The Law Offices of Oscar Ramirez, PC, represents clients with a broad range of work-related issues. People facing problems or transitions at work may well recognize their situations in one of these practice areas:
In California, there are wrongful termination laws that prohibit firing an employee when it would violate public policy. In most cases, that means firing someone based on a legally protected category, or for reporting or refusing to participate in an illegal activity or public safety issue to a manager or government agency. There are a multitude of ways an employer could violate the wrongful termination laws.
We have years of experience handling these types of cases. Contact us today for your free consultation.
Whistleblower retaliation is commonplace. Many supervisors view reporting dangerous or illegal activities as disloyal and will therefore demote or fire the reporting employee. Being a whistleblower can be incredibly challenging. There is tremendous sacrifice and risk that comes with it. That’s why when you blow the whistle you want to know that you will be protected against retaliation.
There are federal and state laws, such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, which provide protection from whistleblower retaliation and give you the right to file a claim or lawsuit to enforce your rights.
Whistleblower retaliation occurs when you are terminated, suspended, demoted, threatened, intimidated, harassed, or subjected to a hostile work environment after engaging in a protected whistleblower activity.
Discrimination & Harassment
Unlawful discrimination is the unequal treatment of a person based on the individual’s actual or perceived membership in a certain “protected class.” Unlawful harassment is severe and pervasive negative treatment that creates a hostile work environment and is based on a certain protected class.
Classes protected from discrimination and harassment include age, race, national origin sex, sexual orientation, gender, disability, pregnancy, and religion.
Discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Both federal and state laws, such as the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
AGE DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT
Anyone over 40 can be the subject of discrimination against older workers. Typically managers will discriminate against more senior employees based on false perceptions that they are less efficient or less able to adapt to change. Building a successful age discrimination case usually requires demonstrating that those perceptions played a significant role in a termination decision.
DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT
California has the strongest protections for disabled workers in the country. An employee’s disability, whether temporary or permanent, cannot be a motivating factor in a termination decision. If an employee can do the job with a reasonable modification of the job duties or conditions, the employer is required to grant that accommodation. If an employee requires a medical leave, his or her job and benefits have significant protections.
RACE DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT
Los Angeles is home to every race and nationality on the planet. Unfortunately, some managers still operate based on subtle or not-so-subtle stereotypes. Showing bias in this type of case usually involves closely examining a manager’s conduct and thoughts about particular employees.
SEX AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment can occur when an employer or supervisor makes sexual advances toward an employee in exchange for some benefit. Also, sexual harassment may consist of intimidation, ridicule, taunting, touching, and groping of an employee by a supervisor or co-worker resulting in a hostile work environment. An employer is liable for the sexual harassment committed by a co-worker if the supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action. However, an employer is considered to be strictly liable—liable without finding fault—if a supervisor commits the harassment.
Furthermore, gender characteristics such as pregnancy and child-care responsibilities are protected from use in employment decisions.
Building a successful discrimination case in this area typically involves showing that comments made by a discriminating manager are biased or that the manager treated employees differently in pay and/or assignments.
Wage & Overtime
CALIFORNIA MINIMUM WAGE
California requires all employees be paid at least $9.00 for every hour worked. Employers sometimes try to evade their duties by not paying for travel time or preparation time. Another trick is to pay a flat rate for a particular job that results in less than minimum wage.
OVERTIME AND DOUBLETIME PAY
In California, overtime laws prohibit employers from employing an individual for more than eight hours per workday and for more than forty hours per workweek without paying them premium overtime rates. These laws also require an employer to pay an overtime rate of one and a half times an employee’s regular hourly pay rate if they work more than eight hours in a single workday. Furthermore, an employer is required to pay an overtime rate of double an employee’s regular hourly pay rate if they work more than twelve hours in a single workday.
Some common schemes that employers use to avoid paying overtime pay are to misclassify employees as exempt managers or administrators, or require employees to work off the clock. They may say that you didn’t get permission to work overtime and therefore, they don’t have to pay you for your additional hours. Working off the clock is common in the restaurant industry, retail establishments, and sales and customer service jobs.
If an employer violates overtime laws, an employee is entitled to recover the lost wages by filing a lawsuit against the employer for backpay, penalties, and interest.
EXEMPT VS. NON-EXEMPT
In California, the California Labor Code and federal Fair Labor Standards Act govern most jobs. Under these laws, employees are considered either “exempt” or “non-exempt.” Employees that are non-exempt are entitled to overtime pay and meal and rest periods, while employees who are exempt are not entitled to overtime pay.
Exempt employees are typically supervisors, managers, executives, “outside” salesmen, licensed professionals, administrators, or other high-level workers whose work requires independent judgment. In addition to performing duties in one of these categories, in order to be exempt, you must make about $30,000 per year. If you do not fit into any of these categories, you are likely non-exempt and therefore eligible for overtime pay and meal and rest breaks.
A common misconception is that, if you are paid on a salary basis, then you are exempt. That is not necessarily true. Many workers who are paid on a salary basis do not perform the kind of high-level job duties that meet the exemptions specified in the California Labor Code and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
MEAL AND REST BREAKS
In California, hourly paid employees must receive an unpaid 30 minute meal period if they work more than 5 hours, and must receive a paid 10 minute rest break for every 4 hours of work. In addition, a shift of more than 10 hours gives employees the right to a second meal break. Some employers say they allow rest breaks, but in practice make it impossible for employees to take them.
INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR / EMPLOYEE MISCLASSIFICATION
Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a serious problem for many workers. This practice deprives employees of overtime and minimum wages and other benefits. If a company can tell you when, where and how to do your job, you are an employee, not an independent contractor.
An employee’s hourly rate of pay must include all compensation except for gifts, discretionary bonuses, and payments not made as compensation for employment when calculating overtime. In addition, hourly paid employees must receive an unpaid 30-minute meal period if they work more than 5 hours, and must receive a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work (or major fraction thereof).
At Law Offices of Oscar Ramirez, PC, we bring class actions against employers. When employers violate worker’s rights, they often do so against groups of similar employees at once. In those situations, class actions allow employees to vindicate their rights as a group. This makes class actions more efficient economically and creates strength in numbers.
We represent employees who have been victims of wage theft by their employers, such as unpaid overtime. Class actions allow employees to obtain the type and breadth of data necessary to prove that an employer has violated the law against them as a group and create company-wide changes to prevent future violations.
We have the expertise, resources, and skills to successfully prosecute class action suits. Attorney Oscar Ramirez has expertise in class litigation and has been appointed lead class counsel by countless courts throughout California.