One common mistake that many employees make, when they are accused of some kind of misconduct or violation at workplace is overreacting and otherwise going way too far to defend themselves prematurely, which often makes their situation worse than it would otherwise have been. This exaggerated reaction might include sending nasty e-mails or even screaming at the employer due to the frustration of being accused of something you haven't done, running to EEOC to file a discrimination charge, even though there is no evidence whatsoever that the false accusations are due to any kind of unlawful discrimination or retaliation, resigning or taking any other relatively drastic step. These types of aggressive actions do not benefit the accused, but only increase the chances of being further disciplined or terminated. A much better approach is to cooperate with any kind of investigation into the accusations openly, honestly and respectfully without letting the emotions damage your reputation and your relationships with your co-workers or management any further.
The video below talks about one very important tip for anyone who has been falsely accused of workplace violence or similar violation at and who is being investigated:
California Labor Commissioner cited a San Francisco-based airport van shuttle company $220,457 for multiple wage theft violations. American Airporter Shuttle, Inc., and its owner-operator Phillip Achilles, illegally misclassified their drivers as independent contractors. American Airporter must pay the six drivers $212,407 for minimum wages, overtime and meal period premiums, plus $8,050 in civil penalties to the state. “In misclassifying its workers as independent contractors, American Airporter Shuttle, Inc. gained an unfair competitive advantage by passing its expenses on to its workers,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “The need for wage theft prevention is underscored by this company’s wrongful practices of paying sub-minimum wages and denying workers their on-the-job rights.”
The Labor Commissioner’s Office launched the investigation after receiving complaints from Asian Law Caucus, a legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian Pacific Americans. Investigators learned that the drivers, who worked from 60 to 100 hours each week with no off-duty meal periods or overtime, were required to pay the costs of operating their vans, licensing and airport transportation fees. The workers had been required to sign independent contractor agreements in a language they did not understand. Their work shifts, passenger lists and actions were under strict control and surveillance by the owner-operator and dispatchers. American Airporter failed to provide the drivers itemized wage statements showing wages earned, hours worked, and other information required by law.
The company and Achilles must pay the workers $92,458.52 in lost wages, $91,926.58 for overtime wages, and $28,022.13 for meal periods. In addition, $8,050 in civil penalties is owed for failing to provide the workers itemized wage statements as well as minimum wage, meal periods and overtime violations. The civil penalties collected will be transferred to the State’s General Fund as required by law.
For more useful information about making a wage claim, please see our wage / overtime claims page. And, whether you are an employer or an employee, if you have any questions about employee / independent contractor misclassification, feel free to contact us.
In a recent, very interesting employment discrimination case holding - Castro Ramirez v Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (2016), the Second Appellate District clarified the employers' obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to employees in the associational disability context - i.e. where the employee who is not disabled is seeking an accommodation for a physical disability of another person with whom he is "associated" as per California Gov. Code section 12926. The court noted that an association with a psychically disabled person is itself a disability under the California FEHA.
Thus, when Gov Code section 12940(m) says that employers must reasonably accommodate "the known physical... disability of an applicant or employee," the disability that employers must accommodate include the employee's association with a physically disabled person. The court further pointed out that FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act) creates an associational disability discrimination claim by reading "association with a physically disabled person" into the Act where "physical disability" appears in section 12940(a).
Finally, the court pointed out that this is yet another way in which California FEHA provides a much broader anti-discrimination protection to employees than its federal counterpart - ADA. This law and clarification provides significant protection to employees who parents, children, or other closely associated persons/relatives are disabled and require some kind of significant attention from that employee.
Generally, deductions from commissions are permitted when (1) the deductions are tied to that employee’s sales rather than general business expenses, and (2) the employee agrees to the deductions by contract. Aguilar v. Zep (2014). Even if such a contract exists, an employer cannot shift the cost of doing business to an employee. Where routine business expenses that shift the cost of doing business to the employee are deducted from the employees’ commission-based compensation, the fact that the employee consented to the practice is irrelevant and does not make such deductions legal.
The above principle was first presented by the California Supreme Court in Kerr’s Catering case. There, the employer promised a commission of 15 percent to its sales people on all sales in excess of a certain minimum, where the employees sold food items from its lunch trucks. At the same time, the employer deducted cash shortages resulting from the failure to properly charge for the sold items as it routinely happens at jobs that involve many smaller transactions per day. The court held that those deductions were improper, observing that “some cash shortages, breakage and loss of equipment are inevitable in almost any business operation” and should be borne as a “business expense,” rather than deducted from a promised commission. This holding was applied to managerial employees in Quillian v. Lion Oil Company (1979). There, the court found that commissions similarly calculated on sales volumes and reduced by cash and merchandise shortages improperly placed the “burden of losses” on the managers and thus violated California Labor Code section 221 and other law, even though the managers had executed written contracts agreeing to this method of salary calculation.
More recently, in the Hudgins case, the court addressed an employer policy that promised salespersons commissions based on completed sales, but deducted on a pro rata basis returned merchandise that could not be traced to a particular sale or salesperson. The court found the policy “calls for deduction from earned commission wages of all sales associates a sum of money representing what would otherwise be business losses,” The court explained that this was improper under Labor Code section 221.
As the Hudgins court noted, the Legislature has recognized the employee’s dependence on wages for the necessities of life and has, consequently, disapproved of unanticipated or unpredictable deductions . . . .” The court further stated that by enacting Labor Code section 221, and retaining it as interpreted by the courts and [the Industrial Welfare Commission], the Legislature has prohibited employers from using self-help to take back any part of ‘wages theretofore paid’ to the employee, except in very narrowly defined circumstances provided by law. In cases such as Kerr’s Catering, Quillian and Hudgins, the courts’ findings were based on the impressibility of transferring to the employee, by way of wage deductions, the financial burden of business expenses and accidental losses that otherwise would be borne by the employer.
Our experience working on many discrimination and wrongful termination cases clearly suggests that in vast majority of cases being placed on a PIP means that your employer has already made the decision to terminate you, and they are using the performance improvement plan process to just make it look like they are giving you another chance. Often, the same employee who is placed on PIP doesn't even have a chance to finish that 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day plan, and they are terminated way before.
So, what should you do when you are placed on PIP?
- The first question is whether there is any evidence that the real reason for your (upcoming) termination is illegal - i.e. the potential firing will be discriminatory or retaliatory. If that's the case, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible, run your situation by them and talk about what, if anything, you can or should do to enhance your potential discrimination or wrongful termination case.
If there is no evidence that your employer is trying to fire you for illegal reasons and it's a matter of not getting along with them personally, then the only thing you can and should consider doing is looking for a new job before you are terminated, and at the same time consider other options, such as resigning in exchange for some type of severance. A consultation with an experience employment attorney will again be appropriate to determine what the best course of action is before taking the next step.