Firm News

2019 Employment Law Update

Welcome to 2019!  While some of us are struggling through our New Year’s resolutions, the State of California has once again resolved to implement new employment laws.  Here is a list of some of the more notable changes:

Another Step Forward For A Living Wage

This year, the California minimum wage jumped to $11 an hour for companies with 25 employees or fewer, and $12 an hour for companies with more than 25 workers. Keep in mind that under a 2016 ordinance, the City of San Diego’s minimum wage is now $12 an hour.*

2018 – A Year For Women

Women won more than just a record 84 seats in the House of Representatives this year!  As of January 1, Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide a place for a woman to breastfeed, or pump their milk, in a space that is not in a bathroom.

All California public companies are also required to have at least one woman on its board of directors. This change in the law is discussed in detail in our Blog Post from October 2018.**

And the #MeToo movement has led to several important changes in state law concerning sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination.

Sexual Harassment Training is No Longer Just For Big Business

Managers of companies with 5 or more employees must complete two hours of sexual harassment training, and non-managers must complete one hour of sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020, and every two years thereafter.   In other words, smaller businesses are held to the same obligation as larger companies when it comes to sexual harassment training.  This training must also address harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct.

Relieving the “Practical Obstacles” of Sexual Assault Lawsuits

As we all saw on the national stage last fall, it is never easy for sexual assault survivors to come forward.  Fortunately for victims, the state of California enacted Assembly Bill 1619, expanding the time limit to bring a civil claim for sexual assault.  The new law increases the statute of limitations for a civil sexual assault claim up to 10 years after the alleged assault or 3 years after the victim discovered the injury, whichever is later.  Marc Berman, a California Assemblyman who authored A.B. 1619, stated, “it is clear that significant time is needed to recover and overcome the many practical obstacles that prevent sexual assault survivors from civil recourse.”

Freedom To Report Harassment

Civil Code Section 47 was amended to protect victims of sexual harassment who make complaints to administrative agencies from defamation claims.  Because the bill protects sexual harassment complaints by employees and also permits the employer to question interested parties, it received unanimous, bipartisan support.  Finally, something everyone can agree to!

If your employer has failed to keep up to date and violated any of the above, you may have a case against your employer. For more information about your rights, and a free case evaluation, please call us at (619) 342-8000.

*Several other cities in California have established minimum wages that differ from the State minimum wage.  For example, the minimum wage in San Francisco is $15 /hour

**https://haelaw.com/california-sends-a-message-to-the-nation-women-must-be-represented-in-the-corporate-boardroom/

 

If you would like to discuss your employment law case, contact us today for a free consultation!

Hae Verdict Ranked Among Top 50 Labor & Employment Jury Awards

Last year, HAE partners Alreen Haeggquist and Aaron Olsen secured a $492,000 verdict against Kaiser Permanente on behalf of a former medical assistant the jury found was wrongfully terminated due to her son’s medical condition.  The verdict came on the heels of a four-week trial in San Diego Superior Court and marked the first time a novel “associational discrimination” theory was tried in California.

We’re thrilled to announce that TopVerdict.com included the verdict in its list of the top 50 largest labor & employment verdicts in California in 2017!  Check out the list for more information.

To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today!

2018 Employment Law Update

As we reach the end of February, it is safe to say that we are warming up to 2018. Rather than dwell on the fact that time has flown by remarkably fast, it is worth noting that the new year has ushered in favorable new legislation and court decisions for employees (and prospective employees)!

It’s Not Polite to Talk Finances at Dinner … Or During a Job Interview

Under the newly added section 432.3 to the California Labor Code, California employers are now prohibited from seeking an applicant’s salary history. In practice, this means you cannot be asked about your prior salary on a job application or during an interview. While you are free to voluntarily disclose this information during the hiring process, an employer may not use this information as a factor in determining whether to offer employment or what salary to offer you. Additionally, an employer must provide a pay scale for a position when an applicant reasonably requests one.

Ban the Box

California now prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about or even considering, an applicant’s criminal conviction history during the application process, unless the employer has made a conditional offer of employment. Even if your employer factors your criminal history into denying employment, your conviction history must have a “direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying [you] the position.” Additionally, your potential employer is prohibited from considering information regarding a non-conviction arrest (with some exceptions), referral to a diversion program, or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated. In other words, the mistakes you made in the past will not come back to haunt you when you are working hard to get back on your feet!

Breaking Through Gender Norms

California amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to now require employers with 50 or more employees to provide training once every two years to supervisory employees on harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. These employers are also required to prominently display a new DFEH poster regarding FEHC regulations on gender identity and expression.[1] Additionally, FEHA removed gendered terms from FEHA and added gender-neutral terms to ensure that FEHA applied to all California employees, including transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming employees.

Baby Bonding Expansion

California added Section 12945.6 to the Government Code to extend parental bonding rights to employees of smaller employers, by reducing the 50 or more-employee threshold to 20 or more employees. Furthermore, employers must provide qualified employees with a guarantee of reinstatement to the same or comparable position following their leave. This is great news for new parents!

Salespeople Need a Break Too!

In addition to the legislation that has come out of Sacramento, California Courts also worked hard last year to expand employee’s rights. In Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC, the California Court of Appeals held that employers must separately compensate employees for rest periods if an employee’s plan does not already include a minimum hourly wage for such time.[2] In Vaquero, the defendant furniture company argued that its commission plan still guaranteed sales associates would be paid more than $12 an hour; thus, effectively capturing rest period time. The Court of Appeal did not buy this argument and stated that an employer needed to separately compensate its employees for rest periods. Simply put, this decision effects commissioned employees where the employee’s commission plan does not provide separate compensation for non-selling time, such as time spent in meetings or rest periods.

Third-Party Problems

Your employer may be liable for failing to protect you from abuse/harassment from a third party. In M.F. v. Pac. Pearl Hotel Mgmt. LLC, a housekeeper sued her employer (a hotel) after a man who was not a guest of the hotel sexually assaulted her.[3] The California Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff stated a claim under FEHA as to whether the employer had taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

Hugs Are Not Always Harmless in the Workplace

The Ninth Circuit held in Zetwik v. County of Yolo that hostile conduct over a twelve-year period, including unwelcomed hugs, and at least one unwelcomed kiss, was sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute harassment in the workplace.[4]

“We Swipe Left, And Reverse”

Last month, the California Court of Appeal held that Tinder (a popular online dating app) engaged in age discrimination in pricing, because Tinder charged its consumers over 30 years old $19.99/month, but only charged $9.99 or $14.99/month for consumers under 30.[5] The Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s ruling and held that the Unruh Act provides broad protection against age-based price discrimination. Notably, the Court stated, “[a]ccordingly, we swipe left, and reverse.”

If your employer is still living in the past and violated any of the above, you may have a case against your employer. For more information about your rights, and a free case evaluation, please contact us online or call us at (619) 342-8000.

[1] https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/11/DFEH_E04P-ENG-2017Nov.pdf.[2] Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC, 9 Cal. App. 5th 98 (2017).[3] M.F. v. Pac. Pearl Hotel Mgmt. LLC, 16 Cal. App. 5th 693 (2017).[4] Zetwik v. County of Yolo, 850 F. 3d 436 (9th Cir. 2017).[5] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1887382.html.

Attorney Robert Prine Joins Haeggquist & Eck Team

We’re thrilled to announce that Robert Prine has joined our team as an associate attorney!  Robert will work in our employment practice handling cases involving wage disputes, sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination.

Robert is a 2016 graduate of California Western School of Law and joins the firm from Winet Patrick Gayer Creighton & Hanes, where he was the primary attorney on a variety of matters and engaged extensively in law and motion and oral advocacy work. Other past legal experience includes stints at Potente APLC in La Jolla, where he assisted clients with a variety of corporate matters (including entity formation, mergers, and employment counseling), and in the Special Litigation Section of the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.

While a student at California Western, Robert was a member of the Dean’s List and a recipient of the Academic Excellence Award. He was a member of the Moot Court Honors Board, served as Vice President of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society, and was on the school’s Negotiation/Mediation Traveling Team.  He placed first in the California State Bar Student Environmental Negotiations Competition, first in the 2015 California Western Intra-school Mediation Competition, and fourth in the 2015 National Sports Law Negotiation Competition.

Robert holds a B.A. in Legal Studies with a minor in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz.  In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball, indoor soccer, guitar, violin, and piano.

Please join us in welcoming Robert to HAE!

To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today!

Haeggquist & Eck Announces New Name, Website; Welcomes Partner Kathleen Herkenhoff

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Employee rights, consumer, and securities class action firm Haeggquist & Eck, LLP today announced its new firm name and redesigned website. The firm also announced the hiring of new partner Kathleen Herkenhoff. Herkenhoff joins partners Alreen Haeggquist, Amber Eck, and Aaron Olsen in the firm’s San Diego office.

The firm, which was formerly known as Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, enjoys a nationwide reputation for excellence. The attorneys at Haeggquist & Eck have obtained more than $100 million in recoveries for their clients over the course of their careers. In addition, their work has resulted in significant changes to companies’ policies across California and the country, which has had a ripple effect in positively changing the lives of thousands of workers and consumers throughout the state and the nation. Last year, the firm negotiated a $25 million settlement on behalf of students who attended Donald Trump’s Trump University.

The firm also welcomed new partner Kathleen Herkenhoff to the H&E team. For the past 24 years, Kathleen has exclusively focused her practice on litigating complex securities class and derivative actions in courts across the country, and has helped obtain more than $1 billion in settlement recoveries.

“The expansion of the Haeggquist & Eck team and rebranding campaign underscores the firm’s longstanding commitment to pursuing justice on behalf of its clients,” said H&E Managing Partner Alreen Haeggquist.

“Our firm has enjoyed quite a year: we welcomed two new partners, prevailed on a novel discrimination theory and won hundreds of thousands of dollars for our client after a four-week jury trial, and achieved an incredible settlement in one of the most public cases of our careers against a sitting United States President – just to name a few,” said Haeggquist. “Our name may have changed, but our commitment to pursuing justice for our clients hasn’t. The first half of 2017 has been amazing – and the momentum from our clients’ victories continues to propel us forward and inspires us to always do more.”

About Haeggquist & Eck, LLP

Haeggquist & Eck, LLP is a full-service law firm that brings major class actions nationwide on behalf of defrauded consumers, investors, and employees. Please visit www.haelaw.com or our blog for more information about the firm.

To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today!

Aaron Olsen Promoted To Partner

Haeggquist & Eck has promoted attorney Aaron Olsen, who earlier this year served as co-lead class counsel in litigation against Donald Trump and Trump University, to partner, the firm has announced. The promotion took effect January 1, 2017.

A graduate of California Western School of Law, Olsen has spent the last seven years of his practice as an associate in ZHE’s employment law and consumer litigation departments. He focuses his practice on representing employees in all aspects of labor and employment litigation in federal and state courts and is experienced in prosecuting complex class action suits, including consumer fraud actions, product defect cases, wage and hour actions, and unfair competition and false advertising claims, among others. Late last year, Olsen was part of a multi-lawyer team that negotiated a $25 million settlement on behalf of students who attended Donald Trump’s Trump University. He was the first lawyer to field the phone call from and investigate the claims of Tarla Makaeff, who would eventually become the class representative in the case, and was instrumental in prosecuting the nearly seven-year litigation against Trump and his company.

Olsen has obtained millions of dollars in damages for his individual employee clients and has negotiated hundreds of settlements in labor and employment cases for causes of action including wrongful termination, harassment, retaliation, and misclassification. His work has also resulted in significant changes to employers’ labor practice across California, which has had a ripple effect in positively changing the lives of thousands of workers throughout the state.

Over the past few years, Olsen served as co-lead counsel for a nationwide consumer class of purchasers of an allegedly defective power adapter in a consumer product defect class action against Apple, Inc. In re MagSafe Apple Power Adapter Litig., Case No. C 09-01911 JW.  He also served as co-lead counsel for a nationwide consumer class action against Sony Electronics, Inc., which alleged fundamental flaws in the design and/or manufacturing process in the company’s VAIO Touchpad Notebooks. In Re Sony Vaio Computer Notebook Trackpad Litigation, Case No. 09-CV-02109-AJB-MDD (S.D. Cal.).

In 2011, Olsen and Haeggquist & Eck Managing Partner Alreen Haeggquist obtained a successful trial verdict on behalf of clients in a wage and hour, trade secret misappropriation, and breach of contract action. In addition to the trial verdict, ZHE persuaded the Court to find that the opposing party brought the action in bad faith, resulting in a substantial damages and attorney fee award for the firm’s clients. The judgment was affirmed in full on appeal.

Olsen was selected in 2015, 2016 and 2017 as a Super Lawyers Rising Star, an honor received by less than 2.5 percent of attorneys in California each year. He was also nominated as one of San Diego’s Outstanding Young Attorneys in 2011 and 2012.

“Aaron is a tremendous asset to the firm, and the partnership promotion rewards his incredible dedication and hard work,” Haeggquist said.

Olsen is a 2008 graduate of California Western School of Law, where she served as editor-in-chief of California Western School of Law Commentary and was an Executive Board Member of the Student Bar Association. He holds a B.A. in Business Finance from the University of Utah. Prior to joining ZHE, he was an attorney at Nicholas Boylan, APC, and served as a law clerk at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and the San Diego County Office of the Public Defender.

To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today!

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