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.
Law360 has written an in-depth article about the latest lawsuit filed by Teukolsky Law against the Freehand Hotel, located in downtown Los Angeles, on behalf of a hotel housekeeper alleging sexual harassment (subject to paywall). According to the article, "Edith Gutu says she has repeatedly asked managers at the trendy hotel to prevent men from entering the restrooms, located next to the rooftop bar and the lobby bar, when she is cleaning them. But she has not been given a sign she can place by the door, or a means of locking the restrooms from the inside, according to her complaint against the Freehand Hotel's owner, Sydell Hostel Manager LLC." The article quoted Ms. Gutu as saying: “I should not have to work in circumstances like this. . . . Today, I have decided to break my own silence. I am doing this not only for myself, but so that all women who work in our industry can work with the dignity and respect we deserve.”
Read the full article here.
Teukolsky Law filed a new lawsuit yesterday on on behalf of a female housekeeper at the boutique Freehand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles alleging that she experienced sexual harassment while she cleaned the men’s restrooms located next to the hotel bars. According to the complaint, the hotel's rooftop bar is a “destination for partygoers,” which features loud music and the smell of marijuana smoke. On Friday and Saturday nights, according to the complaint, the bar takes on a “raucous ‘party’ atmosphere” where guests are often visibly intoxicated and stumbling into the bathroom.
Plaintiff Edith Gutu is a 44-year old woman who has worked as a housekeeper at the Freehand since March 2018. She frequently cleans the men’s restrooms near the hotel bars on Friday and Saturday nights. She has repeatedly asked management to allow her to close the men’s restroom while she cleans, but they have refused. As a result, Ms. Gutu alleges that she has regularly been exposed to men’s genitals as they use the urinals while she cleans. She also alleges that she feels trapped inside the restroom stall when men enter and start urinating. Ms. Gutu alleges that she has been subject to unwelcome conduct from male guests, including being called a “fucking bitch, fucking Mexican,” or words to that effect, by a male guest she asked to wait outside the restroom until she was done cleaning.
Ms. Gutu alleges that she has repeatedly asked Freehand management to let her transfer to the day shift, but they have refused. Even though there are other male staff who could be assigned to clean the men’s restroom, the complaint alleges that Freehand management has not permitted Ms. Gutu to change shifts with them, nor allowed her to close the restroom while she cleans. Instead, after she complained about being exposed to inappropriate guest conduct, management allegedly told her it was “part of [her] job.”
Teukolsky Law also represents Leticia Vallejo, a Marriott housekeeper who similarly alleges that she experienced sexual harassment from male guests while she was required to clean the men’s restroom next to a hotel bar. Like the Freehand Hotel, the Marriott allegedly refused to allow Ms. Vallejo to close the men’s restroom while she cleaned. Ms. Vallejo’s lawsuit is pending in Superior Court in Orange County and is in the discovery phase.
Under California law, employers have an obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment by third parties, including customers. If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, contact us today for a free consultation.
Earlier today, Teukolsky Law filed a new sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of Joey Dalla Betta (pronouns: they/them) against Flaunt Magazine, its CEO Luis Barajas and Editor-in-Chief Matthew Bedard. Barajas founded Los Angeles-based Flaunt in 1998 after a 10-year stint running Detour, a well-known fashion and entertainment magazine. Flaunt covers have featured many high-profile actors and musicians such as Beyoncé, Brad Pitt and Kanye West. Barajas, who is in his mid-50s, hired Dalla Betta as his executive assistant in July 2018. Dalla Betta alleges that Barajas and Bedard ran the magazine based on a culture of fear and intimidation, where advancement was based on a willingness to submit to repeated sexual advances and endure a non-stop barrage of sexual banter. Young aspiring writers like Dalla Betta were scared to complain or quit because jobs in the magazine industry are so rare. (Joey Dalla Betta, pictured left. Photo credit: Lucy-Bleu Knight.)
VICE News ran a piece covering the filing of the lawsuit. As described in the piece, "At first, Dalla Betta thought that the expectations and behavior at Flaunt were normal in the journalism industry. They poured themselves into Flaunt, often working through weekends. At times, it felt like even the boundaries between Dalla Betta and the magazine itself had dissolved, because they felt the successes and failures of the magazine so intimately."
If you have experienced sexual harassment, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
On March 15, 2019, Lauren Teukolsky spoke at a Bridgeport Continuing Education conference on the latest trends in litigation under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Ms. Teukolsky was featured on a panel discussing settlement and arbitration issues. With the prevalence of arbitration agreements and class action waivers, PAGA has emerged as one of the only vehicles for employees to bring collective actions on behalf of a group of employees in court. Ms. Teukolsky discussed the future of PAGA, predicting that the United States Supreme Court will take up the issue of the arbitrability of PAGA in the next five years. She also discussed how courts are dealing with settlement of PAGA claims given the lack of guidance in the PAGA statute.
If you believe that your employer has not paid you all of the wages you are owed, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
The Los Angeles Times has quoted Teukolsky Law founder and owner Lauren Teukolsky discussing the firm's latest sexual harassment lawsuit against Marriott Hotel. The case highlights an employer's duty to protect employees from customers who sexually harass them.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.