Frequently Asked Questions
We have categorized our most frequently asked questions into the following sections for your convenience. If you have additional questions or need more information about your issue, please contact us for a free case evaluation.
How does a lawsuit work?
Often clients have many questions about how the legal process works. The following chronology explains how a lawsuit may typically work, although many factors may affect this timeline. Keep in mind that the process often varies from case to case depending on the number of parties, factual issues, legal issues and the overall complexity of the matter.
The answer greatly depends on your case. The firm has no control over how long any particular case will take. Typically, uncomplicated civil lawsuits in a fast-track jurisdiction take about a year to resolve after the initial filing.
Complex matters and courts that do not employ fast-track scheduling may take considerably longer. The delay or stalling tactics of the opposing party may also affect the length of certain matters.
You can be confident, however, that the firm will work to advance its clients' cases as expeditiously as possible within the confines of the court process. We believe that "justice delayed is justice denied."
What are all these legal documents?
Lawyers, by tradition or court rule, must file certain papers that look very different from documents used in everyday life. At the beginning of a lawsuit, attorneys exchange legal papers describing the claims and defenses of each side. As the case advances, your lawyer may send you copies of documents filed with the court, sent by the other side, or sent by the court. Your attorney is the best reference for explaining the legal papers in the context of your particular case.
The vast majority of cases we handle on behalf of employees, such as wrongful termination, discrimination and unpaid wages, are on a “contingency basis.” This means that you pay no fee until we recover damages for you.
Certain other services, including severance review or legal advice, may entail an hourly fee.
There is never any charge for the initial phone conversation. Because the length and nature of each legal matter varies, we will discuss fees and options during the initial consultation. We strive to provide the highest level of service at the lowest possible cost to you.
Once the firm is retained, we take appropriate action, whether that means sending a written demand to the potential parties, filing a lawsuit or initiating other methods to help resolve your matter. We are committed to providing the highest level of availability and accountability to our clients from the initial retention to the conclusion. You’ll be apprised of all important developments, timelines and expectations in your case, and you can be assured that we will vigorously represent your interests from start to finish.
Once a lawsuit is started, the law requires disclosure of all relevant facts and documents of the case to the opposing side prior to trial. This process of exchanging information is called “discovery.” Discovery assists all parties in getting at the underlying facts of the dispute and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases. It also avoids surprises at trial and can sometimes help facilitate a settlement.
The California Labor Code states that all employees are assumed to be “at will.” This means that you or your employer may end the employment relationship for any reason at any time, even without warnings or serious performance problems. At-will employees are different from contract employees, whose contracts (often, a union agreement) may specify the conditions and circumstances under which a company may terminate the worker.
Some technology companies pay their computer programmers and other I.T. professionals a salary without realizing some of these employees are entitled to overtime.
In California, the Computer Professional overtime exemption (Labor Code Section 515.5) determines which employees are exempt from receiving overtime pay. This law states to be exempt from overtime, computer professionals must be paid a minimum salary, AND have advanced job duties. Even if you make more than the minimum salary, to be exempt from overtime under California law, a computer professional must have job duties that meet several requirements, which are detailed in this article.
It is illegal for an employer to terminate or retaliate against an employee because the employee filed a wage claim against them. Both federal and California laws protect employees from retaliation when they participate in “legally protected activities.” Exercising your legal rights by filing a wage and overtime claim is considered a legally protected activity.
Workers have the right to file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or to file a wage lawsuit in California or federal court, against an employer without fear of retaliation. When employers violate these rights and discriminate or retaliate against employees who have filed wage claims, workers can pursue retaliation or wrongful termination claims against the employer along with the original wage claim.
In order to establish a case of illegal retaliation, the employee must prove the employer’s harmful employment action toward them was motivated by their engaging in the protected activity of filing a wage claim. The harmful action must be a tangible one, such as termination, demotion or withholding a promotion.
If the employee can prove the above, then it is the employer’s responsibility to prove they had some other valid reason for taking the action against the employee. The employee then has to show the employer’s reason was just an excuse to cover up for the retaliation.
California law allows employees to recover money owed for unpaid wages, including denied overtime and meal periods. One way to recover unpaid wages from an employer is by filing a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), also known as the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
Read more to learn how to file a claim for unpaid wages.
California has stricter overtime pay laws than many other states. Employers are required to pay overtime for both authorized and unauthorized overtime hours. Unless they meet an exemption, California requires that employees who work over eight hours a day or 40 in a week, or work on the seventh consecutive day of a work week, be paid overtime at 1.5 times their regular rate of pay. In addition, hours over 12 worked in a day or hours over eight worked on the seventh consecutive day in a week are paid at two times an employee’s regular rate of pay.
In some cases, an employer may implement an alternative work week that allows employees to work up to 10 hours per day for four days per week without receiving overtime. However, if employees work more than the hours stipulated in the agreement, they must be paid overtime. Normal double-time rules also apply. Furthermore the agreement must follow strict legal guidelines, which include that it must be approved by two-thirds of employees in a secret ballot held during regular work hours.
Learn more to see if you're entitled to overtime pay.
Not necessarily. Being salaried does not guarantee exempt status. Some salaried employees may be incorrectly classified as exempt. There are many categories of exemptions that are governed by complex rules that depend on various factors, such as the type of duties an employee performs.
Learn more to see if you are qualify as an exempted employee.
No. The California Labor Code states that an employee who is fired must be paid all of their wages immediately at the time of termination. The final paycheck should include all earned and unpaid wages, as well as accrued vacation, bonuses or commissions if applicable.
An employee can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office if he or she does not receive their final paycheck from their employer. Employers must pay a “waiting time” penalty for willful failure to pay final wages immediately upon termination. The penalty accrues at the employee’s average daily wage for a maximum of 30 days. The 30-day period includes weekends, holidays and other days the employee would not usually work.
When calculating the penalty, overtime wages are included only if the employee had regularly scheduled overtime each week. The penalty stops accruing once the employer pays the outstanding wages, or the employee decides to file a complaint in court to recover the unpaid wages with the help of an attorney.
Employers are required to classify employees as either exempt or non-exempt. The major difference between the two categories is that non-exempt employees receive overtime pay, whereas exempt employees receive the same pay regardless of how many hours they work in a pay period. However, sometimes employees are wrongly classified as exempt, and may be owed unpaid overtime.
Learn more about the differences between an exempt and a non-exempt employee.
The purpose of minimum wage is to protect workers from unfairly low compensation. Under California law, almost all state employees must be paid the minimum wage by their employers for every compensable hour worked. This right cannot be waived by the employer or the worker. Some cities have their own minimum wage, including San Francisco and San Jose. Workers are entitled to the highest minimum wage, whether it is local, state or federal. Tips cannot be counted toward minimum wage in California. Also, employees paid on a piece, salary or commission must receive at least the equivalent of minimum wage for every compensable hour worked.
Learn more about California's minimum wage, as well as finding out current minimum wage rates.
California labor law requires employers to provide certain employees with both meal and rest breaks, depending on how long their shift lasts. This rule only applies to “non-exempt” employees—those who are also paid by the hour and eligible for overtime. Exempt (i.e., salaried) workers are not guaranteed meal and rest breaks. However, some employers misclassify employees as exempt or misclassify them as independent contractors to avoid providing breaks and overtime.
Learn more about meal and rest breaks while you're on the job.
Employers are prohibited by law from retaliating against an employee for requesting they be paid overtime pay or any other compensation duly owed to them.
Learn more about claiming overtime pay.
Your employer can come up with a new or modified commission plan. In some cases, your continued employment may even depend on whether you agree to the terms of the new agreement. However, employers are not allowed to change a commission plan to avoid paying commissions that an employee has already earned under an existing agreement.
Learn more about changing commission plans.
Yes, if your employment is terminated, your employer is required to pay you all earned and unpaid commissions.
Learn more about your rights regarding your commissions.
Not every employee is entitled to overtime pay. “Exempt” employees are employees to whom California wage and hour laws, like overtime laws, do not apply. Determining whether an employee is exempt is not always easy.
Learn more about what factors are needed for workers to qualify for overtime.
Under state law, employers must pay an employee overtime whenever they work more than eight hours in a workday or forty hours in a workweek.
Learn more about how overtime is calculated
Unfortunately, employers too often hang an employee’s immigration status over their head, keeping employees afraid of filing any type of claim against an employer.
Learn more about employment rights regarding immigrant employees.
Employees covered under overtime laws are referred to as “non-exempt” employees. When it comes to determining an employee’s exempt or non-exempt status, there are several considerations.
Learn more about an employee's exempt or non-exempt status.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace, whether it is physical or verbal. Verbal harassment that is offensive, hostile or intimidating can be a common form of sexual harassment. It can affect an employee just as seriously as physical harassment.
There are many forms of verbal harassment that can be considered sexual harassment. Some examples are offensive jokes of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual advances, excessive and unwelcome flirting, requests for sexual favors, suggestive or obscene emails and derogatory comments in a sexual context.
Regardless of whether the harassment is severe or pervasive or not, employers can never terminate an employee in retaliation for complaining about any perceived sexual harassment.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows employees to take leave from work in certain situations for family and health reasons. Under the act, employers with 50 or more employees must allow eligible full-time employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in a 12-month period.
Learn more to see what entitles you to medical leave.
California law defines a disability as any medical condition or disorder that limits an employee’s ability to work. A wide range of disabilities are protected from employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
The two main categories are physical disability and mental disability. The law also protects employees who have a medical condition. Medical conditions are those that are related to cancer or a genetic characteristic that could lead to the increased likelihood of developing a disease or disorder.
Learn more on what is considered a physical or mental disability.
Most workers know that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their disability. However, many employees wonder if their medical condition is a covered disability under California Law. California discrimination law covers most disabilities and medical conditions. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, any disease or health condition that affects one of the body’s major systems and limits the ability to work, is a covered disability.
Learn more about disabilities covered under California's employment discrimination law.
One purpose of California’s disability law is to ensure employees with a disability or medical condition can lead normal lives and continue working if possible. A “reasonable accommodation” is any action the employer can take to help the disabled employee keep his or her job.
Learn more about reasonable accommodations
Under California law, your employer cannot legally fire you just because you have a disability or requested an accommodation. An employer with at least five employees must first determine if there is a reasonable accommodation that will keep you working. This accommodation may be modified equipment, extended medical leave, flexible schedule, temporary duties, reassignment to another open position you can perform, or many other possibilities.
Learn more about your right to request an accomodation for your disability.
No. An employer cannot legally fire an employee just because they requested or took medical leave to take care of themselves or a close relative. Not only that, but medical leave taken under the FMLA, or California’s similar CFRA law, is job-protected. This means an employee who takes medical leave is entitled to return to their same or equivalent job position after coming back from leave.
Learn more about your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights Act.
Whether or not you qualify for job-protected medical leave depends on: (1) your employment situation; (2) your relationship to the person who is sick or injured; and (3) the nature of the health condition.
Learn more about whether you qualify for medical leave.
No. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot discriminate based on an employee’s disability. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects disabled workers.
Learn more about your employment rights if you are disabled or need to take medical leave.
Temporary workers are covered by the same employment laws as other workers even though they may be hired on a seasonal or short-term basis. They are sometimes misclassified as independent contractors and denied their rights as employees due to the project-oriented nature of their work.
A temporary employee may file a discrimination claim if their employer discriminates against them on the basis of their membership in a protected class, such as age, sex, race, religion, disability or medical condition, national origin or pregnancy. A temporary employee is usually supplied to an employer via a temporary agency. Depending on the specific facts of a case, both the temp agency and the employer that leased the employee can be held liable for workplace discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act if they knew about the discrimination and failed to take immediate action against it.
A worker’s status as an employee may affect their ability to file various discrimination lawsuits against the employer, in addition to the temp agency. The main factor used to determine the employer’s liability is a “right to control” test. The test is similar to the one used to establish a worker’s independent contractor status. A temporary worker may effectively become a leasing company’s employee for legal purposes if the leasing company is found to exercise significant control over the way tasks are accomplished.
While getting yelled at by an employer or supervisor all day long may be unpleasant, such behavior does not necessarily provide grounds for a harassment lawsuit unless it falls under a legally-defined hostile work environment. A “hostile work environment” is a legal term that refers to verbal or physical harassment in the workplace against certain protected classes of people.
There are very specific federal and California employment laws that determine whether an employer’s actions qualify as discrimination. An employee simply experiencing unfair treatment from the employer is not enough to establish a discrimination claim.
Unfair treatment becomes unlawful if an employer discriminates against the employee based on their membership in a “protected class.”
Although it may seem difficult, the very first step in dealing with discrimination or harassment in the workplace is to talk to your employer or supervisor. Make sure your supervisor knows what is happening, assuming that he or she is not the perpetrator. This can take the form of a private meeting or in a note or memorandum. Additionally, you should approach your company’s human resources manager and inform him or her of the improper conduct. Unfortunately, many discriminatory acts go unrecognized and unpunished because the victim is not fully informing the employer that the conduct is occurring.
No, employers cannot fire an employee who files an employment discrimination claim. If an employer does so, they are engaging in illegal retaliation.
Learn more about what constitutes illegal retaliation, and how to prove a retaliation claim.
An employee may still have a case against their employer under the constructive discharge claim. Constructive discharge is when an employee is forced to quit their job because they were subjected to illegal working conditions that were so intolerable they felt they had no other choice.
The employee does not have to actually be fired from their job in order to have a claim. The law treats constructive discharge as an employer firing an employee rather than an employee voluntarily resigning. In order to prove a constructive discharge claim, the employee must show several factors detailed here.
Being fired out of the blue or even after getting positive performance reviews does not necessarily constitute wrongful termination. Employers are not required to give at-will employees any advance notice or warnings before firing them. That said, an employee with a good record, fired out of the blue or for a suspicious reason, may wish to consider whether the employer had an illegal, hidden motive for the termination.
Learn more if you have been fired without warning or getting a negative performance review.
Being fired from work unexpectedly can be a stressful experience that can leave a person feeling unsure about their options. Upon the termination of employment, the first step to take is to determine whether the termination is illegal. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer unfairly terminates an employee in violation of federal or California employment laws.
Read more to learn what you can do if you think you've been fired unfairly.
For the average person, a lawsuit can be very expensive. Typical expenses may include court filing fees, deposition fees, costs associated with subpoenaing witnesses and documents, expert witness fees and numerous other trial-related fees. The vast majority of our cases, including wrongful termination, discrimination, and unpaid wage cases are handled on a contingency basis where we pay for all legal expenses and recover nothing until you win. The costs of litigation should be discussed during the initial consultation with an attorney.
Yes, California is an at-will employment state, as is every other state with the exception of Montana. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, without notice, even without good cause.
Learn more about an employer’s ability to fire an employee.
Illegal retaliation occurs when an employer takes some tangible action against an employee for exercising his or her rights under anti-discrimination, whistleblower or certain other laws. Retaliation could be in the form of actions that significantly harm the employee like termination, demotion, salary reduction, discipline or a negative performance review.
Both federal and California law protects employees from retaliation when they participate in legally “protected activities.”
An employee may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit if they are fired for complaining about their employer’s illegal conduct and not for some other, legitimate reason. Federal and California laws offer employees protection from retaliation when they participate in “legally protected activities” such as:
- Complaining about discrimination or sexual harassment
- Exercising their rights under wage and overtime laws
- Participating in investigations
- Protesting unsafe working conditions
- Reporting illegal conduct by the employer or its managers
While some types of discrimination are easy to recognize, that is not always the case with pregnancy discrimination. Below are a few examples of ways that an employer may discriminate on the basis of pregnancy:
- Declining to hire a pregnant woman
- Refusing to provide a pregnant employee with required leave
- Firing a pregnant employee
- Harassing an employee for pumping
- Retaliating against employees who file discrimination claims
Learn more about what is pregnancy discrimination.
If you came back to work after pregnancy only to be told your job was eliminated; or you are not getting the same opportunities as before, then you might suspect pregnancy discrimination. But how can you find evidence to support your suspicion? This is actually a common challenge for employment law attorneys.
Because pregnancy discrimination has been illegal in California for decades, almost no employer is actually going to tell you that you were let go or treated differently because of your pregnancy. We know that the "smoking gun" piece of evidence often does not exist in discrimination cases. So, employment lawyers have to play detective, and methodically build a case by discovering various pieces of suspicious evidence. You can help by doing some investigating of your own.
Learn more about evidence needed to prove pregnancy discrimination.
If you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, there are steps you can take to hold your employer accountable. However, the process of pursuing a California pregnancy discrimination claim may seem overwhelming.
Learn more about the process for filing a pregnancy discrimination claim.
When a California employee discovers that their employer legally wronged them, chances are they were not the only one. An employment class action lawsuit is a good way for a small number of employees, or even one person, to get justice for every employee who was harmed.
Learn more about employment class action lawsuits.
Class actions are ideal for a few dozen or more employees who have suffered the same legal violation, such as unpaid wages or missed meal and rest breaks.
In the employment context, class actions are especially important as they are not only about the compensation but about affecting positive change in the workplace. The final benefit of a class action is that, by grouping, employees increase their overall bargaining power.
Learn more about getting involved in a class action lawsuit.
When a California employee finds out that they were wronged by their employer, chances are they are not alone. An employment class action lawsuit is a good way for a small number of employees, or even just one person, to get justice for every employee who was harmed.
Learn more about how employment class action lawsuits work.
There are numerous types of employment class action lawsuits, learn more to find out what type of claims can be brought as a class action lawsuit.
For the vast majority of employees, an employer cannot take a harmful or “adverse” action against the employee because of their age. Any of these actions could be legal discrimination if done because of an employee’s age:
- Termination, including forced retirement
- Refusal to hire
- Failure to promote
- Unequal Pay
- Denial of any other rights or benefits of employment
Learn more about what constitutes age discrimination.
California law protects employees from harassment based on age.
Because every employee’s story is different, there is no black-and-white rule for what makes a good case for age discrimination or harassment.
Learn more to find out if what you're experiencing can be considered age discrimination.