Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to File a Complaint with the California Labor Commissioner

The office of the Labor Commissioner at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) reviews claims of employees regarding employers who violate laws related to employment. Filing a complaint may involve strict deadlines, accurate completion of a number of forms, and collection and submission of evidence supporting your claim. The following includes some information regarding how to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.

Discrimination Complaints

Specific procedures must be followed in order to file a complaint regarding unlawful discrimination based on protected factors, harassment, retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment, wrongful termination, or other related matters. To file a complaint, you must:

  • Be an applicant, employee, or former employee who suffered adverse employment actions (denial of job, demotion, termination, or other discipline) due to unlawful discrimination or retaliation.
  • File your complaint within six months of the discriminatory action (this deadline can vary for other specific types of claims, so always check with an attorney regarding the deadline in your case).
  • Complete and mail the correct form, including your personal information, employer information, your allegations, the remedies you are seeking, and witnesses who can attest to your allegations.
  • File your claim by mail or in person at the office of the DLSE that handles discrimination claims in your area.

Wage Claims

These requirements apply to filing a wage-related complaint:

  • You must be an employee or former employee who has suffered one of the following:
    • Unpaid wages;
    • Unauthorized deductions from your pay;
    • Failure to reimburse you for business expenses;
    • Inadequate meal or rest break periods;
    • A paycheck that bounced;
    • Not receiving your final paycheck; or
    • Not being allowed to inspect your pay records.
  • You must file your claim within three years of the alleged violation (or within one year for certain types of violations).
  • You must accurately complete and mail the correct wage claim form, including detailed information regarding your hours worked, wages received, and unpaid wages. You must also complete any additional necessary forms if your claim involves irregular hours, commission, or vacation wages.
  • You must submit a copy of your time records, pay statements and checks, dishonored checks, notice of employment information, and collective bargaining agreements, if applicable.
  • You must file your claim by mail or in person at the office of the DLSE that handles wage claims in your area.

If you make errors on your paperwork or do not send in the correct supporting documents, your claim may be significantly delayed or even denied. You should never risk a denial by incorrectly following procedures for filing a complaint.

Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney for Help Today

Filing a complaint or claim with the Labor Commissioner in California can be complicated. In order to make sure you do not make a mistake and reduce your chances of recovery, you should always seek out the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. At the Pershing Square Law Firm, we have successfully assisted numerous employees receive the compensation they deserve, so please do not hesitate to call today at (213) 377-5796 to discuss your case.

New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part Two)

In the first part of this series, we discussed some of the new employment laws going into effect in California for 2015 involving paid sick leave, discrimination protections for unpaid interns, mandatory harassment training, and protections from immigration-related discrimination. The following are some of the additional changes in the law that may affect employees in our state.

Heat Illness Prevention

A new safety and health provision was enacted intending to protect workers with outdoor jobs from illnesses and conditions related to overexposure to heat. State law already required employers to allow and even encourage workers to take rest and recovery breaks in the shade for at least five minutes when necessary to avoid heat-related illness. The law did not previously specify whether or not such recovery breaks should be counted as paid time, however, the new amendment to the law requires that employers count recovery breaks as time worked and compensate workers for such breaks.

Additional Damages in Child Labor Cases

The Child Labor Protection Act of 2014 provides treble damages for victims of unlawful employment actions that occurred when the individual was a minor. Treble damages mean that the court will automatically multiply the amount of actual damages suffered by three. The statute of limitations in such cases will also be paused until the victim reaches the age of 18 years.

Local Minimum Wage Increases

As of July 1, 2014, minimum wage for California workers is $9.00 per hour, as opposed to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The state minimum wage is set to increase again in 2016 to $10.00 per hour, however employers should also pay close attention to any relevant minimum wage laws on the local level. For example, San Francisco minimum wage increased to $11.05 as of January 1 of this year, and is set to keep gradually increasing up to $15.00 per hour by 2018. The next increase to $12.25 per hour will take place this coming May. Oakland also passed a similar law for its local minimum wage, and Berkeley’s minimum wage is currently at $10.00 with two additional increases in the next two years. All employers should be sure to comply with all local minimum wage laws if they are higher than the state minimum wage.

Penalties to Victims of Retaliation

Previously, California law penalized employers up to $10,000 for unlawful adverse employment actions in retaliation for a worker filing a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The law, however, did not specify to whom the $10,000 would be paid. The new amendment specifies that the victim of the retaliation should receive the funds from the civil penalty.

Contact an Experienced California Employment Law Attorney for Assistance

If you believe that any of your rights as an employee have been violated or if you have experienced unlawful discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you should call the Pershing Square Law Firm to consult with a skilled employment lawyer as soon as possible. We have a thorough understanding of all new and relevant employment laws, so please contact our office for help today.

New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part One)

In 2014, the California legislature passed numerous laws related to employment, most of which went into effect on January 1, 2015. Both employees and employers should be aware of their rights and responsibilities under these new laws. The following is a brief overview of some of the important changes in California employment laws for 2015.

Paid sick leave

Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, any employer in the state must provide paid sick leave to employees who have worked at least 30 days. Employees have the right to accrue sick time at a minimum rate of one paid hour per every 30 days on the job, though employers do have the right to cap the annual accrual of paid sick leave at six days (or 48 hours) or an individual’s annual use of paid sick leave at three days (or 24 hours). Employees must receive their regular rate of pay for sick time used. Though this law does not go into effect until July 1, it is a good idea for employers to begin reviewing sick leave policies now to plan ahead.

Anti-discrimination protection for unpaid interns and volunteers

Lawmakers amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to extend anti-discrimination protections enjoyed by traditional employees to volunteer and unpaid internship positions. Interns and volunteers are now protected from discrimination or harassment at work due based on any of the following:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender (including gender expression and gender identity)
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related conditions)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Physical and mental disabilities, including AIDS and HIV
  • Other medical conditions
  • Religious creed
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Language restrictions
  • Genetic information
  • Military or veteran status

Laws related to immigrants

There are two new laws related to discrimination against non-citizen employees in California. Under these two provisions, employers are prohibited from doing any of the following:

  • Filing or threatening to file a false report with any federal or state agency due to immigration-related reasons.
  • Discriminating or retaliating against an employee due to an update of a lawful change in Social Security number, name, or employment authorization documents.
  • Discriminating against an employee because he or she has an AB 60 driver’s license, which is a type of driver’s license issued to a California resident who cannot prove that they are legally present in the United States, but meet all other licensing qualifications.

Mandatory harassment training

Certain employers in California are already required to have mandatory training for supervisors regarding the prevention of sexual harassment. A new legislative measure now additionally requires employer to include training regarding how to prevent “abusive conduct” in the workplace. The law defines abusive conduct as malicious actions of an employee or employer that a reasonable person would deem offensive, hostile, and not related to any legitimate business purposes of the employer.

These are only some of the new laws for 2015 that affect employers and employees in California. Check back for Part Two of this series for information regarding additional employment laws for this new year. If you have any questions regarding any California employment laws, please call the Pershing Square Law Firm at (213) 377-5796 for assistance or simply click on Get Started.

Employee Rights to Family and Medical Leave in California

In 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act gave qualified employees the right to accrue paid sick time for at least six days per year. However, what happens if an employee has a serious illness or medical condition and requires more than a couple of days off? Having an illness, injury, or sick family member is difficult on its own, but can be significantly harder if you worry about being fired for taking the necessary time off from work. For this reason, both federal and state laws protect certain employees by giving them the right to take leave from work for qualified reasons while their position at work remains protected.

Who is qualified?

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to the following types of employees:

  • Those working at a company with at least 50 workers located within 75 miles;
  • Those who have worked for the company for one year or more; and
  • Those who have worked 1,250 hours or more in the previous year.
  • Serious illness or injury;
  • Caring for a family member with a serious illness or injury;
  • Caring for a newborn baby or new adopted child;
  • As part of a reasonable accommodation for a temporary or permanent mental or physical disability; or
  • Incapacitation due to pregnancy or childbirth (under the FMLA and the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)).

​When is leave available?

In order for you job to be protected, you must have one of the following reasons for extended taking leave from work:

Generally, leave is capped at 12 weeks per year, though this may be extended due to pregnancy complications or certain disability accommodations.

What are your rights under the law in regard to leave?

When you notify your employer of your intent to take FMLA/CFRA for a qualified reason, your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you with any type of adverse employment action due to your leave. Adverse employment actions can include demotion, denial of deserved promotion or raise, termination, discipline, transfer to a less favorable position, and more. Your employer further cannot treat you differently because you took leave time.

Unfortunately, you do not have the right under the law to be paid for you time off under FMLA or CFRA. For this reason, you will only receive pay during this time if your employer has a policy to provide paid leave to employees. An employer may also allow you to apply for paid vacation or sick time to help provide payment during family or medical leave.

Contact an experienced California employment attorney today for help

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA or CFRA, you should always consult with an experienced attorney who has a thorough understanding of employment laws in California. At Pershing Square Law Firm, we are committed to standing up for the rights of employees and helping them recover for any losses they suffered as a result of the violation. Call our office today at 213-377-5796 to discuss your case.