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.

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.

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.

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Ottinger Employment Law Blog

Attorney Portrait

Is It Illegal to Lay Off Pregnant Employees in California?

McKenzie was at home, washing baby bottles for her newborn, when she got the news that her position as a communications professional at Salesforce had been eliminated. She was shocked — although the company had announced in early 2023 that 10% of the workforce would be laid off, McKenzie thought that she’d be legally protected from termination by her maternity leave.  She’s not entirely wrong: pregnant workers are entitled to specific protections and benefits under federal and state law that shield them from discriminatory demotion or firing due to their condition. But did that apply to layoffs?  You may be wondering, “Can you get laid off while on maternity leave?” As waves of downsizing have rocked tech, media, and other industries over the past year, many employees who are on leave due to pregnancy or other health conditions have been asking similar questions. Many of these workers who were surprised with sudden job loss might understandably be wondering if they’ve been fired illegally — and if so, if they have grounds to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination or discrimination. This blog post will shed some light on what’s legal and not legal when it comes to laying off workers — pregnant or otherwise. We’ll first walk through the national and California state laws that protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace. We will then break down some circumstances that do (and don’t) fit the legal requirements for wrongful termination, and finally explain how an employment lawyer can help you win recovery for a potentially illegal firing. What Protections Do Pregnant Workers Have in California? First, make no mistake: discriminating against a worker because she is — or may become — pregnant is illegal across the U.S.  The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) specifically guarantees pregnant employees the right to fair and continued employment during and after their pregnancies. Under this act, companies are banned from holding a worker’s pregnancy status against her in employment situations — for instance, by withholding hiring, firing, or demoting someone specifically because she’s pregnant.  Beyond the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act, though, women working in California enjoy even further protections thanks to state anti-discrimination laws. Protections Under Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) For one, all employers with five or more employees must follow the anti-discrimination regulations laid out in California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring, promotion, pay, or opportunities due to any condition related to pregnancy, including discriminatory treatment based on fertility-related health issues or treatments, birth control use, breastfeeding or pumping, and treatment related to the loss of pregnancy. Under FEHA, employers are also required to grant any reasonable requests a pregnant employee might make for accommodations that would allow her to perform her job as normally as possible. These accommodations can include alterations to work duties to make them less strenuous, access to a chair or ergonomic supports at work, permission for longer and more frequent breaks, or time and space to express milk while at work.  Women in California are also legally entitled to up to four months of additional job-protected leave, or Pregnancy Disability Leave, for medical conditions related to pregnancy. With a doctor’s certification, women experiencing a number of common medical conditions — like hypertension, preeclampsia, severe morning sickness, or depression — are able to take more time to recover, with the guarantee that their same (or a reasonably equivalent) job will be waiting for them when they return. If an employer refuses to cooperate with these regulations — by refusing requests for breaks, denying you leave time, docking your pay after maternity leave, or firing you for announcing a pregnancy, as a few examples — they’re violating the law. When this happens, employees can sue for illegal pregnancy discrimination, with the potential to win financial recovery for lost wages and opportunities. Contact Us Schedule your flat-rate consultation. Schedule your consultation today. Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination if I Was Fired While Pregnant or on Maternity Leave? Although women in California are entitled to many legal protections that prevent them from discriminatory treatment while pregnant, this doesn’t mean that it’s always illegal when a pregnant woman loses her job.  Under U.S. and California law, it’s still possible for a company to fire a pregnant worker without it being pregnancy discrimination or wrongful termination.  To explain why, let’s clear up a common legal misconception: Unfair termination is not always wrongful termination. Under California and U.S. law, wrongful termination happens when an employer fires someone for reasons that are illegal. In essence, they violate existing state or federal laws. This, of course, includes laws against discriminatory harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Can I Legally Be Laid Off During Maternity Leave in California? In California, an employer can legally lay off an employee during maternity leave if the reasons are strictly non-discriminatory and business-related, unrelated to the maternity leave itself. However, firing someone solely because they are on maternity leave is considered discrimination and is illegal. Although laying off workers on pregnancy or medical leave may seem ethically wrong, it’s not necessarily legally wrong.  Be aware, though, layoffs can still be used in discriminatory ways. For example, when the targets of a round of layoffs are only workers who are on pregnancy or family/medical leave, that could be the sign that something unlawful is happening.  How Do I Know if I’ve Been Fired Illegally? Although the situations that make a firing wrongful termination lawsuit are narrower than many employees think, they do still happen.  Being fired for discriminatory reasons — reasons based on your membership in a “protected class” — is unfortunately still a frequent cause of wrongful termination suits in California. State civil rights law protects employees from discriminatory firing based on a variety of personal characteristics, including (but not limited to) race, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Some California cities also include additional protected classes. For instance, in San Francisco, it’s also illegal for employers to discriminate based on a worker’s height and weight. Additionally, employers who fire employees as punishment for exercising their legal rights is also a form of wrongful […]

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California Time Clock Laws – A Complete Guide

If you’re an employee in California, make sure your employer pays you for your time and lets you rest. Under California labor law, employers are not required to offer mandatory grace periods for clocking in and out. However, employers have the option to provide a voluntary 10-minute grace period for employees when they clock out. This flexibility aims to enhance the ease of clocking in and out for California workers. California law takes proper employee compensation and break times seriously. If an employer violates California time clock laws regarding employee breaks and compensation, they might have to pay damages. To receive damages for time clock violations, employees need to know their rights and their employers’ obligations.  You can reach out to us through our online contact form or give us a call at 866-328-0486. California Time Clock Laws Regarding Compensation California law typically requires your employer to timely and regularly pay you for all your working time. California timekeeping requirements also obligate your employer to keep detailed records of your payroll history and make them available to you. Is It Legal For Your Employer to Round Hours? If you inspect your payroll records, you might notice that the amount of time your employer pays you for doesn’t always match the amount of time you actually work. This is likely because your employer engages in rounding hours. Some employers round the hours or minutes their employees work to simplify payroll calculations. An employer might round your working time to the nearest minute, six minutes, quarter-hour, or other amount. Your employer might round your hours up or down. Since time clock rules for hourly employees require that California employers pay for all working time, is hour rounding legal? Rounding hours worked in CA can be legal, but it depends on the details of your situation. In AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court, the California Court of Appeals decided that an employer’s pay policy that rounded hours worked to the closest quarter-hour were legal since:  This means that if a rounding policy rounds up and down, is not applied to only reduce employee hours, and doesn’t result in constant undercompensation, it’s probably legal. Some California wage laws also closely follow federal law. Under federal law, an employer can round down working time lasting seven minutes or less. This can be disappointing, but the California Court of Appeals indicates that employees should at least break even in a rounding system if they work long enough. Clocking In Before Scheduled Start Time If an employee in California clocks in for work before their scheduled start time with permission from their employer, it generally shouldn’t pose an issue. California labor law allows for flexible clock-in practices when authorized by the employer. However, it’s crucial to ensure accurate record-keeping and payroll management. In California, every minute an employee works must be compensated according to state labor regulations. In California, salaried employees are not required by law to clock in and out, especially if they are exempt from overtime regulations. The decision primarily lies with the employer. In California, nonexempt employees must accurately record their hours worked. This can be done using a time card, an electronic time-keeping system, or a handwritten record. Accurate timekeeping is essential to ensure compliance with state labor laws and to guarantee that employees are compensated correctly for all hours worked. Employers must inform their employees of the method used for recording work hours. California Time Clock Laws Regarding Meal Breaks California law requires that your employer give you a 30-minute, unpaid meal break if you work more than five hours in a workday. The amount of meal breaks you must receive increases with the amount of hours you work. There are some exceptions to this rule. You can waive your meal break if you and your employer agree, and you don’t work more than six hours. You can also waive your second meal break in a 10 to 12-hour shift, as long as you and your employer agree. While there are some exceptions to the meal break rules, they generally apply to hourly and salaried employees alike. And if your employer doesn’t give you proper, uninterrupted meal breaks, you could have a right to premium pay.  Contact Us Schedule your flat-rate consultation. Schedule your consultation today. What If My Employer Doesn’t Comply with the Time Clock Laws in California? If your employer denies you proper breaks or pays you according to an unlawful hour-rounding policy, you can file a wage-and-hour claim with the California Department of Industrial Relations. You have one year to file a complaint if your employer fails to supply you with your payroll records. You have three years to file a complaint if you don’t get paid for all your hours or you don’t receive proper rest and meal breaks. The time you have to file a complaint can pass quicker than you think. This is why you should contact an attorney as soon as you suspect your employer has violated your rights. Your attorney can meet your filing deadlines and handle your claim while you tend to your other obligations.  Contact an Attorney to Claim What You’ve Earned Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t always at the mercy of your employer. Your employer needs to pay what they owe you and provide the rest times you deserve. At Ottinger Employment Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping wronged employees assert their rights. We have more than 20 years of experience, and we have helped thousands of employees. If you’re having trouble with your employer, we hope you’ll reach out. Contact us online or call us at 866-328-0486. 

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What Employees Need to Know about California’s New Wage Theft Law

Workers in California are cheated out of an estimated $2 billion in stolen wages every year. Although California has some of the strongest employee protection laws in the nation, wage theft is unfortunately still pervasive in the state. Especially among low-wage and hourly workers. Many employees don’t even realize that their employers are stealing from them. And those who do are often afraid to take action for fear of employer retaliation.  In 2021, California employees sought only $320 million in civil restitution for unpaid wages — a fraction of the estimated $2 billion stolen by employers every year. To combat this epidemic, the state recently adopted a law that takes an aggressive new approach to cracking down on employers who intentionally withhold compensation from their workers.  In this blog post, we’ll explain what wage theft is in California, break down how California’s new law takes a strong stance against it, and outline how workers in California can take action to get compensation for lost wages. If you still have questions or would like to speak with a California employment lawyer, please contact us online today or call 213-204-8002. What Does Wage Theft Look Like In California? In California, wage theft is a serious offense. As per Assembly Bill 1003 passed in 2021, instances of wage theft exceeding $950 are prosecuted as grand theft. Victims can report such cases to law enforcement authorities. Wage theft happens any time an employer fails to give an employee the compensation that they’re legally owed for their work. Wage theft can happen in a variety of different ways, and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve just your wages. Withholding any earned benefits or gratuities, like meal breaks or sick leave, also constitutes wage theft under California law.  Here are some more examples of what wage theft can look like, according to the California Labor Commissioner’s office: In 2011, California passed the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which aimed to raise awareness about the extent of wage theft in the state and put the onus on employers to inform workers about their rights to fair pay. Under this law, all private employers have the duty to inform their employees about certain basic but critical information about their compensation and benefits. This includes: Employers have to provide this information to workers in writing (in their preferred language) when they’re hired. They’re also required to disclose any and all alternate names the company might use as part of their business. For example, if a landscaper is incorporated under the owner’s name, but uses different “trade names” for its locations in different cities. If there are any changes to the pay or benefits policy, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide workers with updated information, if it’s not included in their pay stubs.  The 2011 law only applies to employers in the private sector, though. Employees who are considered “exempt” (i.e. don’t receive overtime pay) or who are covered by collective bargaining agreements are also not required to receive pay notice from their employers under the law. What Is Ab 1003 And How Does It Change Wage Theft Law In California? In 2022, a new law went into effect in California that raises the stakes on the battle to prevent the rampant spread of wage theft in the state.  Under this law, known as AB 1003, certain incidents of wage theft can now be treated as “grand theft” — a serious offense that poses business owners, managers, and executives with much more serious consequences for stolen wages than before.  According to the bill, employers commit grand theft of wages when they intentionally withhold compensation (including wages and gratuities) “in an amount greater than $950 from any one employee, or $2,350 in the aggregate from 2 or more employees, by an employer in any consecutive 12-month period.”  The 2022 law applies to all employers in California, regardless of size. Importantly, it also applies to independent contractors as well as direct employees.  This is a significant piece of legislation that employers can’t afford to ignore without consequences. Grand theft is considered a felony offense under California law. Prior to 2022, all wage and hour violations were treated as misdemeanor crimes. This meant that if an employee made a complaint or brought civil charges for their stolen wages, companies would be compelled to pay recovery and face fines, but often not much else.  Now that employers can be subject to felony prosecution, violating wage laws can mean potential jail time — up to a three-year prison sentence — in addition to severe fines. Access to felony charges also gives California prosecutors more resources to work with during wage theft investigations, such as search warrants and the use of grand juries. This could encourage California prosecutors to investigate wage theft cases as criminal offenses and take legal action against employers.  How severe this legal action ends up being will play out on a case-by-case basis. It will also likely hinge on one critical element of the new law: whether or not the wage theft was “intentional.”  Proving that an employer was purposefully stealing wages is a bit more complicated than it may seem. Wage violations can stem from miscommunication between employers and workers over policies like break times or payroll scheduling. An employer could even miss an overtime payment due to simple oversight, not out of the intent to deprive a worker their compensation. Demonstrating intentional wage theft in court will require more specific evidence. For example, proof of an employer’s refusal to pay a previously agreed-upon hourly rate of pay. Since AB 1003 doesn’t provide an exact definition of what “intentional” wage theft looks like, interpretations will be determined by the circumstances of each case. How to Report Wage Theft in California If you’ve experienced wage theft in California, you have recourse. The primary avenues for reporting wage theft include: By utilizing these resources, you can take action against wage theft and ensure fair treatment in the workplace. What Should I Do If My […]

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