California & New York Employment Lawyers

Employment Lawyers for Employees in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York

For more than twenty years, Ottinger Employment Lawyers has focused on just one thing: helping employees resolve serious employment problems. We are one of the country’s top boutique employment law firms with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Ottinger Employment Lawyers Have Been Helping Employees for Over 20 Years

We devote our practice to helping employees in difficult situations throughout California and New York. Formed in 1999, our San Francisco and Los Angeles employment lawyers have helped thousands of employees. We have handled most every kind of employment case imaginable from illegally fired sanitation workers to rock stars and artists engaged in compensation disputes. We have helped top level executives negotiate employment and severance agreements. We have helped financial executives, salespeople, designers, tech workers, drivers, marketing and advertising executives and people in most every industry resolve complex problems. Our employment lawyers handle cases in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and New York that range from employment discrimination, whistleblowing, sexual harassment, and wage & hour class actions. We also have an executive practice area that focuses on severance, employment contracts and non-compete negotiations. We represent clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, the Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and New York City.

Client Reviews

  • Wonderful Experience working with the Ottinger Firm! I was upset and very emotional after losing my job. The attorneys at the firm were very patient, caring and knowledgeable. They fought for me and won!  

    Candith J.
  • Everybody at this firm was helpful, thorough, and knew what they were doing! They efficiently managed to get results. Any questions I had were answered with depth. The process in which they work made things feel very at ease when it came to the case I hired them for. I would highly recommend this firm!

    Christian S.
  • I never hesitate to recommend Robert Ottinger to friends and family. He is thoughtful, responsive, realistic in managing expectations, an expert in employment law and really cares about helping people with their employment situations. I'm grateful for the help he has provided to me.

    Amy Z.
  • Thank you to the Ottinger firm for taking our case, fighting for us and getting positive results. When a business does not pay you what you are owed and you want results, The Ottinger firm is your go to!

    Robin H.

California Employment Law

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Ottinger Employment Lawyers has been helping employees and executives since 1999. We have offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. We represent people at all levels from C-suite executives, middle managers to hourly workers. We can help you solve your problem.

Robert Ottinger founded this firm in New York City in 1999. Before starting the firm, he worked as Deputy Attorney General in Los Angeles and clerked for two judges at the Los Angeles Superior Court. We encourage you to browse the resources below to gain an understanding of California employment law.

New York Employment Law

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Since 1999, our New York employment lawyers have been trusted and recommended by New York employees and executives. We have earned this trust by delivering outstanding results and customer service. We represent people in all industries and have extensive experience in the financial, entertainment and technology sectors.

Ottinger Employment Law Blog

3 Famous Wrongful Termination Cases and Rulings by the Supreme Court

One of the most common reasons a former employee may file a lawsuit against their previous employer is for wrongful termination. This type of retaliation is common in cases where an employee speaks out against workplace harassment, discrimination, or illegal activity. After voicing a complaint, the employers have been known to retaliate by firing the employee as punishment. While it’s not always possible to prevent this from happening, federal and state law protects workers against such treatment. In fact, there are a couple of famous wrongful termination cases and rulings by the Supreme Court that make it easier for a worker to file a claim. Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. In December 2006, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic fired Kevin Kasten from his job. According to Kasten, the company retaliated against him for making a complaint about the location of time clocks. Kasten noticed that the company placed time clocks away from the area where employees put on their required protective gear. This meant that employees couldn’t get paid for their time preparing their equipment.  Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic argued that Kasten’s complaints weren’t protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because they were oral instead of written. The District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the FLSA did not protect verbal complaints. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling in a 6-2 decision, stating that the FLSA protects an employee who files either an oral or written complaint. If you feel you have wrongful termination case, speak with lawyer with decades of experience. You may have a winning case at hand. Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP Eric Thompson and his fiancée, Miriam Regalado, both worked for North American Stainless in a manufacturing facility in Kentucky. In September 2002, Regalado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging gender-based discrimination by her supervisors. Three weeks after North American Stainless became aware of the charge, they fired Thompson in retaliation. Thompson then filed a complaint, stating that the company violated section 704(a) of Title VII.  Initially, the District Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Thompson’s case since it was a “third-party retaliation claim.” However, in a unanimous 8-0 the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Title VII’s anti-retaliation provisions cover “a broad range of employer conduct.” Since North American Stainless fired Thompson to punish Regalado, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they performed an unlawful act under Title VII. Wrongful Termination laws may vary state-to-state. Learn more about wrongful termination laws in New York and California. Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders In August 1998, Nancy Drew Suders quit her dispatcher job with the Pennsylvania State Police. She claimed that sexual harassment from her supervisors was so pervasive that she decided to quit. Before leaving, her supervisors accused her of theft, put her in handcuffs, and questioned her. She decided not to file a complaint since the equal opportunity representative in the department was unsympathetic. Suders then filed a lawsuit in District Court claiming that the discrimination she faced forced her to quit. The District Court granted a summary judgment to the state police since Suders did not use the department’s internal procedures. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, stating that the police were directly responsible for her resignation. Finally, in an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that any employee in a situation where a “reasonable person…would have felt compelled to resign” could file a lawsuit against their employer without filing an internal complaint. Your Options After Wrongful Termination As these famous wrongful termination cases demonstrate, you have several rights as a worker. Whether you are fired, demoted, or forced to quit due to a hostile work environment, there are legal options available to you. If your employer retaliates against you for making a valid workplace complaint, an experienced employment law attorney can help.

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Whistleblowing Under California Employment Laws

California whistleblowing law is designed to protect employees who report misconduct at work. These laws protect employees in Los Angeles, San Francisco and throughout the state from retaliation. Whistleblowing refers to when an employee “blows the whistle” on his or her employer by reporting the employer’s misconduct which can include: Violation of a state or federal law, Violation or noncompliance with a local, state or federal rule or regulation, or Unsafe working conditions or practices in the context of employee health and safety. The main protection for whistleblowers in California is found in Labor Code Section 1102.5. What is Covered by California’s Whistleblower Law? The California whistleblower law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who reports violations of law or noncompliance with local, state or federal rules or regulations. In addition, the whistleblower law protects employees from retaliation for refusing to participate in an activity that would be a violation of law. Firing an employee for whistleblowing is a form of wrongful termination. Under Government Code Section 8547.1, which extends whistleblower protections to employees of government agencies, it is the declared intention of the state legislature that, in addition to violations of law, state employees should also be free to report “waste, fraud, abuse of authority” and “threat to public health” without any fear of retribution. Increased Protections Under the Whistleblower Law In 2014, the general California whistleblower law was expanded in three important ways. First, protection against whistleblower retaliation in California was extended to employees who report suspected illegal behavior internally – to either a supervisor or another employee with authority to investigate, discover or correct the reported violation. Second, employees also now receive protection if they believe they have been retaliated against based on the employer’s belief that the employee has either already disclosed or will later disclose a violation of law, regardless of whether any actual disclosure of unlawful activity has been made by the employee. Third, the types of complaints an employee may make under the whistleblower protections were expanded to include violations of local rules and regulations, such as city charters and municipal codes, in addition to state and federal laws. For example, certain cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have their local laws and ordinances. Reporting potential violations of those local laws are now covered by California’s whistleblower laws. Contact Us Schedule your free consultation. What Counts as Retaliation Under the California Whistleblower Laws? Whistleblower retaliation can take many forms. The most obvious is, of course, being fired. But retaliation can happen in other ways, as well. For instance, you could be demoted or denied a promotion for which you would otherwise be considered, you could be isolated from other workers, you could get threats or be harassed in other ways, you could be denied access to resources you need to do your job, or you could be denied access to professional development opportunities. You might also face retaliation that is related to your or a family member’s immigration status. Can I Become a Whistleblower and Remain Anonymous? It may be possible in some cases to remain anonymous, but you would be wise not to count on it. It can be extremely difficult to remain anonymous since many cases eventually become public. Even if it is possible to remain unknown to the public in some cases, you should still expect that the entity you are blowing the whistle against could eventually learn your identity – that entity will be entitled to defend itself against claims that is doing or has done something wrong. The more serious the wrongdoing, the more vigorously an organization may feel compelled to defend itself. Reasonable Cause of Wrongdoing is Enough Under the Whistleblowing Law You do not have to prove beyond “a shadow of a doubt,” that your organization, company or state agency is violating a law, rule or regulation in order to claim protection under California’s whistleblower law. You do need to have reasonable cause to believe that there is some sort of illegal conduct or wrongdoing. Even if the underlying conduct is not ultimately determined to be unlawful, making a good faith complaint based on your reasonable belief is enough to trigger the California whistleblower law’s protection against retaliation by your employer. Filing a California Whistleblower Complaint or Lawsuit If you are thinking of becoming a whistleblower, you may wish to seek the advice of one of our California whistleblower attorneys before you move forward. This could help you fully understand your options in the event of any fallout. If you are already a whistleblower who is dealing with retaliation in California, you might wish to consult one of our lawyers to discuss your options for filing a retaliation lawsuit. Remedies Under the Whistleblower Law If you win a whistleblower retaliation claim, your employer may be required to reinstate employment and work benefits, pay your lost wages, and compensate you for pain and suffering or emotional distress. Whistleblower verdicts can be very large. Jurors tend to punish companies for firing employees who report misconduct in the workplace. Contact us online or call (800) 668-7984 if you have been fired or retaliated against for reporting misconduct. For details about our Los Angeles office, click here. For details about our San Francisco office, click here.

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Constructive Discharge in California

Constructive discharge is a term used to describe a situation where an employer forces an employee to quit.  This is often referred to as constructive dismissal or constructive termination. Rather than firing an employee for an illegal reason, some California employers attempt to skirt liability by forcing the employee to resign. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is coerced into resigning as a result of the employer imposing unusually intolerable working conditions on the employee with the intention of forcing the employee to quit.   In such cases, the employee’s resignation has legally been deemed a firing rather than a voluntary resignation.  The California employment lawyers at Ottinger Employment Law will explain. Call our firm at (800) 668-7984 or contact us online for further assistance. What is the Best Way to Prove a Constructive Discharge Claim in California? Establishing a claim of California constructive discharge requires the employee to prove: “That the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee’s resignation that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign.” Vasquez v. Franklin Real Estate Fund, Inc.  Employees may not just “quit and sue” based on a charge of constructive discharge or termination.  The facts must show that the employee was coerced or forced into quitting rather than simply making a rational choice to quit.  “The conditions giving rise to the resignation must be sufficiently extraordinary and egregious to overcome the normal motivation of a competent, diligent and reasonable employee to remain on the job to earn a livelihood and to serve his or her employer.”  Id.  The standard applied in determining whether or not there has been a constructive discharge in California is an objective one, and it is a question of fact – “whether a reasonable person faced with the allegedly intolerable employer actions or conditions would have no reasonable alternative except to quit.”  Id.  Contact Us Schedule your free consultation. California Constructive Discharge Examples  Courts have held that the following types of employer conduct are not, on their own, enough to amount to constructive discharge or dismissal:  The mere existence of a legal violation in the workplace. Id.  An isolated instance of employment discrimination. Soules v. Cadam, Inc.  A poor performance rating accompanied by a demotion and reduction in pay. Vasquez.  Changing an instructor’s schedule from full-time to part-time. Scotch v. Art Institute of California.    Reducing an employee’s salary and changing his or her annual bonus.  King v. AC & R Advertising.  When it turns out that the job the employee accepts is more difficult than or otherwise different from what the employee expected. Rochlis v. Walt Disney Co.  Receiving criticism and being paid less than the employee believes he deserves. Id.   However, courts have held that the following types of employer conduct could amount to constructive discharge in California:  An employee was subjected to a violation of the California Labor Code (failure to reimburse business expenses) so egregious that it resulted in the employee being paid less than minimum wage, forcing the employee to divert a substantial amount his salary to pay his employers expenses and leaving the employee unable to pay basic living expenses. Vasquez.  When an employee is subjected to a continuous pattern of discrimination by the employer on the basis of race, sex, age or national origin.  Watson v. Nationwide Insurance Co.  An employee was physically threatened on one occasion, harassed over a period of two weeks, and not given sufficient work instructions to perform his job.  Ford v. Alfaro.  An employee was subjected to three racial insults within a matter of hours and, upon quitting, was told, “You’d stay if you weren’t a sissy.  If you were a man, you’d stay.”  Watson (citing Bailey v. Binyon).  An employee who had previously received only excellent performance ratings was subjected to citations for rule violations that other similarly situated employees did not receive, to trumped–up charges of inadequate job performance, and to abusive treatment and harassment, including being told in a four–hour meeting that she was a poor and incompetent supervisor.  Watson.  Contact a California Employment Lawyer for Help Today If you believe your employee rights have been violated or would like additional information about California constructive discharge, please contact us online or call (800) 668-7984 for help. Our California employment law attorneys are ready to fight for your rights as an employee.

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