Leave Taken: Employees taking paid sick time off are entitled to be paid sick time at their regular rate of pay.For exempt employees, sick leave is to be paid in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time (e.g., vacation).

7.  When Must the Sick Time Be Paid: No later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after the sick leave was taken.

8.  For What Purposes May Paid Sick Leave Be Taken

  • The diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member. (“Family member” is defined as: spouse; registered domestic partner; grandparent; grandchild; sibling; child, stepchild, or foster child; and parent, stepparent, or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse or domestic partner).
  • Employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

9.  Additional Notice and Record-Keeping Requirements

  • Employers must provide employees notice of the amount of paid sick leave available either on the employees’ paystubs or in a separate writing provided on the designated pay date. If an employer provides unlimited paid sick leave, the employer can indicate on the paystub or separate writing “unlimited.”
  • Employers must keep for at least three years records documenting the hours worked and paid sick days accrued and used by employees. The law provides that if employers don’t maintain adequate records, it will be presumed that the employee is entitled to the maximum number of hours accruable.

10.  Accrued, Unused Sick Days At Termination: Unlike accrued, unused vacation, which does need to be paid out at termination, accrued, unused sick leave benefits are not required to be paid out at termination.

11.  Lending Paid Sick Days to Employees in Advance of Accrual: An employer can lend paid sick days to an employee in advance of accrual at the employer’s discretion and with proper documentation.

For more information on California’s new sick leave law, the Labor Commissioner has prepared Frequently Asked Questions, available here.  If you have any further questions or would like asistance updating your employee handbooks or other personnel-documents to track the requirements of this new law, please contact Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding your employee handbook, or if you are looking to have an employee handbook prepared for your business or organization, please contact Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. attorney Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

Posted in Sick Leave | Leave a comment

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. Obtains Nearly $350,000 on Behalf of Employee in Unpaid Wage Case

For more than one year, Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. vigorously represented a blue-collar worker whose long-time former employer failed to pay him overtime and did not provide him legally compliant breaks.  The employer aggressively defended the case, which culminated in a one-week trial involving eight testifying witnesses.  Following trial, the court awarded our client approximately $86,000 for unpaid overtime wages, missed meal breaks, and related penalties and interest and also awarded approximately $250,000 in attorney’s fees for the work performed by Bernstein & Friedland, P.C.’s attorneys Polina Bernstein and Diana Friedland, in addition to costs.

We are proud of the result we achieved in this case, particularly in light of the fact that litigation required filing numerous pretrial motions, obtaining an award of sanctions against the Defendant as a result of discovery abuses, dealing with documents Defendant produced during discovery that our client believed were forged and fabricated for purposes of litigation, and successfully defeating Defendant’s post-trial motions.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

Posted in Press, Wage and Hour | Leave a comment

Jury Awards Fired Pregnant Worker Nearly $185 Million

Plaintiff Rosario Juarez sued her former employer, AutoZone Stores Inc., for demoting her and ultimately terminating her after she announced her pregnancy in 2005.  According to Juarez, when she informed her district manager that she was expecting, the manager responding by saying, “Congratulations…I guess.  I feel sorry for you.”  Juarez alleged that the company subsequently doubled her assigned list of tasks, making her work day substantially more difficult.  She alleged that her manager began criticizing her work performance and berating her, telling her, “You can’t handle it.  You can’t perform under your situation.”  Shortly thereafter, the company demoted her before later firing her.

According to the L.A. Times, the company argued at trial that Juarez was fired for misplacing $400 in cash, but a store loss prevention officer who led the investigation for AutoZone testified at trial that she never suspected Juarez of wrongdoing and thought the company was targeting her.

A federal jury in San Diego returned a verdict in Juarez’s favor, awarding her nearly $900,000 in compensatory damages and $185 million in punitive damages.  According to various news sources, AutoZone says they plan to appeal.  For more details, including video of an interview with Juarez, click here and here.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

Posted in Discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination, Wrongful Termination | Leave a comment

New Law Makes Paid Sick Leave Mandatory in California

Although many employers make paid sick leave available to employees, such paid time off has not been legally required in California.  However, with the passage of the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” California will become the second state in the nation to require paid sick leave. The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 will go into effect July 1, 2015.

The Act provides that, with few exceptions reserved for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, providers of in-home supportive services, and certain individuals employed by air carriers, employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year are entitled to accrue paid sick days at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.  Alternatively, employers may avoid keeping track of sick leave accrual but still comply with the law by affording employees 3 days or 24 hours of paid sick leave to use as of their date of hire or July 1, 2015, whichever is later.  Under either option, employers may prohibit employees from using accrued sick days until their 90th day of employment.

Under the law, employees must be allowed to take sick days off for their own health condition or preventive care or to care for their child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, among certain other statutorily specified individuals.  Employees who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault may also utilize paid sick days under the Act to take time off from work to obtain a restraining order or other services available to such victims.

Employees taking paid sick time off are entitled to be paid sick time at their regular rate of pay.  For employees who in the 90 days of employment before taking sick leave had different hourly pay rates, were paid by commission or piece rate, or who were nonexempt salaried employees, the rate of pay is calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.

Employers may limit the use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days per year of employment.  Unlike accrued, unused vacation, which must be paid out at the time of termination, the new law does not require employers to pay employees for any accrued, unused sick days on their last day of work.

The Act imposes various notice and record-keeping requirements and requires employers to provide employees information regarding their accrued sick leave on each payday, either on an itemized wage statement or in a separate writing.

The Act prohibits discrimination, retaliation, or any other adverse treatment toward employees who use accrued sick days or otherwise attempt to exercise their rights under the Act.

The Act authorizes the Labor Commissioner and Attorney General to bring a civil action to enforce the provisions of the Act.  The Act permits the recovery of unpaid sick days, back pay, penalties, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs, as well as with other enumerated damages.

The full text of the Act is available here.  The Press Release issued by Governor Brown’s office discussing the Act is available here.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

Posted in Leaves of Absence, Sick Leave | Leave a comment

New California Employment Law Requires Mandatory Anti-Bullying Training

California employers with 50 or more employees are legally required by Government Code Section 12950.1 to provide at least two hours of interactive training and education regarding the prevention of sexual harassment to all supervisory employees within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position, and once every two years thereafter. A new law that takes effect January 1, 2015 now requires such employers to incorporate into this training information related to the prevention of “abusive conduct.” The new law defines “abusive conduct” as follows:

[C]onduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

In light of this new law, California employers with 50 or more employees should review and, where necessary, amend their training programs to ensure that these programs adequately address the prevention of abusive conduct in the workplace.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

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