Personal Injury Blog


Employment Law - How To Substantiate Claims Of Employment Discrimination

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

While California and federal laws clearly list demographic groups likely subjected to workplace discrimination, demonstrating instances of workplace unfairness is a challenging task. Given that employment discrimination occurs in various forms against diverse groups of people, assessing whether you are the target of unjust treatment requires proper review and legal guidance. The Spencer Law Firm, established in San Clemente, California, provides free case evaluations based on the nature of discrimination reported to ensure that your rights remain protected under current employment laws.

The Importance of Concrete Documentation

If speaking to the coworker, supervisor, or manager who you feel discriminates against you does not halt unwanted treatment, it is practical to document instances in which you feel employment discrimination occurred. It is important that you clearly state that the behavior offends you and makes you uncomfortable given that you feel targeted or demeaned based on your background.

In employment discrimination lawsuits, companies are subject to evaluation based on how proactively they investigate and address employment discrimination. Filing a complaint with management and your employer's human resources department regarding discriminatory treatment not only provides the company a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue, but also creates a written record of future offenses and the company's success or failure in addressing unfairness in the workplace.

If you lack direct documentation, circumstantial evidence comes into consideration, though extensive research is often required to substantiate a claim. Topics for research include demographics of company employees, violation of longstanding company policies relevant to fair treatment, and statistics indicating that individuals of your demographic are more likely subjected to employment discrimination than other groups. The Spencer Law Firm will assist in evaluating how circumstantial evidence plays should you face employment discrimination.

Adhering to Legal Regulations

Though you may possess direct documentation and circumstantial evidence of discriminatory treatment, such is not sufficient to bring a lawsuit to court. Federal law requires that you first present your claim to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. Upon receiving your claim, the agency contacts your employer in an attempt to remedy the discrimination you face. If, after further review, the agency deems your claims valid or substantiated, you receive written notification of your right to sue.

What to Do

Once you have extensively documented instances of employment discrimination to the best of your ability and complied with federal requirements through corresponding with the EEOC, you must seek advice from a qualified attorney. Along with years of experience, the team at the Spencer Law Firm prioritizes clients' best interests, incorporating detailed attention to each case and a team-oriented work ethic to produce optimal outcomes. Even if you instinctively think that you are the target of employment discrimination and feel overwhelmed by the process of developing a claim, attorneys at the Spencer Law Firm aim to evaluate your situation and advise you of your next appropriate action, no matter how complex your problem presents itself. Contact the Spencer Law Firm today. First time consultations are always free.

Employment Law & Workplace Discrimination: Know Your Rights

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Under California employment law, employees have the right to discrimination-free work environments. In short, discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly because of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or nationality. But identifying employment discrimination isn’t always easy, as it can take many forms. If you are an employee and have been treated unfairly in the workplace, knowing your rights is the first step toward seeking justice.

Legally speaking, there are two basic types of workplace discrimination: disparate treatment and disparate impact. Disparate treatment happens when an employer acts in a way that is directly unfair to the employee. This might include demotion or termination based on the employee's nationality, for example. In some cases, the employer might fail to give a promotion or raise to a qualified employee because of his or her sexual orientation or religion, which also qualifies as discrimination under California employment law. 

Disparate impact, on the other hand, is a more general term that refers to an action (usually a company policy) that is unfairly biased against an entire group of employees. If a company policy discriminates against pregnant women, for instance, it falls into this category. Other situations might include policies that prohibit clothing associated with a specific religion or policies that discriminate against a gender minority.

If you suffered discrimination in the workplace, now is the time to speak with a legal representative about your claim. At The Spencer Law Firm, you can work with an Orange County employment lawyer to seek compensation for your damages. Contact us for more information about employment law and your rights. 

4 Things to Know About Unlawful Termination

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Were you suddenly terminated from your job? Depending on your circumstances, you may be the victim of unlawful termination. Here are some tips and advice.

At-Will Employees

Most employees will not have a claim for wrongful termination against their former employer. This is because most workers are at-will employees. This means that their employer can hire and fire them at will. However, there are common exceptions to this, as you'll see in the following paragraphs.

Breach of Contract

If there was a contract that guaranteed employment to you for a certain amount of time, then your termination would be illegal. This contract doesn't have to be a written one. If you can prove that there was an implied or verbal contract, the courts may also deem the termination unlawful.

Breach of Good Faith

Sometimes, the courts will consider a termination wrongful if there was a breach of good faith. This is harder to prove, but it applies to certain situations. For example, if you were fired so that you can't collect sales commissions, or you were fired a few days before retiring even though you've been a model employee for many years so that your employer wouldn't have to pay for your retirement, that would likely be called wrongful termination.

Breach of Public Policy

There are certain reasons for which even at-will employees cannot be fired. This varies from state to state, but there are some that are universal. For example, if you were fired based on your sex, race, age, religion, etc (and in some places, your sexual orientation), that is illegal. Other breaches of public policy would be stuff such as being fired for taking off time to vote or in retaliation for reporting illegal activities.

For help with fighting an unlawful termination, contact us today!

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.

Employment Law and Misclassification as an Independent Contractor

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Independent contractors and employees present themselves as similar and mistakenly, interchangeable terms for two distinct types of workers. Generally, independent contractors likely work for themselves and do not experience the withdrawal of taxes from entities they provide services to. However, employees' earnings must undergo adjustments from respective businesses to cover taxes related to income, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment.

Should business owners negligently misclassify an employee as an independent contractor, serious implications follow that affect both the government and workers concerned. When a business misclassifies you as an independent contractor, the business unlawfully:

  • Denies unemployment insurance and workers' compensation for extenuating circumstances, including layoffs and work site accidents.
  • Fails to withhold income taxes, often subjecting workers to financial hardship in the face of costly tax bills.

If you believe that your employer misclassifies you as an independent contractor, depriving you of the above benefits, consider taking the following actions:

  • Contact the California Department of Industrial Relations. Individuals who report suspected misclassification are kept anonymous, and reports meriting further review should result in an investigation led by the proper state entity.
  • Wages serve as a key indicator of misclassification. If you work overtime and receive inadequate compensation, or if your earnings amount to less than minimum wage, report violations to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
  • When businesses fail to withhold taxes, they commit tax fraud. Workers may determine their status as an employee versus an independent contractor through the Internal Revenue Service's Form SS-8. However, unlike the other entities mentioned, the IRS does not keep workers' identities anonymous. Therefore, misclassified workers should consult experienced legal counsel for proper recourse.

At the Spencer Law Firm, our legal team strives to ensure fairness in pay and benefits allotted to workers based on lawful classification. If you, a friend, or family member experiences or experienced misclassification as an independent contractor, contact us to discuss your options.

Employment Law: Unlawful Termination Based on Filing a Worker's Compensation Claim

Thursday, February 09, 2017

California employment law sets forth the rules, regulations, statutes, and case law relevant to the relationship between employers and employees. Generally, employment relationships in California are "at-will", meaning that an employee may be terminated at any time, for any reason. However, there are notable exceptions to this general rule. One exception is that an employer may not terminate an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim. A worker who suffers an on-the-job injury is entitled by statute to file a claim for compensation.

An employee whose employment is terminated after filing or otherwise initiating a worker's compensation claim may have a claim against the employer for wrongful termination. Damages that a successful claimant might recover from a former employer include compensation for lost wages and the value of lost benefits. In some cases, successful claimants may recover damages for emotional distress and for attorney fees.

Generally, to prove unlawful termination based on filing a worker's compensation claim, the claimant must show that he or she was an employee entitled to receive worker's compensation benefits; that he or she filed a claim for worker's compensation; that he or she suffered an adverse consequence, such as termination of employment; and that the employer imposed the adverse consequence because of the filing of the worker's compensation claim.

It is important to seek legal advice from an experienced employment law attorney if you believe your employer wrongfully discharged you. Please contact us to discuss the facts of your case and your legal rights and remedies.

Employment Law: Retaliation Other Than Termination

Friday, November 11, 2016

When employees take action on unsafe work conditions, laws in California provide protection. While termination may be the first form of retaliation that employees think of, other adverse actions by an employer may also be prohibited by law.

Protection from lesser forms of retaliation is fundamentally the same as protection from termination. In practice, however, lesser forms of retaliation can be more difficult to pursue.

Cal/OSHA protection extends to employees who files a complaint against an employer with the agency and to employees who refuse to work under conditions that violate the California labor code and which are an imminent hazard.

Retaliation encompasses a variety of actions but generally means any adverse treatment. This can include, demotion, removal of future promotion opportunities, undesirable work assignments or shifts, creating a hostile work environment, unequal treatment compared to similar employees with regards to vacation choice or overtime opportunities. Many other mistreatments could also be retaliation.

An important hurdle in managing a retaliation issue is that adverse treatment is only retaliation if done in response to the employee acting on a safety issue. An employer who is willing to retaliate may carefully build a case pinning their action to other issues, including job performance. Since everyone has positives and negatives in their job performance, the employer may succeed simply by emphasizing the negatives and remaining silent on the positives.

Most people have good instincts about being treated fairly and about why they are treated unfairly. Unfortunately, having a good instinct is not be enough to legally protect yourself. If you believe that you are being treated adversely because of your stance on a health or safety issue, a conversation with a qualified attorney may help. Please call.

Employment Law: Whistleblowers and Health Care Fraud

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There are several obstacles to detecting fraud in health care. For example, a patient will have treatment described in a medical chart but will have diagnostic billing codes in a separate billing statement. While a payer could request the chart for comparison with the billing statement, the simple volume of work makes this routinely infeasible.

Since these two pieces of information are together in the medical facility that provided treatment, billing workers in these offices are most likely to know if fraud is occurring. Detecting fraud depends on honest medical workers disclosing their concerns.

The law that makes it possible to expose billing fraud is the False Claims Act (FCA), which dates back to 1863 and was originally passed to control fraud in military procurement during the Civil War. In cases such as this, the legal dispute is really between the US Government and the medical treatment facility, for Medicare/Medicaid cases. The critical person (the knowledgeable whistleblower) does not have standing, in the normal legal sense.

In the FCA, a provision known as qui tam addresses this. The whistleblower is called a relator and is allowed to join a suit with the government. The information held by whistleblowers is so valuable that the FCA provides for the whistleblower to share in any recovered money from the case. In a large case in Tucson, a billing worker received $6 million out of the total $35 million recovered.

Taking on a medical fraud case through the FCA is a big step. Before doing so, it is advisable to understand the full impact of such a decision and to have family support. If litigation is pursued, strong, experienced representation is critical. Please contact us.

Reasons Why You May Need an Attorney Experienced in Employment Law

Friday, July 22, 2016

If you’re not happy with your employer, whether it be because you're treated unfairly, the work conditions are deplorable, or you've suffered some type of harassment, it’s possible you can do something about it. Retaining an employment attorney can help you sort through the process by filing a complaint and representing you in a dispute. However, it’s best to know what to expect before you retain an attorney experienced in employment law.

Employment Lawyer Duties

Lawyers that specialize in employment law represent clients in a number of different matters, including:

  • Mistreatment by their employer
  • Wrongfully terminated
  • Unemployment compensation matters

When You May Need an Employment Lawyer

A lawyer who practices in the area of employment law is useful if you believe your employer has breached an employee/employer contract you're both a party to. If you feel you were wrongfully terminated, have suffered some type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, or the conditions in the environment where you work are less than favorable, an employment lawyer can assist you with filing claims against your employer.

What to Expect

The entire process depends on the type of claim you wish to file against your employer. An employment lawyer will sit down with you and review the specific laws that pertain to your situation. If you’re successful, you may receive some type of compensation for the damages you've suffered.

Employees have rights, but many times employers ignore those rights, and employees don't realize they have options. For more information on employment law and your rights as an employee, contact us.

$1.75 Million Settlement in Class Action Employment Law Overtime Case

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In California, employees who are not exempt from overtime rules must be paid overtime when they work more than eight hours per day. In a recent case, employees claimed that they should have been paid overtime for the time they spent waiting for mandatory bag checks.

The class-action lawsuit was brought on behalf of 7,300 employees of Coach, the luxury handbag and accessories manufacturer. The employees worked in Coach retail stores, and they alleged that they were required to submit to a bag check every time they left the store for a rest break, meal break, or when leaving the store at the end of their work shift.

The employees alleged that waiting for the bag checks could take up to 30 minutes per day. Each time they left, they had to clock out, find a manager, request the manager do a bag check, and then have the manager escort them out. 

The time spent on bag checks cut into the employees' time for breaks and caused them to stay longer in the stores after their shifts were over.  The lawsuit claimed that this practice violated California's wage and hour laws because the employees should have been paid for the time spent on the bag checks, and that for full-time employees, the pay should have been overtime pay.

The judge, in denying Coach's motion to dismiss the case, found that 30 minutes per day was a significant amount of time. Rather than go to trial, Coach settled the lawsuit for $1.75 million.

Please contact us for more information on California overtime requirements or other aspects of Employment Law.