Orange County Employment Attorney

The Law Office of Andrea W. S. Paris understands the difficulties that businesses face in balancing client demands, growth strategies, and the need to sometimes make difficult management decisions.  An employee dispute often detracts and interferes with the successful operation of a business. Whether your business or another employee has been accused of wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, or a breach of contract, you want to resolve the dispute quickly and effectively to ensure the continuing and successful operation of your business.

We help our clients protect their businesses from the distractions and high cost of litigation with advice on employment issues, creation of federal and California law compliant policies and practices, and continuing education and training for managers.

In the unfortunate circumstance that an employee has made a claim, we defend employers in matters related to overtime and wage disputes, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims.

Employee Handbook Development and Review

Lawsuits are a major concern for most California employers because they negatively impact employee morale, a company’s reputation, and productivity.  The largest increase in employment lawsuits has been in the areas of sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination.  These lawsuits can put a tremendous financial burden on an employer.  The average dollar amount being awarded to employees against California employers is now in the $500,000 range with some considerably higher awards.

Why California Employers Need an Employee Handbook.

Even if an employer “wins” a lawsuit, it still bears the cost of defense.  A loss, on the other hand, could mean paying the other side’s attorney’s fees.  Thus, prevention is the best policy.  California business owners can protect themselves against damages and liability against employee lawsuits by providing clear, written policies that cover the rights and responsibilities of all their employees.  By providing a California employee handbook drafted by a California attorney, you can reduce your liability against lawsuits and protect your business.

Having information in a clear printed format for your employees gives them, in writing, the company policies, requirements, and what is expected of them.  This information can prevent possible future misunderstandings employees may have about their jobs and the employer’s expectations.  In addition, clearly stated guidelines and policies reduce the chances of disagreements and lawsuits.

If you would like an Orange County employment attorney to create, review, or revise your California employee handbook and customize it to your business’s needs and culture, contact us here or at (949)529-0007.

California Wage and Hour Law Attorney

California employers are responsible for complying with highly technical and complex wage and hour laws.  We can help ensure that you are in compliance and minimize your risk of paying significant amounts in backpay and penalties.

What is Wage and Hour Law?

“Wage and Hour Law” are laws that regulate your employees’ working conditions.  This includes minimum wage requirements, employee classifications, overtime pay, meal periods, rest breaks, time keeping requirements, and the like.

Exempt v. Non-Exempt Employees

Misclassification of “exempt” and “non-exempt” employees could be costly to your business.  Therefore, it is imperative that businesses properly classify their employees.

Employees who are classified as “exempt” are not subject to a majority of the wage and hour laws.  Specifically, California laws regulating overtime pay and meal and rest break requirements.  California provides 3 classes of exempt employees: Executive, Administrative, and Professional, each with their own detailed requirements, many of which are different from the federal requirements.  Note:  Paying your employees a salary does not automatically make them exempt.

California employs a “salary” test and a “duties” test to determine whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt.  To be exempt, an employee must earn a monthly salary equivalent to at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment, which is defined as 40 hours per week.  Additionally, the “duties” test requires that the employee is “primarily engaged” in exempt duties, including exercise of “independent discretion and judgment” more than 50% of the time they are working.  Because California’s requirements for exempt status are stricter than the federal test, an employee may be exempt under federal law, but not California law.

Misclassification of employees

Many employers, including large employers, misclassify their employees as exempt when they are really non-exempt.  The consequences are potentially devastating.  Misclassifying your employees as exempt and/or failing to follow wage and hour rules for non-exempt employees can cost your business a lot of money.

An employer who fails to provide a non-exempt employee with a meal or rest break is liable for one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided.  A recent case in the California Court of Appeal held that an employee could recover up to two premium payments per work day (one for meal period violation, one for rest break violation).  United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court.  Furthermore, according to the California Supreme Court in Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., the penalty for failing to provide rest or meal periods to non-exempt employees is subject to a three-year statute of limitations.  This means that an employee who has been long misclassified could recover up to two premium payments for each day that he or she missed a meal and rest break for the last 3 years (possibly 4).

Let’s put this into perspective, at $15/hour, 2 premium payments 5 days a week, multiplied by 52 weeks for 3 years is $23,400 in premium pay for one employee.  If you had 10 misclassified employees, you could be liable for $234,000 in premium pay.

If you would like an Orange County employment attorney to assist you in protecting your business from potential liability due to employee misclassification, contact us here or call (949)529-0007.

Accommodating Disabled Employees and the Interactive Process

California and Federal law prohibit an employer from discriminating against certain qualified individuals on the basis of disability (physical or mental) in any aspect of the employment relationship.  Additionally, an employer must make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee, unless the employer can prove that accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the operation of its business.

An employer’s interaction with an employee could be considered discrimination even if that was not the employer’s intention.  Clearly outlined policies and procedures for responding to an employee’s request for accommodation could prevent you from being a party to a discrimination lawsuit.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

“Reasonable accommodation” under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has been interpreted to mean a modification or adjustment to the workplace that enables an employee to perform the essential functions of the job held or desired.

The following are examples of some reasonable accommodations disabled employees may be entitled to.  However, what accommodation is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

  • Leave of absence;
  • Part-time or modified work schedule;
  • Making facilities accessible;
  • Providing necessary equipment or devises;
  • Adjusting or modifying examinations;
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters;
  • Alcohol or drug rehabilitation; or
  • Reassignment of employee to a vacant position.

Employers who fail to reasonably accommodate qualified employees could be held financially responsible for such violations.

The Interactive Process – Determining Reasonable Accommodation

California employers also have a duty to engage in a good faith “interactive process,” which is essentially a duty to communicate with and engage in an exploration of possible accommodations with the goal of identifying an accommodation that allows the employee to perform his or her job effectively.  In California, the duty to engage in the interactive process is separate from the duty to accommodate.  Thus, an employer who fails to engage in the interactive process may be liable for a FEHA violation, even if it is determined that no reasonable accommodation was available.

Employers should therefore create and communicate a procedure for engaging in the interactive process and determining reasonable accommodations for its employees.  Failure to do so could subject you to significant damages.

If you need help developing or reviewing your procedures, contact us here or call (949)529-0007.

Employer Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation, and Wage and Hour Defense

Employee disputes can interfere with the successful operation of your business.  Thus, it is our hope that you have been able to protect yourself from employee discrimination and wage and hour claims. However, if your business has received a letter seeking damages or was served with a lawsuit, we can help you.  We have assisted clients in negotiating wage and hour claims and defending clients in discrimination cases.  Whether your business or one of your employees has been accused of harassment or discrimination, you want to resolve the dispute quickly and effectively to ensure the continuing and successful operation of your business.

To contact an Orange County employment attorney regarding an employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wage and hour claim or lawsuit, feel free to contact us here or at (949)529-0007.

AB1825 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

If you are a California employer with 50 or more employees, you are subject to a law commonly known as AB1825.  This law mandates sexual harassment training for supervisory employees every two years.   The law was enacted in 2005, which makes 2011 a re-training year.  Are you in compliance?

Basic Provisions of California’s AB1825

  • Two hours of sexual harassment training every two years;
  • The deadline for the first round of AB 1825 training was December 31, 2005. Thereafter, employers must provide two hours of training to each supervisory employee every two years;
  • 50 or More Employees;
  • AB1825’s sexual harassment training requirements apply to organizations that regularly employ 50 or more employees (independent contractors and temps are included in the 50+ number); and
  • New Hires and Promotions; and new supervisory employees must receive sexual harassment training within six months of assuming the supervisory position, and every two years thereafter.

High Quality Sexual Harassment Training Required

The training mandated by AB 1825 must be of a high quality, conducted via “classroom or other effective interactive training”.

The Law Office of Andrea W. S. Paris offers high-quality, California compliant AB1825 sexual harassment prevention training.  The program is interactive, engaging, and tailored to address each client’s policy and procedure.  To find out how an Orange County employment attorney could help your business comply with the law, contact us here or call (949)529-0007.