California Labor Law: Stand Up for Your Rights Sooner than Later


Whittier, CA: David (not his real name) regrets that he didn't file a lawsuit against the airline company where he worked for more than 26 years. "I am more educated and stronger now to stand up for my rights," he says. David realizes, perhaps too late, that the company violated several California Labor Law violations and a contract with his union. "When you work in an environment this long, abuse becomes normal."

Overtime WorkDavid's main complaint is not being paid overtime. He worked in the computer IT department and all techies were covered under a union contract??"that excluded technicians' classification for overtime pay. "We belonged to a union that was covering the airline mechanics and we were part of that same contract," says David. "We were called 'remote terminal maintainers' back in 1979 and it wasn't until years later that the company changed it to 'computer terminal technicians'. Changing the name was more descriptive of what we did, even though it was lacking.

We did tech computer maintenance from the PC, the network, infrastructure and associated hardware. This work was supposed to be based on an 8-hour shift but one year we finally made a verbal complaint to our regional manager that we were not being paid overtime. The owners of the company came to a meeting with the techies and the president of the local union. We were told by the company that it was not a company issue; it was a collective bargaining issue. The union president said at the meeting that we were excluded on the overtime issue from the union contract. 'You are either under the company rules or the state guidelines,' he said, 'and you can go for relief in the courts.'

The regional manager's eyes popped out when he heard that. Years have passed and we tried to fight this issue many times, to bring it up with the company. We had pushed at union meetings for the techs to be included in overtime pay. The union negotiated an agreement but at that time everyone else who was classified under that contract could only get paid time and a half. Prior to that, in that same contract, everyone but 2 classifications was paid time and a half and double time, except the techs and the ground radio techies.

Most techs in my department thought we might be outsourced if we were paid overtime. In 2006 that eventually happened. It was very traumatic for all of us??"I estimate that 150 techs lost their jobs nationwide. The managers, supervisors and regional manager??"everyone below the director??"lost their jobs. The whole department was outsourced to a Texas company, who subcontracted a lot of work to another company whose pay was less than half our pay.

We could have sued the union for not representing us properly but most people who tried to fight the company or bring about some type of complaint were forced??"somehow??"out of their jobs. So why didn't we fight? Nobody wanted to go through all the aggravation and the stress you are put through standing up for your rights in a hostile environment…

There was a lot of favoritism for certain individuals and in my opinion they would not join a lawsuit because they benefited most for not doing so. Others felt they were wronged but were too afraid and didn't want the pressure. We (numerous techies from several states) tried to fight in our own way: by trying to get management above us to get us better pay conditions; contacting the union to fight for us and hoping someone in our tech classification would file a lawsuit. We were hoping that someone more independent could file.

What I know now, I would have filed a suit. At that time, the environment we worked in was very hostile. They were very discriminatory in promotions and work assignments and in my opinion they violated the contracted agreement along with several California labor laws. In retrospect, we should have had a labor lawyer representing us."

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