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Month: October 2019

What is the ADA?

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights statute enacted in 1990 that protects individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including employment. The purpose of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities have equal rights and is similar to the civil rights granted to individuals based on race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. Like any statute, there will be amendments and case law that may change the scope of the ADA, so it is important to consult with an experienced labor law attorney if you believe your employer has violated your rights under the ADA or any labor law.

What is a disability under the ADA?

According to the ADA, a disability is defined as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” and includes “a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” The ADA does not provide a specific list of impairments that are covered, but courts have generally defined “disability” broadly.

Interestingly, the ADA also protects persons who “have a relationship with an individual with a disability.” Specifically, this has been interpreted to mean that an employer may not assume that an employee who has a relationship with a person with a disability would negatively affect job performance. For example, if an applicant for employment is married to a person with a disability, the prospective employer may not assume that the applicant would request excessive absences from work to care for the spouse and reject the applicant based solely on that assumption.

Also, the ADA only protects disabilities that are “known” to the employer. In other words, unless the employer is aware of the disability or because the employee has requested a reasonable accommodation.

How does the ADA protect employees?

The protections under the ADA are broad and include both employees, and qualified applicants for employment. Under the ADA, a “qualified individual with a disability” includes a person that “meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position” and who is capable to perform the “essential” job functions of a job they currently hold or seek with or without a “reasonable accommodation.” In other words, if a applicant or employee is qualified to perform the essential aspects of the job except for limitations due to a disability, the employer cannot reject the applicant or terminate the employee without first considering whether a “reasonable accommodation” could be enacted to allow the individual with a disability to  perform the essential tasks. 

A “reasonable accommodation” is a “modification or an adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee” to perform the essential tasks required for the job. For example, if an applicant is qualified for a job, except the applicant uses a wheelchair and is unable to climb a ladder to reach the top shelf where supplies are stored, the employer may not reject the applicant solely on that basis. Instead, the employer must first consider how to modify the workplace so that the applicant would be able to complete tasks without having to climb a ladder, which is not possible due to the person’s disability. If the accommodation is reasonable, and the employee is otherwise qualified, the employer must make the accommodation in order to comply with the ADA.

The range of reasonable accommodations vary from modifications to existing workplaces such as wheelchair ramps, modifying work schedules, modifying equipment, providing a reader or interpreter, or adapting training programs. The ADA does not, however, give preferential treatment to individuals with disabilities nor does the ADA require the employer to assign an individual with disabilities to a job that the person is not qualified to do.

Employers are also not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would impose an “undue hardship” on the business. An undue hardship is defined as “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense” when compared to several factors such as nature and cost of the accommodation, resources required, and the size and structure of the business. In general, courts have required larger companies to make more accommodations that may be expensive than a smaller company.

Does the ADA protect California employees with disabilities?

Yes. The ADA is a federal law that protects all employees with disabilities in the U.S.  However, California boasts some of the strongest protections for employees in the country, and a California state version of the ADA is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959 (FEHA). While both the ADA and FEHA protect disabled individuals from job discrimination, FEHA is broader than the ADA and provides greater protection. For example, under the ADA, the protection extends to persons that will be substantially limited by a disability, while the FEHA includes any “limitation” rather than requiring a “substantial” limitation. The result is that FEHA offers broader protection than the ADA.

What should I do if I feel my rights have been violated under the ADA or FEHA?

If you are a person with a disability and you believe your rights have been violated as either an applicant or employee, you should contact an experienced labor law attorney to discuss your case. Both the ADA and FEHA are complicated, and you need legal assistance to ensure your rights are protected. Also, an experienced labor law attorney can help you determine whether to file a complaint and what information you need to proceed. More importantly, an experienced labor law attorney can advocate for you and file a lawsuit for damages if appropriate. You may also be part of a class action suit with other similarly situated employees.  

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including ADA and FEHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee due to violations of the ADA or FEHA, you have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


What is OSHA?

“OSHA” is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). The Act, enacted by Congress, ensures safe and healthful working conditions for employees. OSHA provides protection to almost all private sector and some public sector employees by establishing and enforcing strict standards.

What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970?

“OSH Act” is a set of laws that enforces the workplace conditions that employers must comply with and includes regulations that ensure the health and safety of employees. In general, that means that the workplace must be free of hazards that can cause injuries or illnesses. For example, OSH Act protects employees from being exposed to toxic chemicals, unsanitary work conditions, extremely loud noises and physical hazards that could result in slips and falls.

In addition to specific standards tailored to a particular industry (i.e. construction), all employers must comply with the General Duty Clause which requires the workplace to be “free of serious recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical injury to his employees.”

The Act also requires employers to provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as attempt to eliminate or reduce hazards to minimize risks. However, any serious hazard must be eliminated. A “serious hazard” is defined by OSH Act as one “that there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.”

How does OSH Act ensure workplace safety?

The Act requires employers identify hazards and keep records of workplace injuries. Moreover, employers must investigate workplace injuries, illnesses and incidents. Employers are required to use this data to identify hazards and implement practices to reduce the risks with corrective actions.

In addition, OSHA investigates workplace complaints as well as conducts random inspections. Employers also have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint requesting an OSHA inspection if the employee believes there is a hazard.

What happens if OSHA finds a workplace violation?

OSH Act has strict penalties for employers who “willfully or repeatedly” violate the Act. Civil penalties can range from $5,000 to $70,000 for each willful violation. Employers can also be fined for failing to correct hazardous conditions. In the most serious cases of OSH Act violations, OSHA can seek a court order to force the employer to eliminate any “imminent danger” and the immediate removal of all employees from the workplace.  

Does OSH Act conflict with California State Law?

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH or Cal/OSHA) provides state protection to employers that often provides greater protection than the federal OSH Act. In fact, California boasts some of the country’s most strict protections for employees under state law. If you are an employee working in California, you should file a complaint with the state agency in most cases. However, there are some cases that must be filed with OSHA. An experienced labor law attorney can provide you with the appropriate agency based on the facts of your case.

Can an employee sue an employer for OSHA violations?

Yes. If an OSHA violation resulted in an injury, you can sue your employer for failing to adhere to OSHA. You may also sue any negligent or legally liable party which could include the property owner, a general contract or a third party. Also, depending on your injury and the OSHA violation, you could be part of a class action if other employees are similarly injured.

Also, your rights as an employee could be violated in other ways such as being fired for filing an OSHA complaint, or for refusing to work in unsafe conditions. In fact, there are over 20 labor laws that protect whistleblowers and prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee who complains. There are strict time limits for filing these claims for whistleblower protection, so be sure to consult an experienced labor law attorney immediately after a retaliatory action occurs.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including OSHA and Cal/OSHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee due to hazards in the workplace, you have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


Employment class action lawsuits can protect the rights of a large group of employees.

Q: What is a class action lawsuit?

A: A “class action” is a legal procedure that allows one or more plaintiffs to file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, or “class” or litigants. The reason that class actions are allowed is to help courts manage claims simultaneously when certain conditions are met.

Q: What are requirements for a class action?

A: Each state has different requirements for a class action, but many states follow the federal requirements for a class action lawsuit. In general, the federal rules of civil procedure require the following for a class action to be “certified” and thereby appropriate for litigation:

            • there must be many potential plaintiffs

            • there must be a common injury or wrongdoing

            • the named plaintiffs (that will be designated the class representatives) have the same claims as all the other plaintiffs; and any defenses by the employer are the same or very similar

            • the class representatives can protect the class adequately and fairly.

Employment class actions have two additional requirements that consider the impact on individual claims if the employer objects to a class action, and the employer urges the court to handle each claim individually. In other words, the courts will allow a class action to proceed in order to ensure that the employer is not able to settle individual claims in ways that are not consistent or fail to protect the interests of all the employees claiming a violation.

Class actions and the requirements are complicated, and therefore it is important to discuss your case with an experienced labor law attorney to determine whether your case is appropriate for a class action, or whether you will be better served by filing a lawsuit as an individual.

Q: Are class actions common in employment law?

A: Yes. Class actions are often used in cases when an employer has violated the rights of a large group of employees. Class actions are an effective way to file a claim against an employer that will protect the rights of many employees that have had their rights violated in a similar way or due to being in a particular class based on race, age, sex, or national origin.

Class actions against employers are particularly effective because employers must address the claims of many employees and have a strong incentive to stop the illegal behavior since the awards can be much more significant than a lawsuit by an individual employee. For example, if you are an employee and your employer is refusing to follow the law by paying required overtime wages, it seems likely that the employer is similarly violating the rights of other employees. Pursuing a class action lawsuit would allow all the injured employees to file one lawsuit seeking damages instead of each individual employee filing a separate lawsuit.

Q: What are the steps to file a class action lawsuit?

A: If you feel that your rights as am employee are being violated, for example, if your employer is not providing you with meal or rest breaks, or your workplace is not safe, you should contact an experienced labor law attorney to discuss your case.

If you and your attorney decide to file a class action because there is reason to believe that are other employees that have been similarly injured, your attorney will work to certify the class (in either state court or federal court). This will involve identifying all employees that should be part of the class. The goal is to have the court certify the class, which will allow the lawsuit to proceed.  Notably, unlike federal law, California has “a public policy which encourages the use of the class action device.”

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including ADA and FEHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


FAQs on Arbitration

Often a job offer will include an employment contract that you are expected to sign. Understandably, as a prospective employee, you are anxious to be hired, so you may not give much thought to signing the contract. However, every employment contract will be unique, and you must be sure that the terms in the contract reflect the negotiations that lead to the job offer. More importantly, you need to make sure the contract is fair and your rights are protected by consulting with an experienced labor law attorney.

Q: What is arbitration?

A: Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution that handles disputes without going to court. The dispute is decided by one or more neutral arbitrators after the parties present evidence and make arguments in an arbitration hearing. Some hearings also permit questioning witnesses. The rules of arbitration are less formal than a trial, but there are federal and state rules of arbitration that must be followed. Arbitration can be either binding or non-binding. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision may include an award for damages which is enforceable by law. In non-binding arbitration, the decision is merely “advisory” in nature, and the parties can either accept the decision, or pursue binding arbitration or a trial.

Q: What is an arbitration clause?

A: An arbitration clause is often included in agreements including employment contracts. The primary purpose of an arbitration clause is to require any dispute between the parties pursuant to the contract be settled by arbitration. In other words, if an employee alleges the employer has violated terms of the employment contract, the employee must resolve the dispute through arbitration instead of going to court. The arbitration clause, however, may designate arbitration as either “mandatory” or “voluntary.” Mandatory arbitration requires arbitration, while voluntary arbitration means the parties may chose arbitration by mutual agreement. Most employment contracts include a mandatory arbitration clause because employers generally prefer arbitration. Arbitration clauses can be complicated, and include many terms regarding venue, costs, procedures, scope of disputes, and selection of arbitrators. You should consult with an experienced labor law attorney before signing any arbitration clause to ensure your rights are protected. More importantly, your attorney can identify any unfair terms of the arbitration clause, and employment contract in general, and request modification.

Q:  Should I sign an employment contract with an arbitration clause?

A: Whether you agree to an arbitration clause or not will depend on many factors, and you should consult with an experienced labor law attorney before signing any employment contract. You should realize that arbitration clauses, and employment contracts in general, are often written to favor the employer. With that said, your attorney can review the terms of the contract and advocate for your rights. Just as not all employment contracts are the same, arbitration clauses will differ as well. If you are asked to sign an employment contract, be sure to consult with an experienced labor law attorney, despite your eagerness to accept employment. You must protect your rights as an employee and take every step possible to ensure the terms of your employment are fair before signing an employment contract.

Q: Why do employers include arbitration clauses in employment contracts?

A: There are several reasons why employers prefer arbitration rather than a trial. First, arbitration is usually less expensive than a trial. Second, arbitration is considered a private resolution of a dispute between parties, and therefore would not be as public as a trial. Also, an unfavorable ruling against an employer would not be setting precedence for other employees, unlike case law. Third, many arbitration clauses in employment contracts prohibit employees from joining a class action lawsuit. Class action lawsuits are important to challenge wide-spread labor law violations, and employers discourage class actions which could result in significant legal fees, financial liability as well as bad publicity. Finally, because there is an inherent imbalance of bargaining power at the time of hiring, many employers use this advantage by including arbitration clauses that deprives employees of their rights to their day in court. This also provides an on-going advantage to the employer who knows that the employee is restricted by the arbitration clause.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including employment contracts and arbitration clauses, and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.

If you or someone you know suffered employment violations due to an unfair employment contract or arbitration clause, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.


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Fax: 213.471.4160