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Below is our list of practice areas.
Reimbursement Cases (California)
Our firm represents California employees in class action lawsuits and PAGA representative lawsuits in connection with their claims for reimbursement of their expenses associated with work-related personal cell phone usage and/or work-related home internet usage. Under Section 2802 of the Labor Code, California employers who know or should know that their employees are incurring business-related expenses must reimburse their employees for a reasonable portion of these business-related expenses. This is true even if employees would have incurred the same expenses in the absence of work-related
Our firm has represented thousands of employees – including employees in all types of industries who were or have been working from home and using their home internet services and personal cell phones since March of 2020 – in class action lawsuits and PAGA representative action cases alleging non-reimbursement of necessary business expenses, particularly phone and/or home-internet related expenses. Employees who have been required to downloads apps to their personal cell phones and/or who were advised to work from home and use their home internet services have particularly strong claims under California law. In 2022, we resolved over a dozen of these cases for substantial sums. We anticipate that 2023 will continue to be a good year for bringing these claims.
Meal and Rest Break Cases (California and Washington)
In California and Washington, employers must, by law, provide an off-duty 30-minute meal period to employees on or before the fifth and tenth hours of work. In California, if an employer fails to provide the off-duty meal period, then the employer must pay the employee premium pay amounting to one hour of pay per day at the employee’s regular rate of pay. In Washington, if the meal break is not provided, then employers are obligated to pay for the time associated with those breaks in addition to the employees’ working time. Employers in both states must additionally provide 10-minute paid rest periods for every 4 hours of work.
In California, rest breaks must also be completely duty-free, and when rest breaks are not provided, premium pay is due in the same amount as for missed meal periods. Hotel
workers, restaurant employees, nurses, respiratory therapists, and others must be paid for all of their meal and rest break time when such breaks are not provided in California and Washington. Our firm has amassed a significant amount of experience handling meal and rest period class and PAGA representative unpaid-wage actions on behalf of California and Washington employees – indeed, we have brought a substantial number of meal and rest period class actions in Washington and California that have resulted in substantial recoveries for the class, and see these types of cases as a growth area for at least the next few years.
Unpaid Wage Claims Based on Off-the-Clock Temperature Checks, Pre-Shift COVID Screenings, and Security Checks (California)
Our firm also pursues “off the clock” claims for workers who were forced to undergo mandatory security and/or COVID screenings before clocking in or after clocking out for work. During the current COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 and continues through the present, hundreds of thousands of employees in California are and were required by their employers to take pre-shift and/or post-meal-break temperature screenings and/or questionnaires; these COVID preventative measures were often
taken while the employee was off the clock.
Under California law, employees must be paid for all “hours worked”, which is defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Since the onset of the pandemic, the California Labor Commission and the United States Department of Labor have issued guidance indicating that employees’ time spent pre-shift on COVID-19 temperature tests and/or questionnaires, as well as time spent waiting in line for such tests, and walking to the time clock afterwards, indeed should all be considered “hours worked” and/or is considered “compensable time.” Notably, companies in California cannot defend themselves by arguing that the time involved is de minimis where there is a consistent amount of time spent every day, even if it is only a few minutes or less. We have successfully brought and resolved a dozen of these cases in
2022 and 2023.
Multi-Plaintiff Racial and Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Cases (nationwide)
Our firm prioritizes the representation of victims of workplace racial and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and racial harassment are forms of sex and race discrimination that violate state and federal law. Unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following: the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee; the victim as well as the harasser may be a man or a woman; the victim does not have to be the opposite sex; the victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct; sexual harassment may occur without any economic injury to or discharge of the victim; the harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome. Similarly, racial harassment occurs when the work environment is permeated with offensive racial slurs, cartoons, ridicule, comments or jokes. Our firm has and continues to represent dozens of victims of sexual and racial harassment each year, not only in California and Washington, but also in a number of other states where we work with, and provide mentorship to, highly-qualified local counsel attorneys (such as Oregon, Nevada, Texas, and Michigan).
In 25 years of practice, Craig Ackermann and our firm have represented over 1,000 victims of sexual and racial harassment in cases around the country. We have found that sexual and racial harassment tends to occur more frequently in certain industries, including the restaurant industry, manufacturing facilities,
medical facilities, hotels, and construction sites. We look for cases where there is substantial corroboration of pervasive sexual or racial harassment, where documented complaints were made to management, and where the harassment persisted following the complaints. Our multi-plaintiff sexual and racial harassment practice continues to grow, as it is a core value of our firm to pursue these cases. In addition, we vigorously pursue legal action when clients and potential clients are subjected to
retaliation for raising complaints about illegal harassment, discrimination, and/or when they are retaliated against for bringing forward wage and hour complaints.
Class Action Equal Pay / Promotion Cases (nationwide)
Under Title VII, FEHA, and other state and federal civil rights laws, our firm also represents women and
other minorities in connection with their claims for discrimination in pay and promotions, including
intentional disparate treatment claims and class action disparate impact claims.
Misclassification and Unpaid Overtime Class and PAGA Actions (California)
In California, employers must properly classify workers as employees and pay them on a W-2 basis, and cannot misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid having to comply with the Labor Code. Under PAGA, substantial penalties can be sought against companies that misclassify workers and contractors. In addition, employers in California must pay daily overtime to their employees after 8 hours of work at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. Under both California and federal law, employers must pay weekly overtime for all hours worked by employees over 40 hours per week.
Under federal law, employees who have not been paid overtime can recover their unpaid overtime pay, as well as liquidated (double) damages and attorneys’ fees. Under California state law, employees who have not been paid overtime can also bring suit to recover their unpaid overtime pay, plus interest and attorneys’ fees incurred, as well as derivative penalties. Many overtime class action and PAGA cases arise from the misclassification of workers as “exempt” from overtime when, in fact, they are “non-exempt,” and, thus, they are entitled to overtime pay. Our firm has successfully prosecuted such cases in the trucking industry and in various manufacturing contexts under the Fair Labor Standards Act and pursuant to the California Labor Code.