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.
TEUKOLSKY LAW CLIENT NAMED TIME MAGAZINE "PERSON OF THE YEAR" FOR SPEAKING OUT AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT
TIME Magazine has announced its 2017 "Person of the Year," and it's not Donald Trump. TIME has chosen a group of "Silence Breakers" -- women who have spoken out against sexual harassment and sexual assault, often at great personal and professional risk to themselves. Among the group chosen for this honor is Sandra Pezqueda. Ms. Pezqueda was fired from her job at the Terranea Resort, a ritzy Southern California hotel, after she complained that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor. Teukolsky Law is honored to represent Ms. Pezqueda in her wrongful termination lawsuit against the Terranea Resort. Trial is set for June 2018. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault and would like to consult with an attorney, you can contact Teukolsky Law by calling (626) 522-8982 or emailing email@example.com.
The Los Angeles Times provided insightful coverage of a new wage-and-hour class action lawsuit filed on October 19, 2017 by Teukolsky Law, APC on behalf of hotel workers who work at the "ritzy" Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Here is an excerpt:
"The lawsuit delves into a question that has been argued as high as the U.S. Supreme Court: At what point should employees be considered on duty and therefore earning their hourly wages?
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that warehouse workers for online shopping giant Amazon were not obligated to be paid for the time they spent undergoing security screenings after each shift.
Teukolsky said the Amazon case focused on a federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the court ruled that the security screenings fell into an exemption in the act.
In contrast, Teukolsky said, her lawsuit is supported by a 2000 ruling by the California Supreme Court that agriculture workers who spent time commuting on employer buses to the fields must be compensated for that time. Based on that case, she said, her clients should be compensated for time spent traveling on company shuttles to the resort.
'There are many examples where California law is more protective of workers than federal law,' she said."
Teukolsky Law, APC filed a class action lawsuit today against the luxury Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, alleging that the hotel has subjected its workers to numerous wage-and-hour violations, including failure to pay them for all hours worked, the denial of meal and rest breaks, and failure to reimburse them for work supplies. Surrounded by hotel workers, Lauren Teukolsky announced the lawsuit along with named plaintiff Galen Landsberg at a press conference outside the oceanfront resort this morning.
The lawsuit claims that the resort regularly prohibits workers from parking in its onsite lots to make room for guests and requires workers to instead take company shuttles from remote off-site parking lots, but does not pay them for the additional travel time. Due to the high cost of rent in Rancho Palos Verdes, most workers commute to the hotel from more affordable parts of the Southland. Workers say the Terranea’s required use of company shuttles can add an hour or more to their already grueling daily drives.
“Rancho Palos Verdes is not somewhere we workers can afford to live, so we drive long distances each day to get to work. I live in mid-City Los Angeles. It’s frustrating that, on top of the long commute, we have to come in early to take the company’s shuttles from the offsite lots and are not paid for this time,” said Galen Landsberg, a cook at the Terranea.
Freddy Lovato, another Terranea cook, said: “I know the law says that we are supposed to be able to take two ten-minute rest breaks when we work an eight-hour shift. But that is not the reality. The kitchen is incredibly busy and we are regularly not permitted to take breaks.”
The suit also alleges that the hotel fails to reimburse workers for such required tools as knives, sharpening stones, peelers, lemon juicers, kitchen scissors, spatulas, and graters at Terranea’s expensive restaurants. “Talk about nickel-and-diming,” said Ms. Teukolsky. “While guests pay upward of $30 or $40 for a single entrée, Terranea pockets the profits and requires their own employees to supply the tools that enable them to perform their jobs.”
The Terranea, a Lowe Enterprises property, has become iconic in the upper echelons of the Los Angeles hospitality industry. The expansive property is located up the Pacific Coast from the Trump National Golf Course. With its ocean-side views and A-list clientele, the 5-star resort projects an image of luxury and environmental stewardship.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.