The firm has represented hundreds of employers and thousands of employees as it relates to a variety of employment issues. These include but are not limited to matters involving wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and administrative matters, including those with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, OSHA, the EEOC, unemployment, and many others. In addition, the firm also handles investigations on behalf of employers for work-related claims as well as doing a multitude (more than 2,000 over the last many years) of webinars and seminars for employers and their supervisors and employees covering more than 30 different topics. The firm also has a long history of preparing employee manuals and policies and procedures for employers.
Investigations Regarding Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Employment Related Matters
Geoffrey Hopper has conducted hundreds upon hundreds of employment investigations which have been done both in-person and by Zoom. He is also sensitive to the impact and potential effect such an have on employees and the work environment. Accordingly, he is careful to balance as much as reasonably possible those competing issues.
It is an employer’s obligation to reasonably and as confidentially as possible investigate client’s complaints, concerns, and/or issues occurring in the workplace by employees and/or supervisors as it relates to employment-related matters. Including but not limited to sexual harassment, discrimination based upon sex, race, religion, pregnancy disability, and other public policy protected categories, as well as claims regarding retaliation and researching their allegations of unlawful conduct engaged in by individuals in the workplace. An employer’s failure to investigate such matters, even if the matters have no merit, can be the basis of significant and substantial litigation potentially running in the six and seven-digit numbers. A defense available to employers in this regard is to assert the defense of advice of legal counsel.
California is predominately an at-will employment state, meaning that either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship with or without cause and with or without notice. Often times this is misunderstood in that there is an exception to the rule whereby if it is determined by the jury, judge, or arbitrator depending upon the type of case involved, that a substantial motivating factor for the discipline, including termination of employment, was against public policy, then the employee would be entitled to recover damages in the six to seven-digit range depending upon the circumstances involved.
Examples of violations of public policy are where a substantial motivating factor for the termination was because of someone’s age (typically over 40), sex, marital status, religion, pregnancy, disability, gender, race, national origin, veteran’s status. Or any other rights protected under applicable law, including pursuing a workers’ compensation claim and/or complaining about illegal conduct, etc. Constructive discharge is the same as wrongful discharge or termination, but it is where the employee is forced to quit by the employer but not actually terminated by the employer.
Additional Categories under Wrongful Termination include the following:
- Taking of Family or Medical Leave
- Public Policy Violations
- Reporting of a Work Injury and/or Filing of Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Retaliation for Whistleblower Claims
- Sexual Harassment Complaints
- Violations of the WARN Act
Wage and Hour Violations
These are typically matters whereby employees are asserting that they have not received their applicable rest and lunch breaks and/or overtime pay which generally applies where the employees work more than eight hours in a workday and more than 40 hours in a workweek and is entitled to receive time and a half pay or more for such hours. In addition, the firm handles issues whereby an employee has been misclassified as being exempt wherein they perhaps should have been classified as a non-exempt employee, meaning that the employee is entitled to damages for failure to pay overtime and missed lunch and rest breaks and many other related claims.
Categories under Wage and Hour include the following:
- Meal Breaks
- Unpaid Overtime
- Financial Inducements to Relocate
- Bonuses Improperly Withheld
- Improper Designation of Exempt Vs. Non-Exempt Status
- Medical Leave Violations
- Violations of OSHA Laws, Rules, and Regulations
- Violations of COVID Law, Rules, and Regulations
Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment
Under California law, if 9 out of 10 jurors, the judge, or the arbitrator (whoever has provided and makes the determination) views that a substantially motivating factor or any action taken against an individual is a violation of public policy (which is the case if it is based upon one of the following discriminatory categories and/or retaliation done in violation of employee’s rights, and/or harasses individuals to a level not permitted under the law), those employees may have the right to pursue legal claims that could amount to damages in the six to seven-digit range.
Categories under Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment include the following:
- Family Medical Leave
- Marital Status
- Medical Condition
- Military leave
- National Origin
- Sex/Sexual Orientation/Sexual Identification
- Sexual Harassment
- Whistle Blowing
- Workers’ Compensation
Business litigation involves disputes regarding parties based both under contract law and/or tort law (torts are wrongs committed by the parties not to be confused with a French pastry), whereby the court recognizes that because of the nature of the action, that the party who is bringing the suit is permitted to sue not just for breach of contract but can also sue for additional damages, including punitive damages and in some instances in both breach of contract and tort cases attorney’s fees as well as for emotional distress.
Examples of tort claims include situations whereby somebody claims they have been damaged by another’s actions but is not limited just to necessarily the breach of a contract but also can involve claims based on conduct such as violation of trade secrets, negligence, fraud, trespass, theft, and a large host of other types of claims.
Preparation of Employee Manuals
Hopper & Associates has reviewed, amended, and prepared literally thousands of policies regarding employment that include procedures for employers’ manuals and handbooks.