A Pasadena Employment Law Firm

Committed to Helping Workers

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(626) 380-9000

  • Thanksgiving Dinner

    Thanksgiving is a special time of year where we share time with our loved ones and reflect on the things for which we are most grateful. In that spirit, here are five reasons that California employees can celebrate this year:

    1. The California Fair Pay Act

    The California Fair Pay Act will take effect in January 2016, dramatically strengthening California’s Equal Pay Act. As I previously discussed in greater depth, the Fair Pay Act will help women receive equal pay for “substantially similar” work (not just “equal work”), including by eliminating loopholes, enacting strong anti-retaliation provisions, and mandating that employers keep pay records for three years. By requiring that employers have legitimate justification for pay disparities, the Fair Pay Act will help narrow the gender pay gap that now leaves women earning a mere 82% of what their male peers earn.

    2. Minimum Wage Increases

    On January 1, 2016, California’s minimum wage will increase from $9 per hour to $10 per hour statewide. This will raise the minimum compensation needed to be exempt from overtime to $41,600 per year (two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment).

    The minimum wage in the City of Los Angeles will increase to $10.50 an hour in July 2016 (with small businesses and nonprofits on a modified schedule), and will then slowly rise until it reaches $15 an hour by 2020. These increases will help lift working families in California out of poverty and will help revive impoverished areas. The movement to raise the minimum wage throughout the State and throughout the country continues!

    3. Expansion of “Associational” Retaliation Protections for Family Members

    California has strong protections for workers who engage in activity protected under the Labor Code. Employers are prohibited from terminating them, retaliating against them, or taking any adverse actions against them. AB-1509, signed into law in October, provides protections for an employee who is a family member of a person who engaged in, or was perceived to engage in, protected conduct under the Labor Code. It also protects employees from retaliation by “controlling employers” and “client employers” (for example, when a general contractor retaliates against the employee of a subcontractor, or when a client of a labor contractor tells the contractor not to send a certain employee over for retaliatory reasons).

  • Gov. Brown at signing

    On Tuesday, October 6, Governor Brown signed SB 358 (Jackson), the California Fair Pay Act. The Act, aimed at addressing the gender pay gap, will be the nation’s toughest. It seeks to ensure that women are paid equally for performing substantially similar work, and protects employees from retaliation for disclosing/discussing wages or seeking to enforce their rights. Credit goes to Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) for authoring the bill, which had wide bipartisan support, and to co-sponsors
    Equal Rights Advocates, California Employment Lawyers Association, and Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

    The Fair Pay Act Strengthens Existing Law

    California’s Equal Pay Act, Labor Code section 1197.5, was first enacted in 1949 and revised in 1985. It is similar to the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Fair Pay Act bolsters the California Equal Pay Act in the following ways:

    1.   It provides for equal pay for “substantially similar work,” not just equal work in the same establishment.

    This means that a woman need not hold the exact job as her male comparators to seek equal pay. Instead, the works needs to be “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

    2. It eliminates loopholes and limits employers defenses when a wage differential is challenged.

    Previously, the following four defenses were permitted:

  • Smiling Concessions Worker

    Noe v. Superior Court, 237 Cal. App. 4th 316 (2015)

    Noe v. Superior Court, a California Court of Appeal case decided in June, holds that co-employers who are aware that employees are being misclassified as independent contractors, and fail to remedy it, can be held liable themselves. This case confirms that employers cannot get away with treating employees as independent contractors simply by hiring another company to officially employ and pay them.

    Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns several entertainment venues in Southern California, contracted with Levy Premium Foodservice (Levy) to provide food and beverage services at AEG’s venues. Levy, in turn, entered into a labor agreement with a group of affiliated companies (Canvas) to provide vendors to sell food and beverages at events. Canvas then hired the vendors and treated and paid them as independent contractors. Levy was aware of this, as its Human Resources representative had acknowledged in an email that Canvas only paid the vendors on a commission basis and questioned whether this practice violated wage and hour requirements. Levy also directly hired some of the vendors and classified them as employees.

    In 2013, several of Canvas’s former vendors filed a wage and hour class action lawsuit against Canvas, Levy, and AEG for failure to pay minimum wages and willful misclassification as independent contractors in violation of Labor Code section 226.8. Plaintiffs contended that each of the defendants was liable as a “joint employer.”

    AEG and Levy filed motions for summary judgment. They argued, . . .

  • Two workers over 40

    If you believe that you were not hired/promoted or were terminated/laid off because of your age, can you still have a case if the person given preference is also over 40?

    The short answer is “yes.”

    It does not matter that the person favored is also over 40 if he is “substantially younger.”

    The Supreme Court in O’Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U.S. 308 (1996), confirmed that age discrimination can occur even if the person favored is also over 40. In O’Connor, a 56-year-old who was fired and replaced by a 40-year-old sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). The district court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie case of age discrimination under because he failed to show that he was replaced by someone under the age of 40. The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Scalia, held that an employee asserting age discrimination need not demonstrate that his replacement was under 40; rather, he must demonstrate that his replacement was “substantially younger.” O’Connor, 517 U.S. at 312. The Court explained:

  • HeForShe Logo

    Ramit Mizrahi was honored to speak at the UN Women-L.A. Chapter’s HeForShe event on Sunday, August 23, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Below are her remarks.

    Equality in Work

    We are fortunate to live in a society where sex discrimination in employment has been unlawful for over 50 years. Yet we still have a long way to go.

    Gender Pay Gap

    Consider the gender pay gap. According to research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2014, women working full-time were earning 82% of what their male peers were earning. Breaking it down further, the wage gap for black and Latina women is even greater, with black women earning 68% and Latina women only 61% of what men do.

    One third of working mothers are single mothers, and a staggering 30% of them live in poverty. It is estimated that closing the gender pay gap would pull half of those families.

    Yet, in the past decade, the gender pay gap has narrowed by just 1.5%.

    Some Causes

    Workplace discrimination and inequality persist in many forms.

    Decades ago, workers were regularly subjected to overt discrimination. It was perfectly normal to have Help Wanted sections in the newspaper divided by jobs for men and women. Sexual harassment of female employees was common.

    The most egregious forms of sex discrimination, harassment, and abuse still happen to the most vulnerable populations among us. For example,

  • Business Man Assemble Puzzle Of Gay Flag

    When the Supreme Court recognized last month in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) that the fundamental right to marry applies to same-sex couples, Americans rejoiced. The Court’s opinion reflected the tipping point we have reached as a nation with broad public acceptance of LGBT rights.

    But civil rights activists and allies were quick to point out that there is more work to be done. Pundits observed that in some states, a gay couple could be married in the morning and fired from their jobs for being gay hours later. Indeed, LGBT people in many states still lack protections from discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and education. Sexual orientation discrimination in employment is not explicitly prohibited under federal law. In California, we are lucky to have the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code section 12940 et seq., which has, since 2000, prohibited discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. LGBT people in other states have not been so fortunate.

    LGBT workers are protected from sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII

    Thanks to a landmark decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), however, millions more LGBT workers now have some protections. In a July 15, 2015 decision, the EEOC held that sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on protected categories, including with respect to hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits.

    Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin; it does not explicitly cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a 3-2 decision, the EEOC reasoned that sexual orientation discrimination is nevertheless prohibited by Title VII because it is a subset of sex discrimination. The EEOC determined that an air traffic controller who alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his sexual orientation could pursue his claim of sex discrimination. While the 17-page decision is worth reading in full, the excerpts below capture the EEOC’s reasoning.

  • podium

    On September 26, 2015, Ramit Mizrahi will once again be speaking about the year’s most important employment law cases. The panel will be part of the California Employment Lawyers Association’s 28th Annual Employment Law Conference. She will be speaking alongside Andrew H. Friedman of Helmer Friedman, LLP.

    Date and time: September 26, 2015, 9:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Tentative)

    Location: Marriott Oakland City Center

    Additional information will be posted once the CELA Conference schedule is finalized.

  • After years of advocacy to raise the minimum wage, all California workers can look forward to a $15 an hour minimum wage within the next few years.

    While the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not changed in over a decade, states, counties, and cities all have the ability to set a minimum wage. Below, we summarize the minimum wages set by the State of California, Los Angeles City and County, and other cities within Los Angeles County. Employees are entitled to the highest applicable minimum wage.

    State of California

    California State Minimum Wage
    Effective Date Large Employers (26+ Employees) Small Employers (≤25 Employees)
    1/1/2020 $13 per hour $12 per hour
    1/1/2021 $14 per hour $13 per hour
    1/1/2022 $15 per hour $14 per hour
    1/1/2023 $15 per hour $15 per hour

    The State minimum wage will rise $1 per hour on January 1 of each year until it reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers in 2023. Further details (including regarding the rare exceptions) can be found on the Labor Commissioner’s website.
    nd Employment, 723,000 employed, working-age adults in Los Angeles earn . . .

  • Court Costs

    On May 4, 2015, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided a case that will be a game-changer for lawsuits brought under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District, the Court addressed the issue of when losing FEHA plaintiffs may be required to pay their opponents’ case costs. The Court held that a losing plaintiff may be ordered to pay a prevailing defendant’s costs only if the “court finds the action was objectively without foundation when brought, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.”

    Williams was a firefighter who sued his employer for disability discrimination in violation of FEHA. Williams lost the case on a summary judgment motion. The trial court then awarded the employer-defendant costs totaling $5,368.88. Williams appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

    On review, the California Supreme Court explored two issues:

    Is a defendant prevailing in a FEHA action entitled to its ordinary court costs as a matter of right . . . or only in the discretion of the trial court . . . ? And, if the trial court does have discretion, must that discretion be exercised according to the rule applicable to attorney fee awards in certain federal civil rights actions under Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC (1978) 434 U.S. 412 (Christiansburg), according to which a prevailing defendant receives its attorney fees only if the plaintiff‘s action was objectively groundless?

    The California Supreme Court held that the FEHA allows the court . . .

  • Final Check

    Whether you are terminated, laid off, or resign voluntarily from your job, your employer must provide you with your final wages in a timely manner. If your employer does not pay your final wages in full and on time, you can seek penalties in addition to the actual wages owed. You may also be able to recover attorney’s fees, costs, and interest if you prevail on an action for unpaid wages. California’s Labor Code lays out an employer’s obligations with respect to the payment of final wages as well as the penalties for failing to comply.

    Payment Upon Termination

    When an employer terminates or lays off an employee, it must “immediately” pay the employee all earned and unpaid wages. (Labor Code § 201.) The employee must be paid “at the place of discharge.” (Labor Code § 208.)

    Payment Upon Resignation

    If an employee quits without notice, the employer must provide final wages within 72 hours of the resignation. However, if the employee gives notice 72 hours or more in advance of the actual resignation, then the employee must be paid . . .

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