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December 14, 2016

Losing your job can be traumatic. All of a sudden, you don't know how you're going to make your house payments or pay your rent. Will you have to move? What will happen to you and your family if you can't meet your bills?

In an emotional, scary moment, it can be difficult to know how to react. The tendency is to react emotionally, defensively, and in ways that ultimately don't help.

If you are going to fired, and you think that the firing is illegal, there are questions you can ask that may help you later. I know that it's difficult to think clearly and act logically in such a situation. Experience teaches us that the best way to perform when the mom...

June 26, 2016

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"Fairness is what justice really is."
-- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

Women earn less money than men. That is a truism of American life. A 2015 study showed that women make 79 cents for every dollar made by men. Substantial gender-based wage gaps exist in every single profession in which statistically significant samples were available. See http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination

California is no different. A recent study by the Census Bureau showed that women make about 84 cents for every dollar made by men in the Golden State.

California, however, has decided to blaze the trail in correcting this problem. In Ja...

April 4, 2016

California jealously protects the wages of its workers for the most part. Paying workers correctly and on time is a fundamental public policy of our state.

When an employer doesn't pay all the wages that it owes its employee, severe penalties and interest can attach that are often as much or more than the unpaid wages themselves.

If you haven't been paid correctly, what can you do about it?

I.     What is a Wage?

I said that California protects its workers wages, and that's true. But what qualifies as a wage?

California defines "wages" as "all amounts for labor performed." It doesn't matter whether it's calculated by commission...

April 8, 2015

I recently gave a talk to a group of soon-to-be college graduates about workplace law. I gave them an outline of at-will employment, anti-discrimination laws, and non-compete issues. I told them about laws relating to wages, and how California jealously protects the wages of its workers.

One student raised her hand and asked me, "I am not a United States citizen. Do the laws still protect me?"

I was proud to answer "yes" to her question.

1. Employees include *all* employees in California

California law explicitly states that all of the provisions of its Labor Code apply to "all individuals regardless of immigration status." See Ca. Lab. Code §1171....

January 27, 2015

If you have had something illegal happen to you in the workplace, and you are considering taking legal action, you've probably asked yourself: What is my case worth? If you haven't asked yourself that yet, I urge you to think about it.

Your legal issues aren't just dollars and cents to you. They are about something that really happened, and they affected you and your life. Maybe you want just compensation for what you've gone through, and what you'll continue to go through for the near future. On the other hand, maybe you feel it's crass to try to quantify your distress and assign a dollar value to it.

I.   The Law is Limited in What it Can Do, and "...

October 5, 2014

When people find out what I do for a living, I usually get an earful. Too many lawsuits, they say. The verdicts are too high, they tell me.

The first thing I learned about being a good lawyer is that preparation is key. So I go to parties ready to hear this kind of stuff. Here's what I say to these folks.

1. Who Have You Sued?

I usually start off with a little party game I like to call, "Who Have You Sued?" It goes like this: I ask the person, "Have you ever sued anyone, or been sued?" The next question is, "Do you know anyone who's been sued, or who's sued anyone?"

I feel completely safe asking these questions, because no one's ever answered yes t...

August 11, 2014

Most forms of discrimination are not illegal. It's not illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because they don't like you, because they want to hire their nephew instead of you, or because you wore yellow socks to work one day and they don't like yellow socks. Your employer is legally allowed to discriminate, so long as the discrimination is not based on a protected characteristic, like race, age, sex, disability, or something like that.

By the same token, most forms of retaliation are not illegal either. If you complain to Human Resources that your boss doesn't like you, or that they hired their nephew, you can legally be retaliated ag...

August 5, 2014

Employment in California is at-will. That means that, absent some type of agreement to the contrary, you can be fired for any reason or for no reason at all.

But there are lots of limitations on that rule. The federal government has some limitations, but the State of California has many more. California law frequently models itself after federal law, but then adds additional protections. One example is California's WARN Act, or Cal-WARN.

California's Worker Adjustment and Re-training Notification Act applies to employers with more than 75 employees in the last 12 months. Passed in 2002, Cal-WARN was a reaction to mid-sized companies opening and closi...

June 18, 2014

 • An employee who needs an accommodation for a disability is told there's no work for him, and
     he should just quit.

     • An accountant in a company with state contracts finds that the company is illegally overbilling
     the state. Her boss tells her to resign quietly.

     •  A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace is given two options: (a) take two weeks pay
     and resign quietly, or (b) just quit.

Fearful of harming their employment record and not knowing what the right thing to do is, employees frequently quit their jobs when their employers have do...

May 4, 2014

A deposition is the taking of a witness's testimony under oath. An attorney asks questions, and the witness answers them. Meanwhile, a court reporter is taking down everything everyone says. There may be a video camera recording. The witness's attorney may make objections.

If you are the plaintiff (the person suing the defendant), your deposition is the most important one in the case. Not to put any pressure on, but how the plaintiff comes across as a person can be as important as the facts in the case. No matter how the other attorney acts, treat that person with courtesy and respect, answer the question that was just asked, and wait for the next one...

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