A recent decision from the California Court of Appeal in Moradi v. Marsh USA, Inc., Cal.Rptr.3d, 2013 WL 5203485 (Sept. 17, 2013) expanded an employer’s vicarious liability for personal injury and property damage when employees get into traffic accidents while using their personal vehicles in connection with the performance of their job duties.
In Moradi, after having transported some employees to a work related program, insurance salesperson Judy Bamberger left her office in her personal vehicle and drove home, planning to make stops for frozen yogurt and to attend a yoga class on the way. As she was entering the yogurt shop’s parking lot, she collided with motorcyclist Majid Moradi. Moradi filed suit against both Bamberger and her employer.
Under respondeat superior, an employer can only be held liable for the actions of an employee if that employee is acting within the scope of his or her employment. Employers are generally not liable for traffic accidents that occur during an employee’s regular commute under the “coming and going” rule, which states that the daily commute is generally considered to be outside the scope of employment. In contrast, when an employee is running a “special errand” for the employer, which takes them away from their regular workplace, the employer may be held liable for traffic accidents that occur during the employee’s commute.
The Court of Appeal rejected the employer’s arguments that Bamberger’s accident occurred during her regular commute home because her job duties required frequent use of an automobile, her employer required her to bring her own personal vehicle to the office and she was expected to make work-related trips using her vehicle during the day. Bamberger was required to use her vehicle to visit prospective clients, give presentations and educational seminars, and transport company materials and coworkers to work-related destinations. The court found that this situation fell under the “required vehicle” exception where an employee is deemed to be engaged in the course of employment even while driving to or from work if the employer gains at least an incidental benefit from the employee using his or her car during the course of the workday.
Beginning on July 1, 2014, under the newly passed Assembly Bill 10, the California minimum wage will be increased to $9.00 with an additional increase to $10.00 an hour on January 1, 2016. Once signed by Governor Jerry Brown, AB 10 will amend Labor Code Section 1182.12 to increase the minimum wage in California.
The minimum wage hike represents a 25% increase over the current rate of $8.00 an hour. Following the increases, California will have the highest minimum wage rate in America. California currently has the eighth highest minimum wage with Washington at the highest at $9.19 an hour. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have set minimum wages higher than the federal mandate of $7.25 an hour.
Proponents of AB 10 believe the bill will strengthen and depoliticize California’s minimum wage by providing an increase to millions of struggling Californians. The California Budget Project has calculated that between 1968 and 2008, the purchasing power of California’s minimum wage fell by 24.8%. Supporters of the bill also bring attention to the Public Policy Institute of California’s findings that California is experiencing the largest income gap in at least 30 years which is exacerbated by the fact that California’s current minimum wage, when adjusted for inflation, is less than the minimum wage workers earned in 1979. Proponents argue that AB 10 will address the current historic income gap, help California’s economy bounce back, and bring the citizens of California back to prosperity.
If you or anyone you know has been the victim of a wage and hour violation, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
A major national general construction contractor, Caddell Construction Company, has agreed to pay $125,000 and be subject to a consent decree in efforts to settle a disability lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC brought the lawsuit on behalf of Patricia Pittman, a former Caddell employee that underwent surgery when she fractured her leg while working at Caddell’s Eglin Air Force Base facility. After her surgery, Caddell refused to provide Pittman with any reasonable accommodation. Pittman had asked for a wheelchair ramp to enter her office and asked permission to use crutches and a walker. Caddell responded to Pittman’s request by terminating her within a few days after her request for accommodation.
In addition to being required to pay $125,000 in damages, pursuant to the two year consent decree, Caddell is obligated to provide training to its employees with regards to their obligations under their American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). Moreover, Caddell must provide an employee notice with regards to the lawsuit at hand, and the notice must inform employees of Caddell’s duty under the law to maintain a workplace that is free of unlawful discrimination. Furthermore, the decree prohibits Caddell from discriminating against employees or future applicants based on disability. Caddell must permit the EEOC to observe compliance with the decree.
Caddell’s conduct may be in violation of California and Federal law. Our firm investigates potential claims involving disability discrimination. If you or someone else you know has been subject to a disability discrimination as an employee, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a consultation.
On August 28, 2013, Valentino Smith, a New York man formerly employed as an unpaid intern by Donna Karan International, Inc. (“DKNY”), filed a class action lawsuit against the company for misclassifying employees as “interns and trainees” and treating them as exempt from minimum wage laws. Smith claims that he was taken advantage of and that his “internship” was really just a way for the company to get free labor.
According to the complaint, during his unpaid “internship” with DKNY, Smith performed “various menial office tasks,” including data entry, shipping inventory, organizing storage closets, and delivering coffee to paid employees. The complaint alleges that these tasks did not consist of any academic or vocational training, as required by law for a position to qualify as an unpaid internship. The complaint further alleges that DKNY intentionally misclassified Smith and other interns as exempt from minimum wage laws in order to minimize labor costs.
Smith has alleged causes of action against DKNY for failure to pay minimum wages in violation of Title 12 NYCRR § 142-2.1 and New York Labor Law § 663 as well as failure to pay wages in violation of New York Labor Law § 652 and unlawful wage deductions in violation of New York Labor Law § 193. Smith has asked the court to award unpaid wages, interest, and attorneys’ fees on behalf of a class of approximately 100 individuals who have worked for DKNY as interns since August 2007 and who were misclassified as exempt from minimum wage requirements.
If you or someone you know has not received wages for all hours worked, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
Telecommunications company AT&T will settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging age discrimination.
Terry Pierce, who had been employed as a sales coach manager by AT&T for 16 years, was terminated in the fall of 2008. Pierce, who was 53 years old at the time of discharge, alleged that she was fired due to her age. The lawsuit further claimed that AT&T retained younger yet lower-performing sales coach managers or gave them the option to transfer.
Pursuant to the settlement, AT&T has agreed to pay $250,000 as monetary relief. The company has also agreed to redistribute its anti-discrimination policy, provide anti-discrimination training, and report to the EEOC on age discrimination complaints and terminations of individuals over the age of 40.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against employees and job applicants who are age 40 or older. The ADEA further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting age discrimination or participating in an investigation relating to such discrimination. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) similarly forbids employers from failing to hire individuals or restricting employees based on their age.
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against at their place of employment, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
The San Francisco Giants baseball team recently paid 74 of its employees $544,715 in back wages and damages, covering over three years of unpaid wages. This settlement resulted from the investigation of the U.S. Department Labor, which determined that the organization violated minimum wage, overtime pay and recording keeping provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Employees from both the major and minor league teams, ranging from hourly workers clubhouse managers and assistants were improperly deprived of their rights and correct wages. Specifically, the investigation revealed that clubhouse employees were working more hours than recorded in the books. Some employees were required to work for a flat rate of $55 per day for 5.5 hours of work; however, these employees would work upwards to 15 hours a day.
If the employees only work 5.5 hours per day, they would be making equivalent to $10 per hour. Instead, these workers who would work upwards to 15 hours per day were making between $4.50 and $3.67. Federal minimum wage laws mandate that an employee make at least $7.25 per hour for work that does not exceed 40 hours in a workweek. If an employee worked more than 40 hours, they are entitled to 1.5 times their wage. Also, many workers were classified as exempt employees, and therefore the minimum wage laws did not apply to them. As a result, the Giants Organization was able to pay these hourly workers a flat rate, with no overtime.
Too often do employers violate employee rights and deprive workers of their hard-earned money. If you or anyone you know has improperly denied wages earned in violation of California and Federal employment law, contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
A San Francisco jury has awarded $2,729,037 to five former employees of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal nuclear weapons research lab operated by a consortium of technology companies and universities, including Bechtel Corporation and the University of California, on behalf of the United States Department of Energy. The five plaintiffs were selected as test cases from a group of 130 former employees of the laboratory, all of whom are suing the lab’s private management company, Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (“LLNS”), for wrongful termination and breach of their employment contracts.
According to the complaint, filed in 2008, after the Department of Energy terminated the University of California’s contract to operate the lab in favor of a largely private coalition led by the construction and engineering giant Bechtel Corporation, 430 permanent employees were unfairly selected for layoff, although their employment contracts specified they could only be terminated for “reasonable cause.” Plaintiffs’ allege these layoffs were illegally aimed at senior staff members who earned the highest salaries and were closest to reaching retirement. The laid-off workers were all over the age of 40 and had been longtime employees of the lab. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that LLNS did not have reasonable cause to select these particular employees under the Lab’s strict layoff rules and therefore acted in bad faith.
The lawsuit asserted claims for wrongful termination, retaliation, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and age discrimination. The jury deliberated for seven days before awarding each of the five plaintiffs’ damages ranging between $242,711 and $853,010 for past and future economic harm only. The lead plaintiff received $242,711 for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing after the jury rejected her claims for breach of contract, retaliation, and wrongful termination. The other four plaintiffs prevailed on their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiffs’ age discrimination claims will be tried at a later phase of the case. The lawsuit, entitled Andrews v. Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC was filed in California Superior Court, Alameda County.
If you or someone else you know has suffered employment discrimination, or has been the victim of an unfair labor practice, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a consultation.
Two former Merced County district attorney’s office employees, Diane Goins and Wesley Rentfrow, have filed a lawsuit against the County and their former supervisor, Merle Hutton, claiming sexual harassment and wrongful termination in retaliation for reporting the harassment.
Goins and Rentforw allege that Hutton made unwanted sexually charged comments to Goins, sent her offensive emails, inappropriately touched her, and repeatedly told her he loved her. The plaintiffs also claim that Hutton asked Rentfrow, who was dating Goins at the time, for nude photographs of Goins. Hutton has denied these allegations, pointing to a 2009 internal investigation exonerating him of similar claims of sexual harassment made by the plaintiffs.
In addition to filing charges with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the plaintiffs reported Hutton to District Attorney Larry Morse II and two other supervisors, but claim they failed to take responsive action. The plaintiffs allege that they received poor performance reviews and unwarranted discipline, and were ultimately terminated in retaliation for filing complaints against Hutton. The district attorney’s office told the plaintiffs that they had each been laid off as part of a reduction in force.
In addition to the sexual harassment claims filed against Hutton, the plaintiffs filed claims against Merced County for failure to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and for failing to fully investigate their claims. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for lost wages and emotional distress, as well as punitive damages.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual harassment or wrongful termination, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
A State of California Superior Court jury awarded $3,255,000 to a Caucasian man who claimed that he was forced to retire after being subjected to discriminatory and harassing treatment by his former employer, the City of Los Angeles, and three of his former supervisors.
According to the complaint, filed in February 2011, James Duffy, aged 63, suffered discriminatory and harassing incidents beginning in 2004, which escalated after he received a head injury in an on-the-job accident that caused him to suffer short term memory problems. Duffy contends that most of his co-workers were Hispanic, one supervisor told him “I hate white people,” and refused assistants to Mr. Duffy in his work, while providing assistants for Hispanic employees. Furthermore, defendants harassed Mr. Duffy by telling him that he had not been given assignments that he had been given, or that he had failed to complete assignments he had not been given. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Duffy had complained to the City several times that he was being discriminated against and harassed because of his race and disability, but the City took no action, forcing Mr. Duffy to retire from the City’s Department of Recreations and Parks after 20 years.
The lawsuit asserted claims for retaliation, and for discrimination and harassment based on race, age, and physical and mental disability. Mr. Duffy had requested monetary and non-monetary relief. The lawsuit, entitled James Duffy v. City of Los Angeles, was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court for the Central District.
If you or someone you know has being similarly discriminated against or has been the victim of any other employment discrimination, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a consultation.
Plaintiff Karen Morris worked as a lab technician at Mission Bell Winery in Madera, CA for over 20 years when she was wrongfully terminated over an alleged discrimination issue. She filed suit against Mission Bell’s parent company, Constellation Brands Inc., in Madera County Superior Court seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment. Morris is also seeking re-instatement.
Problems began when Morris notified a supervisor of rat droppings and mold contamination in her work area. Soon thereafter, Morris’ co-workers appeared to begin speaking Spanish whenever they were in Morris’ presence. Morris is Caucasian and can neither speak nor comprehend Spanish. She felt uncomfortable when her co-workers spoke Spanish around her and assumed they were speaking about her. Morris complained that her supervisor at Mission Bell Winery allegedly demonstrated favoritism by granting overtime to Morris’ co-workers, but not to her. Morris was fired two months later, in November 2011. Morris alleges she was fired because she complained about her unsafe working conditions, overtime issue and habit of her co-workers speaking Spanish in her presence.
A legal expert uninvolved with the case believes it would be difficult to mandate employees speak a single language in a private workplace and it would likely be illegal. An employer can only place language restrictions on employees in a public area, but in this case, the workplace is in a private space.
If you or anyone you know has been wrongfully terminated from their job, contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.