What Businesses Should Look Out for Regarding Employment Law in 2019

Our special cover feature this month features Ramin Younessi who has been heading his own practice for 25 years.

We speak to him this month about employment law and what businesses should be looking out for. From sexual harassment to wage theft, Ramin reveals ways in which businesses can practice as lawfully as possible, for the betterment of their company and their employees.

Accidents at Work

What procedures should business people have in place, in order to protect their employees?

All business people should implement and maintain health and safety protocols in the workplace as required by OSHA Regulations.  Employees need to be properly trained on how to perform their job duties in a safe manner that minimizes risk of injury.  Additionally, employees should be trained on how to professionally interact with other employees and customers.  Essentially, health and safety protocols for physical and emotional wellbeing of employees should be implemented and maintained.

 Nowadays with the internet it is very easy for victims of work-related accidents to find attorneys to help them officially file a claim for compensation

What are common accidents you see in your jurisdiction that clients often seek legal help on? Why are these most common and can you share what can be done to reduce such cases?

The most common accidents include slip and fall injuries and job duties that require excessive force, such as lifting heavy items.  These types of accidents are the most common because employers often fail to implement and maintain health and safety protocols.  You can ensure the work place environment is free from hazards by performing regular inspections throughout the day and ensuring employees are properly trained on how to perform their job duties in a safe manner; this can reduce these types of work-related accidents.

How easy is it for victims of work-related accidents to claim compensation?

Nowadays with the internet it is very easy for victims of work-related accidents to find attorneys to help them officially file a claim for compensation.  Alternatively, victims can also easily access instructions and forms through the State of California Department of Industrial Relations – Division of Workers’ Compensation website, in order to file a claim for compensation themselves.

 

What checklist should companies make to ensure they avoid legal sanction regarding accidents at work?

A sample checklist follows:

  • i. Implement and maintain health and safety protocols
  • ii. Ensure all employees are properly trained on how to perform their job duties safely
  • iii. Ensure the worksite premises are regularly inspected throughout each workday for possible hazards
  • Ensure all employees are trained on how to professionally interact with other employees and customers
  • v. Ensure health and safety protocols are updated as needed, ensure employees are following the protocols, and ensure employees receive proper training regularly
  • vi. Maintain a Human Resources department or specific protocol for employee complaints
  • vii. When an employee reports a work-related accident, be empathetic, do not retaliate against the employee, offer medical attention, and offer a claim form. Then do an investigation as to how the employee was injured, whether health and safety protocols were followed or need to be updated.

In response to MeToo, the California Senate just passed a number of new bills

Sexual Harassment

2018 brought sexual harassment into the limelight; can you share any changes in your jurisdiction which have addressed the issues in this area?

California has always been a leader in terms of employee rights. In response to MeToo, the California Senate just passed a number of new bills, including Senate Bill 820, which outlaws secret settlements or nondisclosure agreements of factual information in cases involving allegations of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination. Along the same lines, Senate Bill 1300 prohibits employers in California from forcing employees to sign a non-disparagement agreement to release the employer of claims, including for sexual harassment, as a condition for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment.

Employers can do their part to make sure that sexual harassment does not rise by preventing it in the workplace.

What are common implicit actions which contribute towards sexual harassment?

Silence around sexual harassment contributes to more of it.  Fortunately, in response to MeToo, employees are more willing to talk about sexual harassment, and employers are finally taking sexual harassment lawsuits more seriously. This openness has contributed towards reducing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Do you think there needs to be tighter regulations in place to ensure sexual harassment cases do not rise

Employers can do their part to make sure that sexual harassment does not rise by preventing it in the workplace.

What checklist should companies make to ensure they avoid legal sanction regarding sexual harassment?

It varies. Every company should familiarize themselves with their local laws and make sure they are properly training their supervisors to prevent sexual harassment. Every employee should have an equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace. Harassment of any kind should not be tolerated in the workplace.

 

Wage Theft

What should employees do if they have experienced wage theft? What should be the first course of action?

If an employee feels that they have been a victim of wage theft, it is important for them to document their received wages, and get records of their original agreement or contract that defines their expected pay rate. Having these in hand will help build your case, as the next step would be to contact a wage & hour attorney that can help guide them through the process.

What are the laws regarding overtime and wage law in California?

California law requires employers to pay overtime at the rate of one & one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to and including 12 hours in a single workday, or for any hours worked over the standard 40 hour workweek. If the employee works more than 12 hours in a workday, they are entitled to Double Time.

 Los Angeles is the wage theft capital of the world,  with low-wage workers losing approximately $26.2 million in wage theft every single week.

From the above, do you often find employers not adhering to this law? Why is this the case?

Los Angeles is the wage theft capital of the world,  with low-wage workers losing approximately $26.2 million in wage theft every single week. Oftentimes, employers will try and get away with stealing from their workers by either making their agreements overly confusing or outright denying them their legal right to proper wages. It is a major problem for our city and we find ourselves fighting this unfair practice all the time.

What checklist should companies make to ensure they avoid legal sanction regarding wage law?

Again, this varies. Local law dictates wages for employees so all business owners and employers should look to their local districts for guidance on properly compensating their employees, and making sure they are within legal grounds. Being familiar with the rules from the start will allow companies to grow and provide for their workers without running the risk of legal issues later down the line, saving them more time and money than if they were to try and cut corners.

I believe my strength is being a strong negotiator, and this is something that I genuinely enjoy on a day to day basis.

A little about Ramin Younessi:

What motivates you in your role?

I enjoy advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves. I truly enjoy working with other professionals within the firm, collaborating and strategizing on a winning strategy for each case. Employment matters are highly factual and often a detailed analysis and proper evaluation is necessary to achieve the right results.

I love to teach and to mentor and in my position as the leader of the firm, I enjoy training my attorneys.

I believe my strength is being a strong negotiator, and this is something that I genuinely enjoy on a day to day basis.

Why did you pick the legal sphere?

When I first immigrated to the US, I worked in many minimum wage jobs, such as fast food, gas station, delivery driver, and was both personally subjected to and witnessed others whose rights were abused. The ability to represent the little guy and make sure that their rights are protected, provides a sense of gratification that I did not experience while practicing different areas of law.

Do you have a mantra or motto you live by when it comes to helping your clients?

My guiding principles in my practice are summed up in the following two quotes, “Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue” from the book of Deuteronomy and “For Every Wrong There Is a Remedy” and old maxim of the law Codified in California Civil Code.

What has been your biggest achievement in the past 12 months?

The biggest achievement on a day to day basis, is consistently delivering good results whether by the way of settlement or judgment for our clients and the gratification of knowing having changed your clients of life by providing them some financial security. A few months back, an association representing some employers filed a lawsuit against the State of California alleging that unfair application of certain provisions of the labor code, within the lawsuit, they attempted to demonize a group of “the 30 most aggressive” Plaintiff’s firm; my firm had the devious honor to be named number one on the list. I pride myself and our firm and as having been recognized as the most aggressive Plaintiff attorney. This brought, a certain notoriety to Younessi law amongst the Plaintiff’s bar. This resulted in dozens and dozens of referrals from other firms.

Ramin Younessi

 

LAW OFFICES OF RAMIN R. YOUNESSI

A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION
3435 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 2200
Los Angeles, California 90010
(323) 777-7777 Telephone
www.younessilaw.com

My name is Ramin Younessi. I graduated high school at the age of 16 and ranked 12th among more than one million participants in the Iran University Entrance Exam (99.9996 percentile). Shortly thereafter I immigrated to the great United States of America. After nearly four years of absence from studying due to economic necessities, I decided to skip college and directly enroll at University of West Los Angeles School of Law night program while working full time and eventually passed the California Bar Exam on my first attempt.

I began my solo practice on the same day I was sworn to practice law in 1994 and have practiced law in the Los Angeles area since then. I am recognized as a Certified Specialist in the field of Workers’ Compensation by the State Bar of California, and I have personally tried more than a dozen jury trials with many more court trials and arbitration cases. I previously served as a member of various steering committees in the California Judicial Council Coordinated Mass Tort Proceedings. I am a long standing member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and California Employment Lawyers Association, as well as on the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities’ Board of Governors.

For the past 25 years, I have focused on heading Younessi Law, a diverse team of highly dedicated attorneys and staff where we focus on remedying the injustices the labor force experiences on a daily basis in areas such as wrongful termination, wage theft, minimum wage and overtime violations, discrimination based on disability, gender, pregnancy, age, nationality, and sexual orientation, workers’ compensation, serious personal injury and mass torts. We have successfully obtained many seven figure verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients and are proud to serve them.

To my knowledge, Younessi Law is the only firm of this size in California who handles both Workers’ Compensation, as well as civil employment matters. As a certified Workers’ Compensation legal specialist and an experienced Trial attorney in areas of personal injury and employment litigation, I fulfill a unique role in providing guidance to the firm, in navigating, the unique issues, that are presented in each field of law and how they interact with one another.

 

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