The firm handles a wide variety of employment related disputes for both employees and employers, including:
Wage and Hour Issues
Minimum Wage and Overtime: Employers are required to pay employees at least the minimum wage for each hour worked and most employees are also entitled to premium wages for overtime hours worked. Employers sometimes misclassify employees as exempt from overtime requirements, which means that the employees are paid set salaries, rather than wages and overtime. If an employer misclassifies a group of employees as salaried, it can be held responsible for paying those employees for all of the past overtime they were entitled to, plus additional fees and penalties. This is true even where the employees did not maintain records of their hours worked.
Meal Periods and Rest Breaks: The law requires employers to provide hourly employees with the opportunity to take timely, off-duty, uninterrupted meal periods and rest breaks. An employer whom fails to provide such breaks or interferes with their employees’ ability to take breaks can be held liable for one hour’s pay for each meal period violation and an additional one hour of pay for each rest break violation.
Expense Reimbursement: Employees must be reimbursed for all necessary business expenditures or losses incurred in the course of their work. With the increase in the number of employees who work remotely and the advent of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) employment policies, this area has been hotly litigated, especially over the last several years.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee: Contractors and employees may perform the same tasks and even work in the same space, but for employment law purposes, this distinction is vital to compliance with applicable state and federal laws. A bona fide independent contractor, for instance, is not typically entitled to breaks, overtime or expense reimbursements (unless provided for via contract) and is responsible for his or her own payroll taxes.
Other Wage and Hour Issues: The above list does not include all of the various wage and hour issues handled by the firm. Employers sometimes wrongfully withhold accrued wages and/or vacation benefits when employees quit or are terminated or wrongfully deduct amounts from employee paychecks. They fail to pay employees reporting time pay when they are sent home without receiving their scheduled shift, or split shift pay when they work two shifts that are separated by a non-break period. Other frequent violations arise from bonus and commission plans, piece rate pay practices. Many of the above practices can also give rise to an unfair or illegal business practice (Business & Professions Code Section 17200 et seq.) and penalties under California Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”).
Many employers require their employees to sign written employment agreements, as well as nondisclosure agreements and agreements to arbitrate potential employment disputes. Having an attorney review and negotiate the employment contract can help an employee protect his or her rights and help an employer ensure that the employment agreement will be enforceable.
Employment discrimination occurs when you lose your job or suffer a work detriment because of your race or color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, or pregnancy. Being fired or denied a job because an employer thinks you are too old for the job is a classic example of unlawful employment discrimination.
Harassment occurs when you are treated differently because of a protected criteria (e.g., your sex, race, religion, national origin, etc.) and the disparate treatment is so bad that it effectively changes your work environment. This is called “hostile environment” harassment.
Sexual harassment can also occur if an employer conditions an employment benefit on submission to sexual demands, such as when a boss says that he/she will not promote a subordinate unless she/he agrees to a date.
Wrongful Termination and Retaliation
Retaliation occurs when an employee is punished for engaging in a protected right, such as complaining about safety violations or demanding compensation for overtime or meal and rest breaks. Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired in any way that violates California public policy. Our state’s fundamental public policies include policies to be free from unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
Pregnancy and Family Responsibilities
It is illegal to fire, demote or deny women employment opportunities because they are pregnant or planning to exercise any pregnancy-related rights (e.g., maternity leave). It is likewise unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their responsibilities to their families, either real or assumed (e.g., a person will not be able to work overtime because he/she has children).
Handbooks and Training
Employee handbooks establish, in writing, the basic parameters of employment relationships, such as what sorts of benefits employees will receive and what standards of conduct employers will expect. Keeping the employee handbook accurate and up to date can help minimize potential litigation. This is especially important in a state with such rapidly changing employment laws as California.
Employers sometimes offer severance benefits to employees who are terminated. There are no laws requiring that severance be paid. Employers generally only pay severance when they are required to do so pursuant to an employment contract, the employee has worked for the employer for a long period of time or the employer wishes to get a written release of potential legal disputes with that employee. Employees and employers alike are well advised to have an attorney assist in negotiating severance benefits.
Departing employees will sometimes take valuable non-public trade secrets and proprietary or confidential information with them to a new job or to help them start a new business. California has adopted the Uniform Trade Secret Act (“UTSA”) that provides for damages and injunctive relief to prevent someone from using a company’s trade secrets and proprietary information in this way to compete with their former employer. The departing employee’s new employer could also be held liable if it profits from the trade secrets.
Free consultation with a Bay Area Employment, Trade Secret and Class Action Attorney.
I offer a free case evaluation by telephone. Call 925-695-4913 or email me to talk about your case.
“Kevin is a go-to guru for… wage and hour matters and class actions around the state. I would (and do) unhesitatingly recommend him…”
“Kevin Allen successfully defended my family’s restaurant against a wage and hour complaint filed by a former employee. He was very good about explaining our options and helped resolve the dispute before our fees and costs got out of hand. He runs his law office the way we run our business, always looking out for the customers pocket and needs. I would highly recommend him to any restaurant, employer, and family member in the same situation.”
“Kevin is a knowledgeable and hard-working attorney with a sincere desire to take the extra steps needed to secure a good result for his clients…”
Although best known for our wage and hour class action practice, the firm has broad experience with traditional employment law, trade secret disputes, and business litigation. We also serve as outside general counsel to several small employers.
The Allen Attorney Group prides itself on customer service. In a law firm setting this means many things from transparent billing to returning client communications quickly, usually within the same day. And it shows. Many of our cases are referrals from prior clients, other employment attorneys, and even opposing counsel.
We offer free consultations and flexible fee arrangements. We represent most employees on a contingency fee basis meaning that we do not get paid unless there is a recovery in the lawsuit. Our rates for hourly clients are competitive and typically much lower than those charged by larger firms.