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Wrongful termination lawsuit filed against California radio station

In Los Angeles, California, two former employees of a radio station filed lawsuits alleging wrongful termination as defined by California labor laws. They are accusing the station of engaging in acts that constitute defamation of character. The employees claim that the company retaliated against them for being whistleblowers regarding fraud perpetrated by the station, and the hiring of illegal immigrants.

The defendant, Grupo Radio Centro LA LCC, has denied the allegations. The plaintiffs are Sean O’Neill, who worked in the role of vice president/general manager, and Rosa Ambriz, who served as office manager. After entering into a four-year contract, O’Neill started working for the station in January 2014. He was terminated in August 2014 after having worked there for only seven months. Ambriz was laid off from her role at the same time.

The plaintiffs allege that Grupo terminated them after they were vocal about fraud concerning Nielsen ratings, and “payola” and “plugola,” which are methods of payment and incentives to publicize and/or advertise products illegally. They claim that Grupo retaliated against them by creating a hostile work environment, subjecting them to unbearable working conditions, and wrongfully terminating them. In response, Grupo’s legal counsel claims that O’Neill was fired because he failed to meet sales goals, in addition to allegations that he harassed employees.

While O’Neill alleges that Grupo violated the California Labor Code and committed breach of contract, defamation and wrongful termination, Ambriz accuses Grupo of wrongful termination and violation of the California Labor Code. There is also a co-defendant named Ricardo Sanchez, who is alleged to have composed a memo to O’Neill dated July 8, 2014, that contained remarks that were defamatory and demeaning. It is alleged that the email accused O’Neill of producing low morale among the sales workers, and that it accused O’Neill’s department of underperforming. In addition, the email stated that the clients felt uneasy engaging in business dealings with O’Neill, and that O’Neill destroyed the station.

If you think that you are the victim of wrongful termination or other violations of California labor laws, you should consult an employment lawyer.

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Wholesale bakery commits wage theft violations

A wholesale bakery based in Vista, San Diego, was cited for several wage violations, with assessments totaling more than $185,000. According to an investigation, Cookies con Amore, which sells its gourmet cookies to gourmet grocery stores and Whole Foods, consistently withheld overtime pay, rest and meal breaks from 73 workers, and compelled a number of them to sign a statement consenting to the wage theft violations. Interviews of employees and an audit revealed that such violations occurred between October 2013 and December 2014.

Although workers labored for shifts of 10 or more hours, they were compensated at straight time, and did not receive any overtime pay. They were permitted just one 30-minute break without any other rest period or break for a second meal. If the workers did not sign the statement agreeing to the unfair working conditions, they were directed to seek other employment.

The investigation by the Labor Commissioner was conducted in response to complaints received from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), which is a non-profit program focusing on legal services. The Office of the Labor Commissioner, which is officially called the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, examines workplaces to determine whether any wage and hour violations have been committed, adjudicates wage claims and enforces wage rates in public works projects. It also investigates whistleblower and retaliation complaints, provides licenses and registrations for businesses and informs the public about labor laws.

A public awareness campaign called Wage Theft is a Crime was launched in 2014 by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), and has assisted workers in becoming more aware of their rights. The campaign consists of print and outdoor advertising as well as radio commercials on ethnic stations in different languages.

If you think you have been the victim of wage theft, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer.

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Class action lawsuit against Maldonado family alleges labor violations

Previous employees of a well-known farming family in the Santa Maria Valley, California, filed a class action lawsuit against the farming family and agricultural companies, alleging violations of many labor laws. According to the complaint, the agricultural companies, Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises Inc., Agro-Jal Farms Inc., Paloma Packing Inc., and their owners, the Maldonados, committed violations of many California labor laws concerning wages, hours and conditions in the workplace.

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit are Cipriano Ponce, who worked for the defendants between 1984 and 2014, and Carlos Faria, who worked for the defendants between 2008 and 2010. The plaintiffs claim that due to the defendants’ lack of compliance with labor laws, they sustained financial losses.

They allege that employees had to go to the company office before beginning their work, but that they were only compensated for the amount of time that they worked instead of the entire time they had spent on the clock. Plaintiffs worked about 13 hours on a daily basis, six days per week, and on the seventh day they had to work six hours.

In addition, the complaint alleges that the employees were denied breaks for rest and meals, and were not paid overtime or double time. They also did not receive reimbursement for job-related expenses, including mileage, gas, equipment and tools. The plaintiffs’ attorney believes that a class action is fitting because hundreds of the defendants’ employees, who are mainly field workers, were adversely affected by such violations. The complaint will be reviewed by the California Labor Workforce Development Agency, and in the event that it does not accept the case, the plaintiffs and their attorney will pursue the case in court.

If you believe that you are the victim of labor law violations, then you should consult an experienced employment lawyer.

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Sexual Harassment in California high school is finally addressed

The Berkeley Unified School District is being investigated for not properly responding to sexual harassment claims at Berkeley High School. It is not the first time the school has been involved in such an investigation.

In 2010, a male counsellor was accused of sexually harassing a 16-year-old female student. The ultimate outcome of that case involved a payment to the student and an undertaking by the counsellor to keep his door and blinds open when meeting with students.

Failing to respond appropriately to such allegations is a Title IX federal offense. The relevant part of Title IX relates to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded educational program.

A board member of the school district, also serving on their sexual harassment advisory committee that came about in 2010, led the way toward implementing a viable sexual harassment policy after her daughter was inappropriately touched by two boys while she was in eighth grade. However, her calls for such a policy were being stalled. Frustrated, she contacted the Office for Civil Rights, who responded by opening a new investigation into the matter.

Once the investigation was launched, the High School Principal sent a letter home with students proposing plans for sexual harassment training, educational programs for teachers and students and appointing an interim Title IX coordinator.

It appears that something is now being done to address sexual harassment in the school. The issue is that it took so long to get the issue to the table and get something done about it. When people fail to address the issue appropriately, the harassment continues to happen.

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Workers not relieved of all duties while on rest breaks, says California Court of Appeal

In Augustus v. ABM Sec. Services, Inc., the Court ruled a security firm had indeed provided rest breaks for guards, despite the fact they were always on call. An important takeaway from the January 2015 decision is that while California law prohibits workers from working while on breaks, it does not prohibit employers from relieving workers’ from all duties during rest breaks. If a worker is on call during a rest break, they are still deemed as officially working and must be compensated.
California law says workers must have meal breaks and rest breaks. If they work more than four hours, they must have a 10-minute period during which they are not working on duty. Workers on duty for over five hours must have a half hour meal break during which they are relieved of all duties.
According to the case file, all guards at ABM Security Services were hired to provide security for the building to which they were assigned, deal with any safety or emergency situations, raise and lower flags, greet visitors, escort workers to their vehicles and control access to various buildings. All guards had defined breaks, but were required to keep their communication devices with them at all times and respond if they were needed.
The statement of claim alleged that ABM was in violation of California’s labor laws because workers had to keep communication devices with them continuously and respond if needed.

The Court pointed out that the Labor Code does not specifically mandate that a rest period look different from the workday. It only states that workers must not work during those breaks and that “even if an employee did nothing but remain on call all day, being equally idle on a rest break does not constitute working.” The court decided that on-duty rest breaks were permissible because “remaining available to work is not the same as performing work.”

Labor laws are not always clearly written, and it is only through challenges to the Labor Code that the courts are able to further clarify what the intent of the Legislature had been in drafting the law.

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New law puts California businesses bringing in contract workers between a rock and hard place

California has its fair share of labor laws in place to protect workers and ensure they are paid fairly, fully and on time. However, a new law that became effective January 1, 2015, is going to put a serious crimp in how California hotels, motels, bars and restaurants do business.

The law, California’s AB 1897, states that California businesses contracting temporary workers from another employer are liable to the workers if their employer fails to pay them overtime, pay them on time if they quit or are terminated, provide rest and meal breaks or is in violation of other wage-related laws. Put another way, businesses that hire contract laborers such as parking valets or landscapers are now legally liable for the contract company’s wage violations against their workers.

An employer who sends their hourly wage earners to another business to work is now deemed to be a labor contractor. The business using the employees is now deemed a client employer. There are some exceptions to the new rule, and in order to stay out of trouble with the Department of Labor, it is important to understand the new changes and what they may mean for your business. It is also a good idea for any worker regularly hired out to another business to perform tasks on their premises to find out what rights they now have if there is a wage and hour dispute.

This new law has the potential to greatly affect how hotels, motels, bars and restaurants operate. They regularly hire outside companies to take care of valet parking, janitorial services, security and window washing. Liability under this law is apt to be extremely pricey. If you do not understand how this law may affect you, speak to an experienced employment attorney and find out what you need to know.

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