California employment lawyers - Cathe Caraway-Howard

7th Circuit of Appeals Court Rules the Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers, How Can This Affect You?

In what is being hailed as a significant victory for gay rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Civil Rights Act from 1964 applies protections to gay employees from job discrimination. This expands the protections the landmark law provides to include sexual orientation, great news for anyone seeking the services of California employment lawyers due to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The case started with Kimberly Hively’s lawsuit against Ivy Tech Community College. Hively alleges that she was fired from her position because she is a lesbian. In the court’s opinion, chief judge Diane P. Wood wrote that “Hively’s claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction and policing.” She also wrote that “Ivy Tech is disadvantaging her because she is a woman.”

However, the court did not rule on Hively’s lawsuit in specific. What their ruling did was allow for Ms. Hively’s employment case to continue. This comes after a lower court had previously dismissed her case. The lower court ruled that the Civil Rights Act did not provide protections for sexual orientation.

Ms. Hively represented herself in the lower court because she could not find a lawyer who thought she would win. In an interview, she said “I wasn’t doing it just for me, but for anyone who was going to be bullied in a job for who they decided to love.”

The results of this case are going to make it easier for California employment lawyers to fight for their clients. This is the highest federal court that has granted these employment protections. Because of this, the chances this issue reaches the Supreme Court are much higher. The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage already, however many legal protections, such as employment and housing have not reached gay people yet. Another ruling in an appellate court in Georgia came to the opposite conclusion. That Georgia court ruled that the Civil Rights Act does not protect against discrimination at work for gay employees.

If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, besides contacting California employment lawyers, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Bring the Issue to Your Employer’s Attention

If you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against, you should make your employer aware of the situation. It is possible that many cases of discrimination or harassment are not recognized, and go unpunished because the victim did not establish that the behavior is unacceptable or unwelcome. While your employer is unlikely to admit to discrimination, or help you draft your legal papers against them, they are responsible for complying with the law. However, you are responsible for ensuring your rights are protected.

As an additional note, if the person you feel is discriminating against or harassing you is your immediate supervisor, you can report it to their superior, or your human resources representative. It is common for employers to designate a specific managerial or human resources person for accepting complaints. If this is the case, you should report directly to that individual with your complaint.

Keep a Diary

Record the date, and if possible time, as well as where the discrimination happened. Write in your diary who was involved in your discrimination, as well as who witnessed your discrimination, and your incident’s details.

Keep or Copy any Objects Used

If pictures or other objects are used to discriminate against you, either keep it, or take a picture of it for your records. For example, if you come to your desk and see anti-gay statements printed and taped to your computer chair. While your immediate urge may be to destroy, and trash those papers, instead either save them, or take a picture of them. It’s helpful to have the actual items used to discriminate against you, rather than simply describing them.

Review Your Company’s Anti-Discrimination Policy

Your Employer probably has an anti-discrimination policy in writing. Here, they have acknowledged they will not act in ways that are discriminatory. Save your copy of your employer’s policy.

Contact California Employment Lawyers

It’s a terrible place to be as the victim of discrimination. It will rip and tear at your emotions, and can make it difficult to separate your feelings from the law. Your labor law attorney can help you look clearly at the situation and make sure your outcome is favorable.

The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard have represented many employees seeking to right injustices they’ve felt in the work place. The Daily Journal named Cathe as one of the 2015 Top Employment Lawyers in California.

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5 Ways Employers Can Effectively Handle Harassment Complaints

After a former employee at Uber made workplace harassment complaints that were not resolved to her satisfaction, her story became big news. Of course the final determination of who was right or wrong in the circumstances will ultimately be decided by settlement, or in a court of law. If you’re an employer, the description of the general atmosphere in this prominent company, and the public’s reaction to it, provides a perfect opportunity to review your basic obligations to investigate employee harassment complaints:

1. Employers Have a Duty To Investigate Complaints

The Fair Employment and Housing Act says that employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. Additionally, Government Code section 12940, subdivision (k) requires the same types of protections for employees. If you fail to enact preventative measures, you can be held liable for workplace harassment between co-workers. To avoid liability, employers should follow the law as closely as possible.

2. Precautionary Actions Might Be Necessary

Depending on the allegations and evidence, it’s important to decide if any immediate actions should be taken. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers examples of precautionary steps that include “scheduling changes so as to avoid contact between the parties; transferring the alleged harasser; or placing the alleged harasser on non-disciplinary leave with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.” That being said, the EEOC states that the complainant “should not be involuntarily transferred or otherwise burdened, since such measures could constitute unlawful retaliation.”

3. Any Investigation Must Be Thorough

The FEHC (Fair Employment and Housing Commission) states that employers are required to fully investigate allegations of harassment. This investigation must be made immediately, and be thorough and complete. The investigator must be an objective third party. Anyone with information about the incident or incidents should be interviewed. Simply deciding if a harassment claim has merit is not enough. The results of the investigation should be communicated to the complainant, to the alleged harasser, and, as appropriate, to any other employees who are directly concerned. You should take all complaints of workplace harassment seriously.

4. Investigations Need To Happen Immediately

There are a lot of different cases that have ruled differently about what time frame qualifies as immediate. It’s smarter to assume that any harassment investigation should be begun and completed as quickly as humanly possible. In Steiner v. Showboat Operating Co., 25 F.3d 1459, 1464 (9th Cir. 1994), the court decided that the employer’s response to complaints were not immediate because it didn’t seriously investigate or reprimand the supervisor until after the plaintiff filed charge with the state FEP agency.

If you look at Van Zant V. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 712 (2d Cir. 1996) they held that the employer’s response was prompt. They began their investigation the same day the complaint was made, and they conducted interviews within two days. After ten days, they had fired the harasser.  Moving on to Nash V. Electrospace Systems, Inc. 9 F.3d 401, 404 (5th Cir. 1993), the court held the investigation as prompt because it was completed in one week.

5. The Investigator Should Be Experienced and Unbiased

While your investigator could be a human resources manager, some caution is warranted. There shouldn’t be any conflicts of interest or bias toward either the victim or the person accused of workplace harassment. A superficial appearance of impartiality my not be enough. The investigator’s background, credentials, and experience could be closely examined if a lawsuit ensues, and it may uncover a bias towards one party that’s not obvious.

If you’re unsure if your business has an appropriate anti-harassment culture in place, it’s smart to consult an attorney who deals in harassment law. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, and you have any questions about how to handle a workplace harassment claim, contact The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard.

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4 Basic Employment Laws Every Employee Should Know

Employment lawyers are well versed in the numerous and varied employment laws. An employment law attorney usually handles cases involving these laws on a daily basis. Employment lawyers usually have several years of prior experience dealing with employment issues such as workplace harassment and workplace retaliation, gender discrimination or hostile work environments, so it’s familiar territory.

However, most employees are not as knowledgeable as employment lawyers when it comes to knowing their rights. In fact, many employees are surprised when employment lawyers inform them of the rights they have as workers. We have collected a few of the basic laws most employment lawyers agree every employee should know about. Take a look and find out some of the ways the law of the land protects workers:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

One of the earliest laws geared towards employers and their workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act into law in 1938. It addressed poor working conditions, mostly in factory settings. As a result, this law significantly improved working conditions for millions of Americans.

The law further prohibited employers from hiring employees younger than 14 years of age. It also prevented those under the age of 18 from working in jobs considered dangerous, such as coal mining. Prior to 1900, employers often preferred to use children as a labor source. Factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. The law allowed children to stop working in factories from dawn to dusk and encouraged compulsory free education for all children.

The FLSA also sets minimum standards for employee wages, and it limited the number of hours a worker could work in a seven-day week. When President Roosevelt signed the law, he set the minimum wage to $0.25 per hour, and he set the working week to no more than 44 hours. Since that time, lawmakers have amended the act numerous times to increase the minimum wage. In 1940, lawmakers amended the law by shortening the work week from 44 hours to the current 40 hours per week.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

President Nixon signed OSHA into law in 1970, responding to the rising number of employment related deaths in the late 1960s. Lawmakers designed the act to introduce important safety standards for many businesses. Since the signing of the OSHA, the number of employee-related accidents has dropped dramatically.

For example, industries with heavy machinery have standards of working and requirements for protective gear for workers. Even white collar employees benefit from this act, under ergonomic standards for seating and desks. OSHA also provides that employers educate their employees about hazards in the workplace, and how employees can take preventive steps to minimize the risk of accidents. The act also initiated standards on filing, documenting, and posting workplace hazards, injuries, and complaints.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

This important piece of legislation is one of the most well known by employment lawyers and their clients. This law is the foundation of basic civil rights for all Americans, and it was grounds for many future workplace laws.

The law, in its most basic form, abolishes segregation in all public places. It also made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, or gender. For example, businesses could not deny a person a service based on skin color. These provisions also prohibited employers from hiring, promoting, or firing employees based on their race, religion, or gender. The act gave every American equal protection and access to law, including the right of all Americans to vote.

Since the law’s inception, lawmakers have added onto these basic protections to reinforce workplace protections against discrimination. In 1967, lawmakers added the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibiting discrimination against those over the age of 40. Lawmakers amended the act again in 1972 to create the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC regulates and enforces civil rights and defines what constitutes discrimination. Further additions to the act covered pregnant women (Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978) and disabled workers (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

President Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act into law in 1993. The Federal Government passed the act to protect employees who need time off from work to take care of a serious medical condition. It also allows for time for parents to bond with a new child. If an immediate family member also has a serious health condition, you can also request leave under the FMLA. Employees can be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave while keeping their health benefits.

Reports of employer threats to fire or discipline an employee based on a request for leave have been on the rise in recent years. Employees should be mindful of this important law to make sure that they can enforce them if they have any issues with their employer due to a long-term injury or illness.

Employment Lawyers Help You Protect Your Rights

With a little knowledge on their side, employees can help protect their rights and the rights of co-workers. Of course, if an employee has difficulty in enforcing their rights, they might want to speak with competent employment lawyers. If you’re in Los Angeles, contact the the Law Offices of Cathe Caraway-Howard for more information about your rights under these important employment safeguards.

Supreme Court of the United States

We Are Pleased to Announce the Final Approval Order and Judgment In Our Supreme Court Case Mendiola v. CPS

supreme court Final Approval Order and Judgment cathe caraway howardThe Final Approval Order and Judgment in our Supreme Court victory has been approved by the Court. This win for hourly workers will prevent future employer wage theft and protect “on-call” workers throughout California from unfair workplace policies. For more information, please visit our Mendiola v. CPS information page.

The Law Offices of Cathe L Caraway-Howard and the Employee Rights Law Group – Fighting for the little guy!


A Smart Guide to Your Rights When You Are Fired

IIf you have been terminated from your job, you are still entitled to certain rights.  In addition to basic rights a terminated employee enjoys, there may also be other rights that you do not know about.  Termination from your job can be disorienting and maddening. This can lead to confusion that clouds the facts of your case. If you’re not sure if you’ve been treated fairly, it’s smart to contact a wrongful termination lawyer.  Here is some helpful information that will help you decide if you’ve been terminated with cause, or if you should speak with a labor attorney:

At Will Employment

Most employers hire candidates as ‘at will’ employees.  At will employment means that the employer may terminate an employee for any reason, at any time.  As long as it is not contrary to a previous settlement or contract, or is otherwise contrary to federal or state law, it is not considered a violation of employee rights.  A wrongful termination lawyer will be able to help you determine if the termination was unlawful.  It will also depend on whatever rights the employee had when their employer terminated them.

Where Employee Rights Come From

Wrongful termination attorneys and labor lawyers agree on three main sources of rights for terminated employees.  Not every source applies to every terminated employee, but it is a good idea to check if these sources exist.  If they do, check them carefully to make sure your former employer did not violate your rights as an employee:

Company Policy

Most larger businesses have a formal policy about terminating employees.  If a business has guidelines for employees available, there should be a section regarding the discharge of an employee.  Some companies offer severance or termination pay.  It’s a good idea to check the company guidelines to see what you’re entitled to before there’s a problem.

Contractual Rights

Employees who work for a business under contract will be able to review the agreement if they ask.  A collective bargaining agreement or other union agreement will have similar safeguards. It’s a good idea to speak with your union representative or review the contract or agreement yourself if you have questions. They can help you understand the policies for disciplining and terminating employees. If they are unable to help you, you should probably consult an employment law attorney or wrongful termination lawyer to be sure of your rights.

Statutory Rights

State and federal laws give you statutory rights.  These rights include benefits like unemployment insurance. In addition, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws cover other circumstances  A wrongful termination lawyer has an extensive understanding of these rights. They can help you know for sure if your employer violated your statutory rights.

Receiving Your Final Paycheck

Most states differ in when the employer must give an employee their final paycheck.  Some states have different time limits depending on whether the employer fired the employee, or they quit.  California law requires the employer to give the terminated employee their final paycheck immediately.  However, if the employee quits with at least a 72-hour notice, the employer has 72 hours to issue a final paycheck.  If a negotiated agreement or settlement is already in place, the agreement may apply to the employee instead.  If you are unsure, it’s best to speak with your labor attorney or wrongful termination lawyer to ensure there are no issues with your final pay.

A Severance Pay Agreement

Severance agreements are a special type of contract between employers and employees.  In exchange for the employee’s promise not to file lawsuits, the employer grants the employee certain benefits after their termination.  These benefits can include a lump sum payment or an extension of pay, health, retirement or other benefits.  In addition, they could even cover the cost of a job placement program.

Although the law does not require severance pay, some companies offer these benefits to their employees.  Employers may have them written as part of a contract, or in a more informal version in an employee handbook.  Also, if the employer made an oral promise to award you severance pay, or has a history of offering severance pay to others, these benefits may apply to you as well.  The best way to know for sure in cases like these is to speak with a wrongful termination lawyer.

Maintaining Health Coverage

Terminated employees have the right to continue receiving health insurance after they have left their employer.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives terminated employees the right to continue their health coverage after they leave a job.  As a result, if an employer has 20 or more employees, they have to offer this extended participation in the health insurance plan.

When To Call a Wrongful Termination Lawyer

If you feel your employer violated your rights when they terminated you, you need to fight back to safeguard those rights.  If you’re in the greater Los Angeles Area, call  the professionals at the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard.  They’ll help you determine what rights you have as a terminated employee, and recover any damages you have coming.


5 Ways to Recognize a Hostile Work Environment

hostile work environment doesn’t just affect individual employees. It can easily disrupt the entire workplace. You should report signs of workplace harassment to your supervisors so they can address them immediately. It’s the best way to avoid workplace harassment going forward.

Certain conditions must be present for a workplace to be considered hostile in a legal sense. An annoying co-worker who talks incessantly about their day isn’t really creating a hostile work environment. A coworker who regularly makes sexually explicit comments or jokes is a different story.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between annoying behavior and harassment. Here is a handy list of 5 ways to recognize a hostile work environment:

1. Sexual Harassment

Do you feel a co-worker or supervisor has been getting a bit too ‘touchy’ lately? Do you repeatedly hear sexually inappropriate comments? If so, you may be a victim of a hostile work environment. Despite progress, sexual harassment in the workplace is still common. Sexual harassment refers to offensive, degrading, hostile, or intimidating conditions in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if the person causing the problem is a supervisor or a coworker.

Unwanted behavior ranges from sexually offensive jokes to actual physical molestation. If behavior like this is common in your workplace, it’s important to document it. Make sure to take note of whether the sexual harassment was verbal, physical, or both.

2. Discrimination

Discrimination of any kind is illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion, or national origin.

You will have a strong case for a hostile work environment if a discriminatory act occurs regularly, and it is not stopped after being reported. If you’re not sure if you’re a victim, an employee rights lawyer can help you determine if you suffered discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

3. Pressure To Remain Quiet

Pressure to ignore unfair work practices is a lesser known form of hostile work environment. It’s against the law to retaliate against a whistleblower who reports unsafe or unfair work environments. Whistleblower retaliation is generally present if supervisors do anything to prevent a worker from exposing a hostile work environment. Pressure to remain quiet can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be an overt threat. Your supervisor might pass you over for raises, or give you less desirable work duties.

Pressure on whistleblowers doesn’t always start with management. In some cases, coworkers are the ones who want you to keep quiet about problems in the workplace. It’s common for people to avoid rocking the boat at work at all costs. For legal purposes, your employer is liable for whistleblower retaliation no matter where it’s coming from.

4. Lose a Promotion

Harassment at work can lead to serious emotional and psychological distress. It doesn’t have to result from a single traumatic event, either. Sometimes a constant, low-level stream of slights is even more destructive to an employee’s morale. A demotivated employee may feel reluctant to give their best effort at a job that doesn’t value their performance. That can lead to a loss of productivity. This loss of confidence in your basic ability to perform your job could end up costing you a promotion.

If a supervisor declines to promote you for any reason other than your job performance, you might be able to prove discrimination. This is especially true if the same supervisor promotes other employees of another gender, age, or race.

5. The Supervisor Knew But Didn’t Say Anything

Employers are required to prevent conditions that lead to a hostile workplace. In addition, they’re required to quickly deal with problems when the do arise. If you’ve explained the situation to your employer, but are ignored or suffer retaliation, you might have a strong case for a discrimination lawsuit.

A culture of fairness and dignity creates a positive work environment. Employees must feel safe, and they should be able to report problems when they arise without fear of unfair consequences.

Contact a Labor Lawyer for More Information

In conclusion, there’s no reason to tolerate harassment in the workplace. You should take a series of steps when you have trouble with harassment or discrimination. Firstly, it’s important to inform your supervisor or employer when you recognize a problem. If that doesn’t work, you may receive help from your Human Resources department. In some cases, you might have to confront a coworker yourself if you witness a problem.

You should get advice from a qualified labor lawyer if you feel you’re not being treated fairly at work. In the Los Angeles area, Cathe L. Caraway-Howard specializes in employment law. Her firm has won several high-profile cases that ended workplace discrimination.  Contact her office today for more information.

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Wrongful Termination? Here Are Steps You Can Take Now

If you’ve just been terminated from your job, it’s understandable if you’re feeling at a loss. Unemployment is one of the most stressful life events you could name. If you were unjustly fired, it adds insult to injury. It’s natural to feel the need to look for outside help to get justice.  If  you lost your job based on wrongful termination, you have the right to file a legal claim. Read the following information to find out if a wrongful termination lawyer can help you:

What Is Wrongful Termination?

You may receive conflicting reasons for your termination.  Employers sometimes use pretexts to fire employees for reasons they’d rather keep hidden. A wrongful termination lawyer can see if you’ll be able to take action against a former employer if their reasons for letting you go don’t check out.

Here are several situations that constitute wrongful termination:

• Termination contrary to a specific law or regulation
• For exposing a company practice of withholding commissions and vacation pay
• For taking time off to complete jury duty
• Taking time off to vote
• For serving in the National Guard or military
• Over whistleblowing about harmful company activities
• Retaliation for lawful activities
• Because of your race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, or disability

Request a Letter of Termination From Your Employer

First of all, it’s smart to request a Letter of Termination within a few days of your employment dismissal. This helps to document the decision-making process that led to your termination. That’s crucial if you plan to take legal action over your job loss.

A Service Letter is another useful document. Some states require a Service Letter from employers. A Service Letter must clearly state the reason for your dismissal, specify your salary or wages, and list your job duties. This information will be especially useful when your lawyer is building a case, and for determining the amount of damages you deserve.

Send a Letter of Understanding if your former employer refuses to send you a Letter of Termination or a Service Letter.  State the reasons for your termination as you understand them. Your former employer must respond to your version of the facts if they disagree.

Review Employment Contracts and Offer Letters

First, look for an employment contract. A written contract that promises you job security is probably the best proof that you were not an at-will employee. Employment contracts and offer letters may state that you can only be fired for a good reason.

Offer letters and contracts can also be used if there is written proof of assurances toward continued and safe employment. Other agreements in the contract could include:

• Duration of your employment
• Regularity of job promotions
• Assurances of continuing employment
• Agreements to provide warnings before termination
• Promises of long-term employment when you were hired

Gather Other Relevant Documentation

It’s always a good idea to collect paperwork related to your job termination. These will often serve as ironclad proof in a dispute. These can include performance reviews, commendations, reprimands, salary changes, and emails. Make sure you have the legal right to use these documents. You could find yourself in legal trouble if you decide to file a lawsuit using confidential information from your employer.

Make a record of each work-related event that led to your wrongful termination. This can include performance actions and informal comments that your employer makes to you, or about your work. Keep track of detailed information about dates, times, locations, and persons involved. It’s useful to note any witnesses who were present, too.

Contact a Wrongful Termination Lawyer

A labor law attorney can help you navigate your way through the complex process of filing a wrongful termination suit. In California, the Law Offices of Cathe L Caraway-Howard specialize in wrongful termination lawsuits. They’ll be able to determine if your case has merit, and they’ll help you recover all the lost wages and benefits you deserve.


What You Need to Know Now About the False Claims Act

A whistleblower attorney and their clients often make the front page of the newspaper. That’s because the issues involved often apply to more than just the case at hand. That’s especially true of cases involving fraud against the government. The US government has enacted many rules and regulations to keep industries that supply goods and services to governmental agencies on their toes. These regulations can have many beneficial effects, including a cleaner environment, safer working conditions, and less waste and fraud. However, the regulations only work if they’re followed.

Sometimes industries sidestep or simply ignore regulations in an attempt to cut corners and defraud the government. Employees who discover this type of fraud may not know who to turn to for help. They may also fear workplace retaliation or harassment in the workplace. That’s why a whistleblower attorney is so important when reporting fraudulent activities by an employer who works for the government. The attorney must also be prepared to help the whistleblower defend themselves against workplace retaliation.

What are some of the tools a whistleblower attorney uses to help their client?  One of the most important laws is the False Claims Act. Let’s take an in-depth look at this important piece of legislation, and examine how it’s used by whistleblower attorneys:

The False Claims Act

President Abraham Lincoln signed this provision into law on March 2, 1862. Since its enactment, it has become one of the most powerful anti-fraud laws in the United States. It allows an individual to act on behalf of the government and take action, such as a lawsuit, against a federal contractor they believe committed fraud against the government. A whistleblower attorney frequently applies this law when filing lawsuits on behalf of their clients.

How Did the False Claims Act Come About?

During the American Civil War, fraud was rampant among suppliers to both the Union and Confederate armies. Unscrupulous contractors and suppliers often provided troops with inadequate or poor quality supplies. They would often supply rancid food and provisions, shoddy weapons and ammunition, and uniforms whose stitches barely held together just to satisfy their contracts.

Neither the Union nor Confederate governments had the knowledge or resources to pursue cases against these fraudulent suppliers. In 1863, President Lincoln enacted the False Claims Act to fight this fraud. The act allowed individuals to take action against any contractor they knew was defrauding the government, on behalf of the government. As an incentive or reward, those individuals receive a percentage of any money recovered from the lawsuit. This is known as the qui tam provision.

Qui Tam Whistleblower Attorney and Client Provisions

This provision is one of the most important parts of the false claims act for whistleblower attorneys and their clients. The name qui tam comes from the Latin phrase Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur. Translated from Latin, this means: [He] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself. The provision gives individuals the right to collect a reward for bringing fraudulent activity to light. Depending on circumstances, the government offers a reward of between 15% and 25% of any award granted from the lawsuit.

Anti-Retaliation Provisions

In 1986, Congress amended and strengthened the law, They discovered that an increasing amount of fraud, especially in the defense industry, was going unaddressed, and in some cases, undetected as well. Among the amendments were a series of protections against a worker who files a Qui Tam lawsuit against an employer. Any harassment in the workplace or workplace retaliation by an employer as a result of the lawsuits is illegal.  Their actions may cause a separate lawsuit by civil rights lawyers if there is a hostile work environment present.

When an employer is working for the federal government, they need to follow all the rules and regulations pertaining to the industry. The regulations ensure the contractors deliver the products or services the government paid them for.

Help From a Qualified Whistleblower Attorney

If you believe a federal contractor is sidestepping important regulations, you need to get involved to stop the fraud. You also need to protect your rights in the case of any workplace retaliation. The first step you can take is to speak to a whistleblower attorney about the alleged infraction. The Law Offices of Cathe Caraway-Howard and her team understand the ins and outs of regulations like the False Claims Act, and know how to apply the law to protect you. They can help you put an end to fraudulent activity by unscrupulous employers.

How a Disability Lawyer Defines Disability Discrimination

disability-lawyerAccording to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics, only 17.5% of Americans with a disability were employed in 2015. In comparison, the employment rate is 65% for workers without disabilities. In addition, workers with a disability are twice as likely to be a part-time worker. This indicates that more needs to be done to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers in the workplace. When in doubt, disabled workers should consult a disability lawyer to help know their rights.  That way, you can take advantage of protections for disables workers under the law. You can also avoid harassment in the workplace, or workplace retaliation.  So what are your rights as a worker with a disability?

The American Disabilities Act Protects Disabled Workers

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees with disabilities. The ADA protects employees in all aspects of employment. This includes hiring, pay, promotion, firing, and more. The law also protects disabled employees from retaliation when they enforce their rights under the law.  You may need the help of a disability lawyer to make sure your employer follows the law.

What Is a Disability?

A disability lawyer defines the term disability under the ADA act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Most lawyers do not consider a person with a temporary ailment to be disabled.

A major life activity includes basic tasks like walking, communicating, or carrying items. It also includes major body functions, such as respiratory, circulatory, and digestive functions. The fact that the regulations leave out a particular activity does not prevent it from being a major life activity.

If your impairment does not significantly limit your ability to perform major life activities, the ADA may not protect you. Employees should contact a disability lawyer if there are any issues or questions about your disability status.

How Does a Disability Affect Employment?

Every job consists of essential tasks and duties that a worker must perform. These essential duties are fundamental to the job position. These duties are why the employer created the job. If you can perform these essential duties, then the ADA protects you if you develop a disability.

Reasonable Accommodation for a Disabled Employee

If you have a disability, but you can still perform the essential duties of the job with assistance, an employer must accommodate you. For example, you may need a stool to sit on, or a hand brace. The ADA and employment lawyers call this help reasonable accommodation. An accommodation is  considered reasonable if it does not cause an undue hardship on the employer.

When It Becomes an Undue Hardship

Opinions about what is undue hardship can differ. If your employer believes that the accommodation is not reasonable, they can argue that it would be too difficult or expensive for them to implement.  In our example, the employer may believe the stool is too expensive.  In certain cases,  an employer may not have to provide the accommodation to an employee. The term undue hardship means a significant difficulty or expense to the business.

Disability lawyers look at many factors to determine if an accommodation creates an undue hardship. Employment lawyers consider the cost and resources needed to accommodate the employee.  A disability lawyer would also look at the size, structure, and resources of the employer to see whether the accommodation is an undue hardship.

An Expert Disability Lawyer Can Help

In short, the best way for a disabled worker to understand their rights is to speak with a competent disability lawyer. They can help workers with disabilities understand what their employers can legally expect from them. An employment lawyer can also help obtain reasonable accommodations if your employer is unwilling to help.

The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard are committed to helping disabled workers safeguard their rights to the fullest extent possible. Contact us today to find out more.


Could You Be a Victim of Unpaid Wages?

Working at a job is not always the most glamorous task, but it does ensure a steady paycheck. However, there are times when that paycheck isn’t steady as it should be. Sometimes, your employer may not give you the full amount of your paycheck, or may not give you a check at all. Employment lawyers call this problem unpaid wages. Here are some signs you may be having issues with unpaid wages:

You Worked Over 40 Hours Without Overtime Pay

According to Federal law, a regular work week consists of a maximum of 40 hours. Any hours beyond that is overtime work. Some states also have laws that set a daily standard for overtime, even if you didn’t work 40 hours that week. If you  work more than 40 hours per week, or more than the state’s minimum daily hours, you are likely entitled to overtime compensation. Overtime is 150% your regular rate of pay, or also called time and a half. For example, if you usually earn $10.00 per hour, your overtime rate will be $15.00 per hour.

If you notice that you’re working more than 40 hours in a week, and you’re not receiving overtime pay, you may have a case of unpaid wages. Gather and review your time information, such as time sheets or clock rings. If you notice an issue, speak with your employer about it. It might just be an accounting mistake or a bank error. If they do not provide you with a satisfactory answer, you should speak to an employment law attorney.

Your Employer Calls You an Independent Contractor

If you ask employment lawyers, there are big differences between employees and independent contractors. Employers don’t always think so. By considering you an independent contractor, employers can save a lot of money. The Government requires employers to pay a part of your employee benefits, such as unemployment and worker’s compensation. Employers also must pay half of Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employees. But they don’t have to pay any of these for independent contractors.

Speak with your employer first and ask if they could review your classification status, and change it to an employee status. Be ready to explain why you believe they should classify you as an employee. If they do not agree to your request, at least you’ll know why you are a contractor, not an employee. If you disagree, you may have to speak to a labor attorney for further guidance.

You’re Paid Less Than Minimum Wage

Federal law sets a minimum pay rate that employers must pay their employees.  The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  Many states have higher minimum wages, based the state’s cost of living. With a few exceptions, employers must pay employees the higher of either the state or Federal minimum wage. One exception to this is if you earn tips along with regular wages. In this case, your employer may pay you less than the minimum wage. It’s legal as long as your tips plus your wages add up to the Federal minimum wage.

If you believe you’re receiving less than minimum wage, and are not earning tips, you should speak to an employment law attorney. Make sure to keep records of how much your receive in tips each workday, plus your earned wages . That way, you’ll have clear documentation to show your employment law attorney. They can determine if your employer owes you unpaid wages.

You Didn’t Receive Pay for All Hours Worked

If you think you are receiving fewer hours in your paycheck than you worked, you should take action right away. Record all hours you worked during the pay period. Be sure to include any additional expenses you incurred as a result of the shortage.

Ask for an explanation from your employer. It may have been due to a bank error or a processing mistake. If so, ask if the employer or bank will cover any charges you incurred as a result of not receiving your full check. If it was their intent to not pay you, then you need to speak to an employment law attorney who specializes in unpaid wages.

Deductions You Don’t Recognize

The law requires certain paycheck deductions. Sometimes, employers can add deductions to your paycheck. Your employer should be able to explain the details of every deduction from your paycheck. If you see a deduction that you do not understand, ask your employer about it right away. If they don’t provide an explanation, talk to a labor attorney to help you understand what the deductions mean.

Always Ask About Unpaid Wages

It is up to employees to take a stand and speak to their employer if there are issues with their pay, or if they believe they have unpaid wages. Most employers are happy to assist their employees with pay discrepancies. However, if they do not, you may wish to speak with an employment law attorney. Most employment lawyers offer free initial consultations and in many cases, they can help you over the phone. Employers have a lot of leverage when they withhold wages. It’s comforting to know that you have someone on your side to fight back when it’s called for.