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The CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits to eligible workers.

As the country continues to struggle with the challenges due to COVID-19, labor laws have been adapting to the pandemic, and employees must be aware of their rights. One area that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 is the laws regarding unemployment benefits. The federal and state laws that govern unemployment benefits have always been complicated, and are especially difficult to understand now with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) that was enacted in March 2020. CARES expanded weekly unemployment benefits by as much as $600 a week to eligible workers and have proven to be vital to many families during the pandemic. While there have been a myriad of issues and concerns regarding CARES, there is no denying that to many unemployed workers relied on the additional funds as the nation’s unemployment rate sky-rocketed. Moreover, many states were overwhelmed with the volume of applications, and benefits were delayed.

While it is uncertain whether the CARES Act will be extended, the federal government provided some clarification on July 22, 2020.  For example, a worker may refuse to accept a job offer because the job is unsafe and continue to collect the additional financial benefits provided under CARES. The states, however, will determine what is considered to be safe work conditions, and if a state determines the job or work conditions are not “suitable,” then the worker may receive the expanded unemployment benefits under CARES. Most states already had suitable work place provisions in place prior to COVID-19, and the general criteria is whether the work unreasonably exposes the worker to unsuitable safety risks. Labor laws have always guaranteed a safe work environment, which is particularly important during a pandemic. Notably, a worker cannot refuse a job offer and seek expanded unemployment benefits due to a general fear of COVID-19.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the state may also determine that a job is unsuitable if a worker refuses the job due to virus-related reasons such as increased risk of COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition. The state may also determine a job is unsuitable if a worker claims “good cause,” although the federal government has not specifically defined what is considered to be “good cause” which means that states must decide that issue. Fortunately, workers in California benefit from some of the country’s strongest state labor law protections, and this is one example of how an experienced labor law attorney will be able to argue your case by understanding state laws to protect your rights when federal law is not clear.

The federal government also clarified that some out-of-work employees are not eligible for CARES benefits depending on what caused the loss of the job. For example, if a worker is unemployed due to a reason not related to COVID-19, that worker is not eligible for expanded benefits even if jobs are not available due to COVID-19 related circumstances. The reason for this is because CARES was enacted to assist workers who faced unemployment specifically due to the pandemic, and is not broad enough to include workers who did not lose their jobs due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Fortunately, those workers may still be eligible for regular unemployment benefits.  

Prior to COVID-19, workers who quit their jobs without “good cause” were generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, under the CARES Act, certain reasons related to COVID-19 would allow a worker to qualify for expanded unemployment benefits under CARES. For example, a worker who quits a job because of mandatory quarantine, or the need to provide care to a family member with COVID-19 could be considered “good cause” for the purposes of CARES benefits.

While the federal government continues to debate whether to extend benefits under the CARES Act or perhaps craft new legislation, the states may decide to adopt new policies regarding eligibility in the meantime. However, since unemployment benefits are a hybrid of federal and state law, the states must adhere to federal law and provide at least the minimum benefits afforded under federal laws. Also, as more states work towards re-opening and more businesses are hiring, states may become stricter in determining eligibility for unemployment benefits. As we have learned, during a pandemic, it is important to be informed and be ready to take full advantage of any benefits you are eligible for. Plan ahead and consult an experienced labor law attorney so you will have an advocate that will not only understand the quickly changing laws and benefits, but will be able to guide you and protect your rights during these uncertain times.

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 unemployment benefits 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 involving unemployment benefits, 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.


Productivity quotas can result in unsafe working conditions when goals are unrealistic.

Losing your job is always difficult, particularly when you have worked very hard to be a good employee. Recently, some large corporations have been criticized for having unrealistic expectations regarding employee performance, and have fired employees for failing to be sufficiently productive at work. Here are some frequently asked questions that you may find helpful if you have been fired for failing to meet productivity quotas:

What are productivity quotas?

Productivity quotas are efficiency standards that an employer sets for employees. In other words, the employee is required to meet certain goals at work. Job performance and employee evaluations can be based on whether they meet productivity goals. For example, in a manufacturing plant, the productivity quota could require an employee to assemble “X” number of units per hour. Another example of a productivity quote would be for a delivery person to deliver “X” number of packages per shift. Failure to meet these goals would result in a poor performance evaluation.

Productivity quotes are often unilaterally established by employers, and employees have little or no input on what the productivity quotas are or whether they are realistic. As a result, employees feel tremendous pressure and stress to meet these goals to avoid a bad evaluation and possibly termination.

Are productivity quotas against the law?

No. Unfortunately, for the most part, productivity quotas are not against the law because employers have the right to evaluate the efficiency of employees. However, there are many local, state and federal laws that protect employees and productivity quotas do play a role in the larger question of whether an employee is the victim of an unlawful termination. For example, an employee may have a disability that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation which may include an adjustment to any existing productivity quotas.

Also, failing to meet productivity quotes cannot be a pretext for an unlawful termination based on age, race, disability or protected activities including collective bargaining and whistleblowing. Other factors that must be considered with productivity quotas is whether employees are forced to forgo lawful meal and rest breaks in order to meet goals. In other words, employees are entitled to breaks under the law which includes proper compensation for tasks like clocking in or changing in to uniform. Employers are not allowed to penalize employees by setting productivity goals that encourage or require employees to work through breaks or not receive proper compensation. If you have been fired for failing to meet productivity goals, you should consult with an experienced labor attorney to determine whether the termination was lawful.

Can I be fired for failing to meet productivity quotas?

There is no simple answer to whether you can be legally fired for failing to meet productivity goals. Employers should have several ways to evaluate employee performance, and productivity goals should be one of many factors. However, all employment terminations must be lawful. In other words, if the only factor that leads to losing your job is failure to meet productivity quotas, there may be grounds to challenge that decision. For example, federal labor law requires a safe and secure workplace that is free of hazards. Therefore, employers cannot create a situation where the workplace is hazardous due to productivity quotas that would require employees to sacrifice safety in order to reach the goals out of fear of being fired. 

California law offers even stronger protections for employees and requires every employer to have an injury and illness prevention program which must include safety training and safe work practices. Moreover, according to California Labor Code section 6401, employers must “adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations, and processes which are reasonably adequate to render such employment and place of employment safe and healthful.” Therefore, unrealistic productivity quotas could threaten the safety and health of employees which employers are required by law to protect. Labor law is complex and whether your have a cause of action depends on the specific facts. You should consult an experienced labor attorney to discuss your case if you have been terminated.

Is California an “at-will” employment state? What does that mean?

Yes. California is an “at-will” state which generally means an employer may fire an employee at any time for any reason without “good cause.” Good cause means a reason for an employer to fire an employee such as insubordination or dishonesty. Therefore, as an at-will employment state, employers in California do not have to have good cause to fire an employee. However, the employee may not be fired for an illegal purpose or in violation of the employee’s rights.

All employees have rights, and employees in California benefit from some of the country’s strongest protections. So, even though California is an at-will state, which seems to allow an employer to fire an employee for any reason whatsoever, including failure to meet productivity quotas, the reality of labor law is much more complex. In most cases, you will need the advice of an experienced labor attorney to assess your case and file a lawsuit if you have been the victim of an unlawful termination.

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 termination based on productivity quotas 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 including termination based on productivity quotas, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to overtime wages, meal breaks and rest breaks; as well as 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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