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Talking About What Matters to Employees
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The Top Five Wins for Workers’ Rights in 2014

The Employee Matters marks the end of 2014 with a“Top Five” list.  Interest in “Top Ten” or “Top Five” lists is so immense that psychologists have even coined the term the “Top Ten Effect,” to describe the “bump” that items on such a list receive in terms of sales.  A list of the top developments in employment law may not cause a run on any stores, but policy makers and working people should take note (drum roll please) as we now count down the list of five developments that will change the landscape of employee rights as we enter the new year. No. 5:  New California Law Says Proof of Sexual Desire is Not Required to Win Sexual Harassment Claim  The California Legislature deserves recognition for a new law that strengthens protection against sexual harassment on the job. For years, employers have tried to defend against sexual harassment claims by arguing that the harassment, although boorish, was not illegal because it was not based upon sexual desire.  This “defense” goes something like this — The boss who “joked” with his female subordinate about hopping over to a motel for the night wasn’t actually attracted to her, so that couldn’t be sexual harassment.  Or as the employer claimed in one infamous case, the ironworkers who hazed a new guy on the crew with threats of sexual violence couldn’t have perpetrated sexual harassment since they were all straight.  Earlier this year, the California legislature took away this excuse when it amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act to specifically provide that “sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.”  These few short words will provide powerful protection for victims of workplace sexual harassment.  As important, the change reminds employers and the courts that sexual harassment is about abuse of power, not sex. No. 4:  California Supreme Court Guarantees that Undocumented Workers are Protected Against Discrimination  The California Supreme Court took aim at the hypocrisy of employers who hire and exploit undocumented workers. It has often been noted that low wage workers, regardless of their immigration status, are frequent victims of workplace violations. Undocumented workers, fearful that any complaint regarding a violation of these rights might result in their deportation, are a particularly vulnerable group.  This year, in Salas v. Sierra Chemical Company, the California Supreme Court ruled that an employer who discriminates or retaliates against an undocumented worker can be held liable. While the case limits the damages available to these employees, it does provide that employers who violate...

Oakland Raiders Seek to Force Cheerleaders into Secret Arbitration Before NFL Commissioner; Deny Them Jury Trial in Wage Theft Case

In response to a class action lawsuit (Lacy T. v. Oakland Raiders) filed by Raiderettes alleging wage theft and other violations of California labor law, team owners have filed a motion to force the cheerleaders out of court and into individual and secret arbitration before the NFL Commissioner.

“This is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny of the adjudication of the cheerleaders’ claims that Raiders’ management has engaged in illegal employment practices for years,” said Sharon Vinick of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, the Bay Area law firm representing the cheerleaders. “The owners want to have this employment issue decided by one man whose pay is dependent on the very teams that engage in the illegal conduct.”

Second Raiderette Adds Her Name to Class Action Lawsuit

Attorneys for the Raiderettes class action have filed an Amended Complaint, adding a second plaintiff as a class representative.  The new plaintiff, Sarah G., has been a Raiderette for four years and last season was co-captain of her line.  The Amended Complaint, like the original complaint, alleges that the Oakland Raiders engaged in wage theft and other unfair employment practices.  Sarah G. alleges that she was not paid wages in a timely manner, and was not paid minimum wage.  Sarah G. also alleges that she fined for trivial infractions of the rules, such as turning in her biography half-an-hour late. Sarah G. explained her decision to join the lawsuit:  “Being a Raiderette was an amazing experience, which I will treasure forever.  However, after learning that the contract was filled with illegal provisions, as a matter of principle, I felt that I had to join the lawsuit to make sure that all of the Raiderettes are treated in a fair and legal manner, which recognizes our hard work, dedication and passion for dance.” Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit www.levyvinick.com or call the toll-free number...

Raiderettes Class Action Lawsuit Claims Oakland Raiders Management Are Committing Wage Theft

On January 22, 2014, the partners of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP filed a lawsuit against the management of the Oakland Raiders on behalf of current and former members of the Raiderettes, the NFL club’s popular cheerleaders. A toll free hotline has been set up for calls about this lawsuit. If you are a current or former Raiderette or if you have any information about NFL cheerleader pay practices, please call toll free, 1-844-318-7700 or click here. The complaint [Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders], filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that the club withholds all pay from the Raiderettes until after the end of the season, does not pay for all hours worked, and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses. Under their take-it-or-leave-it contract, Raiders’ cheerleaders are to be paid only $1250 for working an entire season, which amounts to less than $5.00 per hour for the time that they spend rehearsing, performing and appearing at events where they are not paid. The club also withholds the Raiderettes’ wages until after the season ends. The lawsuit claims that team management did not pay Raiderette Lacy for all of the hours which she worked, while at the same time requiring her to pay out of pocket expenses. The lawsuit also claims that the Raiders illegally impose monetary fines on Raiderettes for such things as forgetting to bring the correct pom-poms to practice, wearing the wrong workout clothing to rehearsals, failing to bring a yoga mat to practice, or not turning in written biographies on time. It is believed that other NFL teams don’t pay their cheerleaders for all of the hours that they work, and that there is a widespread practice in the NFL of refusing to pay cheerleaders for all of the hours that they have worked, forcing them to work for months before they get paid, and demanding that they sign contracts that are filled with illegal provisions. For further information, please call, toll free, 1-844-318-7700 or click...

The Employee Matters Wishes Workers Living Wages for a Happy Thanksgiving

You have probably seen this photo of a food drive for Wal-Mart employees.  It has gone viral on the internet.   But did you know that Wal-Mart’s CEO makes more in an hour than many full-time Wal-Mart workers make in an entire year? Blogging for the CELA VOICE, Sharon Vinick and her co-author Ramit Mizrahi delve deep into how the giant retailer’s employment practices harm its workers and our economy. Their post — Giving thanks: A luxury that Wal-Mart workers can’t afford — credits worker advocates who have invested years organizing for living wages and fair treatment of workers for giving us some hope and reason for thanks this Thanksgiving. In the coming days, as Americans prepare for — and recover from — their Thanksgiving feasts, we should not only give thanks for what our families have, but make a commitment to helping other families who have far less. Real help requires more than just a few spare canned goods thrown into a bin. It requires that we address the reasons that our nation’s workers are in need. We should applaud Governor Jerry Brown for signing into law AB 10, a bill that will increase the minimum wage in California to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2016. And, we should lobby Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would increase the federal minimum wage for all workers, including those at Wal-Mart, to $10.10 by 2015. Such legislation could help in ensuring that all workers can afford a Thanksgiving feast, without relying upon the kindness of their...

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