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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

Wage and hour violations discovered at wireless retailer

Most Bay Area residents have come to rely on smart phones for many tasks that were once considered tedious. These days, anything from checking the weather to paying a bill can be done with a simple click or swipe. Technology seems to be constantly updating, and certainly seems to be the way of the future, but the industry still relies on hard-working employees to sell plans and devices, or help a customer in person. Recently, wage and hour violations against such employees were discovered. 

An investigation by the Department of Labor revealed that employees at several locations of a wireless franchise were not being paid properly. Though the violations affected workers in many states, the franchises where the violations occurred were owned by the same parent company, Fast Frontier LLC. The Department of Labor became involved after finding evidence that employees were paid a flat hourly wage, no matter how many hours an employee spent on the job. This violates federal overtime laws.

Whistleblowers often fear retaliation, with good reason

Nobody likes a tattletale, but Bay Area employees were likely taught growing up that there is a difference between tattling and calling attention to a dangerous or unjust situation. In the workplace, people who take this sort of action to protect other employees and alert authorities to danger or crime are often referred to as whistleblowers. Often, hard-working employees may be aware of a problem on the job that should be reported to authorities but fear that an employer will take retaliatory action against them if they do. 

Recently, an employee at technology giant Tesla became aware of certain business practices that seemed to endanger both people and the environment. The employee felt that it was right to speak up and did so bravely. The SEC began to look into the whisteblower's claims, but in the meantime, other Tesla employees bear witness to the fact that the man was the victim of bullying and harassment by the company. 

Wrongful termination? Action can be taken

Bay Area employees might know how stressful it can be to hear that the job they work so hard to keep is ending due to circumstances beyond their control. Often, administrative issues or budget constraints can cost employees lower down the chain their jobs. Sometimes, it turns out that the jobs could have been sustained for employees if proper action had been taken, and in these cases, parties may want to consider filing a wrongful termination suit. 

Recently, a health department in another state claimed that, due to budget issues, about 200 employees would be let go. Some were encouraged to take early retirement, while others were simply terminated. The health department in question did not close down, and employees from neighboring health departments were sent to cover the shifts of the employees who were let go. 

Pregnancy discrimination is unlawful: What to do if it happens

Having a baby is typically an exciting, joyful time in a woman's life. It can definitely be challenging, as well, in more ways than one. However, a problem no pregnant woman in California or elsewhere should have to face is losing a job because of pregnancy discrimination.

Employers who discriminate against pregnant women are violating U.S. employment laws. It is often a struggle to balance family life and career simultaneously. The last thing an expectant mother needs is to worry that she will lose her job if she tells her boss she is pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects pregnant women from negative workplace treatment that impedes their ability to earn a fair wage based on a temporary condition.

Was that sexual harassment?

While it may be hard to believe, many women experience sexual harassment while at work even if they do not realize it.

According to a 2018 study, over 80 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their life. It makes sense that many of these instances occurred in the workplace. Not all instances of sexual harassment are as easy to define. For example, an individual groping a fellow employee is a clear example of harassment, but being called a rude name may leave someone wondering “was that sexual harassment?”

Grocery store must pay for wage and hour violations

Bay Area residents probably frequent local supermarkets to pick up a weekly supply of food and other household supplies. While most shoppers may think that an employee is properly paid for his or her hard work, this assumption is not always true. Recently, one supermarket was found to be in violation of laws meant to protect employees, including wage and hour violations.

The details of the violations were recently made public after the Department of Labor determined that several hard-working employees had been wronged by the company. Employees were paid a salary instead of an hourly wage. Unfortunately, the salary did not equate to the minimum wage when investigators calculated their labor hours versus a standard hourly wage.

Fire department recruit wins discrimination suit

A former firefighter recruit has settled with the San Diego City Council. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Nicole Pappas alleged she was wrongfully terminated after experiencing discrimination and harassment. She received a $275,000 settlement from the city.

Pregnancy discrimination still common in the workplace

Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most natural life events a woman can go through. With slight adjustments to their environment and routine, most women can continue with normal life throughout most of their pregnancies. Still, women in the workplace continue to face examples of unfair treatment despite the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act over 40 years ago. Understanding how the law protects them is the first step for California women to ensure they are receiving fair treatment in the workplace.

An employer may not base unfair treatment -- such as firing, demoting or cancelling her health insurance -- on a woman's pregnancy or any related medical conditions. Terminating employment or forcing a woman to take unpaid leave after learning of her pregnancy is a violation of her rights. As long as the woman is able to perform her duties with reasonable accommodations, she has a right to continue working.

Former employee of 30-plus years sues for wrongful termination

While it is becoming more rare, some California workers have been with their same companies for many years, perhaps decades. A woman who was a city employee for more than 30 years was suddenly fired from her job. She has since filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her former employers.

The 57-year-old woman says she believes the only reason she was fired was that she refused to engage in illegal activities in the workplace. She said the termination occurred after she reported those activities to the city attorney. The former long-term employee also stated that she was discriminated against because of her age and because she is a woman.

What are whistleblowers to do, especially if they get fired?

Former President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act into law in 1863. He is said to have wanted to encourage people to report fraud against the U.S. government. Individuals who submit information to authorities or company officials regarding corporate wrongdoing are colloquially known as "whistleblowers," and while Lincoln died well over a century ago, the protection he set forth for those in California and other states who report unethical or illegal activity in the workplace still exists.

In recent years, many whistleblower reports have involved the health care industry, as well as military contractors and organizations that have committed tax law violations. Companies dumping toxic waste, or contractors selling faulty equipment, are other issues that are examples of situations a whistleblower might report. Many people hesitate to tell what they know for fear that they will lose their jobs or that their employers will otherwise retaliate against them. 

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