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Employment Laws That Protect Your Rights

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated 91,000 complaints in 2016. Over 65,000 of these complaints were closed because of a lack of reasonable cause. The EEOC does an excellent job protecting the rights of workers across the country, but budget and resource limitations mean that it’s sometimes necessary to retain an employment lawyer to defend your rights. Below introduces federal employment rights that some employers openly ignore and violate.

Anti-discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against specific demographic groups. These include age, race, gender, religion, disability and national origin. Screening, hiring and employment decisions cannot be influenced by any of these protected statuses.  Some companies and HR managers hide their discriminatory actions through exaggerating problems, ignoring objective facts and unfairly treating certain people.

Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits harassment, but almost every state has its own laws regarding stalking and sexual harassment. For example, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing covers workplace harassment, but this state’s anti-harassment laws provide preferential treatment to employees. This is why victims of workplace bullying and harassment often have to seek the help of employment lawyers to deal with offensive and improper behavior.

Wage and Hour Laws

The Department of Labor oversees the Fair Labor Standards Act that guarantees the basic economic rights of workers. The federal minimum wage only applies if the state’s minimum wage is lower.  While the federal law does not require employers to pay staff for any time off, Californian state law requires that they are paid overtime regardless of whether their work was authorized or not.  This state actually entitles tipped employees to also earn the full minimum wage.

Termination

Almost all states define employment as being an at-will arrangement. This means that employees may be terminated for any reason at any time. Many unscrupulous employees illegally terminate employees for the wrong reasons, such as when a military or pregnant employee uses their FMLA leave rights. Construction and production companies sometimes terminate employees who are injured on the job performing dangerous tasks or working in unsafe conditions.

There also lesser known laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Contact us today for legal assistance if your employment rights have been or are being violated by your employer.



When Your Employment Contract Is A Lie

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We should all be treated fairly in our work. If you are employed at-will and subject to specific disciplinary measures, your employer should tell you this and stick by their word. After all, you rely on their honesty to decide if you should hire on or leave a company. That's a big, life-altering decision that you have to make with the best information available.

So, what if your employer misleads you? Say the recruitment officer in HR implied you were hired for a certain length of time and you signed up to work at the company, and then found that the implication you relied on was false? What then?

This is fraud, and it comes in 2 flavors. One is when you signed the employment contract, it said that you could only be fired for certain reasons or that you could rely on being employed for a certain amount of time, and then your employer fires you for other reasons or before the specified time is up. Since this is easy to prove, employers try to avoid such written promises.

However, there are times when implied promises constitute fraud. If an employer tells you he or she will keep you on for a set time or has written specific forms of progressive discipline in the employee manual, that can be considered an exception to an at-will contract. (A bonus situation is that the recruitment officer will give such promises verbally and then your written contract will undercut them. Always read your contract and get all promises in writing.) In such cases, a judge would look at evidence such as regularity of promotions, duration of employment, assurances of continued employment, violations of usual employment practice in firing you, and promises made at hiring.

Fraud is always tricky to prove. You will have to bring evidence that your employer made false representations, that people high in the chain of command knew about them, that you relied on the representations and that your reliance led to you being materially injured. Most difficult of all, you have to prove that your employer intended to deceive you. It can be worth the effort though.

If your employer made promises and then broke them, you may have a case against them. Contact us to see what you can do about it.



Two Class Actions Filed in the Wake of the Fyre Festival Disaster

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The organizers of the now infamous Fyre Festival, which promised the luxury cultural event of the decade for the steep price of up to $100,000 each but instead turned into a disaster that closed on the first day, has attracted not one but two class action lawsuits.

The first class action is being filed in the Central District of California against concert organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland as well as FyreMedia. The suit alleges that lack of food, water, and adequate medical care placed the festival attendees in danger, stranding them on a remote Bahamian island. The suit also notes that participants were encouraged to upload money to digital wristbands, with the result that they had no cash for taxis and other services.

second class action was filed in Los Angeles claiming that the organizers of the festivals committed fraud by conducting a social media campaign with celebrity “influencers” that claimed the experience would be luxurious, with yachts and supermodels partying on the beach. The reality of the festival, which by all accounts consisted of all the worst aspects of a state of nature, was different than advertised.

The plaintiffs in the two class actions are going to have to prove that the organizers of the Fyre Festival deliberately misled the attendees about the experience that was in store for them. The defendants will claim that they were naïve about the scope of the event they proposed to put on and were so overwhelmed that they had no control over the disaster that resulted.

The festival organizers, by the way, are attempting to squash criticism of the festival on social media, claiming that not only it false, but it has the likelihood of inciting “violence, rioting, or civil unrest.” Sending cease and desist orders against aggrieved festival goers has every potential of backfiring, though.

For more information contact us.



Did Bose Violate Consumer Rights by Collecting Listening Habits?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

By some measures, Bose Corp's wireless headphones are the apex of personal speaker technology. They block ambient noise while providing rich and robust sound that brings out the best in any music that a listener might select. One of Bose's customers, however, believes that the company is using technology for more nefarious purposes, namely, collecting and selling information about user's listening habits. A lawsuit that was recently filed in a Chicago federal court seeks an injunction against Bose to protect the consumer rights and privacy of individuals who do not want data on their listening habits to be sold to third parties.

This consumer rights and privacy lawsuit is one of many in a trend of legal actions against companies that allegedly collect and sell data about how their customers use their products without warning those customers about the data collection or giving them an opportunity to opt out of the program. Consumer usage data and related information are gold mine for marketing and advertising companies, but certain federal and state laws limit how and when that data can be collected, as well as what rights consumers have in removing themselves from any data collection programs. Mobile technology and the proliferation of smartphones has increased both the ease with which that data can be collected and the temptations to collect and use increasing amounts of that data. Consumers who value their privacy are pushing back against these efforts.

Although privacy is not a specific guarantee of the United States Constitution, a string of Supreme Court decisions that date back more than fifty years have long recognized that individuals have a right to privacy and an expectation that commercial interests will not violate that right. The attorneys at the Spencer Law Firm respect every consumer's right to privacy and work hard to maintain that right in the face of corporations that aim to use personal information for their own financial benefit. If you believe that your consumer rights and your privacy have been violated by improper or unauthorized collection of your personal habits, please contact us for more information on how you can recover your own sense of privacy.



Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Uber for Invasion of Privacy

Thursday, May 25, 2017

class action lawsuit is being filed against Uber for their reported “Hell” program, in which they tracked drivers who worked for their competitor, Lyft. The program used software which created fake Lyft rider accounts, which were used to spoof their location and gather data on Lyft drivers.

Uber then used this information to find out which Lyft drivers also worked for Uber. When a driver was found to be working for both Lyft and UberUber would target them with bonuses in an effort to get them to abandon Lyft entirely.

The “Hell” program got its name as a parallel to the nickname of the program Uber had used to track its own drivers, which earned the nickname “Heaven,” as a reference to the surveillance and tracking involved.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed by a former Lyft driver, is based on four separate counts of privacy invasion. By intentionally collecting and intercepting communication, the lawsuit alleges, Uber violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the Federal Wiretap Act, and also engaged in unfair competition. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Lawyers who were consulted by The Information, the publication that originally broke the story, said that the suit can also open Uber up to charges of breach of contract and unfair business practices on both the federal and state level.

If you’ve been wronged by a company, whether through unfair business practices, false advertising or through an invasion of privacy, we can help! Contact us for more information.



Suit Against Shasta County Jail Becomes a Class Action

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A lawsuit against the Shasta County Jail in northern California has achieved class Actions status, according to the Legal Reader. The suit, filed in Sacramento’s Federal District Court by a number of disabled inmates, alleges numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit claims that the jail has inadequate facilities for disabled prisoners, including a lack of handle bars in showers, and doorways too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs. A lack of wheelchair seating in classrooms was noted. The action also claims that disabled inmates were abused, forced to traverse numerous barriers with little or no assistance and placed on 23 hours-a-day lockdowns. Conditions were so bad, some of the plaintiffs claimed, that the inmates could not shower, sleep, or be mobile. Guards were alleged to have threatened to withhold medication if the prisoners complained.

The designation of the suit as a class action means that any disabled inmate, current or former, can join in the civil action and seek redress for the alleged violations.

Shasta County seems to be taking a benign attitude toward the lawsuit, perhaps in recognition that it has a problem with its jail. The county counsel, Jim Ross, declined to oppose the motion to make the lawsuit into a class action. In the meantime, jail officials have vowed to work with disability groups to ensure that the conditions alleged to be present at the jail are corrected to ensure that disabled inmates are treated with dignity as the law mandates. No word exists as of this writing whether or when the suit will be settled or go to trial.

For more information contact us.



How to Enforce Your Employment Law Rights

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOCreports that they received and investigated over 91,000 complaints in 2016. It is an unfortunate fact that many employers engage in unscrupulous and discriminatory practices against employees and potential hires. However, the EEOC, other government agencies and private law firms are the ones who proactively protect your employment rights.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC’s primary task is to enforce federal laws that prevent workplace discrimination. For example, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion and national origin. The EEOC deals with HR personnel who engage in inappropriate screening, interviewing and recruiting practices. Employers are forbidden from asking any questions that may violate the civil rights of protected minorities. The Civil Rights Act prohibits retaliation against employees who file complaints or exercise their legal rights. The EEOC conducts investigations, mediates settlements, interpret laws, issues warnings and process discrimination claims.

The Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) promotes and protects the employed, the unemployed and potential hires. Their main job is to enforce laws related to wages, safety, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. This includes approximately 180 federal laws that protects office, except, agricultural, underage and migratory workers. To illustrate, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) contains the laws for weekly hours and overtime pay. The most important member of the DOL is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They focus on unsafe and unhealthy policies, working conditions and employment environments.

The National Labor Relations Board

The NLRB works with the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards to deal with union reporting, disclosure and administration requirements. The federal NLRB is an independent agency that was created through the passing of the National Labor Relation Act (NLRA). The NLRB is tasked with protecting the rights of collective employees who are legally empowered to form a union and select their bargaining representative. The NLRB prevents unfair labor practices, investigate potential violations and facilitate settlements between parties. This sometimes requires class action lawsuits and professional employment lawyers.

Other federal agencies that protect employee’s rights include the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). Anyone whose rights are being violated by their employer, such as unpaid overtime and unlawful termination, are encouraged to contact an employment lawyer today.



Judge Approves Trump Universitry Class Action

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The class action lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump by former students of Trump University constitutes some unfinished business that faced the president from his days as a businessman. The suit alleges that Trump defrauded the students of the university out of thousands of dollars with high-pressure sales tactics and false claims about what could be learned about the real estate business by attending the university. Trump and his associates have denied these allegations and have vowed to fight the legal action in court.

However, a federal judge hearing the case, Gonzalo P. Curiel in San Diego, has approved a settlement that will bring the class action to a close, according to the New York Times. Trump would agree to pay $25 million to settle the fraud claims but will not admit to any wrongdoing. The settlement would constitute a recovery of 90 cents on the dollar, the best possible outcome, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers.

Judge Curiel turned back a challenge to the settlement by one of the plaintiffs, a former Trump University student named Sherri Simpson. Simpson believed that the settlement was inadequate and wanted the right to sue Trump individually. Besides a bigger settlement, she wanted Trump to be criminally charged for racketeering

The settlement is satisfactory to Trump, as it removes a distraction he can ill afford to deal with as he continues to be president of the United States. The lawyers for the plaintiffs’ class believe that the agreement will provide some degree of closure to the aggrieved former students. The settlement is subject to an appeal.

For more information contact us.



The Top Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney After Being Injured in a Car Accident

Thursday, April 27, 2017

After being injured in a car accident, your biggest concern should be getting better and returning to your normal routine. However, as soon as you are home from the hospital, you will have to deal with insurance companies, medical bills, and paperwork relating to your accident and personal injury claim. This is why it can be extremely beneficial to hire a personal injury lawyer after being in an auto accident. If you are on the fence about hiring a personal injury attorney to help you through this difficult time, here are a few reasons why you should consider doing so.

Experience Assessing Claims

The fact is that after being injured in a car accident, many people do not realize what their claim is worth. However, it is likely that you are owed more than medical expenses and damages to your vehicle; you may also be entitled to compensation for time off of work and personal damages. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to best assess your claim, and will be able to help you determine what you are owed.

Someone on Your Side

Hiring a personal injury attorney is the only way to ensure that you have someone on your side during this difficult time. Insurance companies ultimately work for themselves, and may use sneaky tactics to get you to settle for less than what you are owed. Hiring an attorney will ensure that you have someone looking out for you, working to get you a proper settlement.

Reduce Your Stress

As was previously hinted at, the process of settling a personal injury dispute can be extremely time-consuming and stressful, as there is a variety of forms to fill out, deadlines to meet, and hoops to jump through. However, you should be focusing on healing during this difficult time. A personal injury attorney can remove this burden from you and allow you to focus on healing.

Contact us to learn more about the reasons why you should consider hiring a personal injury attorney after being injured in an auto accident.



Whistleblower Protections and Employment Law

Thursday, April 20, 2017

In the United States we have federal and state 'whistleblower laws,' protections in employment law against retaliation by a workplace or employer for whistleblowing activities. These laws do not keep employers from retaliating against whistleblowers, but give whistleblowers legal redress when they are retaliated against for their disclosures.

Whistleblowing describes making information about the public safety, about illegal activities, about commerce activities that have been misrepresented, and any public disclosure of private business information that a company would prefer to keep quiet. In many instances, an employee is expected by professional standards and the law of the nation and state to take action when public safety is threatened, or a law is being broken or people are being harmed. In these circumstances, regardless of workplace policy or nondisclosure agreements, it is the legal expectation of members of society that disclosure to the proper authorities should occur.

The challenges come when the employee tries to do the right thing, and the proper authorities are uninterested; when the workplace threatens both the employee and others in the workplace; when the employee tries to correct a dangerous or illegal situation and gets blackballed by peers or set up to take the blame by an employer. Unfortunately, these are all things that have happened to whistleblowers in the past. Further complicating matters is when the whistleblowing involves the government, and materials disclosed can be said to impact national security.

Assuming that the fate of the free world is not on the line, and the issue of concern is not one of immediate public danger, there are several considerations to be thought through before acting. Carefully study any nondisclosure agreements you signed when taking the job. If the state or local government is involved, there may be ways to report anonymously. If that option is available to you, consider taking it. If you went to the supervisors or law enforcement about a problem, and received no help, make sure those interactions are carefully documented.

There may be restrictions on your legal protection against retaliation if you do not follow the chain of command in reporting. For instance, if you find a workplace safety issue, and rather than reporting to the safety manager or the unit supervisor, went straight to the newspapers, you may not be protected from retaliation, and in some cases, may be held liable for damage to a company's reputation. Either way, however you decide to proceed, document carefully any efforts you made to work through the system. If you have to remove company materials, or use company computer time to document the whistleblowing activities, the company can take action against you. If at all possible, do not remove any company property to bolster your claims.

After the storm breaks, and you have been publically identified as the source of the news, the workplace cannot retaliate against you by demotion, firing, or other job actions that are considered punitive. If they do, you have the option of filing a civil rights action against them. Each state has unique whistleblower laws, with mechanisms for reporting retaliation; federal contractors, military, and federal government agencies also have federal systems in place.

For more information on employment law, please contact us.




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