What-are-Your-Rights-When-You-Are-an-Employee.jpg (2149×1159)What are Your Rights When You Are an Employee?

In the days of Charles Dickens, employees had to rely on the generosity of their employers for any benefits and advantages. During the industrial revolution period, employment was regarded as one step removed from slavery.

The Evolution of Employee Rights under Law:

The development of employee rights codes began in the labor movement. In 1919, the International Labour Organization (ILO) was formed as part of the League of Nations. The ILO was later incorporated into the United Nations and the UN backed workers’ rights in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. This charter declares that

The ILO and other groups have sought to produce international labor standards to create legal rights for workers across the world. In the United States, the gradual push toward legal force for fair labor standards has resulted in codification of some labor standards into civil law. Now, when employers violate certain civil laws regarding labor standards, they are vulnerable to civil suits.

Modern Codes of Employee Rights:

Employees have well earned rights guaranteed by civil law. There are five basic categories of rights meant to apply to employees (as well as job applicants and former employees under certain conditions). In most states, employees assume:

  1. The right  to privacy.
  2. The right to fair compensation.
  3. The right to freedom from discrimination.
  4. The right to a safe workplace.
  5. The right to be free to file claims against an employer without retaliation.

Privacy Rights: The right to privacy in the workplace applies to employees’ personal possessions, including handbags, briefcases, storage lockers that are accessible only to the employee, and private mail addressed only to the employee. Employees may have the right to privacy in their telephone conversations and voicemail messages under certain conditions. Employee rights to privacy in email messages and internet usage is limited.

Employees always have to be careful about their right to privacy in the workplace. They have to make careful distinctions between their own personal affairs and the affairs of the employer they are serving. Communications made in the interest or about the affairs of employers will not be private and employers will have the right to monitor the communications that relate to their affairs, for example emails on company computers and internet usage while performing organizational duties on the employer’s behalf.

Fair Compensation Rights: Recognized in the United States Constitution as Annotation 15 of the Fifth Amendment, the recognition of fair compensation refers primarily to the principle that landowners are protected against seizure of their land and property by the government. Fair compensation for labor has been gained, primarily, not through law but through market forces  and labor organization.

Freedom from Discrimination: Anti-discrimination law in the United States is part of the 20th century battle for equal opportunity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Americans with Disabilities Act established prohibition against discrimination in hiring and housing on the basis of race, color, gender, ethnic origin, age and disability. The right of freedom from discrimination is under continued testing in the courts.

Right to Freedom From Retaliation:  The so-called “whistle-blower” act was encoded into federal law in 1989. It was enacted to protect federal employees who reported cases of misconduct. There are different whistleblower laws that protect freedom of speech for limited classes of workers and contractors under various circumstances. Where the protections apply, whistleblowers have the right to file complaints about evidence of violations of laws or regulations that affect public health or safety.

Workers rights  protections in the United States fall short of the early international ideals, but represent part of a continuous legal evolution.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986