Author: Cody Bolce

Signing a severance agreement

18 Nov Signing a severance agreement

Terminated employees often have questions about signing a severance agreement. Specifically, they want to know whether they should sign a severance agreement that their former employer offers them. Unfortunately, this is can be a complicated question. Before deciding to sign a severance agreement, you need to consider a number of factors, including the terms of the agreement, your situation, and your goals. You should also strongly considering consulting with an employment attorney to help you navigate this important decision. What is the effect of signing a severance agreement? A severance agreement is a contract which sets the terms of an employee's severance from an employer. Often, an employer will propose a severance agreement to an employee it has terminated. The specifics differ, but severance agreements usually center on two important terms. First, the employer will agree to pay the employee some chunk of money. Second, the employee will agree to waive any claims she might have against the employer. There are all sorts of other provisions that might be in a severance agreement, but those are the two most common and important. In essence, you're giving up your right to sue your former employer in exchange for money. For example, suppose your employer fired you for complaining about discrimination or harassment. That's unlawful retaliation and you could sue your employer for retaliating against you. But if you signed an agreement waiving your right to sue, that could prevent you from being able to pursue your case. Accordingly, you may want to think twice about signing such an agreement if you think you may have claims against your former employer. Other things to look out for in severance agreements While a waiver of claims is generally the most important part of a severance agreement, there are other potential terms to look out for. For example, many proposed agreements contain non-disclosure agreements or NDAs for short. Individual NDAs differ, but generally, they require parties to keep something secret. They can also prevent you from saying anything negative about your former employer. Another common term in severance agreements are arbitration clauses, in which you agree to submit any claims to arbitration and waive any right to sue in court. Arbitration is essentially a private court system. While an arbitration agreement is not a waiver of claims, arbitration is generally more friendly to employers than employees. As such, agreeing to arbitration is a big decision that you should not take lightly. Factors to consider when presented with a severance agreement Obviously, you should be skeptical of anything your former employer offers you. Chances are, they're not offering you severance pay out of the goodness of their heart. Instead, they're doing it because they believe they'll be better off with such an agreement in place. But that doesn't mean that you should never under any circumstances sign a severance agreement. There may be situations in which it makes sense to sign one. There's an endless number of a factors that might go in to that decision. For example, what are the terms? If your employer offers you a very large sum in severance pay, maybe it's worth it. How badly do you need the money? If you desperately need the money, the conditions of accepting the severance pay may be less severe than foregoing that severance pay. Are you aware of any potential claims you might have against the employer? If you believe you have a claim for harassment or discrimination, you probably don't want to give up those claims for a small amount of money. These are only a few of the factors to consider. The role of an attorney in a severance agreement If your employer has recently terminated you, the best thing you can do is contact an employment attorney. While you'll need to make the final decision regarding signing a severance agreement, an attorney can be helpful in a number of ways. First, an attorney can tell you what's in the agreement. Employers often draft agreements to be as complicated as possible. They hope that you'll sign without understanding what you're agreeing to. If you don't know what you're agreeing to, you can't make an informed decision. An attorney can help you understand exactly what's in there. Once you fully understand what's in the agreement, you can make the decision that is best for you and your family. Second, an attorney can identify any claims you might have. Because signing a severance agreement typically means waiving your claims, it's important to know what claims you have. If you've experienced severe sexual harassment, you probably know that you have a claim. But many claims are less obvious, some can be quite technical. If you're not an attorney, you may have potential claims of which you're not aware. An employment attorney can evaluate your situation and determine what, if any, claims you might have. Once you've identified potential claims, you can determine whether your former employer is offering fair value for the waiver of those claims. Finally, an attorney can help you negotiate a better severance agreement. Usually, the employer will send a proposed agreement and give you a sharp deadline to sign it. Obviously, the employer is going to draft an agreement that's advantageous to them. An attorney may be able negotiate a more fair agreement. Of course, you can try negotiating with the employer yourself. But an experienced employment attorney will likely get better results. So what should I do? Unfortunately, there's not a one size fits all answer. While consulting an attorney is an important part of the process, it's ultimately a decision you'll need to make for yourself. The most important thing is that you understand what you're agreeing to and what you're giving up by signing. Once you understand what's in the agreement, you can weigh the factors and do what's best for you and your family. If you need an employment attorney to review or help negotiate a severance agreement, contact the Khadder Law Firm today. For more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.    ...

Read More
FEHA protected activity retaliation

05 Nov FEHA Protected Activity Retaliation

Retaliation for Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, protected activity is a common form of unlawful retaliation. The FEHA prohibits employment discrimination and harassment. But it also makes it unlawful to retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activity. There are two central parts to a FEHA retaliation claim: protected activity and retaliation. FEHA protected activity that triggers retaliation provision The FEHA prohibits retaliation. But it only prohibits certain kinds of retaliation. Specifically, it prohibits retaliation against employees for engaging in conduct that qualifies as protected activity. Under the FEHA, protected activity means opposing employment practices that the FEHA makes unlawful. All sorts of things can count as opposition. But, most commonly, it's reporting or complaining to a manager or HR. For example, the FEHA makes sexual harassment unlawful. Reporting to HR is a form of opposition. Accordingly, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment to HR. Doing so would violate the FEHA. Conversely, the FEHA doesn't make it unlawful for your boss to criticize your work. So suppose your boss criticizes your work. You think her criticism is unfair and you complain to HR. While that complaint to HR might be opposition, it's still probably not protected activity. That's because the conduct about which you're complaining isn't prohibited by the FEHA. Of course, the law is not black and white. There is a fine line between conduct that is impolite and conduct that violates the FEHA. Fortunately, the underlying conduct need not actually violate the FEHA. Instead the employee just needs to show they had a good faith belief that it does. For example, if an employee complains about what they honestly think is unlawful harassment, then the FEHA protects that employee from retaliation. Of course, that honest belief typically has to be at least somewhat reasonable. FEHA protected activity retaliation requires an adverse employment action Technically under the law, retaliation refers to the overall act of retaliating against an employee for engaging in protected activity. The employer does the retaliating by taking what's called an adverse employment action. Many people assume this means firing, but it's actually much broader. In simple terms, an adverse employment action is anything that negatively affects the conditions of your employment. In addition to termination, this can be things like, demotions, failure to promote, or transfer to a less desirable role. This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, there isn't necessarily an exhaustive list. Whether something qualifies as an adverse employment action depends on the facts of the situation. Causation is an element of retaliation Critically, it is not enough to show merely protected activity and an adverse employment action. To establish a retaliation claim, an employee must show some causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. That is, they must show the adverse employment action was at least partly because of the protected activity. Obviously, the best evidence is direct evidence. But in most cases, an employer won't say they're firing an employee because of their protected activity. More often, an employer will offer some legitimate reason for the adverse employment action and the employee will need to use circumstantial evidence to establish causation. For example, close temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse action is evidence of causation (though usually not enough evidence on it's own). There are non-FEHA retaliation laws that apply in California It's important to note that there are other types of unlawful retaliation. For example, California Labor Code section 1102.5  prohibits retaliation against qualifying employees. There are also federal laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, that prohibit retaliation in certain circumstances.Consequently, if you have experienced retaliation that doesn't fit within the FEHA retaliation discussed above, that doesn't mean you don't have a case. You should contact an employer lawyer to evaluate your case. They can determine what, if any, retaliation claims you may have. If you an employer has retaliated against you, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation. For more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram....

Read More
Paying defendant's expenses

30 Oct You’re Unlikely to Pay Defendant’s Expenses

You're unlikely to pay defendant's expenses, even if you lose your harassment, discrimination, or retaliation case. This is a concern many people have when they consider suing their employer. While it's not technically impossible, it's very unlikely in practice. In general, you're unlikely to pay defendant's expenses (at least their attorney's fees) in the United States Many non-lawyers assume that if you lose a lawsuit, you have to pay for the opposing party's expenses. But this is generally not the case in the United States. Under the American Rule, each party pays their own attorneys. This default rule applies unless a statute or contract says otherwise. Statutes that require a losing party to pay for the winning party's expenses are called shifting statutes. Shifting statutes: Exception to the American Rule Shifting statutes apply to certain types of legal claims. For example, you can get attorney's fees if you win a lawsuit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. That's because that law specifically says you can. If it didn't, both sides would pay their own attorneys, regardless of outcome. Conversely, if you're injured in a car accident and sue the other driver for negligence, you'll probably have to pay your own attorney, even if you win. Likewise, if you lose, the other driver will still pay her own attorneys. That's because no shifting statute applies to negligence lawsuits in California. Another exception to the American Rule is contracts. Some contracts say that if one party sues the other in connection with the contract, the loser pays the winner's expenses. But this more common in commercial settings. If you're suing your employer for discrimination, you're not suing to enforce a contract, so this less of a concern in a typical employment case. Lastly, as a practical matter, most cases settle before trial. Shifting statutes only apply once trial is over. But very few cases make it that far. So even when a shifting statute applies, the case usually settles before it comes into play. If a case settles before a verdict, each side typically pays their own attorneys. Asymmetrical fee and cost shifting in Title VII and FEHA Even if an exception to the American Rule applies, there is an exception to the exception for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases in California. If you're bringing a lawsuit in California for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation at work, you're likely bringing it under Title VII or the Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Title VII is federal law and the FEHA is state law. They have some differences, but both prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at work. Title VII and FEHA both provide for asymmetrical fee and cost shifting (fees are what you pay your attorney, costs are other expenses). Asymmetrical shifting schemes make it easier for one side to recover fees and costs. Under both Title VII and FEHA, a victorious plaintiff can recover both fees and costs from the defendant. But a victorious defendant cannot recover fees or costs from a plaintiff unless the plaintiff's case is frivolous (courts very rarely find that a case is frivolous). This gets a bit tricky because California has a statute that allows prevailing parties to collect costs (but not attorney's fees) from the losing party. But Title VII and the FEHA are exceptions to this rule. Accordingly, while California's default rule entitles a prevailing defendant to costs, this is not the case with non-frivolous Title VII or FEHA claims. Talk to an employment attorney about your potential discrimination, harassment, or retaliation case In summary, Title VII or FEHA plaintiffs are unlikely to pay the defendant's expenses, even if they lose. As such, the risk of bearing the employer's expenses should not prevent you from pursuing a legitimate claim for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. This is why the asymmetrical shifting scheme exists. The drafters of Title VII and the FEHA didn't want fear of having to pay defendant's expenses to scare plaintiffs away. Of course, this is only one of many things to consider before suing your employer. But don't let fear of losing and paying the defendant's expenses prevent you from having a lawyer evaluate your case. If you need an attorney for an employment matter, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation. For more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram....

Read More
Bullying and harassment at work

23 Oct Bullying and harassment at work

Many people experience what they consider bullying and harassment at work. While bullying and harassment is morally wrong, it's not always unlawful. In fact, the most common forms of this conduct are not prohibited by state or federal employment law. That's because the major anti-harassment laws define harassment fairly narrowly. Much of what ordinary people would describe as bullying or harassment does not fit into that definition. So when does bullying and harassment at work become unlawful? When bullying and harassment at work becomes unlawful The two major laws prohibiting workplace harassment are Title VII and the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or the FEHA. Title VII is federal law, the FEHA is state law. They both apply in California. Title VII and the FEHA mostly take the same approach to harassment. Both prohibit harassment, but only harassment based on certain characteristics. For example, if your boss is simply a jerk that is constantly rude and demeaning to you, that's probably not harassment as defined by Title VII or the FEHA. But if your boss is rude and demeaning to you because of your race or gender, that may be actionable harassment. A good way to illustrate this is a manager who insults your intelligence. This comes up quite often and can fall on either side of line. If your manager tells you she doesn't think you're smart or good at your job, that's probably not harassment under Title VII or the FEHA. Now suppose your boss says that she doesn't think African Americans are as intelligent as other groups and implies you can't do your job well because you're African American. This is the type of conduct that Title VII and the FEHA were enacted to address. In the simplest terms, bullying and harassment become unlawful when based on a protected characteristic. It's important to note that sexual harassment is different from other types of harassment. Sexual harassment is unlawful under any circumstances and it doesn't matter what the harasser's motive is. When is harassment based on a protected characteristic? Garden variety harassment isn't typically unlawful, but when does it cross the line? The strongest cases generally involve repeated use of slurs or other explicitly derogatory comments. This can also be conduct such as making threats or drawing offensive symbols around the workplace. But in most cases, things will be a little more complicated. Just because your harasser hasn't repeatedly used the most offensive possible words to refer to you doesn't mean it's not harassment. For example, the use of stereotypes can be evidence of unlawful harassment. Typical bullying or rude treatment is not unlawful. And it's not necessarily a question of severity. Even severe bullying might not be unlawful if it isn't based on some protected characteristic. But it's a fine line and it's not always obvious the kinds of conduct that rises to the level of unlawful harassment. If you're not an attorney, you may overlook conduct that crosses the line. Accordingly, if you think you are being bullied or harassed at work, you should speak with an employment attorney, even if you're not sure whether it's based on a protected characteristic. If you believe your are experiencing harassment at work, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation. For more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram....

Read More
sources of employment law

21 Oct Different Sources of Employment Law

There are different sources of employment law in California. You've probably heard about Title VII. This is federal law, which Congress enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace. But California also has its own version of Title VII: the Fair Employment and Housing Act, also known as the FEHA. Like Title VII, the FEHA prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination. Both Title VII and the FEHA apply in California. If you're considering suing your employer, you may be able to choose between the two. Different sources of employment law, similar rules and remedies After the federal government enacted Title VII, many states passed their own versions of the law. The FEHA is California's version of Title VII. Because the FEHA is based on Title VII, there are many similarities between the two laws. For example, both prohibit harassment and discrimination based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, and religion. They both also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who oppose harassment or discrimination. Moreover, they both set up a mandatory administrative process. Title VII created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you want to sue your employer under Title VII, you have to go to the EEOC first. Likewise, the FEHA has the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Like under Title VII, you must go through the DFEH's administrative process before you sue your employer in court under the FEHA. Finally, Title VII and the FEHA both authorize punitive damages and allow victorious plaintiffs to collect attorney fees and costs. They both also have asymmetrical cost shifting. This means prevailing plaintiffs can recover fees and costs as a matter of right, but when defendants win, they can't recover fees and costs unless the plaintiff's lawsuit was frivolous. Though similar, there are important differences between Title VII and the FEHA While similar, there some key differences between Title VII and the FEHA. Perhaps the most important difference from a plaintiff's prospective is Title VII's damages cap. While the FEHA allows for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, Title VII limits recoverable damages. Additionally, Title VII is federal law. This means that federal courts automatically have jurisdiction over Title VII cases. While California courts can hear cases involving federal law, a defendant being sued under federal law has the right to remove the case to federal court. While this doesn't affect the substantive law, federal courts use different procedural rules. For example, California courts do not require plaintiffs to win unanimous jury verdicts, while federal courts do require unanimous verdicts. Moreover, it's often more expensive to litigate in federal court and plaintiffs' attorney are generally less experienced there. Accordingly, plaintiffs often prefer state court. Because the FEHA is not federal law, defendants have a harder time removing FEHA cases to federal court. Finally, there are some differences in the substance of the two laws. For example, the FEHA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It's unclear whether Title VII does so, though the Supreme Court is expected to conclusively resolve this issue in the spring of 2020. Different sources of employment law: which law should I use? Now you know there are different sources of employment law in California. If you're considering suing your employer, you might be wondering: which source of law should I use? The answer: it depends. Most plaintiffs' attorney probably prefer the FEHA. But that doesn't mean that every plaintiff in every situation should proceed under the FEHA. There are some instances in which Title VII is the way to go. First, in some situations, Title VII is your only option. For example, if you are an employee of the federal government, you generally can't use the FEHA to sue the federal government in state court. There are also some areas, called federal enclaves, where only federal law applies. If the offending conduct occurred in a federal enclave, Title VII may be the exclusive remedy. Additionally, you may be in an area where the juries are not favorable for plaintiffs. Because the applicable federal court may be in a different city or county, it's possible you could get a more favorable jury in federal court. Because you probably can't bring your FEHA claims in federal court, you may want to use Title VII if this is the case. These are only a few of the many factors involved in choosing whether to pursue claims under Title VII or the FEHA. Ultimately, this is a decision you'll need make in consultation with your attorney. It's also important to remember that there are other laws, both state and federal, that might apply in the employment context. If you believe you have a claim against your employer, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation. To stay up to date on our blog posts and more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram....

Read More