Whether you are an hourly employee, salaried employee, executive, freelancer, temporary worker, independent contractor or commissioned salesperson, Ferraro Employment Law helps you know your rights so that you get the justice provided under the law. We represent workers at every stage: from negotiations about compensation or severance pay to an employment lawsuit all the way through to trial. We treat every case individually and always look for the optimal way to settle or litigate your case based on the facts and law.
Ferraro Employment Law represents California workers and executives at every stage of virtually every type of labor and employment dispute, including employment lawsuits and arbitrations. San Diego and Southern California employment lawyers know that Mr. Ferraro will not hesitate to go to trial if the case warrants it. However, in all cases we take a thoughtful, reasoned and principled approach that presents your case in the best and strongest light. This puts you in a strong position both for negotiating a settlement and for going to trial.
SEVERANCE PAY AND PRE-LITIGATION NEGOTIATIONS
Employers often provide severance pay to employees who are fired or laid off. Severance pay is a form of settlement where you agree to sign a “Separation and Release Agreement” that prevents you from later suing the company for unfair employment practices or unpaid wages. There is no requirement under California law for your employer to provide severance pay, although many companies chose to do so to protect themselves from a future lawsuit. Although many companies do provide generous severance payments, typically the goal is to give you the least amount of money for you to accept the release and go away. For this reason, it is important that you carefully analyze the amount of money provided to you in exchange for your full release of all claims against the company. Factors that affect the severance amount include the employer’s liability for their actions and your damages, which are often based on the length of employment.
There are no limits as to what can be included in a severance package. Everything is negotiable. Severance may include compensation, the continuation of medical insurance and other benefits, as well as promises from your employer to provide a positive reference as you seek future employment. Your release agreement should clearly and specifically describe all money and benefits you will receive in exchange for your promise not to sue the company at a later date.
Severance and release agreements for wages must be fairly negotiated. Agreements that pay you less than the wages you are clearly owed are not enforceable and may be invalidated. However, you put yourself in a tough situation if you settle a wage claim and then later try to invalidate the release agreement in court, as the employer will claim that the amount of wages owed were “in dispute” and were rightfully and fairly settled in a binding and complete agreement that you signed.
If you’re considering whether to accept a severance package and sign a release agreement, take advantage of Ferraro Employment Law’s free case consultation process so that you leave nothing on the table.
ADMINISTRATIVE EMPLOYMENT LAW CLAIMS
Before filing a lawsuit, you may have the option to file an administrative claim before the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Labor Commissioner and the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The EEOC is the federal equivalent of the DFEH, which is where you can file an administrative charge for discrimination, harassment or retaliation. In California, you can jointly file your formal complaint with the DFEH and EEOC with a single form. You can also choose to skip the administrative hearing and investigation process entirely and immediately request a “Right to Sue” letter, which allows you to file your complaint in court. The DFEH provides a similar administrative process for unpaid wages in California.
In some cases, an administrative investigation rather than a lawsuit can be beneficial to your case, although the decision is best made by qualified employment counsel. Important deadlines apply and may time-bar your case if you don’t bring your claim within the applicable timelines. At this early stage of your case, it is important that you carefully consider your options so that you don’t miss out on enforcing your employment rights.
LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAWSUITS
When your case is filed in the Superior Court of California or U.S. District Court, in most cases you will have have a constitutional right to a trial before an impartial judge and jury. As discussed above, there are certain administrative procedures that you may need to exhaust before filing your lawsuit. Additionally, the statute of limitations will apply and bar claims that are not filed within a certain amount of time depending on the case.
Lawsuits in San Diego and throughout California are commonly filed by employees and independent contractors for a wide range of unlawful employment actions. For example, individuals can file claims under the California Labor Code, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Family Rights Act, the Business and Professions Code, the Private Attorneys General Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and under the common law. Labor and employment claims often involve wage and hour issues (unpaid wages and overtime, deficient meal and rest periods, tip pooling, unlawful deductions, wage statement violations) and employment misconduct (discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment). Ferraro Employment Law also represents employees and executives in matters involving breach of an employment or compensation agreement and non-competition or trade secret issues. Evaluating your strongest claims and aggressively pursuing them is your best course of action, as employers can move to dismiss claims that lack the necessary factual and legal basis to proceed. Your case evaluation and assessment shouldn’t be rushed and must be done meticulously to get the best possible result.
Ferraro Employment Law also represents groups of coworkers who have been subject to the same unlawful practice in a class or representative action. This means that serve as lead counsel for you and your coworkers who were all subjected to the same unfair labor practices. Class and representative actions are effective where it is more practical for the employees to sue together to enforce a common violation.
In some cases, labor and employment disputes are governed by an arbitration agreement that you may have signed with your employer. Arbitration is a private proceeding where an independent and neutral arbitrator will be the judge of your case. The process is similar to a case filed in court, but can often be resolved sooner and in a confidential manner. Unlike in state or federal court, there is usually no jury in an employment arbitration. The arbitrator (rather than a judge) oversees discovery, rules on motions, holds a final hearing and makes a final binding decision. If you are considering bringing an employment claim against your employer, it is important that you inform your attorney if you signed an arbitration agreement.
EMPLOYEE COUNSELING AND NEGOTIATION
What most executives, contractors, salespeople and employees don’t realize is that companies hire very skilled lawyers to advise and guide the company as they negotiate employee agreements. Based on experience, we understand areas where you can improve your compensation package or otherwise protect your interests before you enter into agreements or take certain actions that may jeopardize your legal rights.
California employers also retain legal counsel to advise on performance review issues, accommodations and leaves, non-competition agreements and other payment and employment practices. At best, this is done to pay you fairly, treat you with respect and comply with California law. Mr. Ferraro advised employers on these issues before founding Ferraro Employment Law. At the very worst, however, some companies will use a number of different tactics to conceal unlawful employment practices or mitigate litigation risks through a host of agreements, policies, procedures and communications that may limit your rights.
Ferraro Employment Law balances the scales by representing and advising employees involved in these same situations. If your company considers it necessary to hire lawyers, you probably should too.
We represent clients in all areas of California and federal labor and employment law, including claims under the California Labor Code, Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) among other labor laws and regulations.