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Employment Law

Has an Employee Accused Your Business of Retaliation, Wage and Hour Violations, or Discrimination?

Our Orange County based Attorneys Can Help You Fight Complex Labor and Employment Claims.

One in two California employers will get hit with an employment or labor-related lawsuit at some point. Whether it’s a class action, a harassment claim, a wage and hour violation or a retaliation lawsuit, every company is at risk—and that risk will only grow as California state legislators continue to pass extremely employee-friendly laws.

In many cases, employers unintentionally violate labor laws simply because they cannot keep up with these fast-changing rules. Other times, employees believe they have been discriminated against, wrongfully terminated, or denied leave, when, in fact, their employer had legitimate reasons for their actions. 

Regardless of how a labor and employment claim comes about, it means one thing for employers: a stressful legal battle.

Let the attorneys at Hochfelsen & Kani alleviate some of that stress by taking on your case. Serving companies of all sizes, our firm is highly experienced in employer defense. 

From initial negotiations all the way through trial, our lawyers can help you protect your business from labor and employment claims. 

Contact our Newport Beach office to learn more.

California Labor Laws Heavily Favor Employees

Labor laws in the Golden State are vastly different from the rest of the country. 

State laws often expand on regulations established by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and offer employees additional protections. That’s not even considering local employment and anti-discrimination laws, which can go even further and often differ greatly from county to county or city to city. 

CA employers here are subject to more requirements than in any other state.

On top of all this, California employees have the right to pick and choose which law is most favorable to them in a lawsuit. 

An employee in Los Angeles who wants to sue their employer for violating sick leave regulations may file under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, CA state laws, or local regulations, depending on which is most generous.

Employers must be proactive about compliance with all laws at all levels—no easy feat when those laws often change annually. It’s no wonder that so many companies are struck with lawsuits in a wide range of areas.

Family and Medical Leave Act Violations

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide workers with time off for serious medical conditions, for maternity or paternity leave, to care for a sick family member, or to deal with issues related to a family member’s military service. 

Employees who have been at their job for at least one year are entitled to 12 weeks of leave for every 12-month period. FLMA leave is unpaid, but in most cases, employers are required to hold the employee’s position open for them.

The California Family Rights Act, a state law that expands the FMLA, also gives employees the right to take time off for adoption and to care for a domestic partner or a domestic partner’s children. 

As of 2018, the Family Rights Act also requires companies with 20 to 49 employees to provide 12 weeks of maternity or paternity leave.

Employees who file a FMLA claim may allege that their employer:

  • Discouraged them from taking time off
  • Required too much notice
  • Denied or postponed their leave
  • Cancelled their insurance while they were on leave
  • Pressured them to return to work
  • Failed to reinstate them to the same position
  • Disciplined them for taking FMLA leave

In many cases, employers violate federal and state leave regulations without realizing it, because the law is updated relatively frequently. If you’re hit with a claim due to an honest oversight or a disgruntled employee, our attorneys can help. 

Contact us today to learn more.

Harassment and Discrimination Claims

Under the law, employees cannot be harassed or discriminated against based on their protected class - and by far, CA has more protected classes than any other state:

  • Sex (including pregnancy and childbirth)
  • Race and color
  • National origin and ancestry
  • Physical and mental disability
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression
  • Medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS
  • Genetic information
  • Political affiliation
  • Military status
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence

Although there is no single law that makes discrimination against all of these classes illegal, there are numerous federal and state laws that govern them, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, the state Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991. 

With so many laws to keep track of, it can be difficult for employers to ensure they are in compliance with all of them.

A discrimination or harassment accusation can destroy an employer, even if the claims are dismissed. 

It’s imperative that you find an experienced labor and employment lawyer who is prepared to fight for you in court and will seek the best possible outcome for your business. The best way to protect your company’s reputation is with an experienced and aggressive attorney on your side.

Wage and Hour Violations from San Diego to San Francisco

Wage and hour laws govern the wages that employees earn and the hours they are asked to work, including minimum wage, overtime, and child labor requirements. 

Since wage and hour laws cover a wide variety of issues, they are some of the most common labor and employment claims.

As in most cases, CA has more stringent wage and hour requirements than other parts of the country. Here, the minimum wage will increase to $15.00 an hour by 2023, compared to the $7.25 federal minimum wage. 

California employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week or more than 8 hours in a day, the only state to have such a law.

With so many areas covered by wage and hour, and with different laws at the state and federal levels, it can be difficult for employers to keep up with changes. Employees commonly sue employers for 

  • Failing to pay overtime
  • Failing to pay minimum wage
  • Misclassifying them as an independent contractor or exempt from wage and hour laws
  • Failing to provide meal and rest breaks
  • Asking them to work off the clock
  • Failing to provide a final paycheck promptly

Without addressing a wage and hour claim promptly and aggressively, it can turn into a huge problem (and sometimes even a major class action). 

If an employee has accused your business of wage and hour violations, contact our office today for a free, confidential case evaluation. 

Whistleblower and Retaliation Lawsuits

Federal and state whistleblower laws give employees the right to report discrimination, harassment, wage and hour violations, or other activity they believe is illegal. 

Employees cannot be retaliated against for reporting these claims, whether they report them internally or to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Employers must be extremely cautious when firing, demoting, disciplining, or reassigning any employee, but especially so when an employee has raised concerns about supposedly illegal activity. 

Even if the job change has nothing to do with the employee’s report, it can easily turn into a retaliation claim. 

Retaliation, however, is the rare situation where California labor laws can benefit employers. Since it’s an at-will state, employees do not have employment contracts with their employers, and they can be terminated at any time. 

This can make it difficult for employees to prove they were fired because they blew the whistle on their employer.

Still, whistleblower and retaliation claims can easily grow to massive lawsuits with multiple claims. Our attorneys are skilled litigators who have decades of experience defending employers in these complex cases. 

Contact our office today to learn how we can help you.

Class Actions

Class actions, where hundreds or even thousands of employees join a lawsuit against their employer, are becoming increasingly common in the Golden State. Wage and hour claims are most commonly expanded to class actions, but discrimination and other labor and employment issues can turn into one of these enormous lawsuits as well. 

These types of cases frequently bring unwanted media attention and unbelievably high damages.

With so much at stake, many employers feel forced to settle class actions. However, your lawyer should advise you on all your options and be prepared to fight for you at trial if necessary. 

Our attorneys have significant experience litigating class actions and can assist you with any type of class action you may face. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Courts Impose Harsh Penalties on Employers

Penalties for employers that are found to have violated labor and employment laws vary greatly from case to case, depending on the claim and the facts at hand. Commonly, however, employers are ordered to pay:

  • Significant fines
  • Compensatory and/or punitive damages
  • The plaintiff’s backpay (sometimes double or triple backpay)
  • Attorneys’ fees

Often, the court will also order the defendant to develop a plan to come into compliance, and the court may even oversee those efforts over a period of years.

Of course, perhaps the most damaging aspect of a labor and employment lawsuit is the harm to your business’ reputation. The bad press from a lawsuit may threaten revenue and prevent talented people from wanting to work at your company, which can affect your business long after a case is closed.

How Our Lawyers Will Help You

The business litigators at Hochfelsen & Kani have decades of experience assisting companies with their biggest legal challenges. As with our other satisfied clients, our lawyers will help you:

  • Contain costs;
  • Minimize negative media attention;
  • Conduct an investigation and gather evidence;
  • Negotiate and respond to legal action aggressively;
  • Prepare a strong defense for trial;
  • Choose the best legal strategy to reach your goals; and
  • Ultimately, protect your business.

If your company is facing a lawsuit, you must take action right away. Call or email our office today to discuss your options. 

Whatever your company's employment dispute or concern, Hochfelsen & Kani lawyers can clarify the circumstance and if a claim or lawsuit happens, we are experienced and aggressive in Federal and State courtrooms throughout the state.

Call our office now for a confidential call with an experienced employment lawyer.