Apple sued for unpaid wages and overtime compensation

By Peter Levine posted in Law, Unpaid Overtime on August 25th, 2013

Apple required off-the-clock security bag searches

Two former Apple Inc. retail employees have sued the tech giant for “millions of dollars” for unpaid wages and overtime compensation. They allege hourly employees had to wait in line and undergo off-the-clock security bag searches after they had clocked out.

Amanda Frlekin alleges when she clocked out for her uncompensated meal breaks and at the end of her shift, she waited for at least five to 10 minutes, without compensation, as other employees had their bags checked. In total this comes to about 50 minutes to 1.5 hours a week of unpaid overtime, totaling to about $1,500 in wages not paid over the course of a year.

The other plaintiff, Dean Pelle, is making similar claims about required bag inspections when he worked in Apple’s stores.

Like other retail employees, the company’s employee conduct manual specifies that all employees are subject to personal bag searches, and if refused employees, can be subject to termination.

Apple charged with California Labor Code violations

The plaintiffs allege by not compensating its retail workers for this waiting time, Apple has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the California Labor Code for nonpayment of the minimum wage, overtime wages and wage statement penalties, in addition to the California Unfair Competition Law for “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice,” and New York Labor Law for nonpayment of wages and unpaid overtime.

Yana Walton, communications director for the retail worker advocacy group, Retail Action Project, stated her organization has “secured back wages for hundreds of retail workers who have experienced wage theft” in New York City.

“Unfortunately, retail workers experience wage theft in many ways, and like employees at Forever 21 and Polo Ralph Lauren who filed similar suits, unpaid mandatory job functions are tantamount to wage theft,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Apple told ABC News that the company does not comment on pending litigation. The plaintiffs and their attorneys did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Frlekin and Pelle are hoping to expand their lawsuit into a class action that represents Apple retail employees over the past three years. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are also hoping to represent retail employees in Apple’s California and New York stores for even longer periods, the Associated Press reported.

Employment Law: Privacy Violation in the Workplace

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on August 22nd, 2013

Personal Information on the Workplace Bulletin Board

Many of the basic rights we all take for granted are not protected when we go to work. Whenever a question arises about an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace it is critical to identify the employee rights that may be at stake. Because there are various workplace environments, each claim of privacy violation needs to be evaluated according to the actual and specific conditions of the workplace.

Such is the debate that is facing one such McDonald’s employee’s attorney.

A San Antonio McDonald’s employee, who is only being identified as “Anna,” was outraged to find her personal medical information had been posted to a workplace bulletin board in the back office of her store.

Anna told a local television station that she suffers from depression, anxiety, liver, and lung problems, and had received a doctor’s note authenticating her illnesses so that she could take a few hours off. Anna alleges that after handing the note over to her manager, the manager then proceeded to put the note up on the public employee bulletin board.

A Clear Violation of Her Privacy in the Workplace

“It just made me want to cry,” Anna said. “I didn’t want anyone to know … I really felt that they stepped into my personal space to basically let anybody know that I needed medical treatments.” Anna claims her manager’s actions were in clear violation of both her privacy and federal health laws.

Anna has consulted with an attorney and has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Justine Lisser, a spokeswoman for the EEOC, did not comment specifically on Anna’s case. She did, however, say it’s possible that Anna could be referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Act protects employees or job applicants from unfavorable treatment due to disability. It also has a “very strong confidentiality provision,” Lisser said.

It’s also possible that Anna could be invoking the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This Act, among other things, prohibits employers from considering an individual’s genetic information when making decisions around hiring, firing, job placement or promotion.

At this point it is unclear if Anna’s employer did so.

Lisser noted that a large number of complaints received by the EEOC involve disabilities that are psychiatric in nature, including depression. In 2012, 402 charges with favorable outcomes or meritorious allegations involved depression, accounting for nearly 7 percent of all disability charges that year.

“Certainly, there is a stigma against some psychiatric illnesses that may not be present for other things,” Lisser said.
San Antonio McDonald’s Operator Celia Jairala declined discussing further details, but offered this statement: “McDonald’s has the utmost respect for our employees and their privacy.”

An employee’s rights can be violated in any number of ways. In this particular case, “Anna” took the best course of action. She consulted an attorney and filed a complaint with the appropriate government agency with employee and workplace rights.

Congressional Report Cites Thousands of Cases of Elder Abuse

By Peter Levine posted in Law on August 20th, 2013

The widespread problem of elder abuse has even come to the attention of Congress. Reported instances of abuse appear to be on the rise. The percentage of nursing homes cited for violations has increased every year since 1996, according to the House Government Reform Committee. Serious physical, sexual and verbal abuse reports are “numerous” among the nation’s nursing homes, says a congressional study released recently.

The study, prepared by the minority (Democratic and Independent) staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, finds that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States — 5,283 facilities — were cited for almost 9,000 instances of abuse over a recent two-year period, from January 1999 to January 2001.

Common problems included untreated bedsores, inadequate medical care, malnutrition, dehydration, preventable accidents, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, the report said.

Many of the abuse violations caused harm to the residents, the report said.

In 1,601 cases, the abuse violations were serious enough “to cause actual harm to residents or to place the residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury,” it said.

“What we have found is shocking,” says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee’s minority leader, who instructed the staff to do the study.

Staff members accused of committing physical or sexual abuse

In some reported cases, a member of the nursing home’s staff was accused of committing physical or sexual abuse. In others, staff were cited for failing to protect people from abuse by other residents.

The report documents instances of residents being punched, slapped, choked or kicked by staff members or other residents, causing injuries such as fractured bones or lacerations.

Some of the violations uncovered are particularly disturbing. In one case, according to the report, an attendant walked into a resident’s room, said “I’m tired of your ass,” and hit her in the face, breaking her nose.

In another case, attendants bribed a brain-damaged patient with cigarettes to attack another resident, then watched the two fight. The report also described a case in which a male attendant molested an elderly female resident while bathing her.

The federal government is the biggest contributor of nursing home care

The homes cited by the study for instances of abuse accommodate some 550,000 residents. Nationwide, some 1.6 million people reside in 17,000 nursing homes and 11,000 of them are for-profit businesses.

The federal government is the biggest contributor of nursing home care, mostly through Medicaid, a joint federal-state health care program for the poor, and Medicare, the federal program for elderly and disabled people. Federal heath and safety standards are designed to protect nursing home residents from abuse.

Elder Abuse Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: “Congressional Report Cites Thousands of Cases of Elder Abuse,” 30 July 2013

City to pay former clerk $150,000 to dismiss whistleblower claim

By Scott posted in Employment Law on August 16th, 2013

Whistleblower claims can go to court whenever there is some sort of corruption suspected, and an employee is retaliated against in any way for reporting those believed to be illegal activities. This means that cities can be sued, as well as large corporations and even small individually owned businesses.

One city learned this first hand after a former city clerk filed a whistleblower lawsuit after reporting what she believed to be illegal activities that the mayor was partaking in.

According to the woman’s lawsuit, she was fired from her position in December of 2009 after she reported to the state’s department of law enforcement that the mayor was charging the city for personal expenses – like a cell phone bill and a trip – without reimbursing the city. In addition, the former clerk also discovered that the mayor was not being forced to pay certain utility bills, like his city cable or water.

After reporting these findings, she was fired, and the city’s mayor told the state’s department of law enforcement that the charges were honest mistakes.

An investigation into the charges also decided that he was not purposely attempting to charge the city for his own personal gains.

In the end, the city decided to settle with the former city clerk and will pay her $150,000 in exchange for her dropping the whistleblower lawsuit. According to sources, the settlement does not equate to the city of mayor admitting guilt in any way.

Cases like this former clerk’s happen all the time throughout the country, including in California. Luckily, employees do have rights, and if they suffer from any type of retaliation after reporting what they believe to be illegal activities, there are legal actions that can be taken against that place of employment.

Employment Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: The Walton Sun, “City paying $150K to settle whistleblower lawsuit,” 7 March 2011

Three California police officers suing for discrimination

By Scott posted in Discrimination on August 16th, 2013

California police officers appear to be facing wide-spread discrimination lately. Earlier this week, we talked about a California lieutenant in Concord who recently settled his retaliation lawsuit with the department. Now, we will talk about three Latino officers who say they have been passed up for multiple promotions on the basis of their race.

Three officers with the Westminster Police Department has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they are suffering from race discrimination. In particular, they argue that they have been passed over for promotions, with the department opting to promote less experienced white officers over them.

One plaintiff gave a specific example of his application for a detective position a few years ago. The Latino officer is a U.S. Marine Corps major and has received many positive performance reviews while on the police force. Despite his credentials, the position was given to a white candidate with no military experience, no college degree and only one year on the job as an officer.

The Latino officer described that “it’s glaring to the point where I can’t figure out anything else except discrimination.” Together, the three men say that they have been denied at least 30 promotions. Most of the time, they say, officers who had less experience and fewer qualifications were given the positions over the Latino officers.

Of the 90 police officers in the Westminster Police Department, only 12 are Latino. Three of them are involved in this lawsuit, which they hope will cause the department to correct its discriminatory practices. They men are requesting monetary damages as well as promotions to the positions they have been passed over for.

Sexual Harassment Attorney Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Police officers file employer discrimination suit,” Amy Taxin, 2 March 2011

Despite Equal Pay Act, Women are Still Paid Less in California

By Scott posted in Discrimination on August 16th, 2013

Nearly half a century ago, women made great strides in advocating for equality and the Equal Pay Act was enacted with the goal of abolishing sex discrimination when establishing wages. Almost 50 years later, a wage gap continues to exist in California.

According to data collected by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor, women who worked full time, a minimum of 35 hours per week, in 2009 were still paid 20 percent less than their male counterparts were. The average salary for women was $657 while men earned on average $819 per week.

While some women made much more than the average, gaps existed in each level of employment. Women who worked in management, held positions as chief executives, compliance officers and other positions of authority made 72.7 percent of what the men made in the same classification group.

Not only are women in similar jobs are paid overall less, but entire job sectors that are considered to be stereotypically suitable for women receive less compensation. Those jobs include teachers as well as the food preparation industry.

According to the data, sex discrimination continues to exist. In one study, researchers found that sex discrimination was not only exhibited by employers, but by customers as well. The research study was based upon customer satisfaction responses after observing a male and female “worker” who said the exact same words and made the exact same motions as one another in a video. The study found that 19 percent of customers gave the male a higher “satisfaction” rating.

Source: Around Dublin “Gender Wage Gap Still Exists in California” 1/6/11

Welcome to Our Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

By Scott posted in Employment Law on August 16th, 2013

At the Los Angeles law firm of Peter K Levine, we know that an employee’s expectation of a consistently fair playing field in the work place is often undermined by behaviors that harass, discriminate and otherwise violate his or her legal rights.

As an employment law firm headed by an attorney with decades of proven success representing clients who have suffered from the adverse work behavior of an employer and/or other employees, we are exceptionally well- placed and strongly disposed to do something about that. We routinely resolve both individual and class action cases concerning all types of employment law violations.

Our firm offers strong and smart advocacy across a full spectrum of employment matters, including the following:

  • Wage and hour disputes, including unpaid overtime
  • Wrongful termination
  • Discrimination
  • Employer retaliation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Whistleblower claims
  • Unpaid meals and rest breaks
  • Employer paychecks with insufficient funds
  • Use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies

We view our blog as an important educational component of our practice, and seek to have it provide timely and important information to clients with employment concerns. We welcome feedback and thank you for visiting.

Contact Us

Contact us for a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney.

We’re Too Busy for a Break

By Scott posted in Unpaid Overtime on August 16th, 2013

If you have ever worked an hourly wage position, you probably heard in training that the employer was “required” to give you a 30-minute lunch break every shift over a certain number of hours. Employers make a big deal about legal responsibility and break times, yet many employees experience times when they are forced to work through their lunch hour because it was “just too busy” that day.

It is true that a 30-minute meal break is required under California Law for every 5 hours worked by each employee. This means that the employee must take a complete break from any and all work duties. If they are answering phone calls, returning phone calls, answering questions, updating records or anything else they are not on an uninterrupted lunch break.

If you work an 8.0 hour day without a lunch break, you should be credited with 30 minutes of overtime pay. What this basically means is that for every 30 minute lunch break the employer fails to give the employee, they must pay that employee for one hour of work time. An employer cannot claim that an employee waived their right to lunch if the employee chooses to work through lunch because they are too busy and there is no one available to relieve them.

Violations of this law have led to serious lawsuits for employers. A large retail store was required to pay more than $170 million in compensatory damages to approximately 116,000 employees who worked at several of the retailer’s California stores. If you feel that your right to a lunch break has been violated in any way do not be afraid to seek the advice and assistance of an employment law attorney.

Employment Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: Dateline USA “Automatic 30-minute deductions for lunch may be illegal” Joe Sayas 9/14/10

Wrongful Termination Ends in $2 Million Verdict

By Scott posted in Law on August 16th, 2013

“Even if I had all the money in the world, I would want to work. It gives you self-worth, a purpose in life.” Those were the words spoken by a minimum-wage card dealer after a Sonoma County jury awarded her more than $2 million in a wrongful termination law suit.

The jury determined that the former card dealer had been terminated in retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment she experienced while working the 101 Casino in Petaluma, California. She was awarded $516,000 in compensatory damages for past and future harassment and retaliation. $1.5 million in punitive damages were added to the award after determining that the company brought in approximately $5 million revenue in the past year and had a net worth of around $3 million.

The former card dealer worked at the casino for a few months before her supervisor began making sexual comments and innuendos. “When I first started, I looked forward to going to work every day… Everything seemed to be looking up and going forward in my life – until the sexual harassment started,” the 43-year old mother stated.

The former card dealer had suffered the harassment for months before and after she reported the behavior to the human resources department. The club’s general manager even put his arm around her lower waist when she tried to alert him about the supervisor’s behavior. Not only did her complaints go unanswered, but the supervisor also began disciplining her for insignificant or fictitious issues. She said that the negative work environment had caused loss of appetite and sleep and the stress had a harmful impact on her home life as well. When the stress became too much and she sought legal advice, the company found out and subsequently terminated her employment.

This case was not the first time that the company was accused of harassment. The human resources chief, to whom the card dealer had brought her complaints, settled her own suit against the company. Four other female employees were witness at the card dealer’s trial gave testimony that they had been sexually harassed as well.

Employment Lawyer los Angeles – Peter K Levine

Source: The Press Democrat “$2 million harassment verdict against Petaluma card room” Lori A. Carter 8/4/10

Public Employees Could Suffer Pension Cuts

By Scott posted in Law on August 16th, 2013

Federal and state deficits are at an all time high while the economy is experiencing a significant downturn. California is not exempt from the economic situation and budget reform has been a hot topic in the gubernatorial race. Amidst the political swirl of debate, public employees are asked to aid in the budget reform.

Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor has stated that if he were to be elected governor, he would be asking labor leaders to “put everything on the table” and make compromises. One of the compromises that he mentioned was cutting pension benefits for state employees.

The gubernatorial candidate has felt the pressures of budget reform and although generally supported by members of the labor union, he admitted in a recent speech that in order to fix the budget crisis, he is “going to have to do some things that organized labor doesn’t like. Everybody’s got to get outside their comfort zone.” Brown reminded voters that in his previous terms he “vetoed pay raises for the state employees not once, but twice.” He cautioned employees that if they did not contribute to the pension system, that the only alternative to pay for the system would be to increase layoffs or decrease salaries.

“If you’re looking for frugality, I’m your man,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. The candidate professes honesty with the people. If elected, he promises that he would release his budget plan earlier than any other previous governor would and that he would not institute any new taxes unless the public voted for them.

Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial opponent, Meg Whitman also plans to get the budget under control by effecting changes that would involve state employees and the labor union.

Employment Lawyer Los Angeles

Source: San Francisco Chronicle “Jerry Brown says he’d be a frugal governor” Carla Marinucci 9/4/10

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