EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY FRANK PRAY PROVIDES STRATEGIC KNOWLEDGE TO YOUR CASE.
As long as it takes, whatever it takes.
We assess and confront the obstacles between you and victory.
CompassionYou are more than a case. We are sensitive to the emotional, financial, and spiritual impact of your loss.
We set our aim on reaching a just and efficient result.
Free California Employment Law Advice
The rights of employees are often subordinated in the heavy handed employment contracts California employers foist on their employees when first hired. I find these at will polices offensive not for what they say, but for what they don’t say. As written without qualification, the “at will” policies imply the rule covers everyone and every situation. This firm is prepared to offer employees free employment law advice as a public service to offset the deceptive and unfair effects of these broadly written policies. Why would we want to give so much time to educating the public about California wrongful termination law? The reason is that the “at will” doctrine is so riddled with exceptions that it looks like Swiss cheese without the cheese.
California employment law has evolved over the last fifty years in particular to provide a host of protections to even “at will” employees. Some of these protections include freedom from discrimination, freedom from retaliation, the right to disability accommodation, pregnancy and family medical leave, as well as individual medical leave, and of course, numerous specific wage and hour rights such as an itemized paycheck, rest and meal breaks, overtime, and even recently case law holding that seating must be provided to cashiers at their work stations. CA labor laws are some of the most protective in the nation. While some would argue California has gone too far, the truth is that the employment laws have too long lagged in enforcement. An aggressive private attorney prosecution of these rights means that businesses too long profiting by ignoring the law must return their unjust profits. Most importantly, these suits mean that employers will make changes in their employment policies and practices.
California Wrongful Termination Law Advice Begins With Straight Talk for Employees.
The State Bar of California offers a Free CA Employee Rights Publication that spells out just some of your rights as an employee, and answers the following questions:
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS AS AN EMPLOYEE?
- Are there any limits on what an employer can ask me during a job interview?
- Can an employer ask me to take a drug test?
- Does my employer need a good reason to discipline or fire me?
- Is it illegal for my employer to discriminate against me?
- Do employment and labor laws apply to all workers?
- What are California’s requirements for wages, overtime pay, breaks and vacation?
- Can my employer deduct anything from my paycheck?
- Am I entitled to financial assistance if I am injured on the job or become disabled?
- Does my employer have to accommodate my disability?
- What is sexual harassment?
- Am I entitled to time off to care for my new baby or tend to a serious medical condition?
- Is there anything I can do about unsafe working conditions?
- Can I join a union?
- What is unemployment insurance?
- Can my employer give me a bad reference?
- Are non-compete or arbitration agreements legal in California?
- Do I have the right to review my personnel file?
- Can I continue my health care benefits after I leave my job?
- How can I find a lawyer to represent me?
Here is a quick list of what you need to know as a “first start” to working with your employment law attorney:
- “At will” employment doesn’t mean what your employer wants you to believe.
- You can’t be harassed or discriminated because of your age, sex, race, disability, national origin, religious belief, use of medical leave, marital status, gender orientation (including transexual) and a host of other protected categories.
- If your manager perceives you are not going along with an illegal scheme set in motion by your manager, and the manager takes action to harm you by a change in duties, cut in pay, denial of promotion, a transfer, a career damaging evaluation, layoff or outright firing, you likely have a wrongful termination case.
- You can pursue both a workers’ compensation case before the WCAB and a separate case for civil damages in Superior Court;
- If you’re viewed as associated with, or as assisting a person who is the primary target of retaliation, discrimination, or harassment, you have a case just as strong potentially as the primary target of the employer’s hostility;
- Disability discrimination isn’t your only protection. You also have a right to disability accommodation, and the scope of the accommodations can be quite broad. They include changes in schedule, prolonged time off from work while holding open your position; and even preferential transfer rights into a vacant position.
- Pregnancy is a special focus of California Labor Law protection. Pregnant women, among other rights, get 16 weeks of pregnancy disability leave in addition to up to 12 weeks of time to care for their newborn. They have special nursing and milk extraction rights at work, including a comfortable private space for that purpose, and break time to remove and store milk. They have the right to the same job position on the same terms and conditions within their leave is over.
- If your employer wants to snoop on you at work, the company must obtain your informed consent, or face a privacy invasion charge. This protection would apply to tracking your keystrokes, setting up a camera on your computer or in your office, recording or listening in on your phone conversations, and using your username and passwords to gain access to your personal social media accounts.
- If your employer maliciously makes false statements of fact about you to co-workers or third parties, and you are shamed and humiliated by the broadcast, the employer may be liable for defamation even if the subject of the communication is your work.
- The California Private Attorney General Act [a.k.a. “PAGA”] is a powerful California employment law that allows you to proceed with your “small case” for a Labor Code violation on behalf similarly situated employees. The penalties for these violations can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions. As of this writing, these PAGA cases cannot be forced into private individual arbitration.
- California is leading the way once again with a liberal 2016 “California Fair Pay Act” statute that addresses the evil of gender discrimination, and awards litigants with recovery of attorney’s fees. The statutes allow employees to freely discuss wage levels at work, and protects against retaliation for doing so. Gender lawsuits are on the rise as women say “enough” to being rewarded less than male counterparts.
- Human Resource managers are not there to protect you, but to protect the Company. That means that any benefit you receive from Human Resources is incidental to the primary goal of avoiding liability rather than acting as your advocate. This does not mean that Human Resource officers are bad or dishonest. It means that only a naive employee would rely only on Human Resources as a source of information or help.
SCHEDULE A CONFIDENTIAL OFFICE OR VIDEO TELECONFERENCE WITH EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY FRANK PRAY
Employment Law Attorney Frank Pray Hasn’t Quite Seen it All.
Employment Law is at the top of the list for emotional intensity. Family law and Trust law (I am told by fellow lawyers) compete for top billing in the drama category. But employment law I contend is the winner, because, like health, it is the foundation for every other success. Our very notion of “self” is at risk when we suffer a job loss, unwanted transfer or demotion. We are placed at risk of financial ruin. Our anxious imaginations at 3:00 a.m. can quickly turn to dead end scenarios of homelessness or bankruptcy.
Employment Attorney Frank Pray has seen it all, or so he tells himself after nearly 40 years of practicing law, and 25 of those representing employees as his sole practice. But he hasn’t seen it all, and he can be heard to say after the last case, “Now I’ve seen it all,” only to be surprised again. It’s not surprising that employment law provides such a rich field for varied situations: we spend our best hours at work, and most of us of necessity are on teams or in departments. This confluence of characters and styles can be either a delicious stew, or witch’s brew. Our work environment can be a place of deep satisfaction, or a hell. I have had clients develop every sort of physical illness, often high blood pressure or anxiety attacks, because of toxic work conditions. In a difficult labor economy, especially for minorities or older workers, employees often feel compelled to endure abuses they would, if more free, gladly leave behind by quitting.
An employment attorney is not the answer, but he is a tool that you can use to alleviate some of the economic suffering. An employment law attorney can offer the opportunity for dignity and empowerment as you rely on the law to obtain a measure of justice for wrongful termination, demotion, transfer, or harassment.
So Many “Employment Law” Attorneys, So Few Specialists.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in search of an employment law attorney. Why pick Francis Xavier Pray (Frank) as your employment attorney? There are several thousand out there, at least as advertised. Here are some reasons you may have just landed your internet search on the right runway:
- True focus on one area of practice: employment law, representing just employees.
- An employment law litigator at the helm, since 1977.
- A graduate of an A.B.A. accredited law school with a great reputation: University of San Diego School of Law, graduating as a published writer in Law Review.
- So many depositions, mediations, court appearances, including trials and arbitrations, that I’ve lost count. Last employment law arbitration: victory on behalf of a physician seeking to stop his former employer from using a non-compete to shut down the doctor’s new medical practice.
- The ability to understand the technical aspects of your industry, and the fine points of your particular position. I enjoy immersing myself in the parlance and practices of different specialties.
- I’m a story teller. Now, that may not be the first virtue you would identify for an employment lawyer. But your story is what will win or lose your employment law case, that and the competency and preparation of your attorney in telling it.
- I’m a strong writer, both creative and analytical in skill set. Again, this might not be on your “employment lawyer search” list, but until the trial itself, most of what occurs in the case originates with a writing. Even in trial, motions and briefs are very important.
- I love my employment law practice, and I enjoy the opportunity to use the law to level the field” for employees. Again, why is that important? First, because it shows when the case is presented. Second, it’s how I’ve avoided burning out in the often stressful demands of litigation.
- The most rewarding moment (other than hearing the verdict for Plaintiff announced by the fore-person of the jury) is hearing the client’s satisfaction with the result and the quality of representation at the end of the case. I have numerous testimonials, such as this one from 2015: “ Pray was able to coach me thru the law that was applicable to my situation and helped secure an acceptable resolution. He was very thoughtful and kept me informed as time passed as these things can get time consuming and frustrating.”
- I keep abreast of employment law developments, using the most recent cases and statutes to achieve my clients’ goals. I regularly post employment law articles to sites of interest to clients seeking information or counsel. I usually attend at least 4 “continuing legal education” functions each calendar month, and belong to 4 practice sections of the Orange County Bar Association, or “Inn of Court.”
- Maybe what distinguishes Employment Law Office of Frank Pray from every other employment attorney out there is that we are fully transparent, involving you in a secure cloud based collaboration in which we solicit your active involvement in the case. You know what’s happening as it’s happening, and you see it in a “case management” model that uses discussion and “to do” lists, allows key documents to be viewed as they are created, provides “due dates” for each action step in your case. You can call us for information if you want, but most of our clients don’t feel that’s necessary.
- Employee rights attorney Frank Pray is a strategic thinker, anticipating defenses, and designing best arguments to reach your individual goal. We take a holistic approach to your case, realizing that your family, your finances, your risk tolerance, and sometimes your health, all are impacted by the decision to push relentlessly toward trial. Most importantly, we let ourselves experience your frustration, hurt and, yes, the inevitable indignation and anger associated with being treated unfairly at work. We find listening deeply increases our effectiveness as employment law attorneys.
What keeps me so busy? It is the complexity and breadth of employment law issues. Scroll down this landing page to see just some of the areas of employment law that I practice. I’m fairly confident your present employment law problem falls in one of those “practice areas.”
Employment Law Attorney Frank Pray Levels the Field for Employees.
“They can do anything they want, right? I mean, it’s an ‘at-will’ employment state.”
I’ve heard this statement over the years from prospective clients, and when I do, I take a deep breath. Behind the statement is the work of corporations with human resource specialists and employment defense attorneys who have used a sort of propaganda: they drill “at will” into their training and policies, but fail to address the overwhelming number of major exceptions that virtually consume the at-will doctrine. My job is to protect my clients’ employment rights by asserting the exceptions.
The term “wrongful termination” encompasses a constellation of rights ranging from wage laws and working conditions, to anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws. There is considerable overlap of federal and state laws on the same subjects. State law can and does increase the protections of the federal minimum standards, but state law cannot decrease those basic protections. The extent and complexity of these “exceptions” are why I stay in business. California law is markedly favorable to the employee compared to many other states.
Employment Law Attorney Frank Pray Advocates for Your Whistleblower Protections.
When considering “wrongful termination” questions, keep in mind that for every protection there is usually an anti-retaliation law that prohibits an employer from firing an employee for asserting the protection. Often, the ability to prove the retaliation is easier than proving the merits of the original complaint. For example, if you witness behavior you believe to be sexually harassing, and you report it to Human Resources, and a short time later you are inexplicably fired, the proof of retaliation for reporting does not require that you were correct about the harassment, but only that you reasonably believed harassment occurred. Employees have banded together to push back against retaliation, and organizations have formed to offer support. See, for example The National Whistleblower Center.
Employment Law Attorney Frank Pray Fights Against Discrimination and Harassment.
Consider too that harassment can take many forms, not all of them as clear as a physical assault or battery. Exclusion from key meetings and information, adding or removing workload, applying double standards for attendance or deadlines, withdrawing support and increasing criticisms, setting impossible performance expectations, and spreading gossip and defamatory communications are all evidence of harassment. Sometimes the harassment becomes so severe that no reasonable employee can or would continue his or her employment. If the employer is on notice of these conditions, and takes no corrective action, the employee may be allowed to quit, and treat the resignation as a “constructive termination.” This phrase means the quitting is the equivalent of an illegal firing.
The key in discrimination cases is to connect the termination, demotion, transfer, cut in pay or benefits, or harassment to your race, national origin, age, gender, ancestry, religion, medical leave use, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, political affiliation, or military and veteran status, marital status or HIV status, or even whether you are victim of domestic violence. As you see, the list is long, and hopefully you’re ready to conclude the ‘at will’ rule is not what employers want you to believe.
The key in retaliation cases is to meet all the basic elements of proof. In California, the courts have made that much easier over the years. For example, “blowing the whistle” can be proven that you made a verbal protest against an employer practice you believed to be illegal. Here are some important points in the proof of a “whistleblower” case in California: you may be technically wrong that the employer behavior is illegal. The relevant question is whether you were reasonable in your belief. You do not have to have direct evidence that your complaint caused the firing. Employees seldom do. The short time between complaint and firing is sufficient evidence of “causation.” You do not even have to make an explicit communication of your resistance to the illegal conduct. Your passive refusal to cooperate in the conduct is sufficient. Courts have also held that if you are viewed by the employer as associated with a co-employee whistleblower, and suspects you encouraged the whistleblower, or that you may in the future blow the whistle, and fires you based on that suspicion, you have been wrongfully terminated.
Employment Law in California Covers A Wide Sweep of Protections.
The list of rights that can form the basis for “wrongful termination” is long. The list includes:
- Family and medical leave rights
- Pregnancy Disability and Pregnancy Accommodation rights
- Military spouse leave
- Leave to participate in your child’s school or daycare activities
- Domestic Violence Leave.
- Bone marrow and organ donor leave
- Alcohol and drug rehabilitation leave
- Non-retaliation for reporting work safety violations
- Non-retaliation for reporting discrimination and harassment
- Non-retaliation for making a workers’ compensation claim
- Non-retaliation for pursuing private activities during off-site, off-duty hours
- Non-retaliation for disclosing wage earning rates to co-employees
- Equal pay: California is likely to have a “beefed up” Equal Pay Act that eases the recovery of equal pay by women, and allows greater freedom for employees to disclose to one another disparities in pay.
- Voting leave
- Jury Duty
- Military leave with right of reinstatement, including National Guard training.
- Meal and Rest breaks
- Minimum wage and overtime rates
- A host of California Labor Code requirements for “working conditions” including paystub information and the use of sitting stools for retail checkout clerks, for example.
The point of this list is that it accords employees a two-prong set of remedies: the specific statutory protection and a common law protection against wrongful termination because an employee asserts the statutory right. California agencies offer assistance in pursuing your rights against discrimination [Department of Fair Employment and Housing] and wage [Labor Code] violations [CA Dept. of Labor Standards Enforcement (Labor Commissioner)].
Employment Law Accords A Full Measure of Financial and Emotional Remedies, plus Recoupment of Your Attorney Fees and Costs.
“Damages” refers to money compensation for wrongful termination of employment. The damages include wage loss, emotional injury, punitive damages, and in some cases, the recovery of attorney’s fees and litigation costs. It is usual for wrongful termination verdicts to be between $250,000 and $2,000,000.00. The reasons are multiple, but some of the reasons include the work life of the employee, and the anticipated partial wage / benefit losses over that time, the trauma of unemployment, including the associated depression and anxiety, especially if unemployment is protracted; the degree of evil behind the termination decision [affecting punitive damages], and the good character and work record of the employee as the employee counters the bogus reasons the employer may raise to justify the termination.
This article presents only an overview of employment law and why Employment Law practitioner Frank Pray can be the right choice for you. The reason you may require legal counsel is the nuances of the proof required in particular cases. Wrongful termination law is one of the most fluid and evolving of practices. Every week, I read a dozen or more cases that further refine, expand, or constrict the scope of legal protections. That is one reason I enjoy the practice, and have stayed with it for nearly 25 years. Call me at 949-251-1006 for a confidential review the facts of your particular case.
Knowledge, Experience, Determination, Empathy, and A Will To Win.
Stuck Employees Often Work for Dinosaur Employers You feel you’re working in a sort of Jurassic Park of bobble head conformity. How did this happen? Is getting the “right” job a matter of luck or intention? What if you hit a series of “bad” jobs, and resulting...read more
Is this the way to get things done? How would you rank this negotiation? Where did H.R. go wrong in hiring this manager? How effective is this communication? Civility When Disagreements Are Intense I recently completed a series of acted scenarios for fellow lawyers in...read more
Effective July 1, 2016, the new California case citation Rules of Court reverse decades of automatic depublication of Court of Appeal decisions pending Supreme Court review. The new rules allow citation pending review, but also impose duties on counsel to qualify and update those citations. The Supreme Court may depublish the Court of Appeals decision but now must explicitly issue an order of depublication as the automatic depublication no longer applies.read more