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<strong>Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law Win Judgment in Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation</strong>

Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law Win Judgment in Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation

See coverage of this case in the Sacramento Bee and ABC10 Sacramento

Minami Tamaki LLP is pleased to announce a judgment for its client Rouble Claire in a civil lawsuit against Sutter County and two sheriff’s deputies.

Mr. Claire, a first-generation Sikh American whose family has called Sutter, California, home since 1973, alleged that the Sutter County sheriff’s office failed to adequately investigate a pair of racist hate crimes he experienced in 2021.

On May 11, 2021, a woman confronted Mr. Claire in the parking lot of a local store. The woman shouted at Mr. Claire, including calling him a “f—— Hindu.”  The woman then sped towards Mr. Claire in her car, only swerving away at the last moment.  Mr. Claire called 911 and waited for the Sheriff’s Office to report to the scene, but no one arrived at the scene, so Mr. Claire returned to his home.

Later that same day, an associate of the woman who threatened Mr. Claire in the parking lot went to his house and wrote “Sand N—–” in chalk on the street and on his driveway, and called him “N—–.”  Mr. Claire again called law enforcement to report this incident, but the Sheriff’s Office failed to make any arrests, failed to further investigate, and failed to even prepare a report of the two incidents that day. 

One deputy who responded to the chalking incident poured water on the chalking in an attempt to wash away the evidence of the racial slurs before taking photos of the scene.

Over the next several months, Mr. Claire continued to contact the Sheriff’s Office about these disturbing incidents, but the Sheriff’s Office refused to take action.  Mr. Claire sought the assistance of the Sikh Coalition, which continued to follow up with the Sheriff’s Office.  The Sheriff’s Office finally prepared a police report that recommended criminal charges against the woman who threatened Ms. Claire in the parking lot.  However, the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office (the “District Attorney”) declined to press charges.  The District Attorney’s office cited the amount of time that had elapsed between the incidents and the preparation of the report recommending charges as a reason not to prosecute the matter, despite the fact that this delay was due to the Sheriff’s Office’s months-long delay in investigating this matter and recommending charges. 

On May 9, 2022, Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California against Sutter County, two officers of the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, and the two women who Mr. Claire harassed him.

Mr. Claire and his legal team secured an offer of judgment from Sutter County and the Sheriff’s deputies as to Mr. Claire’s claims that they violated his rights, which the court entered in his favor.

“This judgment reflects the unavoidable fact that Sutter County’s institutions failed our client,” Szeto-Wong and Tamura-Sato said in a joint statement Monday. “No one should have to experience hateful words or conduct – nor should they go months without an adequate investigation or have their legitimate concerns belittled and ignored when the safety of them and their family is at risk.”

The case is Claire v. County of Sutter, et al., 22-cv-00780-WBS-AC, Eastern District of California.

See coverage of this case in the Sacramento Bee and ABC10 Sacramento.

Minami Tamaki Representing Sleep Technologists in Wage and Hour Claims

Minami Tamaki Representing Sleep Technologists in Wage and Hour Claims

Minami Tamaki LLP’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group is representing sleep technologists in their legal claims regarding the failure of their employers to provide legally mandated meal periods and rest periods.  

Sleep technologists, also called polysomnographic technologists, assist sleep specialists in documenting and analyzing sleep study patterns. A physician may refer a patient for a sleep study, which is an overnight visit to a sleep center to diagnose sleep disorders.  

Sleep technologists provide overnight care to these patients, often working shifts of 12 hours or longer. Sleep technologists monitor the breathing, movement, oxygen levels, and brain activity of patients throughout the night to determine what may be disrupting their sleep patterns.  

An individual sleep technologist is often required to monitor two to three patients at the same time. Minami Tamaki is representing sleep technologists who allege that they are regularly forced to monitor these patients throughout the night without being provided meal period or rest periods as required by law.  

California law states that an employer may not require a non-exempt employee to work for a period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent. A second meal period of not less than 30 minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent as long as the first meal period was not waived. Non-exempt employees are also entitled to a ten-minute rest break for every four hours worked, or major fraction thereof.

Minami Tamaki has extensive experience in litigation regarding the fundamental workplace right to receive meal periods and rest periods.  For more information on litigation regarding wage and hour claims on behalf of sleep technologists, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato and Lisa Mak online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal 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 LLP Attorneys Present at NAPABA Convention

Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Present at NAPABA Convention

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Donald K. Tamaki and Associate Lisa P. Mak spoke at the national convention of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) held in Las Vegas from November 3-6, 2022.

Don was on the panel “Long-Overdue Reparations for African Americans: Why AAPIs Should Care” with Loyola Marymount Prof. Cheryl Grills, and filmmaker Jon Osaki, moderated by Bonnie Youn, Managing Director, The RMN Agency. The panel explored the role of Asian Americans and the fight for Black reparations.

Lisa was on the panel “Gathering Facts, Building a Case and Appearing in Court in the New Normal” with U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang, Mintz Group Chief Legal Officer Patricia Astorga, and King and Spalding LLP Counsel Jenny Pelaez. The panel explored approaches, benefits, and challenges of conducting investigations and litigation in the virtual or hybrid setting.

In related news, Lisa started a two-year term as Alternate Regional Governor for Northern California on the NAPABA Board. She is also serving as President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, the largest local Asian American bar association in the country and one of the largest minority bar associations.

Minami Tamaki LLP was the inaugural recipient of NAPABA’s APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year.

What Employers and Employees Should Know as Tech Industry Braces for Layoffs

What Employers and Employees Should Know as Tech Industry Braces for Layoffs

The tech industry has recently been hit by a series of major layoffs that will impact thousands of employees. Meta, Twitter, Lyft, and Stripe, among others, have all announced major job cuts in the face of economic challenges.

The decision to conduct layoffs is always difficult, especially when there is an urgency to implement layoffs quickly. Common issues that arise in layoffs include:

Potential employment discrimination claims. Employers must develop objective criteria for layoff decisions. Employers that fail to base layoff decisions on nondiscriminatory reasons, such as quality of work, may be subject to employment discrimination claims.   

Potential retaliation claims. Employees who have complained of suspected violations of the law may have grounds to pursue a retaliation claim if selected for a layoff.  

Disparate impact on protected classes. Employers should review selection criteria to determine if they will disproportionately affect older employees, employees with disabilities, or any other group protected by employment laws.  

Advance notice requirements. In some cases, employers are required to provide advance notice of layoffs under the federal WARN Act or the California WARN Act.  

While most employers are not legally required to offer severance packages to laid-off employees, many employers will decide to do so voluntarily. Issues for employers and employees to consider in severance agreements include:

Release of claims. Employers may condition severance payment, or increased payment, on the employee signing a waiver of potential legal claims against the employer. Employees should consider the impact of giving up the right to pursue such claims before agreeing to accept severance payments.

Confidentiality and non-disparagement. In exchange for a severance payment, employers often seek to force employees to agree not to discuss the terms of the severance package or to make negative statements about the employer. California has recently placed limitations on some of these restrictive clauses, which employers should be careful to comply with. 

Non-compete and non-solicitation clauses. Non-compete agreements that prevent former employees from working for a company’s competitors are generally not enforceable in California.    

Protections for older workers. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act requires that employers provide workers who are at least 40 years old with at least 21 days to consider a severance offer.  

Employees are not required to simply accept an employer’s offer of a severance package in exchange for waiving their legal rights. Severance agreements can sometimes be negotiated, and employees can seek more favorable terms.  

For more information on reductions in force and severance agreements, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato and Lisa Mak online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The content of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal 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 LLP Attorneys Named to 2023 ‘The Best Lawyers in America’ List

Seven Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Named to 2023 ‘The Best Lawyers in America’ List

The Best Lawyers in America recognized seven Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys in its 2023 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 sixth, Suhi’s fourth, and La Verne’s second listing on The Best Lawyers in America rankings.

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

Lisa P. Mak made the Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch list for the second time in the Litigation – Labor and Employment category. Lisa’s ranking represents the firm’s second 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 eight 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 2022 Super Lawyers

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2022 Super Lawyers

We’re proud to announce that nine Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars for 2022. Both Senior Counsels have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 19 consecutive years.

PERSONAL INJURY
Dale Minami (Top 10, 2013-2018; Top 100, 2007-2022; Super Lawyers, 19 years)
B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers, 13 years)
Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars)

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY LAW
Olivia Serene Lee (Super Lawyers, 2 years)
Suhi Koizumi (Super Lawyers, 4 years)
Dian Sohn (Rising Stars)

CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE RIGHTS
Sean Tamura-Sato (Super Lawyers. 2 years)
Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars)

CORPORATE/NONPROFIT
Donald K. Tamaki (Super Lawyers, 19 years)

Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in California are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive Super Lawyer honors and no more than 2.5 percent are selected to receive the Rising Star recognition.

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

PHOTO – Top Row (L-R): Sean Tamura-Sato*, B. Mark Fong*, Olivia Serene Lee*, Suhi Koizumi*; Middle Row (L-R): Lisa P. Mak**, Dale Minami*Top 100, Donald K.Tamaki*, La Verne A. Ramsay; Bottom Row: (L-R): Angela C. Mapa, Dian Sohn**, Seema Bhatt**, David Palmer. Not pictured: Ember Oparowski.*Chosen to 2022 Super Lawyers **Chosen to 2022 Rising Stars

California Supreme Court Holds Meal and Rest Break Premiums May Trigger Wage Statement and Waiting Time Penalties

California Supreme Court Holds Meal and Rest Break Premiums May Trigger Wage Statement and Waiting Time Penalties

On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., No. S258966 (Cal. May. 23, 2022) holding that meal and rest period premium payments constitute wages under California law. The Court found that employers may be held liable for the failure to properly report and timely pay out such wages.  

Naranjo is a reminder of the importance of strict compliance with meal break and rest break requirements.  Employers should review their written policies and ensure that managers are adequately trained on meal break and rest break rules.  California law generally requires employers to provide non-exempt employees with an unpaid 30-minute meal break prior to the end of the fifth hour of work. Employers also are required to provide employees with a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked (or major fraction thereof). The penalty for failing to provide a legally mandated meal break or rest break entitles the employee to payment of one hour of wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay (the “premium” payment).

Naranjo establishes that meal break and rest break premium pay constitute wages. Failing to pay meal break or rest break premiums during employment violates an employer’s prompt payment responsibilities under California Labor Code Section 203. Failing to include premium pay for missed breaks on an employee’s itemized wage statement violates the employer’s duty to supply an accurate itemized statement reflecting an employee’s gross wages earned, net wages earned, and credited hours worked.

Moreover, failure to pay meal break or rest break premiums permits employees to seek statutory waiting time penalties pursuant to Labor Code Section 223 equal to one day of pay for each day an employee’s final wages are withheld or paid late, up to a maximum of 30 days’ wages. 

For more information, contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato and Lisa Mak online or call us at 415-788-9000.

Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law File Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation

Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law File Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation

Rouble Claire, a Sikh American in Sutter, California, was victimized by threats and racial slurs in May 2021 and called 911 for help. Representatives of the local sheriff’s office took no action immediately following the incident, except for a deputy that tried to wash away the evidence. The sheriff’s office ignored Mr. Claire’s repeated requests for help for several months afterward.

Mr. Claire asked the Sikh Coalition for help and their efforts led to the sheriff’s office eventually recommending charges against the two civilian defendants, one of whom is still unidentified, but the district attorney declined to press charges, and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

On May 9, 2022, Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California against officers of the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff’s Office”), Sutter County, and two civilian individuals.

“No one should have to face this kind of hate and the threat of violence,” said Minami Tamaki Partner Sean Tamura-Sato. “It is truly disheartening to see those entrusted with protecting victims like Mr. Claire abdicate their responsibility.”

 “This civil suit is a first step to remedying that failure, as well as taking legal action against the women who threatened and harassed him, who have faced no consequences whatsoever due to Sutter County’s practice of inadequately investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities,” said Szeto-Wong Law Principal Attorney Gina Szeto-Wong.

Claire, a first-generation Sikh American whose family has called Sutter, California, home since 1973, was threatened with racial slurs and vehicular violence and then, in a second separate but related incident hours later, subjected to hateful graffiti at his home.

On May 11, 2021, a woman confronted Mr. Claire in the parking lot of a local store. The woman shouted at Mr. Claire, including calling him a “f—— Hindu.”  The woman then sped towards Mr. Claire in her car, only swerving away at the last moment.  Mr. Claire called 911 and waited for the Sheriff’s Office to report to the scene, but no one arrived at the scene, so Mr. Claire returned to his home.

Later that same day, an associate of the woman who threatened Mr. Claire in the parking lot went to his house and wrote “Sand N—–” in chalk on the street and on his driveway, and called him “N—–.”  Mr. Claire again called law enforcement to report this incident, but the Sheriff’s Office failed to make any arrests, failed to further investigate, and failed to even prepare a report of the two incidents that day. 

One deputy who responded to the chalking incident poured water on the chalking in an attempt to wash away the evidence of the racial slurs before taking photos of the scene.

Over the next several months, Mr. Claire continued to contact the Sheriff’s Office about these disturbing incidents, but the Sheriff’s Office refused to take action.  Mr. Claire sought the assistance of the Sikh Coalition, which continued to follow up with the Sheriff’s Office.  The Sheriff’s Office finally prepared a police report that recommended criminal charges against the woman who threatened Ms. Claire in the parking lot. 

However, the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office (the “District Attorney”) declined to press charges.  The District Attorney’s office cited the amount of time that had elapsed between the incidents and the preparation of the report recommending charges as a reason not to prosecute the matter, despite the fact that this delay was due to the Sheriff’s Office’s months-long delay in investigating this matter and recommending charges. 

Mr. Claire’s lawsuit includes a Municipal Liability claim against the County of Sutter for Unconstitutional Policy, Practice or Custom (42 U.S.C. 1983), and claims against Sheriff’s Office Deputies for Violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution regarding the failure to administer police services in a non-discriminatory manner (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. 1985).  The suit also alleges violations of state law, including the Ralph Civil Rights Act, the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, and claims of Assault, Trespass, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against the civilian defendants. 

The case is Claire v. County of Sutter, et al., 22-cv-00780-WBS-AC, Eastern District of California.

Lisa P. Mak Leads AABA Gala in Honoring Community and AAPI Legal Luminaries

Lisa P. Mak Leads AABA Gala in Honoring Community and AAPI Legal Luminaries

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), one of the largest Asian American bar associations in the nation, held its 46th Annual Gala on March 30, 2022, at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero. Minami Tamaki LLP was proud to be a Title Sponsor for the gala this year. Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Lisa P. Mak is serving this year as President of AABA.

Some of the Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys and staff at the AABA gala (from left): Katie Chan; Lisa P. Mak; Jack W. Lee (retired); Donald K. Tamaki; Gail Lang; Mark Fong; and Dale Minami. Photos by Bob Hsiang and Lowell Downey.

The AABA gala theme for this year was “Speak Up, Rise Up.” In her President’s Address at the gala, Lisa said the theme “was inspired by how our community and our allies spoke up and fought back against the rising anti-Asian hate and violence in the Bay Area and across the country in the last two years.” Lisa shared her family’s experience with racism after they immigrated to this country, emphasized the importance of speaking up in unity, and encouraged the AABA community to think about how they can make a difference.

The program celebrated several distinguished honorees, including Michael G.W. Lee as the recipient of this year’s Minami Impact Award, named after Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami to acknowledge attorneys who have had a positive impact on the Asian American community and the legal profession.

Dale Minami presents Michael G.W. Lee with the Minami Impact Award, honoring attorneys who have had a positive impact on the Asian American community and the legal profession. Photos by Bob Hsiang and Lowell Downey.

Judge Lucy H. Koh from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit received the AABA Trailblazer Award. The late Justice Harry W. Low was recognized, along with an announcement of the new Justice Harry W. Low Fellowship that will be administered by the AABA Law Foundation later this year.

The gala concluded with a fireside chat between Lisa and Michelle MiJung Kim, an entrepreneur, activist, and author of “The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change.”  

AABA President Lisa P. Mak, a Minami Tamaki LLP attorney, in a fireside chat with Michelle MiJung Kim. Photos by Bob Hsiang and Lowell Downey.

Over 500 guests attended the Gala this year, including over 30 judges, and San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. Betty Yu from KPIX 5 CBS was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. The gala opened with a musical performance from the Oakland Youth Chorus, the longest-running youth chorus in the East Bay.

Minami Tamaki LLP Managing Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (right) with Doris Cheng (middle) and AABA Treasurer John B. Lough, Jr. Sean is a former AABA board member. Photos by Bob Hsiang and Lowell Downey.

Through her term as AABA President this year, Lisa will aspire to honor and continue AABA’s history of speaking up for our community while elevating our members in the legal profession and keeping our voice at the table.

Watch Lisa’s president’s address below and view the other presentations of the gala awards on YouTube.