May 16, 2014

Lots of people hate their jobs. It can be demoralizing, stressful, and unhappy. Sometimes, illegal things happen, like you're paid late or people tell lewd and inappropriate jokes. Let's face it: the workplace can really stink.

I've posted before about how not everything that's wrong in the workplace is illegal, which means that there's not always reason to sue for everything that's wrong or unfair. But even when there is cause to sue, it's rarely a good idea.

It might seem odd that an employment attorney is trying to talk people out of suing. The fact is that a good attorney will try to help you preserve your employment relationship, if possible, be...

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...

March 30, 2014

California is a great place to work. We have the sun, great weather, and plenty of things to see and do when you're on vacation. Speaking of vacation, California also has laws that protect the vacation time that you accrue at your job.

No law requires employers to give vacation time to their employees. If they do, however, then that vacation is considered to be wages for that employee.

The fact that vacation is a form of wage comes with a lot of implications. For example, once you have vested in your vacation time, it can never be taken away. "Use it or lose it" vacation policies, which take away your vested vacation if you haven't used it by a certa...

February 27, 2014

I had good responses to my previous post about noncompetes, some of which asked me to fill in the blank I intentionally left: What happens when there's a "choice of law" provision in the noncompete or anti-solicitation agreement? Will the agreement be enforced?

This gets very complicated, so it's best to start off with an understanding of what a "choice of law" provision is.

Every state has its own set of laws. The laws of one state may be quite different from the laws of another. When two parties sign a contract, it will usually be interpreted under the law of the state where the contract was formed.

When signing a contract, though, the parties can...

February 25, 2014

Many of us have seen them: noncompetition and anti-solicitation agreements that are built into our employment contracts. They tell us that, when we leave or are fired and for maybe a year or two afterward, we can't work for a competing business. Maybe they tell us that we can't solicit our employer's clients when we leave.

Because we need the job, we try not to think too much about it when we sign. Years later, when we leave for another company, or maybe when we're fired, or maybe when we leave to start our own business, we wonder if that agreement will come back to haunt us.  Can we work somewhere else? Can we compete for business? Can we even make a...

February 6, 2014

The laws protecting disabled employees in the workplace aren't that complicated, and they're not onerous. In fact, the law uses the word "reasonable" over and over again to describe the protections afforded disabled workers.

California and federal law are very different in this area. Although California's Fair Employment & Housing Act ("FEHA") was modeled after the federal Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the FEHA has developed much differently through the years. So throughout this post, I'll be talking about the FEHA. Just be aware that the ADA may be substantially different.

First of all, what does it mean to have a disability? The FEHA def...

January 22, 2014

Many times, different areas of the law intersect. Most attorneys know just a little bit about tax law, so they can draft settlement agreements to their client's best advantage. I had a case in which I had to learn about family law and community property rules.

The most concerning employment cases, though, are those in which criminal law comes in to play.

Most of the time, when an former employee has taken a criminal act, he's unaware of it. The most common one that I see is secretly recording the former employer or other witnesses. Did you know that it can be a crime to record private conversations without the knowledge of the person you're recording...

December 12, 2013

"Honesty never damages a cause that is just."
-- Mahatma Ghandi

Recently, a client mentioned to me a fact about his case that could reflect poorly on him. He asked me if, when testifying about it, he could say, "Well, the reason was X." My question: "Is X true?" He cast his eyes down, and admitted it wasn't. I told him he couldn't testify that it was.

Putting aside any ethical or moral issues, there are lots of practical reasons to be honest in litigation.

Many people say that the law isn't about a search for the truth. I think it is, and to prove it, there are plenty of ways the legal system seeks out and punishes the untruthful.

1. The Law's Gonn...

November 11, 2013

I'm going to discuss the recent news about the Miami Dolphins, and the words major league football player Richie Incognito said to fellow player Jonathan Martin. I'm using this incident to point out an important principle about simple human decency.

We'll call it The First Principle: It is never okay to insult someone with racial slurs. There are no circumstances and no context in which this is okay. It is always unacceptable.

That's so important, I'm going to say it again: IT IS ALWAYS UNACCEPTABLE TO INSULT SOMEONE WITH RACIAL SLURS.

With that out of the way, we should all feel some horror that Mr. Incognito and his enablers in the Miami Dolphins...

November 3, 2013

People frequently want to know what to do if they feel they're being illegally harassed at work, or if they think that they're about to get fired for an illegal reason. The answer depends on what your goal is, and what your particular situation is like.

First of all, remember that most types of workplace harassment are not illegal. Harassment is only illegal if it's based on a protected characteristic, like race, age, sex, religion, disability, or a handful of others. If you're being harassed at work, but it's not because of a protected characteristic (and you're not in a union), you probably have no legal recourse at all. Consider trying to address t...

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