Close up photo of a person's hands as they talk in a meeting

 

A recent uptick in layoffs and firings means many employees may suddenly be forced to refresh their understanding of their employment agreement. Employees might be wondering what their severance package is, how soon it must be paid, and what other clauses might affect their employment and finances.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some key things you need to be aware of as you navigate through an employment disruption.

 

Do companies have to pay severance for layoffs?

The U.S. Department of Labor states that there is no requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act to pay severance in the event of a layoff. Whether or not your employer owes you severance is determined by your specific employment agreement.

However, the number of employers who offer severance packages is on the rise. A 2021 report found that nearly 64% of surveyed companies offer a severance package, up from 44% in 2019. In today’s uncertain economic climate, it’s difficult to predict whether companies will move away from severance agreements or if the upward trend will continue.

If you aren’t sure if you’re owed severance, review your agreement and look for specifics around this topic. You can talk with an employment lawyer for additional guidance on your contract.

 

What if I haven’t received severance after a layoff?

Again, a lot depends on your specific contract. But, if your contract states that you must receive a severance package within a certain time frame from your layoff and you haven’t received it, you should get in touch with an employment lawyer.

Twitter made headlines recently when employees alleged they didn’t receive their severance packages in the timeframe outlined in their contracts. Many of those employees are now pursuing legal action against the company.

 

Can I get severance if I voluntarily quit?

In most cases, you aren’t entitled to severance pay if you voluntarily resign your position. Some employment agreements do include clauses related to this topic, so it’s always vital to check your individual contract.

However, if you feel you were forced to resign because of discrimination or other workplace difficulties, you may be entitled to compensation. If your employer asks you to resign, that would be considered a forced resignation, and you should consult an employment lawyer.

 

Employment Lawyers in California

If you are interested in talking with a California employment lawyer, get in touch with the McGonigle Law team. We have decades of experience managing complex employment cases and advocating to ensure our clients receive what they are entitled to.

Our team won an arbitration award of over $3 million for a cryptocurrency entrepreneur in a misrepresentation and wrongful termination case against the plaintiff’s former company. You can read the full case study here.

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Businesses of all sizes rely on contracts to uphold agreements between employees, partners, vendors, contractors, clients, and more. But the unfortunate reality is that contract issues can arise anytime, and businesses must be prepared. While it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of legal concerns, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risks.

 

#1. Organize and Maintain Your Contract Files

The last thing you want to worry about when a problem pops up is tracking down a contract. Create and maintain an organized system for all your contracts so you can easily access and review any documents at any time. You can also create a document outlining when every contract expires to stay ahead of contract renewals.

With so many document storage options available today, there’s no shortage of platforms designed to help you streamline your contract management efforts. Take advantage of technology to create strong document management practices in your organization.

 

#2. Implement Strong Contract Tracking Processes

It’s easy to send a contract out for signature and then forget to get the signed version back, especially when managing many projects and contracts. Create a process to remind yourself to follow up on contract signatures and save final versions in your designated contract repository. If you need to pursue legal action (or defend yourself against one) and realize the contract was never signed, it could open up a new area of problems.

If you have multiple employees managing this aspect of your business, make sure you spell out roles and responsibilities, so your team knows who is responsible for ensuring contracts are fully executed and saved.

 

#3. Standardize Your Process, but Customize the Details

Standardizing your contract process is a great way to stay organized and ensure you’re managing your contracts appropriately, but take the time to review and personalize each agreement for that specific situation. Define expectations, deliverables, deadlines, etc., so there’s no confusion about what each party is responsible for.  Contract templates are great, but don’t forget that each contract should be personalized to address the nuances of every business transaction.

Contact the McGonigle Law Team today if you have questions about a business contract or dispute. We have extensive experience managing these cases and providing contract reviews to protect you and your business adequately.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Black and white photo of business buildings

 

Nearly three years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and courts are still determining whether or not pandemic-related business interruptions are considered an insurable event in California.

Businesses of all types have filed lawsuits against their insurance companies to try and recoup business losses resulting from pandemic-related shutdowns. The results have so far been a mixed bag, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently asked the California Supreme Court to clarify the law around this issue.

In many cases, courts have ruled that losses must be the result of “direct physical damage or loss,” which is difficult to provide with an airborne virus. However, Amy’s Kitchen, a Petaluma-based business, was given the green light to continue to pursue claims against its insurance company for damages and losses related to COVID-19.

John’s Grill in San Francisco is believed to be the first settlement in a case of this kind, recently settling with Hartford Financial Services Group for an undisclosed amount. The case went to the appeals court, which asked for more legal arguments from both sides. Ultimately, the parties decided to settle.

With a large number of similar cases being litigated at the moment, this issue raises an important question for the courts over whether or not a communicable disease can cause property damage. While many policies include coverage for carbon monoxide, odors, and more, a consensus around pandemics and other public health crisis situations is needed.

Several cases have already moved to appeals courts after superior courts dismissed the case. As these cases work their way through the system, it will be critical to see how pandemic-related claims are handled between businesses and their insurance companies. The last several years have forced all of us to grapple with unforeseen events, and the legal system is no exception.

As courts zero in on this central issue of whether or not the definition of physical loss or damage should evolve, it will have a cascading effect on the many cases working their way through the courts today.

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Expert witnesses provide crucial and sometimes case-making insights during the legal process, but what exactly do they do? And how does one become an expert witness? Here’s your quick overview of an expert witness’ role in the judicial process.

Expert Witness Definition

An expert witness is a person with in-depth knowledge or experience related to a specific topic that goes beyond the knowledge of a general layperson. In a trial or legal proceeding, the expert witness often has to provide a detailed accounting of their history and experience to demonstrate why they are qualified to provide expert testimony on the matter.

Examples of expert witnesses could include accountants or other financial professionals if the case at hand is related to financial fraud, or doctors or medical professionals in a personal injury or medical malpractice case. The plaintiff or defendant hires an expert witness to bolster the client’s case and provide a deeper dive into the issues at the center of the case.

Responsibilities of an Expert Witness:

No matter which side hired the expert witness, their ultimate responsibility is to the court, not the party paying their fee.

  • The information they provide must be unbiased and objective.
  • Expert witnesses must offer sound testimony and evidence that is based on fact and truth.
  • If a matter or question falls outside the scope of their expertise, they must acknowledge it.

Expert witnesses participate in a trial or legal process to provide unique insights related to the disputed matter based on their specific experience. They must be neutral throughout the process and focus solely on offering information and expertise based on their background.

Hiring an Expert Witness

Hiring an expert witness is not something to take lightly; it requires research and vetting to ensure the witness has the necessary qualifications and background. You can review their academic history, professional credentials, work experience, and any past work as an expert witness. You can also ask for references and information on past cases they participated in as an expert witness.

Trials are a high-stakes environment, so the expert witness has to know what they’re getting into. For that reason, many opt to hire an experienced expert witness, rather than someone who has never provided expert testimony. If you’re hiring someone with less courtroom experience, be sure to fully prepare them for what to expect.

How to Become an Expert Witness

A person in any profession can become an expert witness since litigation encompasses a vast range of case types.

First and foremost, expert witnesses must have significant experience in their field, likely decades of professional history working in their specialty. Many expert witnesses also have advanced degrees or certifications, demonstrating that their knowledge goes well beyond what a typical professional in their field would have. In-demand expert witnesses have also won awards, published articles or other high-level pieces in well-known publications, been interviewed as subject matter experts, or presented at industry conferences or events.

Because expert witnesses have the distinct task of taking complex topics and effectively communicating them, they must be strong, confident communicators.

Expert Witness Services in California

If you are interested in hiring a legal expert witness, Tim McGonigle has extensive experience in the area. As a long-term, highly-regarded attorney in California, he has served as an expert witness on numerous legal matters.

Feel free to reach out to The McGonigle Law team with any questions.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

A black and white photo of two people looking at laptops in a conference room having a discussion

 

If you’re starting a new job and you’re asked to sign an employment contract, you should take the time to read and fully understand what you’re signing. From non-disclosure clauses to limits on your legal recourse in the event of termination, it’s critical that you know the ins and outs of your employment contract.

Maybe you already signed an employment contract with your current employer – take a look at your agreement and refresh your understanding of what you and your company agreed upon.

The Basics of an Employment Contract

Every contract is different, but the vast majority of employment agreements include:

  • Details on how your employment is structured (e.g., independent contractor or full-time employee)
  • Compensation (salary, hourly, commission, etc.)
  • How long the contract will be in effect
  • Information on non-disclosure requirements
  • How disputes between the employee and the employer will be handled

Even though many of these are standard in employment contracts, don’t overlook them. Verify that everything is correct and in line with what you discussed when you received your job offer before you sign the agreement.

Can I Break an Employment Contract?

You have the option to leave your job at any time, but make sure you are familiar with what’s outlined in your employment agreement. It may include a specific length of time required for notice and a specific method of notice (like delivering notice in writing to your manager or the HR team).

Sometimes life happens, and you have to leave your employment without fulfilling every requirement in your contract. Unfortunately, that could mean you’re in breach of contract, and you could open yourself up to the risk of litigation. If you have to leave your employment before your contract ends or without the required amount of notice time, check with an employment lawyer about your options before you start the process of leaving your job.

Can an Employer Break an Employment Contract?

If your employer doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, you may be able to pursue breach of contract claims against the company. For example, many Twitter employees are now pursuing employment-related lawsuits against the company.

If you lose your job or are laid off, check your employment contract to see if it outlines the company’s obligations in that circumstance. You may have more legal options if the company didn’t follow its own agreement when terminating your employment.

Legal Options for Breach of Employment Contract

If you feel that you’ve been wrongfully terminated, get in touch with an employment lawyer to review your situation. An attorney can review your employment agreement to find out the method of dispute resolution included in your contract, along with potential resolutions.

Different workplace allegations, like wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, etc. require various levels of legal proof and evidence, so it’s important to work with an experienced employment attorney on your case.

Questions about your situation? The McGonigle Law Team is here to help – get in touch with us today for a conversation.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

 

The phrase “demand for arbitration” has been in the news recently because of a wave of claims against Twitter. Former Twitter employees allege that the company unfairly laid them off while they were on parental or medical leave and did not fulfill severance pay-related promises.

But why are these former employees pursuing a demand for arbitration instead of a lawsuit? It comes down to agreements made between the parties. If these employees cannot participate in individual or class action lawsuits against Twitter because of employment contracts or other agreements, they may still have the option to use arbitration to settle their claims.

 

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is another legal pathway to dispute resolution. It is a formal request between the involved parties to have the matter decided by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators rather than a judge or jury. Arbitrators are neutral third parties appointed by the parties or the organization involved in the arbitration.

Going through the arbitration process means that the proceedings and results can stay confidential, rather than the public nature of jury trials. Parties to the arbitration also avoid the potential of appeals down the line, making it a popular option for various disputes.

 

Demand for Arbitration is the First Step

A Demand for Arbitration sets the process into motion. It is a formal written request that outlines:

  • The parties involved in the dispute
  • The nature of the dispute
  • What relief is being requested (usually monetary)

Once the Demand for Arbitration has been served, the arbitration process begins. Usually, the method of selecting an arbitrator is detailed in the agreement at the center of the dispute, but if not, the parties will have to decide how to appoint the arbitrator.

Once the arbitrator has been selected, the parties have an initial hearing and then the discovery process starts. After the discovery portion of the arbitration is complete, the parties will come together for a hearing where they present their sides of the case. Finally, once the arbitrator has heard both sides, they will decide on the arbitration resolution.

 

What’s Ahead for Twitter Employment Lawsuits:

Because of the sudden and ongoing layoffs at Twitter, there will likely be additional lawsuits and demands for arbitration. While much remains to be seen about how the courts will handle these cases, terminated employees scored a win when a judge recently required Twitter to inform all recently laid-off employees about a pending lawsuit.

Because of the dynamic nature of Twitter’s approach to layoffs and employment, many more employees could be forced to take legal action to get the compensation they believe is owed to them. The company faces many allegations, including wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and more.

If you have questions about an employment dispute or situation, please reach out to The McGonigle Law Team. We have decades of experience handling employment law cases and advocating for clients who have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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Many individuals purchase a private disability insurance policy, whether it’s short-term or long-term, to cover expenses in the event of an unexpected illness or injury. These policies allow some peace of mind and help individuals provide for themselves and their families during a traumatic or difficult time.

However, even when policyholders make dutiful payments on the policy, insurance companies can still deny those private disability insurance claims. What many people don’t know is that they have options – a denial isn’t the end of the line, but it is the beginning of a longer process.

What is private disability insurance?

It’s common to have a long-term or short-term disability policy available through your employer, but you can also purchase a private policy. However, there are some key differences to know about private disability insurance policies.

One major difference is that with private insurance policies, the policy is subject to underwriting requirements. Instead of simply signing up for coverage through your employer, you’ll likely have to complete a medical exam and submit several years of your medical history. The insurance company wants to determine the state of your health and identify any potential risks before they issue your policy. This also impacts the cost of your policy, as the insurance company may charge more if you’ve experienced serious health issues.

Another important distinction is the length of coverage – group or employer policies may cover a wide range of time, whereas private insurance policies typically only cover a few years, depending on your individual circumstances.

 

What’s the next step after an insurance denial?

If you submit a disability claim on your policy and it is denied, the company will inform you via formal communication like a letter or email. This is where many people assume they don’t have options, but that’s not the case.

You may have the option to appeal the denial, which usually involves filing some paperwork, writing a communication about why you’re disputing the denial, and often requires some medical documentation. If the claim is still denied after you’ve appealed it, your next step is likely litigation.

Common reasons for denial include:

  • Lack of medical documentation/evidence
  • Failure to follow medical advice
  • Failure to submit proper documentation

 

Bad Faith Cases for Private Disability Insurance

When a lawsuit is initiated due to the denial of private disability insurance coverage, many of those cases fall under the umbrella of “bad faith.” This is usually defined as: “The intentional refusal to fulfill a legal or contractual obligation, misleading another, or entering into an agreement without intending to or having the means to complete it.”

This is a serious accusation, and insurance companies will aggressively fight these cases. When a policyholder has upheld their part of the contract by paying their premiums on time, the insurance company must provide substantial information as to why the claim was denied. In addition, the policyholder also has an obligation to fully dispute the reason for the claim denial and explain why the denial was in bad faith.

If you find yourself in this situation, an attorney can help you fight a wrongful disability insurance denial. It’s critical to find a lawyer with extensive experience in disability insurance claims, as these cases are complex and time-consuming.

The McGonigle Law Team has decades of experience with these types of cases and is available to talk about your situation. Reach out to our team for more information.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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2022 delivered another year of uncertainty, thanks to the ongoing pandemic, global volatility, and economic uncertainty. With a fluctuating economy and an unsettled economic outlook for the years ahead, it’s no surprise that many large and small companies conducted layoffs and slowed down on hiring.

Let’s look at some key employment law trends from the year.

Layoffs Accelerated Toward the End of the Year

One of the first highly publicized rounds of layoffs happened at mortgage company Better.com as the company let go over 3,000 workers (amounting to 35% of its total workforce). Additional layoffs at the company have spurred many employee lawsuits, as employees alleged the company laid them off after parental leave requests or while on parental leave. The real estate industry was hit particularly hard as the booming real estate market came to a screeching halt. Many large companies cut staff and slowed hiring to adjust to a slower market.

The tech industry also made deep employment cuts, with companies like Meta, Twitter, Stripe, and Microsoft laying off portions of their staff. It’s estimated that over 105,000 jobs were also lost at private startups this year.

Effects of COVID-Related Employment Lawsuits Begin to Surface

The pandemic ushered in a wave of employment lawsuits from everything related to disability claims, safe work environments, vaccine mandates, and more. Now that we are nearly three years into the pandemic, the effects and results of those lawsuits are becoming more evident.

Cases related to wrongful death in correlation with COVID-19 have faced various challenges, especially since worker’s compensation statutes generally prevent employees from suing due to illness exposure.

A recent case accepted by the California Supreme Court will determine whether employers can be held responsible for not taking enough action to stop the spread of illness to employees’ households.

As disputes arose over employees’ ability to work remotely, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has stated that during the pandemic, employers should consider the ability to work from home when assessing the viability of remote work.

Many COVID-related cases are still working their way through the court system, so much remains to be seen. So far, results have varied, with some courts siding with employers and others with employees. We will continue to watch the impact of the pandemic on the workplace and employers’ responsibilities.

Employment Law Trends in 2022

A recent report from the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities found that the number of dismissed cases increased, while the number of reasonable cause findings increased. The report also noted a decrease in age claims, and race claims remained flat. One area that experienced an increase was religious creed claims, possibly in relation to vaccine requirements. Ninety-one claims were filed in 2021-2022 versus 50 over the previous year.

The most common employment law claims continue to be:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Wrongful termination
  • Wage disputes

 

While it’s impossible to predict what 2023 will hold, this year delivered a lot of uncertainty in the employment space. With a recession possibly looming, there could be additional labor impacts, which often lead to an uptick in employment litigation.

If you have any questions about employment law or wrongful termination, reach out to the McGonigle Law team. We’re always available for a conversation about your situation.

 

 

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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Thousands of class action lawsuits are filed across the country every year, but they are still a very misunderstood segment of the legal process. A class action lawsuit is when multiple parties come together to take legal action against a party or multiple parties accused of the same type of wrongdoing. Examples of highly publicized class action lawsuits include pharmaceutical or medical companies, securities fraud, and defective products.

 

In this blog post, we’re going to discuss several key things you may not know about class action lawsuits.

 

#1. Each plaintiff must have a Plaintiff ID Number

Every plaintiff in a class action lawsuit must have an individual Plaintiff ID Number (sometimes referred to as a Unique Settlement ID). Without that number, the individual is not considered to be part of the plaintiff group. Issues can arise when lawyers are filing a lawsuit on behalf of a family or household and neglect to ensure each household member has their own plaintiff ID number.

 

#2. Class action lawsuits require a great deal of patience

It’s easy to get distracted by large settlement figures (often in the millions of dollars), but keep in mind that it can take months or even years before participants have a settlement check in hand. These are lengthy, complex actions, and they often take longer than expected.

 

#3. You can opt out of a class action lawsuit

If you receive a notice that you’ve been identified as a possible party to a class action lawsuit, you do have the option to opt out. If you decide to move forward with this, you won’t be included in any settlement agreement and you will have the option to file your own individual lawsuit.

 

#4. There is a difference between lead plaintiffs and participants

Lead plaintiffs are the individuals who are filing the lawsuit on behalf of all participants. Lead plaintiffs are much more involved in the process and they essentially represent the entire class. It falls on the lead plaintiffs to initiate the lawsuit, find attorneys, and make key decisions about settlements.

 

#5. The largest class action settlement was the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

This agreement took place in 1998 between the four largest cigarette manufacturers in the U.S. and five U.S. territories, 46 states, and the District of Columbia. The tobacco companies were required to pay $206 billion to the states over 25 years, as well as $9 billion per year in perpetuity.

 

If you have questions about any possible class action lawsuits, reach out to our team. We have extensive experience assisting clients in these matters and can discuss your options.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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Business owners of any size can be affected by breaches of contract, so it’s important to be prepared. While most agreements are fulfilled in a positive and collaborative manner, it’s not uncommon for issues to arise during the course of a contract. From small businesses to large corporations, breaches of contract can have major implications for those involved.

Common Types of Breaches

Breaches of contract vary based on the severity of the violation and how it affects all parties to the agreement. These can include:

  • Partial or minor breach – A party to the contract fulfills the majority of their obligations but breaches one aspect of the contract
  • Total or material breach – A party to the contract violates the agreement by failing to perform their contractual obligations
  • Fundamental breach – A party violates the contract in such a way that there is no way for the other party to hold up their end of the contract
  • Anticipatory breach – A party has a reasonable belief that the other party is not going to fulfill their contractual obligations

 

Breach of Contract Remedies

It’s important to note that remedies vary based on the specific circumstances of the case, but these are the various types of resolutions related to breaches of contract.

  • Compensatory damages: A financial remedy based on monetary damages or loss
  • Punitive damages: Designed as a punishment for the party who committed wrongdoing, this goes above and beyond any financial award related to monetary losses
  • Consequential damages: These may be awarded if an individual suffers tangential damages related to the breach of contract
  • Specific performance: This requires the party who breached the contract to fulfill their contractual obligations
  • Liquidated damages: These are often outlined in the contract and vary based on the terms of the agreement

 

Steps to Mitigate Breach of Contract Risks

While it’s impossible to predict or completely eliminate the possibility of contract issues, business owners can take steps to protect themselves and their businesses against future issues.

 

Have an attorney review your agreements

While it may be tempting to save money and create your own agreements or use templates, having a lawyer review and provide feedback on your contracts can help you if a problem pops up down the line. Being proactive now can greatly benefit you later.

 

Outline clear expectations

If everyone is on the same page going into the contract, that will hopefully alleviate any confusion during the course of the agreement. By setting clear expectations and deadlines, you can ensure that all parties stay on track.

 

Perform adequate due diligence

Before entering into a contract, do some due diligence and research on who you will be working with. This can help unearth potential risks or roadblocks that you may not have been aware of before.

If you have questions about a business agreement or possible breach of contract, contact our team. We have extensive experience managing these types of cases and are here to help.

 

The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.