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FAQs on Whistleblowers

Reporting your company or supervisor for violating the law can be frightening. However, reporting workplace violations are important to ensure the rights of all employees, and in some cases protect the health and safety of employees, the public and the environment. Fortunately, federal and state laws protect employees who report violations.  

Q: What is a whistleblower?

The term “whistleblower” is used to describe an employee who reports an employer for violating the law. The violation could be an illegal act taken by the employer against the whistleblower, or a general violation with a wider impact. For example, an employee who reports an incident of sexual harassment at work would be a whistleblower. Similarly, an employee who reports an employer for violating pollution laws would also be a whistleblower.

Q: Are whistleblowers protected?

Yes. There are many federal and state laws enacted specifically to protect whistleblowers. In addition to protection from retaliation, whistleblowers can also file a lawsuit against the employer if there is retaliation for reporting the violation of the law. In other words, an employee cannot retaliate (or punish) an employee for being a whistleblower.

Federal law protection for whistleblowers require a “good-faith” belief that a violation of the law occurred. Like many legal terms, it is difficult to define “good-faith,” but courts have generally held that a good-faith belief be a combination of the whistleblower’s subjective opinion as well as an objective basis for the violation. An experienced labor law attorney can discuss the facts of your case and advise you on how to proceed with an allegation against your employer and ensure that your rights are protected under Federal law.

Whistleblowers are also protected under state law, and California labor laws provide significant protection to employees, and are considered among the strongest in the country. For example, under the California Labor Code, an employer cannot retaliate against a whistleblower if the employee “reasonably” believes a violation has occurred which is considered a lower burden than the federal law requiring a good faith belief. Moreover, the California whistleblower is protected even if the employer is cleared of any wrong-doing. 

Q: What is considered whistleblower retaliation?

A: Whistleblower retaliation includes a variety of actions such as:

• wrongful termination;

• demotion;

• failure to promote when promotion is merited;

• denying opportunity for training or professional development;

• blacklisting;

• reducing pay or hours;

• reassignment to less desirable task;

• intimidation;

• denying access to resources necessary to perform work duties; and

• making any threat including a threat to report non-citizen employee to ICE or immigration.

Under California law, an employee is protected from workplace retaliation even if the employee did not actually make a whistleblowing report. In other words, employers cannot retaliate against an employee because they believe the employee is a whistleblower.

Q: What can I do if my employer retaliates against me for being a whistleblower?

A: If you believe you are the victim of unlawful labor practices, or that your employer is violating the law or regulations, you have the right to file a complaint without fear of retaliation. For example, if you are the victim of sexual harassment, you have the legal right to file a formal complaint against your employer through the regular channels proscribed in the employee handbook or your employment contract. Similarly, if the wrongful action by your employer is a workplace safety violation or an environmental violation, you have the right to file a complaint to an appropriate governmental agency such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and not fear retaliation.

After reporting the violation, an investigation should be conducted, and your rights as a whistleblower protect you from workplace retaliation. However, if your employer does retaliate, you can file a lawsuit against your employer for whistleblower retaliation. If you prevail, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages and benefits, physical pain, mental suffering, loss of career opportunities, punitive damages, legal costs and attorney’s fees.

There are strict deadlines on retaliation claims, so be sure to act promptly after the retaliation and speak to an experienced labor law attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

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 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 whistleblower retliation, 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.


California labor laws provide many protections to employees that often exceed federal labor laws. Therefore, it is important to know the various state laws designed to ensure your rights as an employee are not violated by employers. Fundamentally, labor laws and regulations are highly specific and often difficult to understand since laws are amended, enacted or repealed regularly, so it is important to consult with an experienced labor law attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

Often, employees do not realize that they have the right to timely, accurate wage statements each pay period with nine categories of information included in each wage statement. A wage statement, or pay stub, is the document an employer must provide employees every pay period that explains how the paycheck was calculated.

According to California Labor Code section 226, there are nine categories of information that must be included in every wage statement:

• gross wages

• total hours worked

• piece-rate units earned and any rate if employee is paid on a piece-rate basis

• all deductions from wages

• net wages

• dates of pay period

• employee’s name and the last four digits of social security number

• full name and address of the employer

• applicable hourly rates.

Some requirements are not required for exempt employees such as salaried employees. Additionally, section 246(h) of the California Labor Code requires employers advise employees each pay period of any paid sick leave they have accrued. While this is not specifically required on each wage statement, many employers include this information on wage statements as a matter of convenience. This information is particularly vital to any employee who seeks paid sick leave, which is guaranteed by the California Sick Paid Leave Law.

ACCURATE WAGE STATEMENTS ARE REQUIRED BY LAW

California law is clear that employers have a legal obligation to provide accurate wage statements to employees each pay period even if a third-party payroll company used. An employer who fails to comply with the law and violates an employee’s rights may face large fines and penalties, even for minor mistakes. The requirements are strict, and must be followed exactly. For example, the mandatory wage information must be on the face of the wage statement. In other words, the law is not being followed if the employee must find the required wage information on another document besides the wage statement.

In addition to possible fines and penalties, an employee has the right to file a lawsuit against the employer for “knowing and intentional” failure to comply with the law. If successful, an employee who has suffered an injury due to inaccurate or missing wage statements may be entitled to monetary damages.

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 failure to provide accurate wage statements 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 such as not receiving accurate wage statements in California, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to unpaid wages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and/or be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.


Know the Law. Know your Rights.

Generally, employees in California are entitled to a rest break and/or meal break when they work more than three and a half hours a day. Specifically, state law mandates a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked in a day; and a 30-minute meal break if a shift is more than five hours. An additional 30-minute meal break is required by law if an employee works ten hours in a day.

There are some exceptions depending on the type of employee or industry, such as construction, commercial drivers, or utility workers. The vast majority of employees, however, are protected by state law and employers are violating your rights if you are not provided breaks according to the statute. If your employer is not providing you with mandated meal or rest breaks, you have the right to file a lawsuit and seek compensation.

California Labor Code 512(1)(a)

An employer shall not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. An employer shall not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.

Employees may voluntarily waive meal breaks in certain circumstances. For example, if the shift is no more than six hours, the employee may waive the required meal break. An employee, however, may generally not waive the second mandated meal break required for a 10-hour shift if they waived the first meal break. The laws are often complicated, so employees should ask for clarification from a supervisor or human resources; as well as consult with an experienced employment attorney if there appears to be a pattern of violations.

Rest breaks are required by law for any shift lasting more than three and a half hours, and employees must be given a paid rest break every four hours or major fraction thereof. Employees may also voluntarily work during a rest break, but under no circumstances may the employer require you to work during your mandated breaks.

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 failure to provide meal or rest breaks 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 such as being denied meal and rest breaks in California, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to unpaid wages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and/or be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.


Are you Earning at Least the Minimum Wage Required by California Law?

Employees in California must be paid the minimum wage and are protected by law. While there are some exceptions, it is illegal for employers to pay employees less than the required minimum wage. The California state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, so workers should be paid the higher required pay under state law. Moreover, some cities and counties have even higher minimum wages, so you should always be aware of the applicable minimum wage, as well as any increases to the minimum wage that typically occur every January 1.

California Labor Code §512(1)(a)

The minimum wage for employees fixed by the commission or by any applicable state or local law, is the minimum wage to be paid to employees, and the payment of a lower wage than the minimum so fixed is unlawful. This section does not change the applicability of local minimum wage laws to any entity.

If your employer is not paying you the minimum wage required by law, you can file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages, interest on the wages, as well as attorneys’ fees and court costs. Also, if there are many employees that are not being paid the required wage, you could be part of a class action claim against the employer.

California Labor Code § 1194

Any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to such employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of such minimum wage or overtime compensation, together with costs of suit, notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage.

Also, be aware that in addition to the hours you are actually performing your job, your employer must also pay you for any additional time that your employer has control over you. For example, you are entitled to minimum wage for the time needed to change into a uniform; time on-call waiting to be called in to work; as well as time needed to pass through security between shifts. This time is covered by California labor laws, and your employer must pay you at least the minimum wage or they are breaking the law, and you may be entitled to compensation.

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 minimum and unpaid wages 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 such as being paid less than minimum wage in California, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to unpaid wages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and/or be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.


Srourian Law Firm has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of former and current workers of Ruth’s Chris Steak House workers. The lawsuit includes both front of house and back of house workers, including waiters, hosts, barbacks, runners, and kitchen staff for all restaurant locations in the State of California. The lawsuit alleges that Ruth’s Chris violated various provisions of the California Labor Code, including failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime, failure to authorize meal breaks, failure to authorize rest breaks, failure to timely pay final paychecks, failure to provide proper paystubs, and violation of California Private Attorney General Act, among several other violations.

The lawsuit further alleges unlawful restaurant policies of denying and discouraging breaks based on providing team meals to be eaten quickly, lack of adequate resting facilities, and a requirement to keep inaccurate records of meals breaks. The lawsuit further alleges the requirement for workers to take on-duty meal breaks in violation of California leave.

SROURIAN LAW FIRM’S CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

The class action lawsuit, titled Adrian Quiroz v. Ruth’s Chris Hospitality Group, Inc., is currently pending in Riverside Superior Court Case No. RIC1804127. If you worked for any Ruth’s Chris location in California at any time from February 26, 2014, until the present and would like more information about this case, please call us at (310) 601-3131 or send an email to contact@slfla.com. Be sure to give your name, telephone number, and the best time to reach you, and an attorney will get back to you soon.

FREE CONSULTATION

Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is aggressively pursuing claims against MedMen, and other California cannabis dispensaries 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 violations of the California Labor Code in relation to their employment with a cannabis dispensary, you 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