October 25, 2013

People who call me usually think they have more rights than they actually do in the workplace. For example, did you know that if you needed to take care of a disabled grandparent, sister or brother, your employer could fire you for it and there would be nothing you could do about it? At least, that was true until recently. 

 Protection for people with disabilities is covered in California under the Fair Employment & Housing Act ("FEHA"). The FEHA requires that employees with a disability be given a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of their job, if that wouldn't make an undue hardship for the employer.

The FEHA is...

October 16, 2013

It doesn't happen often, but I sometimes get calls from workers who are being sued by their former employers. You won't be surprised to learn that these workers are pretty panicked. Getting sued is scary, especially if you're being sued by your former employer. After all, they know a lot about you, they probably have much more money than you do, and the idea of getting sued by them is just downright frightening.

Most of what I see involves former employers claiming that their ex-employee stole "trade secrets" or "confidential information" when they went to work for someone else. The run-of-the-mill case involves the former employer whining that their...

October 15, 2013

People frequently ask me about punitive damages, usually when they're trying to figure out how much their case might be worth. I usually tell them I don't consider punitive damages when estimating a case's value, except in very rare circumstances. Here's why.

Juries allow punitive damages when the defendant's actions are so reprehensible that they must be punished. Punitive damages are meant to punish and deter future conduct. Just like in criminal law, there are two types of deterrence in civil law:

  • Specific deterrence: aimed at preventing this same defendant from doing the same bad act again

  • General deterrence: aimed at sending a message t...

October 9, 2013

Can I sexually harass an intern, so long as she's a volunteer and doesn't get paid for her work? Yes, says a New York federal court.

Ms. Lihuan Wang worked as an unpaid intern for Phoenix Satellite Television US in 2009. She sued the company, claiming that its D.C. bureau chief sexually harassed her.

According to Ms. Wang, the bureau chief invited her to his hotel room, claiming that they would talk about hiring her permanently. Ms. Wang claimed that, once she entered his room, the bureau chief threw his arms around her, tried to kiss her, and "squeezed her buttocks with his left hand." Ms. Wang said she refused him, and left the room. According to M...

October 5, 2013

You may have been following the trial of Jackson v. AEG Live, in which Michael Jackson's mother Katherine sued AEG Live. Mrs. Jackson claimed that AEG live was negligent when it hired Dr. Conrad Murray to take care of Michael Jackson's medical needs while preparing for an upcoming concert tour.

After following it as it was happening, and reading about it after the result came out, I can say with perfect 20/20 hindsight, that the jury verdict form may have sunk Katherine Jackson's case from the beginning.

If you've followed the trial, then you know that the jury found that AEG Live wasn't liable for Michael Jackson death. Maybe you saw that coming. Ma...

October 1, 2013

California's Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury, and says that it is an "inviolate right," meaning it's a right that can't be violated.

Oh, but violate it we have. You only thought you had a constitutional right to a jury trial, but if you signed an arbitration agreement when you started working -- or even signed a receipt for an employee handbook with an arbitration agreement in it that you likely didn't read because you were so dang happy at finally getting back to work again -- then you probably sacrificed your right to a jury if things ever go south with your employer.

The good news is that you can still bring a lawsuit when you h...

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