New California Law Would Open Up Can Of Worms For Workplace Harassment Claims

Workplace harassment is a difficult subject for state governments struggling to understand that anonymity can mean the difference between keeping one’s job or losing it. And the worst part is, company-mandated non-disclosure agreements (which are a staple for big companies these days) prevent anyone from discussing these matters with outside parties. That means if you’re fired for blowing the whistle on harassment, there’s nothing you can legally do about it.

One of the most public examples of these policies recently involved Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. You might remember that she leveled an accusation of sexual harassment toward the then-CEO Rover Ailes. Although Ailes stepped down, she went out the door right behind him. And she can’t tell her story because an NDA legally prevents it.

#MeToo supporters are trying to target laws that allow this kind of backwards behavior.

A new California bill is being sponsored by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino). SB 820 would ban NDAs that prevent victims from telling their stories publically. The bill has already gone through the State Assembly’s judiciary committee in July, but it still requires support from the state Senate and a signature from California Governor Newsom before being put into law. 

According to Los Angeles attorney Jeffrey W. Cowan, NDAs that prevent publically acknowledgement of sexually motivated crimes are “a blight on the legal system.” He expects the new bill to “go a long way toward ensuring that trials and discrimination claims are an effective search for truth, and that there is accountability for victims of unlawful discrimination in the workplace.”

The only thing that would still be confidential in cases like the aforementioned? Settlement amounts.

But not everyone agrees with the law’s potential for protecting the victims. A letter penned by the California Chamber of Commerce reads: “SB 820 will drive employers to fight these cases in court instead of resulting in an early resolution.”

But it’s hard to see the merits in that. Companies generally try to avoid public scrutiny, and that means settling cases instead of bringing them to court — even when certain details have already been made public.

Michael Morrison, an attorney for one victim, said: “In terms of sexual harassment, nothing has been more devastating to getting information out about harassers than arbitration clauses.”

A separate measure written by the California Assembly would ban arbitration clauses in employment contracts. These clauses force employees to hand away their legal right to sue an employer for any reason. Instead, employees and employers must use arbitration to settle differences. These, too, are often bound by non-disclosure agreements.

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What Do California’s New Employment Laws Mean For Workers?

The new employment laws will reclassify about a million independent contractors as employees. You may have heard a reference to the fight for employment for those who work for the ridesharing giant, Uber. The reclassification will allow the workers the right to join a union, which will in turn give them more sway when it comes to bargaining with Uber for better pay and benefits. Right now, Uber drivers don’t expect much.

But there are two sides to the story.

A lot of Uber drivers like their job — they feel the pay is decent if you put in the hours, and better yet, you’re the one who decides exactly what those hours are. The job is a flexible one, and it gives those who are contracted the option of working or not working depending on how they feel or how much money they’ve already made for the week. 

And here’s the thing — while unions might do great work for some employees, not everyone feels that way. Take grocery store workers, for example. How would you feel if you were forced to join a union and pay the establishment a small chunk of each paycheck, only to barely make minimum wage? The point of a union is for increased bargaining power — for better pay and benefits, in other words — and without that, what’s the point? It’s almost like you’re paying a greedy corporation to protect you from a…greedy corporation — but they don’t do the job.

Worker status will be determined by an “ABC” test, which asks three questions: is a worker bound by employer rules? Is the work done somehow different from the employer’s normally established business? Last, is the worker established in the relevant trade?

The second question is where the arguments begin to arise: it seems obvious that Uber’s primary business practices involve, well, drivers driving. But according to the rideshare company, ridesharing is actually not its primary business. If that sounds absurd, the new law’s writers agree with you.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalex (Democrat-San Diego), who helped write the new law, was primarily concerned with how workers may or may not have been taken advantage of by ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. But other professionals will see their job status change as well.

Labor lawyer Brad Shafer said, “A problem with AB 5 is some people got exemptions because they had political juice and other people didn’t. This is a legal standard that forces people who want to be independent contractors to be classified as employees. Take any performer who comes on stage at Staples Center. That entertainer would arguably be an employee of Staples Center. The performer is providing entertainment, and that is the business of Staples Center.”

Basically, the law is causing quite a few problems, and it might be a while before any of them really get worked out.

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Is Your Employer Required To Provide A Bathroom On Site?

It might seem like a silly question to ask — because really, how many of us run into this problem? — but believe it or not, employers have been routinely brought to court for not providing their employees with a sanitary environment in which to go to the bathroom. Two industries in particular have experienced new legislation to ensure employers are doing their part. Which industries are those? Foundries and tobacco plantations. 

The most surprising element of the legislation is where bathrooms are not required: literally anywhere else. Thankfully, most employers like to use the bathroom themselves, so it hasn’t become a huge problem.

What do the laws say?

According to Connecticut General Statute Section 31-36:

“The commissioner shall have authority by order to that effect to require the proprietor of any foundry in which ten or more persons are employed, situated in a locality where there is such a system for the disposal of sewage as to make such order practicable, to provide for the use of such employees a toilet room of such suitable dimensions as said commissioner determines, containing washbowls or sinks connected with running water, with facilities for heating the same, such room to be directly connected with such foundry building, properly heated, ventilated and protected from the dust of such foundry.”

The ridiculously worded statute goes on to guarantee that a person or company found in violation of this new law will be fined — get this — no more than $50.

Wow.

And then there’s Connecticut General Statute Section 31-38, on tobacco plantations:

“Any person, firm or corporation employing twenty-five or more laborers on a tobacco plantation, which fails to provide adequate toilet accommodations for such employees, so arranged as to secure reasonable privacy for both sexes of such employees, shall be fined not less than twenty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars.”

You read that correctly! If you’re one of the many, many rich owners of a tobacco plantation, violating this law will only set you back a measly $100. In other words, you could simply disobey the law if you wanted to, because it’s not like it’ll break the bank!

Then again, these are Connecticut laws, and the number of plantations in the state hasn’t exactly exploded over the years. Few of those that remain employ more than 25 people. 

The laws used to regulate other activities, but have been reevaluated and revised over time. For the record, a “ foundry” refers to any place of business where metal is cast. Maybe these laws were drafted because it’s hot in foundries or on plantations? Who knows.

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Causes of Boating Accidents

As the weather continues to be warm throughout the summer months, more and more people are taking to the water to enjoy some fun in the sun. However, as more and more boats enter the waterways, boating accidents can occur. There are several main factors that contribute to these boating accidents from operator errors to improper maintenance to weather conditions. Whatever the cause, if you have been injured in a boating accident through no fault of your own then contact our personal injury attorney for an evaluation of your case. You might be entitled to compensation.

Negligent Factors That Cause Boating Accidents

It is not a surprise that most boating accidents are due to the negligent acts of boating operators. Similar to driving, a distracted boating operator, a drunk boating operator or even one that is inexperienced can lead to boatings collisions resulting in injuries to the parties involved.

Despite no lanes of traffic, boating operators cannot be distracted when driving because they need to pay attention to things such as weather, other vehicles, and speed. Driving under the influence is considered a crime in most states. If you have been involved in a boating accident due to the influence of drugs and alcohol they can be held liable for any property damage and injuries that were sustained. And similar to how a new driver tends to get into car accidents more frequently due to lack of inexperience, the same can be said for boat operators.

Other contributing factors to boating accidents include improper maintenance on the boat causing the boat to stall out, leak oil or not be safe for passengers. It is the responsibility of the owner of the boat to make sure that it is in proper working condition before leaving the dock.

And while boating is usually enjoyed on a beautiful day, sometimes the weather can take a turn for the worst unexpectedly. It is the boating operators responsibility to know how to handle rough water, have safety gear readily available and make sure that all passengers on board are safe.

Contact Us

If you have been injured, you might be entitled to sue for damages which include medical expenses such as past, present and future treatment of your injuries, pain and suffering as well as lost wages. For more information, contact our attorneys for a consultation regarding your case!

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Postal Worker? Here’s What To Do If You Were Mauled By A Dog On The Job

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about aggressive dogs: some are racist and only go after African Americans, some have a thing against postal workers, or some have just “never done that before!” Truth be told, those dogs are probably all inadvertently trained to be jerks by irresponsible owners. Accidents or unexpected attacks do occur, sometimes because of mixed signals given off by the victims, but when all is said and done only the owner is responsible for his or her dog.

If you were attacked by a dog while on the job, the order of operations is much the same as if you weren’t on the job. The only difference is the options you have available to you to recover damages.

When you suffer from a dog bite on the job, and the bite leads to injury, you can file for workers compensation. Usually this will help you recover any and all damages you suffered. However, because dog owners have strict liability for any and all injuries that result from their pet’s behavior, you also have the option to make a personal injury case against the pet owner. A judge won’t necessarily be as likely to rule in your favor — because you’d be making a profit — but you can still make the case.

Here’s what to do when you’re bitten by a dog:

  1. First, pretend that you were in a car accident. Your checklist isn’t all that different. Instead of the police, you may want to ask animal control to conduct an investigation.
  2. You’ll want to check with witnesses who may have seen the dog bite occur.
  3. You’ll want to locate the pet owner to find out important information such as insurance that may cover dog bites, vaccination history, and contact numbers or email addresses. Make sure you have the person’s name!
  4. Photograph the injuries.
  5. Medical attention is an important part of your potential case, if you decide to go that route. You’ll need proper documentation to prove that you sustained financial damage and injuries. Your employer will also need this information to file workers compensation. Continue to document and photograph your injuries as you recover.
  6. If the injuries were severe enough, then keep track of your state of mind or daily pain in a journal. Although an award for pain and suffering is rare, they’re not unheard of in dog bite cases.

Following your injury, be sure to keep documentation of any future correspondence you have with either the pet owner or insurance company. Find an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure you have everything in order. You’ll receive a free consultation whether you take the case further or not.

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Common Bicycle Accident Injuries

As the weather gets warmer, more and more people are biking to work. While bicyclists and motorist are obligated to follow the rules of traffic, accidents do occur. Bicycle accidents are more dangerous and lead to more severe injuries simply because there is nothing protecting the person on the bike. Common injuries include:

Head and Brain Injuries: With or without a helmet, impacts of a head hitting the ground during a bicycle accident can lead to serious injuries like skull fractures, concussions and sometimes traumatic brain injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries: If the bicyclist’s spinal cord was injured during the accident, it can sometimes lead to paralysis.

Fractures: Depending on how the bicyclist hits the ground, fractures can occur in the foot, ankle, knee, hip, pelvis, arms, shoulder and sometimes the face.

Internal Injuries: Also depending on how the bicyclist hits the ground, internal injuries to the spleen, pancreas, and lungs can occur. Also, hernia and bowel contusion can occur.

Strains and Dislocations: Straining of muscles, tendons, and ligaments can also occur especially in the shoulder area from bracing for impact.

Superficial Trauma: This includes skin and soft tissue injuries such as cuts, abrasions, road rash, lacerations, bruising and contusions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that bicyclists make up 2% of all traffic-related deaths.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or wrongful death due to a bicycle accident that was due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to collect damages. Damages include medical bills, ongoing medical costs, lack of earning potential, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment.

In New York, there is no-fault insurance. This means your own insurance company covers the cost of your medical treatment. However, sometimes insurance companies don’t give enough money for lifelong treatment. This is why it is important to hire a personal injury lawyer to get the compensation you deserve.

For more information, please contact us for a free consultation regarding your accident.

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What Are The Most Important Labor Laws Under Federal Regulation?

The dance between state and federal labor laws is one in which all sides play their individual roles. The states, the federal government, the employees, the corporations, the individual employers, human resources (HR), and all the organizations built over the country’s history in order to protect everyone’s rights. There are a lot of moving parts, and sometimes the law becomes difficult to understand or uphold. Here are a few of the most important labor laws under federal regulation.

  1. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is all about wages and hours. It outlines minimum wage regulations, and guarantees overtime pay for certain hourly jobs. It also establishes guidelines regarding the labor of minors. It ensures that children under 16 cannot work during normal school hours of operation. It also restricts underage kids from engaging in dangerous work activities.

  2. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) helps cover workers’ compensation costs of medical care to maritime workers. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) provides a benefit to certain employees who have been exposed to radiation, and subsequently gotten cancer. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) establishes compensation benefits for federal employees. The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) provides a monthly benefit to former coal miners who were disabled by black lung disease or beneficiaries.

  3. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) is where the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) derives most of its authority and power. OSHA helps preserve safety and health guidelines for workers in certain states that have approved OSHA programs.

  4. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA or Landrum-Griffin Act) provides protection benefits for union organizations and their finances. The LMRDA is also responsible for standardizing guidelines during the election of union officers.

  5. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees a leave benefit for new parents if their employer has more than fifty employees. New parents are granted up to twelve weeks of pay.

  6. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) guarantees employees that they receive warning from employers who plan to close a plant or layoff workers. WARN is only enforced through federal court, as no federal department has authority as part of the act’s regulations.

  7. The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) regulates the garnishment of wages for all employees subject to this legal action.

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Can I Be Terminated From My Job For No Reason?

At-Will employment means that an employer has the right to terminate an employee for any reason, or none at all. Proponents of At-Will employment say that employers should have the right to terminate anyone for any reason with or without cause at a moment’s notice because, you guessed it, employees can do the same thing.

Opponents of At-Will employment argue that the nature of the relationship between employer and employee already provides an unfair amount of bargaining power in favor of the employer. They argue that employees should be provided with legal protections to prevent the unfair abuse of this power. Work is important, after all.

  1. Wrongful termination occurs when the an employee is dismissed in violation of the employment contract. Since most employees under contract are stuck with an “At-Will” relationship, this is a common reason to levy a lawsuit. If there is no contract, employees are almost always considered at-will legally.
  2. What to do if you were fired from your job for no reason:
  3. First, find out if your employment contract specifically defines the relationship between employer and employee as “at-will.” Although you should retain the services of legal counsel either way, it’s helpful to know this information outright.
  4. Determine the circumstances under which you can be terminated if you are not an at-will employee. If you have a union or collective bargaining agreement, these circumstances are usually carefully defined. If you believe you were wrongly terminated under the conditions of a collective bargaining agreement, then speak with union officials. They will fight on your behalf.
  5. Make a record of your working conditions. If there were reasons you may have been terminated, make note of them in the record. If you were subject to constructive discharge, such as harassment or mistreatment, at work, then you may have been wrongfully terminated. Were you forced to resign through coercion? There’s case to be made.
  6. Even though it’s probably too late, you’ll want to walk out the doors as peaceably as possible. You don’t want this experience to follow you to the next job, so try not to cause any trouble before you approach legal counsel. Even though you believe you were fired without cause or for no reason, you’ll still want to treat your ex-employer with respect in the future as well.
  7. Check state and federal laws to see if you qualify for unemployment benefits while you look for another job. Keep track of any money you lose during the period in which you aren’t employed. Your lawyer might be able to use these figures later.

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What Happens When The Police Take Your Phone As Evidence

Police encounters can be terrifying if you or the officers with whom you interact don’t know your rights, and more often than not one of the two don’t. For example, you have the right to record a police officer during routine business in a public space. Sometimes an officer will still request or order you to stop recording. They might not know you have such a right (believe it or not), or maybe they just don’t care. Both of you have options during any such interaction, but what happens when the police take your phone as evidence afterward?

First, we need to answer the question: when can police take your phone? Our phones hold what is potentially the most sensitive information about our lives. Pictures, subscriptions, email, social media, files and folders, and notes and messages: it’s all there. First and foremost, police can confiscate and search your phone if they have a warrant to do so, which means that law enforcement believes the phone could hold information relevant to a crime that has been or will be committed.

Second, the police have the same right if you give them verbal or written consent to search the phone. There is no circumstance in which you should waive your right to keep your own belongings protected, so don’t give consent. If you’re unavailable to provide consent, then a spouse or roommate can do it for you. It might get a little awkward if you let the people in your life know that, hey, they shouldn’t give police access to your personal belongings if there ever comes a time they request to do so–but you should.

Third, if you cross the border your devices can be seized and searched without consent and without a warrant.

Fourth, if you’re arrested your rights diminish. The police can search you and everything on your person. They cannot search the digital contents of your phone.

Once your phone is taken by the police, it can be a huge burden to get it back. Things to know: you don’t have to give police your passwords. The police may return your phone after a time, or they may attempt to hold onto the phone through forfeiture, which you can and should challenge in court.

If your phone is seized either legally or illegally, you should enlist the help of a qualified lawyer in order to get it back. The faster you do this, the faster the phone will be returned to you.

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HOW #METOO GETS UNDERMINED BY HYPOCRISY

While the #MeToo movement has had some prominent value in exposing the seedy underbelly of Hollywood and politics, it has undermined itself in several ways in the 18 months since it all began with accusations against prominent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

One way the movement has undermined itself is by women having bad dates and then claiming sexual harassment or assault. If bad dates were actually sexual harassment, then virtually every guy on the planet who has had a date would be in jail!

The other way #MeToo has lost some of its momentum is through some of the hypocrisy demonstrated by some of the more vocal activists. Every so often an activist will voice some wrong about being sexually harassed, when a dig into his or her backstory reveals that some sexual harassment by the “accuser” had happened in the past and he or she was silent about it.

The latest case of this comes from one of the original activists and Weinstein accusers, actress Asia Argento. The Italian, who accused Weinstein of raping her several years ago, just recently settled a legal claim filed by a young male actor who said Argento sexually assaulted him when he was 17 (he’s now 22). Reportedly the settlement was for nearly $400,000, though Argento publicly denies the charges (despite evidence of text messages and a photo of the two in bed together that seem to back up the actor’s claim that the pair had sex five years ago – and the age of sexual consent is 18).

Reports indicate that Argento and the male actor had acted together in a film in 2012 and that was when the relationship allegedly began. Argent o was reportedly still married at the time, but has since divorced. The male actor claims that the relationship tarnished and irreparably damaged his acting career in the five years since.

Sexual harassment is a scourge on society and it is an abuse of power by one person leveraging over another. It should be addressed aggressively, but when some of the more vocal activists have their own dark secrets that get revealed, these tend to undermine the entire movement and tends to blunt its legitimacy and does not encourage efforts to address the problem.

Asia Argento is one of the faces of the #MeToo movement. Perhaps unfortunately, she is on both sides of the issue, alongside Weinstein on the predator side as well as alongside actresses like Rose McGowan on the victim side.

Being on both sides of an important issue can make it all awkward – and can contribute to bringing the whole movement down in one fell swoop.

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