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.
Teukolsky Law attorney Ella Hushagen has created a new video for the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) discussing health insurance options following job loss. This topic is particularly germane for hundreds of thousands of Californians who are predicted to lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing health insurance during one of the biggest public health crises in recent memory is unimaginably stressful and could have ruinous consequences for individuals who require significant medical intervention as a result of COVID-19. In some cases, an employee's entire family will lose health coverage. It is important for all employees to understand their options and to have health care coverage. Watch Ella's video here.
CELA is a statewide organization of over 1,200 California attorneys who devote the major portion of their practices to representing employees in individual employment cases and class actions, including cases involving unpaid wages, discrimination, harassment, retaliation and whistleblowing.
Healthcare workers are on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, health care facilities must provide workers safe and lawful working conditions.
The law requires health care facilities — such as hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, laboratories, and medical transportation services — to protect workers from COVID-19 infection by providing: 1) written exposure control procedures; 2) training; 3) work practices designed to limit exposure; and 4) personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, gowns, eye protection and masks. More information about these requirements can be found here.
The novel Coronavirus has generated unprecedented demand for PPE supplies, and hospitals are running perilously low on masks. The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has issued interim guidance on Coronavirus regarding efficient use of masks, and when and how they may be reused. The guidance cautions that surgical and other non-respirator face masks do not prevent the inhalation of virus particles, and should not be used. More information can be found here.
California law protects workers from being fired or otherwise retaliated against for refusing to work under unsafe conditions, or for making a complaint regarding safety. Call us today at (626) 522-8982 for a free legal consult if you think you have been subjected to unlawful retaliation.
The Daily Journal, California's newspaper of record for lawyers and judges, profiled Teukolsky Law in its November 18, 2019 print edition. The profile discusses the firm's impact in the field of employment law, highlighting sexual harassment cases and wage-and-hour class actions that the firm's attorneys, Lauren Teukolsky and Ella Hushagen, have litigated over the years. The profile quotes attorneys who have opposed Teukolsky Law in various cases, describing Ms. Teukolsky as "tenacious" and "effective." Read the full profile here.
Teukolsky Law exclusively represents employees in all kinds of disputes with their employers. If you have an employment issue you'd like to discuss, contact us today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky was featured in an article in the Daily Journal on Friday, October 25, 2019 entitled, "Plaintiffs' attorneys flood employers with arbitration cases." Ms. Teukolsky described an effective strategy that she has pursued to vindicate her clients' workplace rights when they have signed forced arbitration agreements giving up their right to bring class action claims in court with other workers who have similar claims. Ms. Teukolsky was quoted in the article saying, "This strategy was born out of necessity. . . It wasn't like we [developed] it in some back room. It was, 'How do I continue to enforce the labor code and protect my client's interests in the face of arbitration agreements that contain class action waivers?' And this was really the only option."
The strategy involves filing an action in court for penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), one of the only remaining claims that employees can file in court despite an arbitration agreement, along with filing individual arbitration actions on behalf of several employees. Ms. Teukolsky described bringing a case on behalf of 57 clients, each of whom filed an individual arbitration claim. After winning the first four arbitrations, the entire case resolved.
Employers are required to foot the bill for all employment arbitrations in California, so this "swarm arbitration" strategy can be enormously expensive for employers - much more expensive than a streamlined class action case. It remains to be seen whether employers will continue to require their employees to sign arbitration agreements with class action waivers in light of the risk of a swarm arbitration.
If you believe that your rights under the Labor Code have been violated, get in touch with Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation. This includes being misclassified as an independent contractor, not getting proper breaks, and not being paid for all of the hours you have worked.
Lauren Teukolsky has received a "Client Choice Award" from Avvo, a website that provides ratings and reviews of attorneys throughout the United States. The "Client Choice Award" is reserved for attorneys who receive at least five 4-star reviews from clients in a given year. Ms. Teukolsky also has a perfect "10" rating on Avvo, a rating reserved for attorneys who are deemed "Superb."
Ms. Teukolsky handles all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees. Contact us today for a free consultation.
In recent years, California lawmakers have taken on sexual harassment and assault with a series of changes to state law. In the wake of revelations about how institutions and companies keep sexual misconduct and abuse under wraps—from the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal to Harvey Weinstein—the California legislature has largely taken confidentiality agreements surrounding sexual misconduct off the negotiating table. The legal developments aim to shed light on sexual harassment and violence by preserving the ability of victims to speak about their experiences, despite a settlement. Here is what you need to know:
1) California law prohibits confidentiality in settlement agreements in civil cases where the underlying conduct could be criminally charged as a felony sex offense. The prohibition applies not only to cases related to workplace sexual assault, but to all civil cases. Sexual conduct that could prosecuted as a felony includes (among other acts): rape, and sexual assault where the perpetrator used violence, restrained the victim, or fraudulently deceived the victim into believing the touching was for a professional purpose.
Where the conduct you allege rises to the level of felony sexual assault, your attorney could be subject to professional discipline by the California State Bar for demanding confidentiality or advising you to agree to confidentiality in a settlement agreement.
2) California law limits provisions in settlement agreements that prevent disclosure of allegations related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sex-based discrimination, and retaliation. If you have filed a complaint in court or with an administrative agency (such as California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing), the company cannot require you, as a condition of settling your claims, to stay silent about the facts described in your complaint.
An exception may be made where the survivor of sexual harassment wishes to maintain the confidentiality of their identity. At the survivor’s request, the settlement agreement can shield the survivor’s identity and facts that could lead to discovery of her identity. It is also permissible for settlement agreements to require the parties’ confidentiality about the dollar figure of the settlement.
If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace, contact us today for a free consultation.
In a unanimous decision issued today in the closely-watched case of Lawson v. ZB, N.A., the California Supreme Court held that employees who file claims against their employers for penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA") to enforce the Labor Code may not seek to recover unpaid wages under Labor Code section 558 on behalf of employees. In the lower courts, the parties fought about whether a PAGA plaintiff subject to an arbitration agreement seeking both penalties and unpaid wages through Labor Code section 558 would be required to arbitrate the unpaid wages portion of their claim. The Cal Supremes cut off this argument at the knees, holding that a PAGA plaintiff may not even seek unpaid wages under Section 558 because the statute authorizes only the State, not a private plaintiff, to bring such a claim. Because the Court previously held that a PAGA plaintiff seeking penalties may not be compelled to arbitration, the Lawson plaintiff -- now stripped of her claim for unpaid wages -- could not be compelled to arbitration.
Sadly, this case is a big victory for employers. It limits the scope of the remedies a private plaintiff may seek under PAGA, the only remaining claim that can be brought in court (as opposed to arbitration) for Labor Code violations. The Supreme Court issued a bright-line ruling that private plaintiffs may seek only penalties (which have a one-year statute of limitations and which must be shared with the State) and can't seek unpaid wages (which arguably have a three-year statute of limitations and which go 100% to the employees). The case is a victory for employees only to the extent that the Court reaffirmed its previous ruling that PAGA claims for penalties may not be compelled to arbitration.
The practical effect of this ruling will be to send much more PAGA settlement money to the State. Previously, in a PAGA-only settlement, the plaintiff could designate a significant portion of the settlement money as unpaid wages and distribute that portion 100% to the employees. The plaintiff could designate the remaining portion as pure PAGA penalties, 75% of which must be shared with the State. Now, PAGA plaintiffs will no longer have the option to designate any portion of a PAGA-only settlement as unpaid wages, which means that 75% of the settlement must go to the State. This means less money in the hands of employees who actually suffered the violations. Hopefully, the State will use the money to hire more attorneys to enforce the Labor Code.
For you legal eagles out there, the critical passage of Lawson states: [T]he amount for unpaid wages referenced in section 558 is not part of that section’s civil penalty and is not recoverable through a PAGA action. Instead . . . this part of a section 558 citation represents compensatory damages. Section 558, in other words, authorizes only the Labor Commissioner to issue a citation that includes both a civil penalty and the same unpaid wages Lawson can alternatively recover under section 1194 through a civil action or an administrative hearing. But section 2699, subdivision (a) does not authorize employees to collect section 558’s unpaid wages through a PAGA action."
If you believe that you have not been paid all of the wages owed to you by your employer, contact us today for a free consultation.
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted about Teukolsky Law client, Sandra Pezqueda, on July 25, 2019. Senator Warren said: "Sandra Pezqueda worked at @TerraneaResort in Southern California. After reporting sexual harassment, she was fired—but her courage launched a movement."
Teukolsky Law represented Ms. Pezqueda in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the Terranea Resort. While her lawsuit was pending, Ms. Pezqueda was named one of the The Silence Breakers, TIME Magazine's 2017 Person of the Year. As reported in TIME Magazine, her lawsuit settled in May 2018 for $250,000. Since settling her lawsuit, Ms. Pezqueda has been a vocal advocate for greater protections for hotel workers. Her courage is an inspiration to us all.
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed or retaliated against, contact us today for a free consultation.
Ella Hushagen has joined Teukolsky Law as an associate attorney. Ms. Hushagen is an experienced litigator, having previously worked as a Staff Attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services on major pieces of statewide impact litigation on behalf of low-income Medi-Cal beneficiaries. After graduating from UCLA School of Law in 2013 (with a joint Masters Degree in Public Health), she clerked for the Honorable Fernando M. Holguin, a federal judge in the Central District of California. Read more about Ms. Hushagen here.
Ms. Hushagen represents employees in a wide range of cases, from sexual harassment to discrimination to wage-and-hour violations. If you believe you have experienced unlawful conduct in the workplace, contact us today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.