Articles Posted in Workplace Issues

The San Francisco Bay Area is the home of great technology innovation and often the public assumes because this sector is healthy and vibrant, tech workers are as well. But not so fast. Workers at Apple are claiming in another class action that the tech giant has taken a bite out of their rightful earnings. They filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, which has now been certified as a class action. The allegations include those we have litigated on behalf of our clients in wage and hour cases, including failures to provide mandated breaks, including lunch and rest. Another claim involves the failure to provide final paychecks to workers. About 20,000 workers allege that the wage and hour violations were not an innocent oversight.

While consumers around the world are using their i-Everythings … from pods to phones to macs … these Apple hourly workers claim they were not provided what the law requires. And this claim doesn’t just apply to one segment of hourly workers. Across the board from technical experts in engineering to store employees, the claim is that the company did not give them certain basic requirements. Another class action that is already underway alleges that the company failed to compensate workers for the time they take on leaving work for searches of their personal items by security.

Wage and hour laws are established to ensure that workers avoid fatigue, injury and receive the quality of work environment to which they are entitled. When an employer fails to provide these basic mandates, workers can seek to be compensated for these failures. Worse yet, the law protects workers when they raise legitimate complaints about company policies that violate their rights to benefit from these protections. In this class action, the workers claim that the company culture did not allow for the legitimate complaint of violations. In short, the company intimidated them into a rule of silence in which they could not complain or could be fired from their jobs if they did.
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As California injury lawyers, we have helped many employees secure the wages and other benefits to which they are entitled. Regardless of the size of your employer’s business, you might be entitled to recover minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, prompt payment of wages, detailed wage statements and reimbursement.

Often employees discover that they have been misclassified in their employment as “independent contractors” or as employees “exempt” from wage and hour protections. This is practice that employers use to avoid payment of wages and benefits to which employees are entitled.

Recent successes should give employees some hope that they can recover what the law allows in their employment. For example, our law firm helped secure a $1.5 million settlement in two related cases where a company refused to pay termite inspectors overtime or provide meal and rest breaks.

A few weeks ago, the Internal Revenue Service paid out a very large whistleblower award to an accountant who reported fraud on the part of his former company in the payment of federal income tax. The award was the first to be issued to a whistleblower by the IRS. As California whistleblower lawyers, we know the importance of these cases to the public welfare. Whistleblowers are people who have the courage to come forward when they see wrongdoing in their workplace.

Recently, a very different matter was settled with the federal government involving whistleblowers. Although the companies deny wrongdoing, DynCorp International Inc., the largest U.S. contractor in Afghanistan and its subcontractor have settled a case involving what the government claimed were construction work and other services that were not actually performed. The company has agreed to pay $7.7 million and its subcontracter $1 million, to resolve claims that costs for services that it was alleged to have performed in Iraq were inflated.

The lawsuit was apparently filed by former employees who became what are known as whistleblowers. They informed the government of the false claims for payment that were being made by these companies when services had not in fact been rendered. The whistleblowers will be receiving about $481,710 for their honesty in this matter.

Take Heart, Take a Break

Recently, Dr. Marianna Virtanen at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London says the link between heart health and work hours has to do with balance. It’s a risk factor that is overlooked if “you do not have enough time to take care of your health,” says Dr. Virtanen.

The study included the health impact to over 6,000 civil servants in Britain who were followed for over a decade. Although the workers in the study were white-collar workers, the findings might well be applicable to those working in other jobs that require long hours and limited time for personal health.

In these tough economic times, families are working harder than ever to put food on the table and receive the pay they have rightfully earned. One of the ways you and your family can protect yourselves is to know your rights with regard to wage and hour laws and overtime pay provisions.

The California Injury Attorney Blog will be posting from time to time on workers’ rights and wage and hour claims, so that readers begin to educate themselves on their rights.

There are many nuances to the laws that protect workers and it is important to consult with experts who can help you understand your rights.

California has many protections in place to make sure that workers receive their overtime pay. Employers are not allowed to classify employees as managing themselves or in a sales job, just to avoid paying overtime.

Many employers try to avoid paying overtime pay, giving meal and rest breaks by misclassifying employees. That is, they call them “management” or “sales,” for example, when they are actually doing some form of labor or selling is only a small fraction of how they spend their time on the job. This is misclassification and it is illegal and you could be entitled to back pay of OT, penalties and other compensation.

Generally, overtime pay applies to a nonexempt employee who is 18 years old or older or a minor employee who is 16 or 17 years old and is legally allowed to work. Nonexempt employees may work eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. But once more hours are involved, the employer must pay additional wages such as overtime pay.

Although it is difficult to generalize, if you are a person employed in a job that is not a professional licensed job like a lawyer, a doctor or is not a technical job like a highly skilled computer programmer, you might well be a nonexempt employee.

Assuming you are a nonexempt employee, you are likely entitled to earn overtime pay from your employer. What this means is that once you have worked the permissible number of hours allowed by law in a day or in a week, your employer may be required to pay you as follows:

“One and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
Double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.”

Again, this applies if you are not exempt from overtime and are not in a classification of employee that is not entitled to earn overtime. There are also some exceptions to the general overtime pay rules and for certain classifications of employees overtime pay is calculated differently.

Related Web Resources

For more reading on overtime pay rights, please click here.
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In a very understated press release, Pfizer, Inc (no, it’s not a typo there is no period after Inc in the Pfizer name) has just announced its settlement with the Justice Department. The headline reads “Pfizer Concludes Previously Disclosed Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice Regarding Past Promotional Practices.”

Contrast that with the AP headline “Pfizer to Pay Record $2.3 Billion Penalty Over Off-Label Promotions.”

This is big. And no matter how the facts are spun, this is big.

As part of this settlement, Pfizer will pay a $1.2 billion criminal penalty. The largest criminal fine in United States history.

What happened? The government found that the company engaged in the promotion of four prescription drugs to treat medical conditions that had not been approved by federal regulators.

This meant that the company was selling these drugs, including Bextra, for uses that had not been approved by the FDA. Off-label use of drugs is not an uncommon practice. But drug companies are not allowed to promote their drugs for medical conditions for which those drugs have not been approved — as occurred in this case.

Pfizer senior vice president and general counsel, Amy Shulman, stated that “corporate integrity is an absolute priority…”

But New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had some choice words to describe the company’s actions in this case. “Pfizer ripped off New Yorkers and taxpayers across the country to pad its bottom line,” he said. “Pfizer’s corrupt practices went so far as sending physicians on exotic junkets as well as wining and dining health care professionals to persuade them to prescribe the company’s drugs for patients in taxpayer-funded programs.”

As part of this settlement, Pfizer will pay $1 billion to compensate government healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Six whistleblowers who first brought these practices to light will also share in the recovery in this matter.
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