Bloomberg's Labor and Employment blog quoted Lauren Teukolsky discussing non-disclosure agreements ("NDAs") in sexual harassment settlements. Employees often agree to keep quiet about the settlement terms in exchange for the settlement amount. Sometimes, the employee will even agree not to discuss the underlying facts of the sexual harassment. There is currently a bill pending in the California Legislature that would ban all NDAs in sexual harassment settlements, even if the employee is willing to accept an NDA in exchange for a higher settlement amount. Plaintiff-side employment lawyers are torn about whether a complete ban on NDAs is in their clients' interests. As Ms. Teukolsky stated in Bloomberg: “I think it’s important for my clients to be able to decide whether they’re willing to sign an NDA in exchange for more settlement money." Also - sexual harassment clients themselves sometimes do not want the facts underlying their claims to be publicly discussed, particularly when their cases are settled before a lawsuit has been filed. We will see whether the California Legislature ultimately bans NDAs or not. California law already prohibits NDAs in settlement agreements in civil cases where the underlying conduct could be charged as a felony sex offense.
Teukolsky Law client Sandra Pezqueda has settled a sexual harassment case against Terranea Resort and the staffing agency that placed her there for $250,000. The settlement has drawn national attention because TIME Magazine named Ms. Pezequeda a "Person of the Year" in 2017 as one of the Silence Breakers who spoke out against sexual harassment. TIME honored Ms. Pezqueda alongside celebrities like Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift. The settlement has received extensive coverage, including from The Washington Post, TIME Magazine, CBS and The Daily Mail. Interest in Ms. Pezqueda's settlement comes at a time when many states, including California, are considering legislation that would benefit victims of sexual harassment, such as prohibiting non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment settlements.
TIME Magazine has published an article reporting that Teukolsky Law client Sandra Pezqueda, named a TIME "Person of the Year" in 2017, settled her case against Terranea Resort and the staffing agency that placed her there for $250,000. Lauren Teukolsky is quoted extensively in the article. As reported in the article:
“I think one has to assume that the #MeToo movement has altered every employer’s calculations over whether to resolve a case or not,” Teukolsky told TIME. “I think that employers, generally speaking, are going to be much more cautious about going to trial now that women are being believed about their sexual harassment allegations, and every potential juror knows somebody who has had a #MeToo moment.”
Sandra Pezqueda, a Teukolsky Law client who was named one of The Silence Breakers, TIME Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year, has settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against Terranea Resort and the staffing agency that placed her there for $250,000.
Ms. Pezqueda, a former dishwasher at Terranea, filed suit against the luxury resort alleging she was fired after complaining to management about a supervisor who was sexually harassing her. According to the lawsuit, she was pursued by a male supervisor for months who changed her schedule and cut her hours after she rebuffed his advances. After coming forward and reporting the issue, Ms. Pezqueda alleged that the company targeted her and ultimately fired her.
Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision in Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Superior Court. The plaintiffs were truck drivers who delivered goods for Dynamex. (The last time I ordered something from Ikea, Dynamex delivery drivers delivered it.) Dynamex classified the drivers as independent contractors, essentially claiming that the drivers ran their own delivery businesses. The drivers contended that they were actually employees. Why does this matter? Only employees get the benefit of labor laws, like minimum wage protections and entitlement to meal and rest breaks.
California courts have long disagreed over the proper test to apply to figure out whether someone is an employee or independent contractor. We now have a fairly bright-line test, called the "ABC Test." Under this test, a worker is only an independent contractor if the hiring entity proves ALL of the following: (A) the worker is free from the direction and control of the entity that hired him or her; (B) the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business; and (C) the worker has an "independently established" business and is performing work for the hiring entity out of that business. If the worker can show that any one of these factors is not met -- for example, the hiring entity is a delivery company and she is working as a delivery driver -- the test fails and the worker should be classified as an employee.
Which workers will NOT qualify as independent contractors under this test? Examples may include copywriters hired by a public relations firm to write press releases; IT workers who exclusively provide IT support to customers of a single tech firm; or a worker who performs maintenance for a maintenance company. For now, the ABC test applies only to cases involving California's wage orders (think reporting time pay). But, it's not hard to imagine that courts will extend the ABC test to other areas, like discrimination law or personal injury.
Every case is different. If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you may want to consult with an attorney.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.