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California Labor Board Files Wage Claim for Hours Lost

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Ridgecrest, CA"I know California is an at-will state, which means you can be terminated without a reason," says Penny, "but after speaking with the California labor board, I can file a wage claim because this company—Best Western—violated the California Labor Law."

Penny's problems began when she returned to work from medical leave for a work-related injury. She was desk clerk night auditor at a Best Western, but while she was away new management came in. "My new supervisor, Vikki, told me that I was no longer required for the graveyard shift," says Penny. "She used 'security reasons' as an excuse, but I had worked graveyard for four years and never had an issue. I had dealt with all kinds of problems, such as drunks in the parking lot. Why did a man suddenly have to replace me?

"Instead I was placed on day shift and lost 8 hours a week, sometimes more. As of last July 2010, I worked anywhere from 24 to 32 hours per week, which is a big reduction in my paycheck.

"Then I had to train some new employees who were getting paid more than me! I know that Vikki had a personal vendetta against me, but I didn't give her any cause. Finally Vikki called me into her office and said she no longer needed me. I didn't bother to ask why—I just took my check and walked out, devastated. I was a damn good employee and didn't see it coming. I came into work whenever I was needed; I was loyal and hard working.

"Somewhere, somehow, I should be protected by the California labor code. I think this is a discrimination case, but that is hard to prove. However, the California labor board told me that I have a civil right to file a wage claim against Best Western for the hours lost. The claims officer said that she would call Vikki and ask her to rectify the situation, meaning that I would receive a cash payout. I calculated that they owe me about $1,750, based on hourly wages and hours lost. The claims officer also asked me if I would be willing to take my job back. The answer is no, because I'm not going back to a hostile work environment—that's another claim! But I would take my job back if not for Vikki.

"I should get an answer from the California labor board any day now. I feel confident that we will come to a settlement because these are my basic rights. If I don't get any compensation, my next step will be to contact a California labor law attorney.

"Meanwhile, I'm trying to collect unemployment but Vikki gave them the wrong date of termination so that's held up my claim. I just wish I had the opportunity to defend myself; I wish I had the chance to rectify my situation. If they don't settle, I guess I will have that chance, with an attorney's help. Of course it will be great to get compensated for the hours lost, but I hope that Best Western learns from this and doesn't treat another employee unfairly."

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Girardi Keese


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I work for a drug and alcohol treatment program in a non-profit agency of 25 employees. Six months ago employee hours were cut from 5 days down to 3 days a week. We have been receiving work share unemployment benefits for the 2 furlough days. Yesterday, the executive director called an emergency staff meeting (on our day off) and announced we are all going on "full furlough." She told us we had until 5 pm yesterday to go to our offices to pick up our personal belongings and turn our keys in. When asked about our paychecks, accrued vacation time, and unemployment benefits, she said she didn't know and that the "board" will meet again soon, but for now we are on furlough indefinitely. This agency has been struggling financially for quite some time. We recently heard from the director that the agency owes $121,000 in federal taxes, (my paycheck bounced a couple months ago), they are behind by 3 months on two buildings we rent, evictions notices have been sent, etc. Do we employees have any recourse to collect unemployment benefits? Can the agency just keep us in limbo without giving us our paychecks & vacation pay? My fear is they will keep us hanging until they file bankruptcy and we won't get unemployment or what is due us. Please advise.


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