In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Srourian Law Firm is now offering virtual meeting opportunities for clients and prospective clients who wish to abstain from coming into our office. Please call our office to schedule your remote appointment. We wish you & yours health and safety during this time.

X

SLFLA

consult with an experienced labor law attorney

FAQs on PPP Fraud

Many businesses have benefited from PPP loans during closures due to COVID-19. PPP funds, however, are supposed to benefit employees by providing financial assistance to businesses to maintain payroll, employee benefits and other business expenses. If you are aware of any PPP fraud by your employer, you have an obligation to report the fraud. Moreover, you are protected from any retaliation for reporting any violations.

Q: What is PPP fraud?

A: PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) fraud includes any misuse of funds from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to COVID-19. In an effort to provide financial assistance to businesses during the pandemic. Any business that received PPP money, must use the money for specific business expenses such as payroll, employee benefits, rent, interest on mortgages, and utilities. The intent of the PPP was to ensure that businesses could continue to pay employees and cover necessary businesses expenses during mandatory closures.

Unfortunately, there is a growing concern that businesses have been violating the requirements of PPP. This fraudulent behavior has resulted in the money not being used to pay employees as intended. Examples of PPP fraud include falsifying information on PPP applications, providing inaccurate data regarding employees, and misdirecting PPP funds away from payroll.

Q: What happens if I learn my company committed PPP fraud?

A; If you learn that your company has committed PPP fraud, you must report the fraud. However, there are steps you can take to protect your rights. First, you should review any paperwork you signed as a condition of employment. This will include any employment contract, documents signed during orientation and training, as well as any employee handbooks. These documents often include a company policy that employees will act honestly and report fraud. In other words, you could be violating a company policy by not reporting the fraud. Second, you should consult with an experienced labor law attorney who can not only advise you of the legal issues, but more importantly, will protect your rights.

A: Can my company fire me for reporting PPP fraud?

A: No. If you report PPP fraud, you are protected by federal and state laws as a whistleblower. Any punitive action taken by an employer against an employee for reporting PPP fraud (or any violation of a law or regulation) is specifically protected under laws against whistleblower retaliation. In addition to federal protection, California has very strong labor laws that protect whistleblowers. Specifically, California Labor Code section 1102,5 (in part) states:

An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information.

The broad protection under California law not only protects whistleblowers from retaliation, but also protects an employee who are believed to be a whistleblower by the company. Other forms of retaliation that are prohibited by law include threats, demotions, reduced hours or pay, blacklisting or denying a promotion that is merited.

Q: Can I sue my company if they retaliate against me for reporting PPP fraud?

A: Yes. If you report PPP fraud by your company, and are the victim of retaliation because of the report, you have a right to sue under federal and state law. Moreover, the company can also face significant civil penalties. An experienced labor law attorney can review your case and help you decide what course of action is best. More importantly, consulting with an attorney will protect your rights as an employee and possible whistleblower.

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 PPP fraud and whistleblower retaliation, 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 PPP fraud or whistleblower retaliation, 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.


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.


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.


Phone: 213.474.3800
Fax: 213.471.4160