Christina Tantoy
Christina Tantoy
Associate, Los Angeles
Formerly: Barista, Retail Clerk
Education
  • J.D., California Western School of Law;
  • B.A., University of California, San Diego.

I am a first-generation Filipino-American, native to the suburbs of Los Angeles, whose parents both moved to the United States in their early 30s.

Growing up in a traditional large Filipino family, hospitality is a rite of passage. Welcoming guests into our homes to eat, laugh, celebrate, and simply spend time with one another is not just done for special occasions - it is a normal occurrence. When I was twelve years old, my family attempted to open a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. However, they did not have the business savvy or means to keep that restaurant going.

As a young attorney, I am privileged with the opportunity to represent our clients in the hospitality industry to help their businesses grow while also tackling California’s ever-changing employment laws. Stokes Wagner’s dedication to both solve and prevent issues for their clients goes unmatched. I was not always sure what I wanted to be when I was growing up, but I did know that I love to read, write, and advocate for others. I am ready to face whatever challenges may come next.

If I am not in the office, I am usually going to live concerts, trying the newest restaurant in my neighborhood, or playing and/or watching basketball.

City of Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles announced its Citywide Hotel Worker Minimum Wage increase, which applies to hotels in the City of LA with 150 or more rooms. Starting July 1, 2018, hotels within the City of LA with 150 or more rooms must pay its employees at least $16.10/hour (previously $15.66/hour), as noted in 2018.5.23-CA.Legal.Alert.Min.Wage.Rate.pdf.

City of Santa Monica

Santa Monica’s Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance also increases on July 1, 2018, which applies to all hotels in the City of Santa Monica. Starting July 1, 2018, all hotels in the City of Santa Monica must pay its employees at least $16.10/hour.

Please note one key difference between Santa Monica and the City of LA’s Hotel Minimum Wage Ordinances: Santa Monica’s Ordinance applies to all hotels, regardless of the number of rooms, whereas the City of LA’s Ordinance only applies to rooms with 150 or more rooms.

The newest trend in Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) lawsuits target businesses’ websites. Litigants have increasingly sued or threatened to sue under Title III, alleging that the website is not sufficiently accessible to the disabled (i.e., the website lacks assistive technology for individuals who are blind or hearing-impaired).

Litigants commonly point to the international “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA” as the standards that a website must meet to ensure that the website’s content and features are sufficiently accessible to all individuals. These guidelines have not yet been adopted by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which issues ADA’s formal regulations. Moreover, the Trump Administration recently moved the ADA website regulations onto the “inactive” list and it is unlikely that the DOJ will address these regulations in the near future. This means that WCAG are simply guidelines and not yet law.

The uncertainty and lack of regulations will not stop or discourage a plaintiff from sending your business a demand letter or even filing a lawsuit. It is also unclear how a court will rule. In 2017, a Florida District Court ruled against Winn Dixie, finding that their website violated Title III of the ADA by having an inaccessible website. The Court further held that the $250,000 cost to remediate Winn Dixie’s website was not an undue burden and ordered Winn Dixie to make its website conform with WCAG Guidelines 2.0 AA. That same year, a California federal court went in another direction and dismissed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza finding the failure of the DOJ to issue clear guidelines for website compliance violated defendant’s due process rights.

What does this mean for you? Businesses should reach out to their web designers to ensure that their website design ensures conformity with WCAG 2.0 AA criteria, even if such guidelines are not yet law. Businesses should also consider reviewing their agreements with web designers/developers and decide whether compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA criteria should be included in those agreements.

For more legal news, check out our quarterly update for April 2018!

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the employee right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection.” This includes not only the right to support a union, but also simply the right of employees to converse among themselves on issues affecting their employment. Consequently, any workplace rule explicitly infringing on this right, as well as any rule applied so as to cause such infringement, can be held unlawful. For example, if employees regularly get together before or after work, during which gripes and grievances (or unions) can be discussed, a workplace rule restricting these gatherings will generally be held unlawful.

Facially neutral rules which do not explicitly prohibit concerted activities, pose a special problem. Under previous administrations, the National Labor Relations Board struck down a wide range of such rules, if the rule in question could be “reasonably construed” by employees to discourage them from concerted activities. In a 2016 case Beaumont Hospital, the Board struck down a rule calling for “harmonious interactions and relationships,” while also prohibiting “negative or disparaging comments” aimed at other employees. Philip Miscimarra issued a dissent, stating there was no evidence “that the requirement of ‘harmonious’ relationships actually discouraged or interfered with NLRA-protected activity.” Moreover, “All employees in every workplace aspire to have ‘harmonious’ dealings.”

Under the current administration, the Board reversed Beaumont Hospital this past December. Following Miscimarra’s Boeing Company opinion, the Board will now give significantly more weight to the “business justifications” asserted for facially neutral rules.

What does this mean for you? While this will continue to be balanced against “invasions of employee rights,” and will involve fact-intensive, case-by-case decisions, employers can now look forward to more favorable rulings from the Board in this area of concern. Employers should keep their ears open for changes and new decisions, and consult Stokes Wagner with any concerns regarding infringement on the NLRA.

For more legal news, check out our quarterly newsletter for April 2018!

The Trump administration has been ordered to accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) benefits.

On April 24, 2018, a federal judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has held that the Trump Administration’s reasons for rescinding DACA were “arbitrary and capricious.” The court has given the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) ninety (90) days to better explain its decision to rescind the DACA program. If the DHS fails to sufficiently respond, the judge will reverse rescission of the DACA. The DHS will be required accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.

Federal judges in California and New York have also blocked the administration’s plans to rescind DACA and have ordered the DHS to accept applications for the renewal of DACA benefits. However, this recent Order went even further, ordering the administration to accept renewals and new applications for DACA benefits.

What does this mean for you?

Employers should ensure that they stay up-to-date with updates on DACA benefits, especially as they conduct I-9 Form Audits and review their employees’ work authorization documents.

Click here for a PDF version of this article.

Stokes Wagner recommends that you review and update your employee handbooks annually. Below is a list of policies and procedures for you to consider adding in your respective employee handbooks (each policy is only a recommendation, unless specified otherwise):

  1. Drug Testing / Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace Policy. Specify whether marijuana (recreational and/or medicinal) is prohibited in the workplace.

  2. Employee’s Day of Rest. Non-exempt and exempt employees are entitled to one day (or 24 hours) of rest per workweek unless the employee works consistent shifts of 6 hours or less.

  3. Discrimination & Harassment, Sexual Harassment Policies. A stand-alone policy with its own acknowledgment form is required for all employers. This policy should be revised to include an employee’s right to a harassment-free workplace based on an employee’s gender, LGBQT status, gender identity, or gender expression.

  4. Grooming Standards Policies. Employers may not require employees to dress in a manner that does not conform with the employee’s gender identity or expression.

  5. Paid Sick Leave (“PSL”). Review PSL policies to ensure compliance with local and/or state regulations.

  6. Protected Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Assault, Stalking (A separate flyer/notice to current employees and new employees upon hire is required)

  7. California Parental Leave Act (only applies to employers with 20-49 employees)

  8. **Addressing Violence and Weapons in the Workplace **
  9. Hiring Practices. An employer may not ask or consider an applicant’s gender or prior salary in hiring decisions. This is not necessary for the employee handbook but should be considered when auditing your new hire packet.

  10. Lactation in the Workplace (This policy is required for San Francisco employers)

Click here to download a PDF version of this article for printing.

To better protect hotel workers against sexual harassment and assault, Chicago passed the “Hands Off Pants On” Ordinance. The Ordinance requires Hotels in the City of Chicago to adopt (1) a “panic button” system and (2) anti-sexual harassment policy.

I. Panic Button System

By July 1, 2018, hotels must provide employees who work alone in guest rooms or restrooms with a “panic button” or other notification device, at no cost to the employees. The device must be a “portable emergency contact device” that allows employees to alert and summon hotel security or management for help in the event the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence.

In implementing these new “panic button” systems, Hotel employers should be prepared to provide training to employees regarding how to use the devices and respond to alerts.

II. Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy

By January 7, 2018, hotels must develop, maintain, and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy designed to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by hotel guests.

The Policy must:

  1. Encourage employees to immediately report instances of alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests;

  2. Describe the procedures that the employee and hotel will follow in response to such reports;

  3. Instruct employees to stop working and immediately leave the area of the perceived danger until hotel security or the police arrive to provide assistance;

  4. Offer temporary work assignments to the complaining employee for the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel;

  5. Provide employees with paid time off to file any appropriate police reports or testify as a witness in any legal proceedings arising from the incident;

  6. Inform employees that the Illinois Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; and

  7. Inform employees that they will not be retaliated against for reasonably using a panic button or notification device.

No Retaliation The new law makes it unlawful for hotels to retaliate against employees for reasonably using a panic button or notification device, or otherwise disclosing, reporting, or testifying about any violation of the Ordinance. Employees can file complaints alleging violations of the Ordinance with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

Violation Penalties

  • Hotels that commit two or more violations of this Ordinance in any 12-month period are subject to having their license suspended or revoked by the City.

  • Hotels may also incur between $250 and $500 in daily fines for each violation of the Ordinance.

For a PDF version of this Legal Update, click here. If you have questions, contact Stokes Wagner.

Governor Brown, Jr., recently signed five employment bills into law that affect all California employers. The following laws are effective starting January 1, 2018.

Small Businesses Must Now Provide Paid Parental Leave (SB 63) Small businesses (20-49 employees) must provide 12 weeks of unpaid parental baby bonding leave to employees. If an employee takes this leave, an employer must maintain and pay for health care coverage. Employers can be sued for failing to provide the leave, failing to return the employee to the same or comparable position after the leave, failing to maintain benefits while the employee is out on leave or taking adverse employment action against an employee who uses the leave.

Employers May No Longer Ask About Prior Salary on Job Applications (AB 168) Employers may not ask about, or consider, an applicant’s prior salary history in determining whether to hire the applicant or how much to pay the applicant. Employers may also be penalized for not providing a pay scale for the position upon demand.

Ban-the-Box Legislation Now Applies to All California Employers (AB 1008) Employers with 5 or more employees may not inquire or consider an applicant’s conviction history at any time before making a conditional offer of employment. California has officially banned the box on applications. An employer may not deny an applicant a position solely or in part because of conviction history until the employer performs an individualized assessment.

New Requirements for Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training (SB 396) Employers with 50 or more employees must include information on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in their sexual harassment prevention trainings.

*Notice Requirement – Employers must also display a workplace poster on transgender rights: * English // Spanish

Employers Must Provide Additional Protections to Immigrant Workers (AB 450) Employers may not provide federal immigration enforcement agents (“ICE” agent) access to a business records without a warrant. Employers must also notify its employees of Form I-9 inspections performed by federal immigration enforcement officials.

Download a PDF version of this update by clicking this link.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal-OSHA”) recently increased its penalties in response to Federal OSHA’s increased penalty hikes last year.

These new penalties apply to all citations issued on or after September 14, 2017.

Chart1b

• Regulatory Violations: permit, posting, record-keeping, and reporting violations.

• General Violations: violations that are not serious in nature, but relate to employees’ occupational safety and health.

• Serious Violations: violations that create a realistic possibility of death or serious physical harm to employees.

Chart2b

New fines will also have a cost-of-living component that will entail annual increases starting January 1, 2018.

If you have any questions on whether you are complying with California’s Health and Safety codes, please contact Stokes Wagner.

California Increases Employer Penalties for Cal-OSHA Violations

Employees who sue for unpaid wages can either file (1) a civil lawsuit or (2) a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (“DLSE”). An employee who files a wage claim with the DLSE may participate in a settlement conference with his/her employer. If the case does not settle, the DLSE will set the case to an administrative hearing, known as a “Berman Hearing”. Berman Hearings are mini, informal trials with a Labor Commissioner. Berman Hearings, compared to civil lawsuits, are designed to provide a speedy, informal, and affordable method for employees and employers to resolve wage claims.

In OTO, LLC v. Kho, the Court enforced an arbitration agreement that required an employee to arbitrate his wage claim rather pursue his claim through a Berman Hearing. The Court reasoned that, arbitration still provided an “accessible and affordable” forum for the employee as the employer would pay arbitration costs and the employee still had access to legal representation.

What does this mean for you? Employer arbitration agreements may now compel employees to arbitrate their wage claims rather than go through a DLSE hearing. Please contact Stokes Wagner if you have any questions regarding arbitration agreements.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!

Effective 3/13/2017, San Jose employers must offer additional hours of work to current part-time employees before agreeing to hire additional, outside workers. These current part-time employees must in “good faith and reasonable judgment” have the necessary skills and experience to perform the work. Employers are not required, however, to offer hours to part-time employees if doing so would require overtime pay.

What does this mean for you?
San Jose employers should create a policy that communicates its offer of additional hours to existing employees and documents the process in writing. Examples:

  • Post additional hours in a visible place where any employee can see;

  • Post additional hours in any languages spoken by at least 5% of the employees and include timeline for employees to respond to additional hours;

  • Email offers of additional hours;

  • Individually meet with employees and offer additional hours; and/or

  • Have part-time employees indicate their interest or lack of interest in additional hours.

More information can be found by clicking here. Please contact Stokes Wagner with any questions.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!

Local 25 Teamsters (Union) were recently acquitted of charges of conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion. In June 2014, the Teamsters allegedly slashed tires, used sexist and racist slurs, and threatened to “bash” celebrity host Padma Lakshmi’s “pretty little face in.”

Federal prosecutors accused the Union members of trying to shut down the filming if the show did not hire Teamsters to drive production vehicles. The prosecutors specifically had to prove that the Teamsters’ labor objectives, however egregious their actions, were illegitimate.

In U.S. v. Enmons, 10 U.S. 396 (1973), the Supreme Court held that union members on strike could not be prosecuted for extortion if they had legitimate labor objectives. The Court reasoned that “objectives” is based on the members’ intent and “illegitimate goals” can include unwanted, unneeded and superfluous work. Using this precedent, the Unions’ lawyers successfully defended the Union and proved that, although the men may have used rough language or engaged in behavior that might have seemed threatening, their actions were legal under federal law.

This acquittal exemplifies unions’ strong protections under federal criminal law despite union members’ violent and threatening behavior. Due to U.S. v. Enmons and the standard to prove “legitimate labor objectives,” federal jurors have little room in their ability to hold union members accountable for their actions.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!