Employment Law

Applying Complex Litigation Experience to Employment Cases

At Callahan & Blaine, our employment law attorneys meet two sets of employer needs — advice for meeting legal and regulatory responsibilities while avoiding liability, and resolving workplace complaints and litigation on favorable terms. Whether you need advice about personnel policies or help with an employee's lawsuit, we can help. Contact our office in Santa Ana for more information about our firm's approach to employment law issues.

Callahan & Blaine provides comprehensive labor and employment law counsel to clients of all sizes, from Fortune 500 corporations to mid-market companies and entrepreneurial start-ups. At the same time, we represent individual employees with claims for wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other violations of workplace rights. We have also represented employees in class action litigation, including the recovery of $38 million for newspaper carriers in Orange County. The $38 million settlement, which was achieved after two months of trial, is the largest employment case in Orange County history.

Employers benefit from our firm's ability to help them identify and resolve potential problems and exposure at all phases of the employment relationship, from recruiting and hiring to discipline, severance or termination for cause. Our business clients also benefit from Callahan & Blaine's extensive experience with litigation across the range of employment law issues:

  • Discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, disability or other prohibited classifications
  • Sexual harassment investigations and defense
  • Retaliatory termination and whistleblower complaints
  • Unpaid overtime, wage and hour violations, or sales commission claims
  • Disputes over sick leave, family leave, pregnancy or maternity leave, or vacation
  • Independent contractor-employee classification issues
  • Negotiation and enforcement of severance agreements, noncompete commitments and trade secrets protection

In recent years, we have seen an increasing volume of employment litigation related to the sale of closely held businesses, where the seller or key employees continue an employment or consulting relationship with the buyer. If anything goes wrong with the new enterprise, the seller and the buyer are likely to blame one another, and each might hold significant claims against the other. Our experience with complex business litigation covers the employment dimensions of these disputes as well as their commercial and corporate aspects.

Comprehensive Client Service on Employment Law Issues

Our employment litigation experience also helps our clients identify their strongest claims and defenses while finding the right forum for adjudicating a given set of claims. Whether your case ends up in state or federal court, in an administrative hearing or in arbitration will depend on the facts and the statutes most closely implicated in your case: the California Family Rights Act, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Unfair Business Practices Act, or such federal laws as the Federal Medical Leave Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Employment Laws

Federal and California employment laws are exceedingly complex and growing more complicated with each passing year. To help employers and employees understand some of the key issues, we answer some of the most frequently asked employment law questions:

Does the mere signing of an agreement stipulating that a worker is an independent contractor actually establish independent contractor status?

No. If a dispute arises over the status of a worker, the Labor Commissioner or the court will look at the underlying facts of the situation to determine whether the worker is truly independent or is an employee according to the law.

What rights does an employee have regarding overtime pay?

A worker who is not an independent contractor is classified as either exempt or nonexempt from overtime laws. A nonexempt employee is entitled to claim overtime pay provided that certain conditions are met. A nonexempt employee is eligible for 1½ times regular rate of pay for each hour worked over eight hours a day and 40 hours per week.

Who is exempt from overtime pay laws?

This is a complex area of employment law. In general, these types of employees are exempt from overtime pay laws, though some employees in these field may be eligible for overtime pay:

  • Executive, administrative and professional workers
  • Certain employees in the software field
  • Outside salespersons
  • Any person who is the parent, spouse, child, or legally adopted child of the employer
  • Employees who are covered by a collective bargaining contract or the Railway Labor Act
  • Taxi cab drivers
  • Carnival ride workers who work for a travelling carnival
  • Professional actors
  • Employees who earn more than 1½ times the minimum wage and get more than half of their compensation from commissions

What are the potential consequences if an employer improperly classifies a worker as an independent contractor?

The employer may face legal action and if it is found to have improperly classified a worker, the employer may have to provide compensation for past overtime work, certain benefits, workers' compensation coverage, and more. In this event, the worker can either file a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or in civil court.

What are an employer's responsibilities regarding meal times?

When an employee must work a shift of five hours or longer, the employer is required to provide a meal period of not less than 30 minutes. However, if the shift is six hours or less, the meal period requirement can be waived with the mutual consent of the employee and employer. There is an exception to this rule for employees in the motion picture industry. They cannot work longer than six hours without a meal period of 30-60 minutes.

If the shift lasts 10 hours or more, a second meal period of at least 30 minutes must be provided. But if the shift is 12 hours or less, the second meal period can be waived by mutual consent of the employee and employer, if the first meal period was not waived.

What rights does an employee have if he or she has been denied meal breaks in violation of the law?

Failure to provide meal breaks as required by law can prove very costly for an employer. An employee may be entitled to claim one hour of pay for each meal period that was denied. A single claim could therefore amount to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

There is a three-year statute of limitations for such claims. Let's say that an employee earns $25 per hour. If the employee works full-time, the employer's potential liability could total:

$25 x 250 days worked each year x 3 years = $18,750

What is wrongful termination?

Generally speaking, employment in California is on an at-will basis. This means that an employer can terminate an employee for any lawful reason. Termination because of discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing, or fraud is not legal. A person who was been fired for one of these reasons can file a wrongful termination lawsuit and may be eligible for compensation.

Contact Our Firm

Every lawyer at Callahan & Blaine is an experienced and accomplished litigator who can meet the demands of an employment lawsuit, whether presented as a freestanding claim or as part of a broader dispute. To learn more about our ability to represent your interests effectively on either side of an employment dispute, contact Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana.

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