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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

California Supreme Court rules employees entitled to on call pay

Should you be paid for sleeping on the job? According to the California Supreme Court, the answer is a resounding yes -- unless, that is, your employer has an applicable wage order that expressly authorizes them to exclude compensable hours from your pay.

This decision comes after a group of security guards filed a class action lawsuit against their employer alleging that they were owed minimum wage and overtime pay for being forced to remain on the job site in company trailers while they were on call. The security guards could reportedly use the time they were on call for personal activities; however, they were not allowed to have their children or pets in the trailers during this time, nor have any adult visitors unless the security company received approval from their client. The guards were also required to notify the dispatcher if they wanted to leave the job site while on call and were told to remain within a 30-minute radius.

Should my California employer be paying me overtime?

Exemption status determines whether a Los Angeles employee receives extra pay for working longer hours or an extended workweek. Some California employers try to avoid paying overtime through misclassification of employees. If you have an exempt status, the employer is not required to offer more pay than you already get.

Nonexempt adult employees are due overtime which, under some circumstances, can equal a pay rate that is double regular pay. Overtime begins when nonexempt employees put in more than eight hours in a single workday or 40 hours or more than six days in a workweek.

What is constructive termination?

Constructive termination, which is sometimes known as constructive discharge, occurs when an employee is forced to quit because their work environment has become so intolerable that they felt they had no choice but to leave. In some cases, this may be the result of an employer attempting to intentionally force the employee out. These types of intolerable conditions may include harassment or discrimination. They could also include acts by the employer that force the employee into a job position or a cut in pay because of a reason that is unrelated to the employee's work performance.

As you may know, employees who quit a job on their own are generally unable to collect unemployment benefits. When employees feel that they were forced to leave their jobs, however, and constructive termination is the reason, they may not only be able to receive unemployment benefits, but may still be within their rights to actually sue the company for forcing them to quit.

Police department wrongful termination suits end in settlement

A Los Angeles company has a lot of flexibility during the employee firing process. California's at-will employment law states an employer does not require a reason to terminate a worker any more than an employee needs an explanation to quit a job. However, employment laws also protect workers from being fired unjustly.

A $500,000 settlement was reached recently, during the first of two unfair discharge lawsuits filed by a married couple against the City of Newport Beach. The plaintiffs once worked for the Newport Beach Police Department. The wife was a dispatcher and the husband was a sergeant before his demotion to patrol officer.

When am I entitled to family and medical leave?

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act was put into place as a way to help employees balance the demands of their workplace with the medical needs of their families. This act provides that you are entitled to take a period of time off from work if you or a family member have a serious health condition and that you may do so without the fear of losing your job.

There are several stipulations involved in taking this time off. As an example, you are only entitled to take up to 12 weeks off. In most cases, the time you are away is considered unpaid leave. In the state of California, however, there is also the California Family Rights Act, which states that if an employee is eligible, he or she may be paid by his or her employer through any accumulated paid leave or accrued vacation time that is not considered accrued sick leave.

California leave laws include paid time off

California is one of just three states with paid family leave laws and only one of nine with clear leave laws complementing the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA and California Family Rights Act permit qualified workers to take 12 weeks off, without pay, to be with a new child or attend to serious personal health issues or illnesses of immediate family members.

Paid Family Leave in California is a supplement to unpaid leave guarantees provided under the FMLA and the CFRA. Under PFL, employees to collect up to six weeks of benefits for time off to care for a new child or address a family medical problem.

What you should know about pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is the act of treating a woman unfavorably in the workplace because of the fact that she is pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a law that works to prevent this type of discrimination and states that an employer may not discriminate against a woman because she is pregnant or has given birth. This act applies to both employees as well as job applicants.

In most cases, this means that an employer must provide the exact same benefits to all of his or her employees, regardless as to whether or not they are pregnant. As an example, if all employees are provided with health insurance, a woman who is pregnant must also be covered by the same insurance. She must also be provided with the same other types of benefits provided to others, including retirement and disability benefits.

When is a California employer required to pay overtime?

Los Angeles workers who are not exempt from receiving added pay for extra work are entitled to overtime. Federal and state rules dictate whether a worker is classified as exempt or nonexempt from overtime. An employer's failure to pay overtime can be challenged through the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, a legal action in civil court or both.

Many workers are unsure of their exemption status. Some assume things, like all salaried workers are ineligible for extra pay for extra work. In fact, employers are required to pay overtime to all nonexempt workers, including salaried employees.

What defines a hostile work environment?

While you may hate your job, and dislike some of the people that you work with, that doesn't necessarily equate to a "hostile work environment." In fact, even if you are the victim of sexual harassment, but it is an isolated incident within your workplace, it may not mean that your place of employment is a hostile work environment.

Instead, the Federal Communications Commission defines a hostile work environment as harassment that unreasonably interferes with an employee's ability to perform his or her job, or when the harassment creates a work environment that is considered offensive, intimidating, or hostile. It must also be considered unwelcome and the harassment must be based on something about your color, religion, race, national origin, disability or genetic information, age (40 or older), or sex (which includes pregnancy).

Filing a California job retaliation or discrimination complaint

Federal and state labor laws protect Los Angeles workers, but many employees still hesitate to file complaints or take actions. No one wants to make trouble at work. Losing a paycheck is too risky for many workers.

However, employers who get away with harassment and discrimination aren't going to stop as long as employees accept the status quo. Employers are aware of employment laws they're expected to follow, but some companies ignore them. Failing to report misconduct and illegal activities is like giving employers permission abuse workers as they please.