SELECTED NOTABLE CASES

To protect our clients and with an abundance of caution to adhere to the terms of certain agreements we are not using real names of parties or their counsel in some of the posted matters on our site.  Where there are names revealed, it is due to the information already being available on public record and does not violate the agreement, if any.  These are all real cases our office has taken directly or co-counseled to successful resolution.  The cases below were chosen not necessarily for their dollar value but mostly because they illustrate the unique nature of each type of matter and diversity in the set of facts.  Our office has successfully resolved matters valued as little as $2,000 to well over $2 million and as quickly as 1 month to as long as 3 years or more in varied legal matters, including but not limited to, meal & rest break, overtime, misclassification of independent contractor or exempt v non-exempt, to sexual harassment, disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation and wrongful termination against public policy and auto accident and slip and fall matters involving all the major carriers.  We’ve even been part of resolving a small truck driver wage and hour class action.  We have dealt with opposing attorneys from small local law offices to the largest global multinational firms like Littler Mendelson, Jones Day, and many others.  In no way does this constitute advertising, solicitation, or any promise or guarantee for results.  Every matter is unique and the facts of each individual case must be analyzed separately.


I. Are truck drivers who sign an “independent contractor” agreement who also own their trucks or lease them from the employer, pay for their own expenses, fuel, and repairs, but rely on the company dispatchers for work actually misclassified “employees” with all the applicable rights under the law?

Client: Truck Driver A (truck owner) and Truck Driver B (truck lessee)  

Defendant: Fortune 100 global South Korean multinational corporation.  

The Law: Various wage and hour issues such as Failure to pay Overtime, Missed Meal and Rest Breaks, Failure to Reimburse Business Expenses, Private Attorney General’s Act, Willful misclassification, and Disability Discrimination, and Retaliation, failure to accommodate, et al.

Conclusion: After two years of litigation, an agreement was finally reached to settle as a class action for roughly 160 truck drivers (both A) owners and B) lessees).  The agreement was reached 4 weeks after mediation with Jeff Krivis for a healthy $2.5 million.  

Our office co-counseled in representing Truck Driver A at first for a single wage and hour issue which later ballooned into a class action and FEHA claims for disability discrimination.  Pedersen Law, APC led the litigation efforts, Jackson Law APC led the final steps towards settlement,  and Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee acted as co-counsel every step of the way.  Mid-litigation, Harlene Miller, Esq., also became involved to assist with bankruptcy issues for Truck Driver A.  This was a complex case involving Truck Driver A’s individual wage and hour issues, individual discrimination issues under the FEHA for disability leave and associated retaliation, PAGA, and bankruptcy issues, as well as the distinctly different duration of work and lessee status of Truck Driver B, which comprised of about 2/3 of the potential class members.  Mediation had a profound impact on expectations of all of the parties as well as the third party carrier for the defendant, who seemingly was in the dark about a lot of these facts.  Ultimately a highly complex matter was reduced to a sum certain.  The matter is in the process of finalizing three separate settlements through the bankruptcy courts and complex court in Orange County.  Originally Pedersen Law, APC and Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee began this litigation splitting the duties.  In the middle of litigating this matter, our primary plaintiff declared bankruptcy causing the BK Trustee to become the new client.  Malpractice rights also surfaced because the first BK attorney neglected to list this lawsuit as an asset and gave profoundly bad advice to Truck Driver A client regarding related issues that had an impact on this matter.  Ultimately, a very experienced, ethical and helpful BK attorney, Harlene Miller, Esq., was hired and the issues were resolved so that we could confidently continue with litigation to its settlement.  Truck Driver A represented those who had owned their trucks, Truck Driver B represented those who leased them from the defendant, Company X.  Also, Company X transitioned their name after litigation commenced.  The final outcome came about due to expert mediation, plaintiff’s team putting forth strong credible evidence, and reasonable defense counsel who wisely recognized the exposure its client faced and a carrier who quickly recognized an opportunity to cut its losses.  Litigation that began in the middle of 2015 will ultimately get resolved in 2018.

NEW CLIENT INTAKE


II. Does the employer owe wages for an employee who failed to submit his timesheets accounting for those hours (OT) he claims were worked?

Client: Engineer TD.  

Defendant: Global Fortune 500 IT Company.  

The Law: California Labor Code §§ 510, 1194 and 1198; IWC Wage Order 4 Section 3 failure to pay overtime, and associated claims for wage statements and final paycheck.  

Conclusion:$195,000 settlement in mediation and favorable non-monetary terms.  The employer is required to pay for all wages “it knew or should have known” were worked.

Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee started this matter and eventually associated in Pedersen Law, APC who led the efforts to successful resolution.  Client worked for IT company in the same department in the same position for the past 33 years.  When he started, he was one of three and in the last 10 years, he maintained the mainframe department alone batching overnight as his team dwindled down over time for various reasons.  Due to the nature of the computer operations, it needed to be monitored and run 24/7.  When it was a 3 person staff, they rotated and backed each other up.  However, in the last 10 years, he went at it alone.  Despite that fact, his timecards only showed that he worked 40 hours M-F and about 12 hours of overtime Saturdays and Sundays.  We alleged the employer knew or should have known our Client worked an additional 40 hours of unpaid overtime M-F that was not compensated, despite the fact he did not clock in on his timesheets.   Our Client’s claims included the reason he only clocked 40 hours during the week M-F was that he was afraid to lose his job, as he had seen occur over time with his teammates.  He had a suspicion his job was being outsourced or automated, making it difficult to find another job, especially as his specific function was somewhat antiquated.  Furthermore, he argued that he wanted to keep working long enough to earn his pension, which he eventually did earn and secure.

Upon his eventual job elimination, he had fully vested in a) his company’s pension plan, b) earned a six figure severance package and health benefits, and was eligible for c) an additional $25,000 if he would waive any and all other rights.  After discussing the situation with our office, he decided to roll the dice and waive the optional $25,000 severance to pursue his rights.

After careful calculations, our office submitted a demand for unpaid wages and damages to the corporate office in California as well as the parent corporation in New York.  Defendant hired an established and well known defense firm formed in 1992 with offices in Irvine, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and several other marque cities.  The initial response included a counter-offer of $33,000 to our large six figures, which of course was rejected.   Neil Pedersen and Armond Jackson at Pedersen Law, APC were associated in and asked to review the matter and lead the litigation.   After meeting the client, they accepted and led the rest of the litigation efforts with our firm as co-counsel.  At mediation, defense produced a dozen emails that presented damage to some of our claims.  Also, we received discovery requests referencing a dozen casinos, electronic transactions, bank accounts, house accounts, etc. which seemed interesting and we had no prior understanding of why they would be relevant.  We later came to find out our Client liked to frequent casinos, even during some of these “work hours”.  Mediation is useful for the purpose of bringing to light the truth.  In this case, we learned our client’s damages may not have been quite to the extent we had originally calculated.

After much negotiation, defense finally conceded, our Client did work over-time hours that were not compensated and the fact he did not clock-in during the week was not by itself sufficient excuse not to pay him what was owed.  The only issue remained as to how much over-time was actually compensable.  Figuring that out required significant analysis, data crunching, and of course weighing of the new information discovered in mediation.  Although the deal came extremely close to falling through (because Plaintiff and Defendant were so far apart on the settlement figures), the parties eventually did come to an agreement at a healthy six figures.

 

QUESTIONS HERE


III. Can the employer be held responsible for sexual harassment even if the plaintiff was not the target of the unwanted sexual behavior?

Client: A professional Jane Doe.  

Defendant: Utility company.  

The Law: The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) violations – Sexual harassment and retaliation and also Wrongful Termination against Public Policy.  

Conclusion: Negotiated a six figure severance and very detailed and favorable non-monetary terms including a recommendation letter.  To be a victim of sexual harassment does not require that the harasser has “sexual interest in” or “attraction” directed towards the plaintiff.

Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee handled this matter directly from start to finish.  Our office got the call and discussed this case with the client at length.  She was obviously very emotional and distraught.  We came to later find out it was for both professional as well as personal reasons and both were non-trivial.  Many months went by without further communication when she finally reached out again for our assistance, which we were glad to offer.  Our office handled this matter from start to final resolution.  Our client, after working 13 years in progressively senior roles within the same company (at one time even offered and turning down the CEO position) was abruptly wrongfully terminated with the pretextual reason of insubordination and poor performance.

In the past year, she had submitted numerous complaints to HR of sexual harassment allegedly committed by her boss (the CEO) which also involved his outspoken secretary. Inexplicably, HR failed to investigate any of those complaints. During this time, our client was demoted, responsibilities stripped from her, her title changed, and for the first time in her career, received a negative performance review which ultimately led to her termination with a low-ball severance if she would sign an agreement they shoved in front of her.  Keep in mind our client is a well known subject matter expert in her field and ultra high performing mid level executive with multiple advanced degrees.  In the totality of her 13 years with the company, she has had no negative remarks, except and until the incident around the time she began to complain about sexual harassment.

Our office initiated communication with her former employer and they hired a national 12-office law firm founded in 1968 to defend them.  After rigorous efforts and negotiations, ultimately our client settled for a nice package including six figure monetary as well as favorable non-monetary benefits. The settlement dollar value was more than three times what she was originally offered and it also included extended health benefits not typically found in settlement nor severance agreements, and something even more rarely found in these settlements and what our client specifically wanted.  We demanded and she received a favorable recommendation letter from a company executive.  The outcome gave our client everything she wanted.

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IV.  Is it illegal to terminate someone on pregnancy leave if the reason given is “elimination of the position”?

Client: A pregnant administrative assistant Jane Doe.  

Defendant: Medical clinic/doctor’s office.  

The Law: The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) violations – Pregnancy discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination against Public Policy with missed break violations under California labor code.  

Conclusion: More than two year’s salary and quick settlement.  Pretextual firing is illegal when the burden shifts and the evidence proves a discriminatory motive and no other reasonable justification for the termination.

Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee handled this matter from start to finish to successful resolution.  The client called our office and we successfully led the efforts to a quick and sizeable resolution that our client not only wanted, but desperately needed.  Our client worked as a Medical assistant earning $16 per hour, 40 hours per week, for roughly one year at this medical clinic under the supervision of several physicians.  She was a good employee, proficient with her duties, and a pleasure to work with by all objective and subjective accounts.  Having met with her, we found her extremely easy to work with and a fantastic witness.   We initially found that the employer never allowed her 10-minute rest breaks in violation of Labor Code 226.7.  Furthermore, it turns out she was hired into this practice by one of the doctor partners who also had prior experience with her performance.

Several months into her employment, our client discovered she was pregnant.  She informed her employer and gave 30 days in advance notice of her first doctor’s visit, way in advance to what would normally be required and no policy that mandated such courtesy. Since that time, she endured frequent inquiry and harassment for no apparent reason other then to intimidate her into not taking authorized pregnancy leave. The questions became so invasive into her privacy that it created a persistent, pervasive, and severe and systematic atmosphere of harassment in the workplace.

Eventually, she was told that purportedly due to restructuring, her position would be eliminated in 30 days.  After hearing this notice, she then went to her previously scheduled doctor’s visit, which the employer had already approved, and was terminated upon her return (many weeks earlier than the 30 days she was already told).

She called our office and we agreed to take on the matter.  The client was concerned how her pregnancy might be affected by the added stress of litigation.  Understandably, nothing was more important to her then her soon to be born child.  We took on the case and made sure we advocated for her to the fullest.  Her former employer tendered it to their carrier who hired a national multi-location firm with over a dozen attorneys, senior counsel and partners.

Ultimately the parties came to an agreement. Defense counsel wisely recognize the exposure based on the facts of this matter and we feel the carrier pushed for early settlement. Client was able to move on with her life the quick turn around also helped during a time her family needed the finances. In this case, the employer did the right thing by quickly addressing an egregious error.  We would have gladly pushed this further into litigation, however, the settlement was reasonable and we can only hope the employer has corrected their practices for the future.

NEW CLIENT INTAKE


V. Can you recover for injuries if the person who rear ended you has no car insurance and the driver of the car you are in also has no insurance?  Normally no.  In this case, yes.

Clients: Five passengers in a multi-car auto accident.  

Defendant: Joint with independent contractor drivers and Uber.  

The Law: Torts / Personal injury.  

Conclusion: Settlements over $267,000 in addition to car repair and all medical bills paid.

Law Office of Joshua Y. Lee successfully handled this injury case from start to finish.  All 5 clients were in two separate Uber vehicles who were hit by a drunk driver without insurance.  They came to our office and we handled it to successful resolution.  5 Client(s) were passengers of two vehicles owned by two separate individuals working for Uber. Two Uber vehicles were stopped at a red light behind one another when a drunk driver rammed his Ford truck into a third vehicle behind both of them which then caused a chain reaction resulting in a 4 car collision. Injuries were sustained requiring several surgeries to breast implants and a broken wrist. The other three of the five only needed soft tissue chiropractic services. The drunk driver readily admitted he was drunk and that he didn’t have a license to the police officer filing the report.

Rear end collision by a drunk driver while stopped at a red light. Although we lawyers say there is no such thing as a “slam dunk” in the legal world, if there were such a thing, this would be it as far as liability is concerned.  However, we experienced a few hurdles.

Problem #1. The drunk driver had no insurance.

Problem #2. The driver of one of the two Uber vehicles let his own personal insurance lapse. Pursuant to Uber policy, where the individual driver’s insurance lapses, Uber’s insurance is not effective.  The driver that picked up some of our clients was driving without car insurance.

Problem #3. Uber initially rejected our claim for recovery, stating their UIM policy expressly requires the driver working for them must be insured to trigger coverage by their carrier.  Also, they insisted that they had an ‘excess’ coverage type which meant the driver’s insurance must cover first before their insurance was obligated to cover any overages.

Despite the obstacles and hoops we had to jump through, we eventually got Uber’s carrier to accept responsibility and pay under its uninsured motorist provision.  After two years, our office eventually settled for a total of a little over $267,000 which covered all medical bills and gave our clients an amount they were happy with for their pain and suffering. We reduced some of our fees so that a larger share could be given to our clients. One of our clients had her breast implants replaced. Another had several surgeries to her wrist.  They were all treated and have since happily moved on with their lives. Nobody can forget a tragic accident that shocks and impacts your life in this tangible way, however we were glad to be there to help when it mattered.

QUESTIONS HERE


VI. If you are an employer who terminates a long term problem employee with a history of poor performance and multiple documented work related issues, can you still be held liable for discrimination if they are on FMLA at the time of termination?

Client: Defended; good guy small engineering company employer.  

Plaintiff: Disgruntled problem ex-employee.  

The Law: Allegations of disability discrimination, retaliation under the FEHA and wrongful termination against public policy.   

Conclusion: Settled for a small fraction of the original near six figure demand by the plaintiff’s attorney, saving many tens of thousands and perhaps even hundreds of thousands if aggressively defended and countless hours and up to years in litigation.  

Our firm took on the defense needs of this small employer client our office was already working with on other matters to successful resolution.  The plaintiff was a long term employee who was terminated and thereafter alleged that she had been retaliated against due to her ongoing medical issues which led to her taking approved leave. The plaintiff had been an employee of the defendant’s company since 1999 (17 years). She had been promoted once from accounting to Accounting Manager (although there was no employees reporting to her). She had taken leave that amounted to several months requiring the employer to hire a temp. The temp performed so well she was eventually hired on full-time and the plaintiff was terminated in a letter specifically citing her poor performance in recent years, excessive absenteeism, tardiness, and leave without notice. The letter also specifically addressed that her termination was not due to her lawful right to take leave for medical reasons. Plaintiff hired a well known and respected plaintiff’s side employment attorney who sent a demand for settlement. The employer called our office for help and upon review of the facts, decided to represent him and take on the case.

Although much of the facts were in dispute, Plaintiff was actually on leave when terminated.  She had doctor’s notes and had properly filed for medical leave.  She was eventually terminated after her second “return to work date” had lapsed and had called in days later than expected with a text message stating she had a doctor’s note.  Officially, she could have been categorized as a “no-call no show”, although it was not actually recorded as such.  Despite our office having dozens of documented disputes with coworkers and vendors who had officially filed complaints against the Plaintiff, and her insubordination defying direct orders, the Plaintiff’s counsel pointed to the fact she was not terminated during this alleged time of misconduct.  Our office argued our Client had a soft heart, as the Plaintiff had recently lost her husband and he did not want to further traumatize her during that time of deep personal suffering.  Our point was that this is one of the good guys and it would be immoral and unjust to punish him for his compassion and to twist the law to make him liable for nothing short of a good deed.  Furthermore, we had evidence, Plaintiff was perpetually months behind in her work for the past several years and on one occasion even failed to pay the defendant’s cell phone bill which was her responsibility alone, causing it to shut off until he fixed it himself several days later.  Plaintiff often complained that there was too much work and that she needed to hire support staff.  Client repeatedly offered to go to a temp agency but plaintiff insisted on hiring her daughter, which she did on two occasions without consent or approval and on one of those two occasions, specifically against a direct order.  Since Plaintiff was in charge of accounting, she paid her daughter.  There was also a calendar, which the plaintiff herself maintained in her own hand writing, that indicated many unexcused absences, lates, and early leaves that were not approved and unrelated to any legitimate medical or business purpose or authorized leave.  Plaintiff’s counsel again pointed to the fact that despite all of our claims, Plaintiff was still not terminated, proving she was in fact a good employee and when she was finally terminated it was only due to her disability and associated requirement for leave and treatment.

During the time of Plaintiff’s leave of absence, which was extended at least two times, Client had to hire a temp.  The temp performed exceptionally well, only confirming for our Client his suspicions that Plaintiff had long been underperforming and taking advantage of his kindness.  The temp cleaned up Plaintiff’s office and was fully caught up on all work, even asking for more work, by just the 3rd week on the job.  Our Client then terminated the Plaintiff which caused her to seek counsel to threaten action.

Ultimately our client happily settled for a very small fraction of what was originally demanded, saving countless hours and tens of thousands in legal fees and also allowing him to focus on growing his business with this new better and less expensive employee.  When asked, our client said, in the end, it was profitable to pay the settlement, get rid of the old employee and hire the new one.

Ongoing Cases updated March 27, 2018:

  1. Pregnancy discrimination, retaliation for taking pregnancy leave, and workplace harassment against a clothing designer and manufacturer.  
  2. Wage & hour missed meal & rest breaks and related causes of action against a valet parking company and one of the largest hotels in the world with a marque location in orange county.
  3. Disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful termination against a medical company.
  4. Breach of contract and related matters.
  5. Ongoing personal injury auto accident as well as a slip and fall matter against a major restaurant chain.

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