On October 15, 2020, Lauren Teukolsky spoke at a press conference announcing a new class action lawsuit filed by Teukolsky Law against HMS Host, the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). HMS Host laid off almost 1,000 LAX workers in March and April 2020, including named plaintiffs Plaintiffs Debra Lewis, Marlene Mendoza and Lotus Perez-Silva, who each worked for HMS Host at LAX for more than 30 years, most recently as servers in Point the Way Café by Golden Road and Campanile, two LAX concessions operated by HMS Host.
The lawsuit alleges that HMS Host failed to pay its laid-off workers wages they are owed under the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance. The lawsuit also alleges that Host failed to comply with California's "timely payment provisions" by waiting over six months to send laid-off workers their final paychecks for accrued vacation time.
Law360, which covered the filing of the lawsuit, quotes Ms. Teukolsky as saying "that the workers have struggled because of the layoffs. 'The workers by and large have not been able to find other employment. Many of them have had to go on to unemployment benefits, and for many of our clients, they are having to make really hard decisions between paying rent, paying medical bills, getting groceries,' she said."
On October 21, 2020, the week after the lawsuit was filed, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted down a relief and lease extension package that HMS Host was seeking, estimated to be worth tens of millions in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief for HMS Host.
If you have been laid off and have questions about whether your employer paid you all of the wages you were owed, contact us today for a free consultation.
One of the propositions on the ballot on November 3, Proposition 22, could have major implications for the future of AB 5 enforcement in California. If passed, the proposition would allow gig-economy companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart to classify their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. These companies would be exempt from AB5, the new California law that requires most employers to classify their workers as employees. Courts have consistently ruled that Uber and Lyft have violated AB5 by refusing to reclassify their drivers as employees since AB5 went into effect on January 1, 2020. As recently as October 22, 2020, a California appeals court ruled that Uber and Lyft must reclassify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
If Prop. 22 passes, Uber and Lyft would not need to comply with these court rulings. As independent contractors, their drivers would not receive many of the benefits and protections of the employment relationship, like minimum wage protections, paid sick leave, workers' compensation benefits if they are injured or unemployment benefits in they become unemployed.
Backers of Prop. 22, including Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Postmates (owned by Uber) and DoorDash, have poured more than $187.5 million into backing the bill, making it the most expensive proposition in California history and dwarfing the $15 million raised by the opposition, spearheaded by labor groups who have traditionally represented the interests of working people over corporate interests. Prop. 22 would not only apply to Lyft and Uber drivers, but would cover all drivers who work for a "delivery network company," potentially including FedEx, Amazon, Walmart, UPS, and any other companies that makes deliveries in California.
If passed, Prop. 22 would set a dangerous precedent in California. Companies who don't like laws that the Legislature passes, and who don't like court rulings requiring them to treat their workers fairly, could simply open their coffers -- filled with the profits they earn by not spending money on employee benefits -- and buy themselves a ballot proposition. Significantly, Prop. 22 contains a provision stating that it cannot be amended except by a 7/8 majority of the Legislature, effectively tying lawmakers' hands for the rest of eternity absent a new ballot proposition. California voters should reject this company-sponsored initiative and let the California Legislature do its job to govern in the interests of the people.
If you think you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
On Wednesday, September 30, Governor Newsom finished out the legislative season by signing a flurry of legislation, including several that benefit employees. The bills are as follows:
A federal judge has ruled that Uber and Postmates failed to demonstrate that they were unconstitutionally targeted by AB 5, the new law that requires most California workers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors.
The lawsuit, Lydia Olson et al v. State of California et al, alleged that AB 5 violated the equal protection clause because it targeted workers of app-based companies like Uber and Postmates, while exempting numerous other types of workers like hairdressers and real estate agents.
In her ruling, issued September 18, 2020, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee rejected this claim, finding that lawmakers were attempting to address the rampant misclassification of employees and to ensure that workers received the "basic rights and protections they deserve under the law, the attendant problems, such as a lack paid sick leave, including a minimum wage, workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave."
Judge Gee ruled that Uber and Postmates did not prove that app-based companies were targeted because of animus, reasoning that AB5 maintains the traditional exemption of workers who have long been considered independent contractors under California law.
Earlier this month, the California Legislature revised AB 5 to exempt several more businesses from the classification test and to increase the state’s ability to enforce the law. Meanwhile, Uber, Lyft and other app-based companies have poured millions of dollars into Prop 22, a measure on the November ballot that would exempt their drivers from AB5 and classify them as independent contractors.
If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
On Thursday, Governor Newsom signed three more bills to protect California’s workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. California is already considered one of the most worker-friendly states to work during the pandemic, according to a recent Oxfam report which looks at measures like the amount of mandated paid leave and protection against forced return to work.
SB 1159 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) makes it easier for employees infected with COVID-19 to claim workers' compensation benefits. The law creates a rebuttable presumption that certain employees contracted the virus at work, thereby making them eligible for benefits.
AB 685 by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) requires businesses to inform their employees in writing within one business day if the business receives notice of a potential COVID exposure at the workplace. Under the new bill, CalOSHA is allowed to determine if certain workplaces are imminently hazardous enough to prevent certain operations and processes. Cal OSHA is also now authorized to issue citations for coronavirus violations without needing to follow the usual pre-citation requirements.
SB 1383 (19R) by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Starting in January 2021, SB 1383 will broaden coverage by extending job-protected leave to businesses with 5 or more employees, and by extending the list of relatives one can care for to include siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.
If you think you been denied family leave or have concerns about workplace safety, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
COVID-19 has spawned a wave of employment lawsuits, including cases alleging wage-and-hour violations, employment discrimination, unsafe work environment, and whistleblower retaliation, among others. Corporate defense firm Fisher Phillips has been tracking all these lawsuits on a map; this helpful tool shows that California leads the nation in employment-related coronavirus litigation, with over 137 cases out of the total of nearly 700 as of September 17, 2020. In the last seven days, California alone has reported six new COVID-related cases in employment law.
One longstanding area of litigation that has been affected by the coronavirus is the misclassification of workers as independent contractors under California’s AB 5, a new law which creates a presumption that most workers are employees. Many gig-economy companies, including ride-share titans Uber and Lyft, classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The classification question has grown particularly relevant during the pandemic because many gig workers need paid sick leave and other disability protections available only to employees.
One case that highlights how COVID may affect existing AB5 cases is Rogers v. Lyft, Inc. (N.D. Cal., Case No. 4:20-cv-01938-VC). In this case, drivers allege that Lyft misclassified them as independent contractors under AB 5 and that Lyft failed to provide them appropriate paid sick time. In April 2020, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied the drivers’ emergency motion for a preliminary injunction that would have forced Lyft to immediately reclassify them as employees and grant them sick leave. The judge scolded the workers for using the pandemic to try to get a positive ruling on the classification question. The drivers appealed the denial of injunctive relief and the case is now in the Ninth Circuit.
Rogers v. Lyft poses a chicken-and-egg question: Did the pandemic create the need for workers to be recognized as employees and therefore receive paid sick leave and other protections only afforded to employees, or are workers using the pandemic to create reasons they should be recognized as employees and receive additional benefits? Although there may not be a clear answer to this question, there can be little doubt that the pandemic will help shape the early course of AB 5 enforcement in California.
If you believe that you have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
On September 10, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1867. Passage of the bill means that millions of Californians will now be eligible for up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave during COVID-19. While many workers were already given paid sick leave under the federal FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act), this bill expands paid sick leave to employees working for private employers with more than 500 U.S.-based workers, and all health care providers and emergency response workers not covered under FFCRA. The bill also codifies existing paid sick leave provisions for food service workers.
To qualify for the expanded leave, the employee must perform work outside their home or residence and satisfy one of the following conditions: 1) be advised by a medical provider to quarantine due to coronavirus-related concerns; 2) due to COVID-19 concerns, not be permitted to work; or 3) be under a federal, state, or local isolation or quarantine order. The legislation will be enforced through the Labor Commissioner’s office; there is no private right of action to sue the employer directly in court.
New regulations such as these are essential for containing the spread of the coronavirus because they create a pathway for workers to stay home and not risk their health or their income. Keeping sick workers at home also stops the spread of COVID-19 to the general public. We are grateful to live in California, which was recently ranked #1 by Oxfam in terms of worker protections in a study entitled, "Best States to Work During COVID-19." Hopefully, California will continue to lead the way in worker’s rights legislation during the pandemic.
If you believe that your employer has failed to provide you with paid sick leave or you have any questions about your rights during the COVID-19 crisis, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky Quoted In Daily Journal About Non-Disclosure Agreements Preventing African-American Employees From Discussing Their WOrkplace Experiences of Racism
The Daily Journal published a front page article today discussing non-disclosure agreements that prevent African-American employees who have settled their claims out of court from speaking about their workplace experiences of racism. Lauren Teukolsky is quoted about the parallels between the Black Lives Matter movement and the #metoo movement, and her prediction that the political pressure generated by BLM may eventually result in the California Legislature banning non-disclosure agreements in all harassment and discrimination cases (they are currently banned only in sexual harassment cases).
The Daily Journal article states: “The two bills [one of which prohibits non-disclosure agreements in sex harassment settlements] were among several that came out of the #MeToo movement, which ‘created intense political pressure for women who had previously been bound by confidentiality agreements to come forward and be able to tell their stories without fear of retribution,' said Lauren Teukolsky, who represents employees at Teukolsky Law APC. 'There is absolutely a parallel that can be drawn between #meToo and the Black Lives Matter movement,' she said. 'As the Black Lives Matter movement grows and expands, I do think there is going to be a push in the Legislature to end non-disclosure agreements potentially in all discrimination cases and in all harassment cases. There’s just no reason why the ban on NDAs should be limited to sexual harassment.'"
If you have experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace, contact us today for a free consultation.
On Wednesday, July 29 at 3pm, Lauren Teukolsky will present a training organized by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on "Employment Issues During COVID-19: How Legal Services can Make a Difference for Low-Wage Workers." Pro bono attorneys, labor advocates, and others interested in workers' rights are encouraged to attend this live event. Ms. Teukolsky will be joined by two other employment law experts, Victor Narro and Matthew Clark.
The panel will delve into the impact of the pandemic on low-wage workers and how the legal community can make a difference. Ms. Teukolsky will be discussing leave laws, accommodations for employees with disabilities, wage-and-hour issues, Labor Code protections for workers who complain about unsafe workplace conditions, and other hot topics being faced by low-wage workers during the pandemic. The registration link is here.
McDonald's Employees Represented by Teukolsky Law Take First Step Towards Lawsuit to Protect Them from COVID-19
On May 19, 2020, six McDonald's employees represented by Teukolsky Law APC and Altshuler Berzon LLP filed administrative actions alleging that McDonald's has failed to take proper steps in three of its restaurants to protect its employees from COVID-19. Two of the restaurants are in Los Angeles; one is in San Jose. One of the Los Angeles restaurants, located in West Adams, had an outbreak of three employees who tested positive for COVID-19. The other Los Angeles restaurant, located in Monterey Park, had one worker test positive for COVID-19.
As alleged in the administrative actions, McDonald’s failed to take proactive steps, such as screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms, that would have prevented employees from working while sick. In the Monterey Park location, the employee who eventually tested positive for COVID-19 was allowed to return to work after calling out sick the day before – without any screening whatsoever, even though her managers knew she wasn’t feeling well in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Even after she went home sick, the actions allege that managers failed to warn her co-workers that she had come to work with COVID-19 symptoms, which means they touched the same surfaces she touched, and unknowingly exposed themselves and their family members.
The complaints further allege that McDonald's has failed to properly sanitize its restaurants, and has failed to provide its workers with basic protective equipment like masks and gloves. The complaints allege that there is not enough hand sanitizer or soap for workers to keep their hands clean. Managers are not enforcing proper handwashing, or permitting workers to take enough breaks to wash their hands.
Also today, workers in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald's with similar allegations that McDonald's has failed to keep employees safe, thereby creating a public nuisance endangering the health and safety of the public at large.
If you believe that your employer is not taking proper steps to keep you safe from COVID-19, contact us today for a free consultation by calling (626) 522-8982 or through our website.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.