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NEW YEAR USHERS IN NEW EMPLOYMENT LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

Another year, another dozen or so new laws for California employers and employees to brush up on. (It’s the most wonderful time of the year.) Here are my top three:

1. Paid Sick Leave Posting and Notice Requirements

While California’s new paid sick leave law does not go into effect until July 1, 2015, employers are required to provide notice of employees’ paid sick leave rights beginning January 1, 2015. Employers must post notice of these rights where employees can easily read it in the same manner as they do (or should do) with respect to their employees’ minimum wage, overtime, and worker’s compensation rights. Further, employers must provide newly-hired non-exempt employees with notice of their paid sick leave benefits pursuant to the Wage Theft Prevention Act Notice (Labor Code section 2810.5), or “WTPAN,” as it is referred to by . . . absolutely no one.

2. Protection for Unpaid Interns and Volunteers Under FEHA

Assembly Bill 1443 closes a pretty egregious loophole exempting unpaid interns and volunteers from the discrimination, harassment and retaliation protections of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. AB 1443 extends such rights to unpaid interns and volunteers.

3. Extended Statute of Limitations on Liquidated Damages for Minimum Wage Violations

Assembly Bill 2074 clarifies that the statute of limitations for liquidated damages stemming from minimum wages violations under California Labor Code sections 1197.1 and 1194.2 is the same as the underlying minimum wage violations themselves, three years. Previous case law had suggested that these liquidated damages were penalties and thus subject to a one-year statute of limitations.

Please contact the Leichter Law Firm, APC located in Los Angeles, California to learn more about your legal rights in the workplace.

The Ten Commandments for Pursuing Your Employment Claims

Think you’ve been wronged by your current or former employer but don’t know how to proceed? Let these ten commandments be your guide.

DO: 

I.     Consult with an Employment Attorney.

We’re everywhere—you can’t miss us. We pay good money to get on your radar, so don’t feel like you’re imposing on our time or good nature. And if you are imposing? Well, that’s our problem, not yours.

DON’T:

II.    Pay Money for an Initial Consultation.

Now this is not a hard and fast rule. There are many competent and ethical employment attorneys who charge for initial consultations and are perfectly justified in doing so. There are also, however, many competent and ethical employment attorneys who don’t charge for initial consultations. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

DO:

III.    Consult with Another Employment Attorney.

It never hurts to get a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth, especially if they’re free. If every law firm you speak to wants to set up a meeting to sign you up as a client, you know you’re in business. Conversely, if you’re repeatedly told that you have no case, you have a pretty good idea where you stand.

DON’T:

IV.    Consult with Any Attorney.    

In a world where resources are scarce, employment lawyers are plentiful, especially in Los Angeles. If you have an employment law issue, you want to make sure you are advised by someone with employment law experience. If a lawyer’s website does not include employment as an area of practice, there’s a pretty good chance he or she is not well versed in that area of law.

DON’T:

V.     Contact an Attorney From the Workplace.

This seems rather obvious when you think about it. The problem is employees often don’t think about it. Many employers have policies explicitly authorizing the monitoring of employees’ company emails and internet search history. The same is true of phone calls made from work telephones. Even without these policies, you cannot assume such communications will remain confidential. If you don’t have a cell phone, wait until you get home to make the call. If you need to send an email from work, make sure you use a personal email account and do it during a break and out of the reach of prying ears.

DO:

VI.    Give Yourself Sufficient Time to Review the Retainer Agreement.

So you’ve met with the Law Offices of Employmentson and Laborstein, APC, and have a good vibe about them. They’re interested in representing you and give you their standard retainer agreement. Before signing anything, read the agreement! This is more ostensibly obvious advice too many clients ignore. Do not feel pressured into signing anything you have not fully reviewed. If you need more time, ask for it.

DON’T:

VII.   Sign the Retainer Until All Your Questions Have Been Answered.

A common side effect of being a lawyer is writing like one. If there is a provision in a retainer agreement that does not make sense to you, ask the attorney to explain it to you. It’s quite possible he or she does not understand it either. A retainer agreement is a legally-binding contract. Once you enter into the agreement, you are bound by its terms. It’s critically important that you understand, and are comfortable with, everything in the contract.

DO:

VIII.   Everything Your Lawyer Tells You to Do When You’re Told to Do It.

A good attorney will zealously fight for you, but you need to do your part. Make yourself an asset to your case, not another problem your lawyer has to contend with.

DON’T:

IX.    Withhold Relevant Information From Your Attorney.

A corollary to the Eighth Commandment and a cardinal sin. You might be tempted to withhold information which you believe is harmful to your case or personally embarrassing. Don’t! An informed lawyer with advance knowledge can minimize the damage and/or avoid uncomfortable revelations about you. A blindsided and unprepared lawyer will lose face in front of opposing counsel and lose faith in you.

DO:

X.     Follow These Commandments As They Have Been Told Unto You.

Uncomfortable with the religious undertones? Just think of them as helpful suggestions.