Archives for April 2021

HAE Wins Sexual Harassment Trial Against San Diego Sheriff’s Department

After a three-year fight, HAE attorneys Alreen Haeggquist and Jenna Rangel prevailed this week in a sexual harassment trial against the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. Alreen and Jenna represented Louise LaFoy, a secretary who alleged that former Assistant Sheriff Richard Miller groped and harassed her starting in 2014. Read more about the case (and our incredible client) here.

Am I Eligible to Have My Employer or Prior Employer Pay or Reimburse My COBRA Premium?

Yes, if you are eligible. Under the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) which President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, employers are required to cover 100% of an employee’s cost of continuing group health coverage under COBRA if the employee was eligible for coverage during the subsidy period (regardless of whether the employee previously elected coverage or discontinued coverage).

Timing: April 1, 2021 – Sept. 30, 2021

The COBRA assistance coverage starts on April 1, 2021 and lasts for a maximum of six months – until September 30, 2021 (the subsidy may end for an employee before the September 30, 2021 date if the maximum period of coverage ends before that date).

18-month Retroactive “Look-Back” to November 2019

The subsidy is retroactive back to before the COVID pandemic. At a minimum, it’s an 18-month look-back” to November 2019. Depending on the employer’s location, the retroactive period may be greater.

Eligibility for Employer Payment of COBRA Premium

Employees and their qualifying dependents are eligible if the employee lost or will lose their health benefits due to involuntary separation or reduction in hours during the eligibility period. It does not need to be related to COVID.

Examples of Eligibility:

So for example, if you are terminated after April 1, 2021 or your hours were reduced from full-time to part time, resulting in loss of health benefits, you are eligible.

Or, if you lost your job on December 1, 2019 and did not elect COBRA or health continuation coverage, you are eligible – this is being referred to as a “Second Bite at the Apple.”

Examples of Ineligibility:

If you voluntarily quit your job, or you were fired for gross misconduct, you are not eligible.

If you are eligible for another group health plan (such as your spouse’s plan) or Medicare, you are not eligible.

Employer Reimbursement:

Under the COBRA subsidy, the employer pays the full COBRA or state continuation premiums and administrative fees. The employee pays ZERO. If an employee made payment during the subsidy period, then the employer must provide reimbursement. The employer will receive reimbursement of premiums from the federal government through credit toward their payroll tax obligation.

Three Haeggquist & Eck Attorneys Named California Super Lawyers; Alreen Haeggquist, Amber Eck Named to Top 25 Women, Top 50 Attorneys Lists

We’re thrilled to announce that Haeggquist & Eck attorneys Alreen Haeggquist, Amber Eck, and Aaron Olsen have been selected to the 2021 California Super Lawyers list. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers statewide are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Alreen Haeggquist and Amber Eck were each also selected for inclusion in the Top 25 Women San Diego Super Lawyers list and the Top 50 San Diego Super Lawyers list.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

Please join us in congratulating Alreen, Amber and Aaron for this incredible honor! (And check out our ad in this year’s San Diego Super Lawyers magazine)

Hostile Work Environment & Quid Pro Quo: Two Types of Sexual Harassment

When you think about what sexual harassment is, you may think about the specific behaviors that constitute sexual harassment – such as unwanted touching, groping or sexual comments. Legally, however, there are two specific categories of sexual harassment — hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Most people have heard the phrase “hostile work environment.” However, a hostile work environment is not, as many assume it to be, a workplace where employees feel overworked or micromanaged. It’s not even a place where a boss is constantly yelling or throwing things. Legally, a hostile work environment is a hostility based on an employee’s membership in a protected class, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. The harassment must be serious and pervasive – not just an isolated or occasional off-the-cuff remark – and make it nearly impossible for you to do your job. The following behaviors are examples of conduct that can lead to a hostile work environment:
  • Unwanted physical contact of any kind
  • Verbal comments about a person’s appearance or body, even if intended as a compliment
  • Derogatory comments or “jokes” that malign a particular sex
  • Attachments or links in company emails or instant messages that contain pornographic or sexually offensive material
  • Displaying imagery or messages of a sexual nature in the workplace
Anyone at a company can contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment. This includes business owners, executives, managers, supervisors, regular employees, independent contractors, and other such personnel. When employees experience inappropriate behavior, they must first make it clear to the perpetrator that the conduct is unwelcome and tell management of the situation. If the company doesn’t intervene in a meaningful manner to stop the sexual harassment from reoccurring, then the employee should seek an employment law attorney to help them assert their rights.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

The second type of sexual harassment is known as “quid pro quo.” This is a Latin phrase that means “this for that,” and implies there is an exchange taking place. Within the context of sexual harassment in the workplace, that exchange is often a career incentive for a sexual favor. Unlike a hostile work environment, quid pro quo is also characterized by a power dynamic that concerns someone who has authority over an employee, to whom the offer is made. Workplace incentives the authority figure may offer in exchange for a sexual favor include the following:
  • Pay raise
  • Promotion
  • Placement on a preferred account
  • Job security during a round of layoffs
  • Protection from termination for otherwise justifiable motives
If any of the benefits listed above is contingent upon a subordinate performing a sexual favor for a superior, then quid pro quo sexual harassment has occurred. Offers may be explicit or implied, and they need neither be accepted nor completed. Merely proposing the offer is all it takes to cross the line.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If you believe you experienced sexual harassment at work in either of its forms, it’s important to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. By evaluating your situation, a lawyer like one of ours at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can offer potential options to help you take the next step with your claim. We are committed and driven to helping employees assert their rights, especially after they’ve experienced sexual harassment. When you work with Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, we can help you pursue the compensation you are entitled to. For more information about our services or to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today.

Working Remotely from Home? California’s Overtime Laws Still Apply.

Remote work and work-from-home privileges were on the rise leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was accelerated due to the pandemic. When businesses were forced to close their offices and worksites, those that could adjust quickly shifted as much of their operations as possible to a remote model.

For many companies, and even more employees, the result is a dramatically new normal compared to where things were before March 2020. Many more employees are working from home or on a semi-remote basis, which means some may have moved hours away from where the office was. They may also be working schedules that are different than before, but despite any of these changes, California’s overtime laws still apply.

Earning Overtime While Working from Home

Working from home shouldn’t be viewed any differently than working from the office, as far as compensation is concerned. When employees are on the clock, they should expect to be paid their normal hourly wages and earn overtime pay, when appropriate.

Employers, however, may take advantage of employees who are working from home offices. They may assume the employee is available on-demand now that they live where they work, and ask for more work than they would at the office. While expecting more from employees isn’t illegal, failing to properly compensate them when they start accruing overtime hours is.

Here are a few examples of how an employee’s time can be taken advantage of while working from home:

  • The employer expects the employee to take work calls at all hours, but only pays the employee for their normal work schedule.
  • Employees are required to respond to work emails regardless of whether or not they’re on the clock.
  • An employer contacts an employee to handle an emergency after the employee clocked out, but doesn’t pay them for the time they spent dealing with the emergency.

How Is Overtime Pay Calculated in California?

When someone is a non-exempt employee in California, they are entitled to earn overtime. Overtime pay is calculated at a rate of 1.5 times (time-and-a-half) that of the employee’s usual rate. Employees begin earning overtime when they work more than eight hours per workday and for the first eight hours of work on a seventh consecutive day of work.

When an employee works more than 12 hours in a single workday or any hours in excess of eight on a seventh consecutive day in a workweek, the overtime pay rate for those hours changes to twice that of the employee’s usual pay rate.

Exemptions from Overtime

Not all employees in California are entitled to earn overtime pay. Those who are not are referred to as “exempt employees.” These employees are typically paid a salary instead of an hourly rate and may hold executive, administrative, and professional roles in their companies. There are many other types of employees who are exempt from overtime that the California Department of Industrial Relations outlines on its website.

Minimum Salary Requirement

When an employee is paid a salary, they are not automatically exempted from overtime. That salary must meet or exceed a specific threshold. That threshold is at least double the state’s minimum wage or greater, but only when the employer has 26 or more employees.

As of Jan. 1, 2021, the minimum wage in California is $14 per hour. This means a salaried employee must be making at least $58,240 per year.

The math for California’s minimum salary requirement works out as follows:

  • $14 minimum wage x 2 = $28/hour
  • $28/hour x 40 hours per week = $1,120 per week
  • $1,120 per week x 52 weeks per year = $58,240 minimum salary requirement for 2021

Independent Contractors

Another type of worker who is exempt from overtime pay is the independent contractor. This is someone who is considered to be in business for themselves and provides services to an employer that are outside of the employer’s usual course of business. Because independent contractors are not considered employees, they are not eligible to earn overtime pay.

Employee Misclassification

Sometimes a worker is misclassified as an independent contractor or an exempt employee to avoid paying them overtime. This is illegal, and people who believe they have been misclassified can pursue fair and just compensation, such as back pay for unpaid overtime, with legal action.

Is Your Employer Paying You Correctly?

If you have been working remotely and believe your employer has broken overtime laws to avoid paying you what you deserve, reach out to Haeggquist & Eck, LLP. We can represent employees who have been working from home and were forced to work more hours than they got paid for or were eligible for overtime and didn’t receive it.

If you have concerns about what could be missing from your paycheck, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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