Blog : CERG

Minami Tamaki Investigating Huntington Beach Oil Spill

Minami Tamaki Investigating Huntington Beach Oil Spill

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation (“Amplify Energy”), its subsidiaries, and other corporations for their role in the massive October 2, 2021, oil spill in Huntington Beach. 

A pipeline failure from an offshore facility operated by Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy, resulted in over 126,000 gallons of oil being spilled out into the Pacific Ocean. According to reports, the spill has spanned as far as 50 miles from the original spill site.  

The spill can and is affecting many individuals and businesses including:

  • Local businesses in the tourism industry and other industries impacted by the oil spill;
  • Commercial fishers and other individuals working in the fishing industry;
  • Individuals whose health and safety have been put at risk; and
  • Property owners in the area. 

Moreover, the long-term damage to the ecosystem and wildlife is still unknown and may cause harm to the area for years to come.   

News reports have revealed that Beta Offshore has been cited numerous times for safety and environmental violations, dating back decades.  

If you have been impacted by the Huntington Beach Oil Spill or you simply wish to receive more information about our investigation, you may contact Consumer and Employee Rights Group (CERG) attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo online or at (415) 788-9000.  

*This article’s contents are for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal or medical advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

How Employers Can Institute Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies Under California Employment Law

How Employers Can Institute Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies Under California Employment Law

As many California employers re-opened their offices in recent months, and as case counts increased with the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the issue of whether to institute mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements has risen to the forefront for employers and employees. Minami Tamaki has counseled non-profit organizations and other organizations on obligations and legal developments regarding COVID-19 vaccination policies.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) has issued guidance to assist employees and employers on vaccine policies and compliance with the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Further details are available here. The “DFEH Employment Information on COVID-19” includes the following guidance:

  1. Mandatory Vaccination Policy. A California employer may institute a mandatory vaccination policy as long as the employer does not discriminate against or harass employees or job applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic, provides reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, and does not retaliate against anyone for engaging in protected activity.
  2. Exemption based on Disability. The FEHA requires employers instituting a mandatory vaccination policy to reasonably accommodate any employee with a disability. If an employee requests exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on the basis of disability, the employer must engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to attempt to identify a reasonable accommodation.

    Reasonable accommodations that an employer and employee might consider include allowing the employee to work from home, putting reasonable procedures and safeguards in place to enable the employee to work without endangering the employee or others, job restructuring, and job reassignment.

    If providing an accommodation to an employee imposes an “undue hardship,” the employer is not required to provide an accommodation to the employee. An undue hardship is defined as an action requiring “significant difficulty or expense.” Also, if the employee is unable to perform the essential duties of the job even with reasonable accommodations, or the employee cannot work without endangering the health or safety of the employee or co-workers, the employer may exclude the employee from the workplace.
  1. Exemption for Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs. The FEHA requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ known sincerely held religious beliefs and practices. Therefore, if an employer imposes a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, and an employee objects to vaccination on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief or practice, the employer must reasonably accommodate the employee. Employers should engage in an interactive process with the employee similar to the process required in the disability context (see above).
  2. Documentation of Vaccination. Employers may ask employees or applicants for documentation of vaccination. However, because such documentation could include sensitive medical or disability-related information, employers should instruct these employees or applicants to omit any medical information from such documentation. Employers must maintain any records of employee or applicant vaccination as confidential medical records.

California employers are advised to follow local, state, and federal guidance on vaccinations in the workplace in order to ensure compliance with all legal obligations. For more information on COVID-19 regulation and developments, you may contact Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, or Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information. Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Seven Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2022 ‘Best Lawyers’ List

Seven Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2022 ‘Best Lawyers’ List

The Best Lawyers in America recognized seven Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys in its 2022 edition. Partners B. Mark Fong, Olivia Serene Lee, Suhi Koizumi, Senior Counsel Dale Minami, and Senior Associate La Verne A. Ramsay made the Best Lawyers list. Associates Lisa P. Mak and Seema Bhatt were selected for Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch.

Lawyers on the Best Lawyers list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing. The Ones To Watch awards are recognitions given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers for outstanding professional excellence in private practice in the United States. Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.

Olivia, Suhi, and La Verne were selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It is Olivia’s fifth, Suhi’s third, and La Verne’s first listing on The Best Lawyers in America rankings.

Dale and Mark were selected for the Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs list for the ninth year in a row. Seema made the Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch list for the second straight year. In addition to being recognized again in the Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs category, Seema was also listed for the first time in the Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs category.

Lisa P. Mak made the Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch list for the first time in the Litigation – Labor and Employment category. Lisa’s ranking represents the firm’s first listing in the employment law category.

These individual awards qualify Minami Tamaki LLP for consideration by the U.S. News/Best Lawyers Best Law Firms list, which is announced in November. The firm has been recognized seven times on the Best Law Firms rankings, which are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. Best Lawyers has published its list for more than three decades, striving to earn the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as a reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 75 countries.

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2021 Super Lawyers

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2021 Super Lawyers

We’re proud to announce that nine Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars for 2021. Both Senior Counsels have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 18 consecutive years.

PERSONAL INJURY 
Dale Minami (Top 10, 2013-2018; Top 100, 2007-2021; Super Lawyers, 18 years) 
B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers, 12 years) 
Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars) 

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY LAW 
Olivia Serene Lee (Super Lawyers) 
Suhi Koizumi (Super Lawyers, 3 years)
Dian Sohn (Rising Stars) 

CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE RIGHTS 
Sean Tamura-Sato (Super Lawyers) 
Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars) 

CORPORATE/NONPROFIT 
Donald K. Tamaki (Super Lawyers, 18 years) 

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is independent, and attorneys cannot purchase placements on the list.

PHOTO – TOP ROW (L-R): Donald K. Tamaki; Dale Minami Top 100; B. Mark Fong; Olivia Serene Lee; MIDDLE ROW (L-R): Lisa P. Mak; Seema Bhatt; Suhi Koizumi; Sean Tamura-Sato; La Verne A. Ramsay; BOTTOM ROW (L-R): Dian Sohn**; Angela C. Mapa; Claire Y. Choo; Judy Hinh Wong – *Chosen to 2021 Super Lawyers **Chosen to 2021 Rising Stars

NFL to Halt Race-Based Assessments in Concussion Settlement

NFL to Halt Race-Based Assessments in Concussion Settlement

Minami Tamaki LLP is representing former National Football League (“NFL”) players regarding the class action settlement in the matter In Re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, MDL No. 2323.  The settlement resolved allegations that the NFL was responsible for brain injuries and long-term neurological problems suffered by former professional football players. Since approval of the settlement, players have filed claims through the settlement program, which has a duration of 65 years.  

The NFL announced on June 2, 2021, that it would stop the application of “race-norming” in evaluating claims of dementia within the settlement.  The practice made it harder for Black players to show a decline in brain function and thus to qualify for a settlement award.

The change comes in response to heavy criticism of the use of race-based norms in the settlement, including a discrimination lawsuit filed by two Black former players.  Former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport alleged that the NFL has been paying claims under the settlement using a formula that “explicitly and deliberately discriminates on the basis of race.” 

In March of this year, the court ordered a mediator to review the use of separate evaluation standards.  The lawsuit also prompted members of Congress to request data from the NFL to determine whether Black players were discriminated against, as well as a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures calling for an end to race-norming. 

The NFL stated that it was committed to eliminating the use of the race-based norms and finding race-neutral alternatives. The new norms will be applied both prospectively and retrospectively for claims that would have qualified for a monetary award but for the application of the race-based norms.  As the race-neutral norms have yet to be identified, the timing for re-evaluating denied claims is uncertain.

Individuals seeking information on the settlement in the In Re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation matter can contact Minami Tamaki attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.

Photo credit: Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Toxic Heavy Metals Found in Plum Organics Baby Food

Minami Tamaki Investigating Toxic Heavy Metals Found in Plum Organics Baby Food

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating Emeryville, California-based Plum Organics after a congressional subcommittee report released on February 4, 2021, found dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, including inorganic arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, in baby food products from Plum Organics and other companies.

The products identified in the report include rice puffs, purees, snack bars, and other foods for babies and toddlers. The Plum Organics products named in the report include Mighty Morning Bars and Little Teethers. Minami Tamaki is also investigating claims that the Bay Area-based company’s other products, including its Super Puffs, pouches, Mighty 4 Blends, Mighty Snack Bars and Teensy Snacks, also contain dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals.

Numerous studies have found that toxic heavy metals endanger neurological development and long-term brain function.  Babies and young children are at the greatest risk of harm from toxic heavy metal exposure.  The report stated that exposure to heavy metals can lead to brain damage in babies and young children, which can result in reduced intelligence or disruption in behavior.  The report went on to note that the Food and Drug Administration has declared that inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury can “lead to illness, impairment, and in high doses, death.”

The report revealed high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food sold by other companies, such as Gerber, Hain Celestial, Beech-Nut, and Nurture. While these companies complied with the congressional request for information regarding their products, other companies (including Plum Organics) refused to cooperate with the subcommittee’s request. 

If you have purchased Plum Organics products and wish to receive more information about our investigation, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group (CERG) members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

New COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law

New COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law

On March 19, 2021, a new COVID-19 paid sick leave law was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, which allows California employees to receive up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave, in addition to regular paid sick leave, if they need to take time off for:

  • Self-isolation or self-quarantine;
  • Dealing with COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine;
  • Dealing with side effects, if any, of the COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Caring for family in self-isolation or self-quarantine; and
  • Care for a child whose place of care or school is not available due to COVID-19.

The new law—Senate Bill (SB) 95—is only applicable to those workers who work for businesses that employ 26 or more people and certain public entities. It does not cover rideshare drivers.

Under the new law, a full-time employee (or an employee who has worked on average 40 or more hours per week in the two weeks before leave is taken) is entitled to 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. Part-time employees with a normal weekly schedule is entitled to the total number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work for the employer over two weeks. Part-time employees with variable hours are entitled to 14 times the average number of hours worked day for the last six months before taking leave. The employer cannot require a covered employee to use any other paid or unpaid leave, paid time off, or vacation time before, or in lieu of, the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

In 2020, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Families First Act”) which provided leave protections and wage replacement benefits for workers during COVID-19.  Around the same time, California also enacted a COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave which allowed employees of companies with 500 or more employees to take approximately two weeks of paid sick leave due to COVID-19. Those supplemental paid leave programs ended on December 31, 2020, which left some employees with only three days of paid sick leave and eight weeks of paid family leave per year. 

This new COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law covers that gap, as it is retroactive to January 1, 2021. So, if any employee has taken any unpaid leave for any of the qualifying reasons, that employee is entitled to reimbursement.  The employee should make an oral or written request to the employer and the employer must issue the reimbursement payment on or before the payday for the next pay period. The new supplemental paid sick leave law will expire on September 30, 2021.

Other Questions?

If you have questions regarding legal issues arising from the ongoing pandemic, you may contact the Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.  Employers and employees should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.  Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.  Any links contained in this article are only for the convenience of the reader, and do not constitute recommendations or endorsements of the contents of the third-party sites.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Seresto Flea and Tick Collars Linked to Death and Illness of Pets

Minami Tamaki Investigating Seresto Flea and Tick Collars Linked to Death and Illness of Pets

Minami Tamaki is investigating reports of numerous injuries and pet fatalities linked to the Seresto flea and tick collar.  According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) documents, Seresto collars have allegedly been linked to approximately 1,700 pet fatalities, 75,000 pet injury reports, and 1,000 reports of injuries to people.

The Seresto collar, developed by Bayer and now sold by Elanco, is a top-selling pet item used as a flea and tick repellant and for dogs and cats.  The collar works by releasing small amounts of pesticide onto the animal.  Bayers says that the pesticide is strong enough to kill fleas, tickets, and other pests, but that it is safe for dogs and cats. 

Consumers allege that the reports of death and injury linked to Serresto collars are disproportionately high when compared to similar products on the market.  Individuals have reported injuries to their pets ranging from rashes to neurological damage to, in extreme cases, death.  Consumers also report that humans can also suffer harm from close contact with pets wearing Seresto collars.  These injuries and side effects to humans include seizures, nasal and throat irritation, heart arrhythmia, and fatigue.  

EPA documents obtained through public record requests allegedly show that it has been aware of the dangers of Seresto collars, but that it has failed to take action to protect the public.

If you have purchased a Seresto flea and tick collar and would like more information on this investigation, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group (CERG) members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Accellion Data Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Accellion Data Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating reports of a data breach tied to Accellion, Inc. (“Accellion”), a Palo Alto, California-based file transfer and service company.  

Accellion’s flagship product, File Transfer Appliance (“FTA”), is a platform used for “secure” third-party transfers of computer files.  In January 2021, Accellion reported that unauthorized third parties had infiltrated the FTA platform used by numerous companies and organizations.  Accellion described FTA as “a 20-year-old product nearing end-of-life.” 

Supermarket chain Kroger announced on February 19, 2021, that an unauthorized person gained access to Kroger files by exploiting a vulnerability in Accellion’s file transfer service.  Accellion confirmed unauthorized access to the data and personal information of Kroger Health and Kroger Money Services customers.  Kroger announced that it has discontinued the use of Accellion’s services, reported the incident to federal law enforcement, and initiated its own forensic investigation to review the potential scope and impact of the incident.    

Washington State officials have announced that the data of more than one million residents was exposed through the Accellion data breach within the Office of the Washington State Auditor.  Washington State residents have alleged that the data breach revealed their personal information, including their name, social security number and/or driver’s license or state identification number, bank account number and bank routing number, and place of employment. 

Accellion previously announced a security breach at the University of Colorado.  The exposed data may include the personally identifiable information of students, prospective students, and employees.  Health and clinical data and research data may also have been exposed through the data breach.

Other entities reportedly impacted by the Accellion data breach include the law firm Jones Day, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Accellion contends that it was the target of a sophisticated cyberattack.  However, critics allege that it failed to properly secure its platform and continued to market and sell the FTA product knowing it was outdated and vulnerable. 

Companies and organizations who have suffered these data breaches are in the process of notifying affected individuals.  If you were impacted by an Accellion data breach and wish to discuss this matter, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.  We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.