Gender Wage Gap – California Fair Pay Act

Gender Wage GapThe gender wage gap has been around for a long time, and came to the forefront with Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. Although Clinton lost the election, the issue she ran on is still alive and well. Are you a woman who suspects disparate wages due to gender discrimination?  You need an experienced legal team to help you recoup the wages you deserve.

Gender Wage Gap in California

An analysis of California wages demonstrates that women were earning about $8,000 less per annum than men in 2012. Women of color lagged even further behind. Latina women earned only 43 cents on the dollar, Black women earned 63 cents on the dollar, and Asian women earned 72 cents on the dollar in comparison to white men. The situation has improved with time, but women on average earn just 79 cents to every dollar a man earns in this country.

Why the Gender Wage Gap?

Research indicates that women traditionally gravitate toward lower paying jobs, such as nursing and teaching. Even in professions such as marketing and technology, women actually ask for roughly $14,000 less than their male counterparts for the same job. That makes it easy for employers to offer women about 3% less than men for the exact same position.

Discrimination may play a role in wage disparities. A Cornell study concluded that when women compete for men for the same job while holding equivalent credentials. Their study corroborates with census data indicating that across industries, job functions, and educational background. Women earn significantly less than men for the same work.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap in California

This fall, Governor Jerry Brown took a step to improve matters when he signed a tough new pay equity law that will come into effect in January 2017. Supplementing state and federal laws requiring equal pay for equal work, the new California Fair Pay Act prohibits bosses from paying employees less for “substantially similar work” when their titles or locations differ. It also bans retaliation against employees who discuss their disparate salaries.

Now, more than ever, rather than differentiating pay at will, employers must apply a reasonable standard based on seniority, merits, quantity or quality of production, education, or experience.  Furthermore, employers must keep accurate records of pay for three years.

Remedies for Discrimination and Retaliation

Under statute, employees may recover wages plus interest and attorney’s fees. If unfairly discharged as retaliation, an employee may pursue civil action and seek reinstatement, as well as pay for lost wages and benefits, plus interest. The employee must make such a claim within one year of the perceived actions. [Read more…]

Final Paycheck When Leaving a Job

Final PaycheckWhen can I expect to receive my final paycheck? Dissatisfied with your employment situation, you look for another job, providing your current employer with two weeks’ notice. You expect your final paycheck On the last day of employment along with unused vacation and sick pay. You are told, however, that payment will be deferred until the end of the pay period. So you scratch your head and wait for the check. Ten days later when it comes, the paycheck includes payment for the hours you worked, but nothing more. Where is the compensation for unused vacation and sick days?

What now? This is precisely the type of question that an experienced employment lawyer can assist with.

Was I Entitled to my Final Paycheck on the Last Day I was Employed?

In this situation, the answer is yes. The employee’s final paycheck is due within 72 hours of termination if the employee leaves without notice. The check may be picked up at the office or mailed to a designated address. If notice was given 72 hours or more prior to leaving, as in this case, the final check is due at the time of termination and at the location of the employer’s office.

What About Unused Sick Days and Vacation Days?

Earned, unused vacation pay must be included in the final payment. The same is not true for unused sick leave, however. Unless your contract says otherwise, California law does not ensure payment for these unused days.

Can Penalties Be Assessed if I am Forced to Wait for My Final Paycheck?

California law provides for employees who were discharged or who quit to be reimbursed at their daily wage for up to 30 days if an employer willfully fails to pay the earned wages in the time frame outlined. In this case, the 10 days of waiting may qualify for penalties. Also, the failure to pay out the unused vacation days may result in additional penalties. In Mamika v. Barca (1998) the court determined that the penalty would be calculated based on the monthly wage rather than at the daily rate for 30 days, which resulted in a slightly lower penalty.

Am I Entitled to Severance Pay?

California law does not require employers to provide severance pay, although many companies do have their own contractual obligations. It is important to examine your contract with regard to this matter.

Can I Collect Unemployment While Looking for a New Job?

All employers must pay unemployment insurance, which covers employees except in certain circumstances. In this case, you quit your job. Unless you can demonstrate good cause for quitting, you are likely ineligible for unemployment benefits. [Read more…]

Jointly Employed? New NLRB Ruling Has Major Implications

Jointly EmployedDoes your business include employees who are jointly employed (meaning that they work for you and another employer), as well as employees who work only for you? If the answer is yes, a new ruling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may complicate how your company handles collective bargaining.

In the case of Miller & Anderson, Inc., the NLRB was faced with the issue of whether workers who are solely employed by one employer can collectively bargain alongside jointly employed workers without the permission of their employers. It does not mark the first time the NLRB has ruled on the jointly employed issue. In 2000, in the case of M.B. Sturgis, Inc., the NLRB ruled that employer consent was not necessary. In 2006, however, the NLRB took the opposite approach in Oakwood Care Center, 348 N.L.R.B. No. 37, and held that Sturgis was incorrect.

The ruling in Miller & Anderson is a return to the Sturgis standard. It holds that jointly employed workers in this situation can bargain collectively, regardless of whether their employers approve.

A Return to the Old Standard

This issue involves Section 9(b) of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 9(b) refers to different types of bargaining units, such as “employer units,” “craft units,” and “plant units.” The NLRB has long held that when employer units contain employees who work for multiple employers, these “multi-employer” units can only bargain collectively with the consent of all parties – meaning all of the employers involved have to give their permission.

But what happens when some of the employees are employed by a “supplier” employer (such as a temp agency) and perform work for a “user” employer? (The NLRB refers to these types of units as “Sturgis” units.) Does a Sturgis unit constitute a multi-employer unit?

In Oakwood, the NLRB ruled that Sturgis units are multi-employer units. However, Miller & Anderson reverses this holding. It states that multi-employer units are created “without regard for any preexisting community of interest among the employees of the various separate employers.” According to the ruling, a traditional multi-employer unit contains employees whose employers have nothing to do with one another, aside from being in the same industry.

A Sturgis unit, on the other hand, contains employees who are all employed by the same employer (even though some of the employees are joint employees, who also work for a different employer). The Miller & Anderson ruling states that because workers in Sturgis units share an employer, Sturgis units are not multi-employer units, and that they meet Section 9(b)’s definition of an employer unit – which does not require employer consent to bargain collectively. [Read more…]

Will California’s Equal Pay Law Be Amended to Include Race?

Equal Pay LawWill California’s equal pay law be amended to include race? California employers should already be familiar with the state’s Fair Pay Act, which prohibits them from paying employees lower wages than employees of the opposite gender who perform substantially similar work. The law, which took effect on January 1, 2016, is considered the strictest of its kind in the nation.

Racial disparities may soon be prohibited, in addition to gender disparities. State Senator Isadore Hall has introduced legislation that applies similar prohibitions with regards to race. If Senate Bill No. 1063 becomes law, an employer may not pay employees lower rates than employees of other races or ethnicities for performing substantially similar work – with certain exceptions.

The Bill’s Specifications

The bill does not state that all employees must receive the same salaries paid to colleagues of other races that hold the same position. Rather, it prohibits employers from paying their employees lower salaries than other employees of other races or ethnicities performing substantially similar work (when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility), unless an employer can demonstrate a valid reason for the wage differential.

If you are wondering what would be considered a valid reason, the legislation provides guidance. Racial wage disparities would not be in violation if an employer can show that they are based on either:

  • A seniority system
  • A merit system
  • A system based on the quantity or quality of an employee’s production, or
  • A bona fide factor other than race or ethnicity.

The legislation also specifies that a factor will only be considered bona fide if it is not related to race or ethnicity, if it is related to the employee’s particular job, and if it is “consistent with a business necessity.” Also, if the employee who is making a complaint can show that there is a different practice that would satisfy the business necessity without a racial pay disparity, then the factor will not be considered bona fide.

The bill gives examples of the types of factors that could qualify. These include education, training and experience.

What Would Happen to Employers Who Violate the Equal Pay Law?

Employers who violate the law would be liable for damages to employees who have been affected by the wage disparities. They would be required to pay the employees for their lost wages, along with interest, and an additional equal amount of liquidated damages.

The legislation also specifies that an employee who is entitled to these damages would also be entitled to compensation for the costs of their suit, and reasonable attorney’s fees. In order to recover damages under a civil action, the action must be commenced within two years of when the discrimination occurs – unless there has been a willful violation, in which case the action must be commenced within three years. [Read more…]

Fair Labor Standards Act and “Fair Notice”

Fair Labor Standards ActOnce an employee has made a complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), she is protected from retaliatory acts such as being fired for making the complaint. What if the employee never filed a formal complaint, and instead she simply alerted management to a potential Fair Labor Standards Act violation? And what if the employee was a manager? If a manager voices concerns that her company is not complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act, would it be clear that she was actually making a complaint under the FLSA, or would it appear that she was just doing her job?

The Fair Labor Standards Act Case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed this scenario in the case of Rosenfield v. GlobalTranz Enterprises, Inc. The plaintiff, Alla Rosenfield, was hired by the defendant, a transportation management services company, to serve as their Manager of Human Resources. She was later promoted to the position of Director of Human Resources and Corporate Training.

Rosenfield made numerous complaints to her superiors that the organization was violating the FLSA. Her boss, who saw himself as the only employee at GlobalTranz in charge of FLSA compliance, agreed to look into her concerns. Rosenfield later concluded that he had not corrected the violations and complained to him again.

Shortly afterward, he fired her. Rosenfield then filed a wrongful termination complaint, which included an allegation that her firing was retaliation in violation of the FLSA. At trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The court granted the motion, holding that Rosenfield’s complaints to management did not actually constitute an FLSA complaint. Rosenfield appealed.

Fair Labor Standards Act and “Fair Notice”

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that an employer must be given “fair notice” that an employee is making a complaint. Under this precedent, a complaint must be “sufficiently clear and detailed” that a reasonable employer would recognize it as an assertion of the rights protected by the FLSA.

Several federal courts have adopted a separate standard for complaints from managers when determining if complaints are sufficiently clear and detailed. The rationale behind this distinction is that when an entry-level employee points out a violation of the FLSA, the most obvious explanation is that the employee is asserting his or her rights – whereas a manager who does the same thing may be pointing out the violation as part of his or her job duties.

The Ruling

The Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiff. Its decision overturned the summary judgment ruling, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court determined that because informing management of FLSA violations was not part of Rosenfield’s job portfolio, it should have been reasonably clear to her superiors that when she notified them about FLSA violations, she was not simply doing her job.

In the ruling, the Court rejected the idea that all managers should be held to a different standard than non-managerial employees. Rather, the Court held that complaints should be resolved on a case-by-case basis, in which an employee’s managerial status is one factor. [Read more…]

SB 358: Equal Pay for Substantially Similar Work

equal payThe concept of paying men and women equal pay for equal work should be familiar to California employers but under new legislation, wage equality requirements no longer apply only to employees with identical job descriptions. Employers are now required to pay male and female employees equal wages for doing “substantially similar” work.

The legislation in question, California Senate Bill 358, was signed into law on October 6, 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown at the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in Richmond. The new legislation amends Section 1197.5 of the California Labor Code.

What Does the equal pay Bill Say?

SB 358 states that an employer may not pay any of its employees at lower wage rates than employees of the opposite sex for work that is substantially similar, when viewed “as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions,” unless the employer can demonstrate that:

  • The wage differential is based upon one or more of the following factors: a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, and/or a bona fide factor other than sex (such as education, training or experience.)
  • Each factor is relied upon reasonably, and
  • The factor or factors relied upon account for the entire wage differential.

The legislation clarifies that if an employer cites a “bona fide factor other than sex,” it must not be based on, or derived from, a sex-based differential in compensation. In addition, the factor must be related to the job in question, and it must be consistent with a business necessity.

Other aspects of the legislation include:

  • The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which is in charge of administering and enforcing the legislation, may supervise the wages that are due to employees when a violation takes place.
  • Employers must maintain records of the wages and wage rates, job classifications, and other terms of employment of their employees. The records must be maintained for at least three years.
  • When an employee files a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the name of the employee will be kept confidential until the Division establishes the validity of the complaint. (There is an exception to this, however, if abridging the employee’s confidentiality prevents the Division from investigating the complaint.) If the employee withdraws the complaint before his or her confidentiality is abridged, then the Division will maintain the employee’s confidentiality.

Your Equal Pay Responsibilities Under the New Law

If you run a business in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California, and you have not monitored whether there is a gender gap in your employee’s wages, it is time to start. Consulting an attorney to ensure your wages meet the standards of this legislation may be far less expensive than dealing with a gender discrimination lawsuit. [Read more…]

Big Labor Rights Movement Win For California-Area Walmart Employees

labor rights movementBig labor rights movement win for California-area Walmart employees. Walmart employees at stores in Richmond and Placerville, California recently had a big win against their retail giant employer. In fact, in December an administrative law judge found in favor of California-area Walmart employees who claimed that they were unfairly disciplined for attempting to organize employees in a strike and other collective bargaining activities. The National Labor Relations Board Administrative law judge of Washington, D.C. ordered Walmart to stop pressuring employees in order to prevent work stoppages, because it is believed that Walmart used intimidation tactics to encourage employees to return from strikes. Walmart was also ordered by the judge to change its dress code for its California employees who were being restricted from wearing pro workers’ rights shirts.

Labor Rights Movement

The administrative judge’s decision in favor of the California Walmart employees is a victory for the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), an employee-based campaign advocating enhanced health benefits and better pay for Walmart’s employees at the companies  4,000+ U.S. stores. Though OUR Walmart is not an official labor union that represents workers in collective bargaining issues, the organization does receive substantial support and advice from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. On Black Friday of this year, OUR Walmart led employee protests at over 1,000 Walmart stores, while calling for more full-time jobs opportunities and also for a $14 base wage paid to employees.

The OUR Walmart Labor Movement

The NLRB ruling was supported by the federal law that prohibits employer retaliation against workers who support unions, and also prohibits employers from making intimidating statements intended to discourage workers from supporting worker unions. The NLRB judge ruled that a California Walmart manager had unlawfully threatened to close a Walmart store if employees decided to join the (Organized United for Respect at Walmart) or “OUR” Walmart in its demands for higher wages, and also that Walmart had illegally disciplined employees for exercising their legal right to go on strike. It was discovered that one specific Walmart manager had used illegal intimidation tactics against workers by stating that “If it were up to me, I’d shoot the union.” Furthermore, it was also found that it was an unlawful statement for the Walmart managers to tell its employees that their co-workers who had returned from a one-day strike would soon be looking for new jobs.

In addition to claims that Walmart prevented employees from exercising their right to both strike and organize, the suit also focused on dress code restrictions enforced at Walmart’s California stores that prohibited employees from wearing most logos excluding clothing manufacturers and also Walmart logos. This restriction served to prevent workers from wearing clothing that expressed the OUR Walmart cause and message. The administrative judge’s ruling, which focused only on the two specific California Walmart stores, is the first NLRB judge opinion that was submitted since OUR Walmart began operations in 2010. Complaints about labor practices at Walmarts across the U.S. have also been consolidated into one nationwide complaint that is currently ongoing.

If you need legal advice and representation regarding workers’ collective bargaining rights, or any other employment law legal assistance, you should contact our employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in California today.

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Are Unpaid Interns Protected From Harassment or Discrimination in the Workplace?

InternshipAre unpaid interns protected from harassment or discrimination in the workplace? California employment law is changing rapidly and creating more protections for employees.  In addition, Governor Brown just signed a new law that protects unpaid interns from harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

California law already prohibited discrimination and harassment of employees.  The new law means that unpaid interns are also afforded the same protections.

What does the law provide for unpaid interns?

  • Employers cannot discriminate against interns on the basis of protected characteristics in the hiring, firing or training of unpaid interns.  Protected characteristics include age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Employers may not harass unpaid interns based on protected characteristics. As is the case with employees, employers may be liable for harassment against unpaid interns if the employer knows about the harassment and fails to take appropriate corrective action.
  • Employers specifically may not discriminate against unpaid interns on the basis of their religious beliefs and must provide reasonable accommodations for interns to observe religious obligations.

The law goes into effect January 1, 2015.  California joins New York, the District of Columbia, Oregon and Illinois as states that have laws that protect unpaid interns against sexual harassment and discrimination.

Why Protect Unpaid Interns?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California state law already provided protection for employees.  The new California law extending protections to interns was proposed after several courts around the country barred unpaid interns from bringing sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits because they technically are not employees.

A case in New York that received a lot of media attention was one involving a Syracuse University student who sued the company where she was an intern because she alleged that her supervisor had sexually harassed her and groped her then retaliated against her when she reported his misconduct.  The court in New York decided that the intern could not sue the company where she had her internship because the law only protected employees, not interns.

The new law is especially important in California, where jobs in the entertainment, film, media and technology industries are highly competitive and many people are willing to work as unpaid interns with the hope of eventually becoming a paid employee.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment comes in many different forms, but includes:

  • threatening an employee with termination, a reduction of hours, less desirable work shifts, or denial of a promotion if the employee does not perform sexual favors;
  • unwanted sexual advances;
  • inappropriate touching; and
  • sharing inappropriate sexual images, pornography or other sexual content with employees.

What is Discrimination?

If an employer makes decisions regarding its employees and uses an employee’s gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy or disability to make that decision, that employer may be engaging in discrimination.  Some of these decisions may include who to hire and fire, how much to pay employees, which employees receive a promotion, who loses their job during layoffs, and retirement plans.  There may be other situations where an employer unlawfully discriminates against an employee.  If you believe you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, it is best to consult with an attorney.

Experienced California Employment Attorneys

If you feel that you have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it is important to consult with an experienced employment attorney who will discuss your rights with you.  The attorneys at Beck Law P.C. have experience negotiating and litigating employment law issues and are available to discuss your case.  Please contact us to make an appointment.

How Long do I Have to Sue My Employer?

ContractHow Long do I Have to Sue My Employer? If your potential suit is in regards to a Fair Employment and Housing Act Violation, earlier this year, a California Court of Appeals released a decision regarding an employee’s claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  The decision is the first to address the issue of how long an employee has to file a claim, that length of time also known as the statute of limitations. (Non-FEHA claims: intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring)

Fair Employment and Housing Act

FEHA prevents discrimination in employment on the basis of a variety of reasons, including:

  • Age (over 40);
  • Race;
  • Marital status;
  • Gender; and
  • Sexual orientation.

FEHA also protects employees from retaliation for reporting discrimination in the workplace.  Employees may file private lawsuits under the FEHA, but they first must go to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to exhaust their administrative remedies.  An employee has one year from the date of the discriminatory act to file a claim with the Department to seek what is referred to as a right to sue letter.

Employers Cannot Shorten the Time to Sue under the FEHA

The employee in the case, Ellis v. U.S. Security Associates et al., worked as a security guard for a company in Northern California and alleged that she was subjected to sexual harassment by a supervisor.  As the court’s decision details, Ms. Ellis reported unwanted sexual advances and unrealized promises to raise her rate of pay.  Ms. Ellis filed a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a right to sue letter.  She then filed a lawsuit against her former employer.

The lower court dismissed Ms. Ellis’ claims because she had signed an employment agreement when she started working for the security company in which she agreed that she only had 6 months to bring any discrimination claims.  While parties to agreements sometimes do agree to shorten the statute of limitations, the practice is one that has been met with varying success throughout the country.  In this particular instance, the Court of Appeals determined that the provision in the contract shortening the statute of limitations was against public policy and it reversed the lower court’s decision.

The Court of Appeals’ decision on public policy was based on the premise that the FEHA is designed to protect employees against discrimination and retaliation in the workplace and provides remedies for employees who have experienced either.  The FEHA also requires employees to exhaust all administrative remedies.  An employee who follows the rules of the FEHA and exhausts all administrative remedies will likely not be able to sue within a shortened amount of time as allowed by an employment contract.  Therefore, if enforced, the 6-month time period that Ms. Ellis agreed to in her employment contract would have the result of not allowing Ms. Ellis to pursue her claims under the FEHA.  The court determined that this was against public policy and the purpose of the FEHA.

Contact Us for Legal Help

Do you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against at your place of employment? The labor and employment attorneys at Beck Law P.C. have experience litigating employment lawsuits, including sexual harassment and retaliation cases and can advise you on these types of matters.  Please contact us if online or by phone at 707-576-7175 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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Small Businesses Risk $100 Per Day Obamacare Fine

CautionEven though many of us do not quite understand the rules of Obamacare, or what we will be offering our employees, it is no excuse according to the Department of Labor.  Small business owners who were led to believe that they could “ease” into the Obamacare transition in 2015,  and perhaps thought they had time to absorb the rules and guidelines, may be in for an expensive wake-up call next month.

$100 Per Day Obamacare Fine

Beginning Oct. 1, all businesses with at least one employee and $500,000 in annual revenue must notify all employees by letter about the Affordable Care Act’s health-care exchanges, or face up to a $100-per-day fine. The requirement applies to any business regulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is mostly all businesses, regardless of size.

 In addition whenever you hire a new employee, you have 14 days in which to give them all the most current information regarding their healthcare options under the Affordable Care Act’s market exchanges, according to the Department of Labor, or penalties and fines will accrue.  In order to get the model notice that must be sent to all employees, visit the Department of Labor website and download the pdf.

Disclaimer

The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.