Teukolsky Law has filed a new lawsuit against the Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California on behalf of a hotel worker who was sexually harassed and assaulted by male customers in the bathroom she was required to clean as part of her job. On one occasion while she was cleaning the restroom, the complaint alleges, an intoxicated male guest pressed his genitals against her and offered her $50. When she complained to management, her supervisor joked that he should have offered her $100. Her complaint alleges that the hotel refused to provide her with a sign closing the restroom for cleaning, requiring her to clean the restroom while men urinated and exposed themselves in front of her. Her attorney, Lauren Teukolsky, was quoted in Bloomberg news, saying, “The hotel has placed her in this obviously dangerous and untenable situation. . . . She herself was powerless. She couldn’t decline to clean the restroom.”
California law imposes a duty on employers to protect their employees from sexual harassment not only by supervisors and co-workers, but also third parties like hotel customers. If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Teukolsky Law founder Lauren Teukolsky was quoted in a Courthouse News story on the Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA"), a California law that allows private attorneys to stand in the shoes of the State to bring labor enforcement actions against employers who break the law. PAGA is under attack by a consortium of businesses that are suing to have PAGA declared unconstitutional. Teukolsky Law represents a group of 57 nurses who have sued a Tenet-owned hospital in Templeton, CA for labor violations, including failing to provide rest breaks because the hospital was understaffed and the nurses did not want to leave their patients unattended.
Nine of the nurses have brought a PAGA action in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to represent all nurses at the hospital because they all signed arbitration agreements requiring them to bring their claims in secret, private arbitration proceedings. Courts currently allow employees to bring PAGA claims in open court, even if they have signed arbitration agreements. The arbitration agreements the nurses signed contain class action waivers, which means that the nurses are not allowed to bring an action to represent all of the nurses with similar claims at the hospital -- except through PAGA.
If business groups are successful in having PAGA declared unconstitutional, this could greatly impair the ability of employees to vindicate their workplace rights. Teukolsky Law will continue to fight every day for the rights of employees against powerful business lobbies that seek to take away their rights. If you believe that your rights have been violated, contact us today for a free consultation.
Teukolsky Law client Jasmin Sanchez discussed her experience of being sexually harassed while working at Terranea Resort on NBC News last night. Ms. Sanchez's complaint alleges that a supervisor sent her sexually explicit text messages and ultimately groped her in the Uniform Department office where she worked. Watch the NBC News video here.
If you have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
The Guardian has published a hard-hitting article featuring two Teukolsky Law clients, Sandra Pezqueda and Jasmin Sanchez. They both formerly worked at the ritzy Terranea Resort, an upscale hotel in Rancho Palos Verdes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The article describes "a culture that has enabled sexual harassment and sexual assault" at Terranea. Ms. Pezqueda's sexual harassment case settled earlier this year for $250,000. She was named a TIME Person of the Year in 2017 as one of the "Silence Breakers."
Ms. Sanchez's sexual harassment case was filed in July 2018 and is in active litigation. Ms. Sanchez alleges that a security supervisor watched her over the hotel security cameras and sent her sexually explicit text messages. Ms. Sanchez alleges that she complained to Human Resources, which took no action, and that Mr. Harrington later groped her while at work.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Today, the California Senate voted to approve AB 3080, a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring their employees to arbitrate employment-related claims against their employers. Under current law, employers can require their employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Arbitration is a private court system without judges and juries. Instead, arbitrators -- usually retired judges -- are paid to adjudicate claims. Arbitrations are usually confidential, and held in hotel conference rooms or other private locations. If the bill becomes law, employers in California will no longer be allowed to require employees to give up their right to go to court. Instead, employees will be able to sue their employers in court for discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, and a host of other claims that employees can bring under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country. Employers will also be prohibited from requiring employees to arbitrate wage-and-hour claims under the California Labor Code.
Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill. If he signs AB 3080 into law, it will almost certainly be challenged by employers as contrary to the Federal Arbitration Act, a federal law which expresses a preference for cases to be resolved through private arbitration. Nonetheless, today's Senate vote is a huge win for employees. Many of our clients have no idea that they have signed arbitration agreements giving up their rights to sue their employers in court. Forced arbitration agreements are contrary to American values, and should be ended.
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.