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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.

Fireside Chat with AABA Women Presidents Shared Insights and Inspiration

Fireside Chat with AABA Women Presidents Shared Insights and Inspiration

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area hosted a special fireside chat with former women presidents of the organization on March 23 at Morgan Lewis’s San Francisco office. The program featured Judge Margaret Fujioka, Judge Joni Hiramoto, Joan Haratani, Edith Ho, Emi Gusukuma, and Miriam Kim sharing their insights for AAPI women in leadership and the legal profession. AABA President Lisa P. Mak, a Minami Tamaki LLP attorney, said that the event was part of advancing one of her goals to support and uplift the women in the AAPI community.

Lisa Mak to Keynote UC Davis APALSA Banquet

Lisa Mak to Keynote UC Davis APALSA Banquet

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Lisa P. Mak will keynote the annual banquet of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) at UC Davis School of Law on April 14, 2022. Lisa is President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area.

UC Davis APALSA is an organization of law students interested in Asian American legal issues and in the growth of the Asian American legal community. The group sponsors social activities, speaker series, and community service events. Its goal is to foster relationships with professors and practicing attorneys to educate the community about Asian American issues.

Through its annual banquet, UC Davis APALSA expresses its gratitude to the Asian Pacific American legal community for paving the path for future lawyers. To promote this spirit of service, the group aims to award summer grants to students pursuing public interest careers. They also commit funds above the cost of the banquet to future projects that benefit the unique needs of Asian Pacific Americans.
The banquet on April 14 starts at 7:00 p.m. in Alpha Gamma Rho Hall at The Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, 530 Alumni Lane, Davis, CA 95616. Tickets are $30 to $60 and can be purchased at https://store.law.ucdavis.edu/apalsa.

California Reinstates COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

California Reinstates COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

On February 9, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 114 that provides additional COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL 2022) under new California Labor Code Section 248.6. This new law will look familiar to employers that were required to comply with California’s 2021 COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law. 

However, various provisions of the SPSL 2022 law are different from the 2021 law, and thus employers will not be able to simply restart the policies and practices they had in place previously. 

This article focuses on provisions of the 2022 law that apply to employers generally, rather than provisions specifically applicable to firefighters or providers of in-home supportive and/or waiver personal care services.  

The SPSL 2022 law goes into effect on February 19, 2022.  It covers employers with more than 25 employees.  SPSL 2022 leave is retroactive to January 1, 2022, and is currently set to expire September 30, 2022. 

An employee who is unable to work or telework for reasons listed in the law is entitled to paid sick leave under the SPSL 2022 law.  Full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid time off, split into two buckets of 40 hours. 

Employees may take paid time off from Bucket A if they make an oral or written request for any of the following reasons:  

  • The employee is subject to or is caring for a family member who is subject to a government or local health department quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19.
  • The employee has been advised or is caring for a family member who has been advised by a health care provider to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • The employee is attending an appointment for themselves or a family member to receive a vaccine or a vaccine booster for protection against COVID-19.
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms, or caring for a family member experiencing symptoms, related to a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine booster that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or otherwise unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19 on the premises.

Bucket B provides up to 40 hours of paid time off if they make an oral or written request for leave because the employee tests positive for COVID-19 or the employee is caring for a family member who tests positive for COVID-19. 

Employers can limit paid time off related to a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot to three days or 24 hours. This includes time spent attending an appointment and/or for COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot-related symptoms (for each vaccine/booster).  If a health care provider verifies that an individual continues to experience symptoms related to the vaccine/booster, more than three days or 24 hours of time off may be available. 

Employers are not required to pay more than $511 per day or $5,110 in the aggregate in paid sick leave. For exempt employees, the SPSL 2022 leave pay rate is calculated in the same manner wages are calculated for other forms of paid leave time.  There are two pay-rate calculation options available for non-exempt employees.  SPSL 2022 for non-exempt employees is calculated either:

  • In the same manner as the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses the paid leave; or
  • By dividing the employee’s total wages (not including overtime premium pay) by the employee’s total non-overtime hours worked in the full pay periods occurring within the prior 90 days of employment.  For non-exempt employees paid by piece rate, commission or other method that uses all hours to determine regular rate of pay, total wages (not including overtime premium pay) shall be divided by all hours, to determine the correct rate for paid leave.

Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to exhaust other paid leave benefits before taking SPSL 2022, such as vacation, PTO, or California’s general paid sick leave law. The law does provide employers with the possibility of offsetting SPSL 2022 with certain supplemental paid leave provided to employees on or after January 1, 2022.  If an employer pays an employee another benefit for leave taken on or after January 1 that is payable for the law’s covered reasons and compensates employees in an amount equal to or greater than the amount of pay the law requires, an employer may count those hours toward the number of hours of SPSL 2022 it must provide an employee.

There is also an itemized wage statement requirement under the new law.  Employers are required to put the amount of used paid sick leave on employees’ paystubs.

Minami Tamaki will continue to monitor and provide insights with respect to this new law and other COVID-19 related topics.  This article is meant to provide an overview of California Supplemental Paid Leave requirements related to COVID-19, and is not a comprehensive list of all changes in the law. 

For more information on COVID-19 regulations and developments, you may contact Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members 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 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.

California Law Expanding Penalties for Wage Theft Goes Into Effect on January 1, 2022

California Law Expanding Penalties for Wage Theft Goes Into Effect on January 1, 2022

A new law making the intentional theft of wages punishable as grand theft, and thus a felony, will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 1003 (“AB 1003”) into law on September 27, 2021. AB 1003 creates California Penal Code Section 487(m), which makes the “intentional” theft of wages in an amount greater than $950 from any one employee, or $2,350 in the aggregate from two or more employees, by any employer in a 12-month period punishable as grand theft.

AB 1003 defines “theft of wages” as “the intentional deprivation of wages, as defined in Section 200 of the Labor Code, gratuities, as defined in Section 350 of the Labor Code, benefits, or other compensation, by unlawful means, with the knowledge that the wages, gratuities, benefits, or other compensation is due to the employee under the law.”

Under AB 1003, independent contractors are included under the definition of “employee” and hiring entities of independent contractors are included under the definition of “employer.”

Changing intentional wage theft to a felony may increase the number of charges brought against employers by government authorities. AB 1003 also does not prohibit employees or the California Labor Commissioner from commencing a civil action to seek remedies provided for under the California Labor Code. The new legislation also allows base wages, gratuities, and other compensation that are the subject of a prosecution to be recovered as restitution.

Employers should ensure compliance with wage and hour laws, including, but not limited to, making sure all wages are paid in a timely fashion, ensuring policies are in the place to identify payroll errors, and tracking the payout of all gratuities.

For more information on, 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 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.

Lisa Mak Begins Term as President of the Asian American Bar Association in January 2022

Lisa Mak Begins Term as President of the Asian American Bar Association in January 2022

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Lisa P. Mak begins her term in January 2022 as President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (“AABA”), one of the largest Asian American bar associations in the nation and one of the largest minority bar associations in California.  

Lisa will be the first attorney from Minami Tamaki LLP to serve as President of AABA. She served as Vice President and President-elect this year, after serving as Treasurer in 2020 and as Secretary in 2019. 

The AABA 46th Annual Gala is scheduled for March 30, 2022, at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero. Lisa chose “Speak Up, Rise Up” as the gala theme when reflecting on the anti-API hate incidents in the past few years and how our community and allies spoke up, fought back, and elevated the crisis into a mainstream issue. At the gala and throughout her term, Lisa will aspire to honor AABA’s history of speaking up for our community and to continue building that momentum while elevating our members in the legal profession and keeping our voice at the table. 

Lisa continues Minami Tamaki’s tradition of leadership in bar associations. Partner Sean Tamura-Sato and Associate Claire Choo are former AABA board members. Senior Counsel Dale Minami is a co-founder of AABA and of the Asian Pacific Bar of California. Partner Suhi Koizumi is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California. Associate Seema Bhatt serves on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. Other firm attorneys have served in numerous positions with various bar associations and legal organizations. 

A deep commitment to our communities and diversity issues guides Lisa’s service. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and for the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She is actively involved in the California Employment Lawyers Association (“CELA”) and serves on the Board of CELA’s foundation. Lisa is also a past board member of the Bar Association of San Francisco. 

Lisa is an Associate in Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group. Her practice includes employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, contract claims, and labor code violations. She is experienced in litigation, from pre-litigation negotiations to trials and appeals. She also advises employees on employment contracts and severance agreements. She writes frequently about social justice and workplace equality issues, and her work has been published in Plaintiff Magazine and on the CELA Voice blog. 

Lisa has served as trial counsel in multiple trials involving a wide variety of employment disputes in state and federal court. In 2016, she was co-lead counsel on a five-week jury trial which resulted in a $3.5 million total verdict for four female officers at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The verdict was listed in the LexisNexis “Top 10 Employment Verdicts” for 2016 and was recognized by Leaders in the Law in its “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” 2017 publication. 

She was selected by Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch for its 2022 list and as a Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2015-2021, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. In 2017, Lisa was honored with the Legal Advocate Award from the Center for Workers’ Rights and with a civil rights award from the Equal Justice Society. 

Lisa graduated from UC San Diego summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa and received her law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law. 

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ Ranks Minami Tamaki LLP for 8th Year

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ Ranks Minami Tamaki LLP for 8th Year

Minami Tamaki LLP’s Immigration and Nationality Law and Personal Injury practices are again ranked on the new 2022 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list released today.

The firm’s immigration practice received a National Tier 2 ranking, the third year of being nationally ranked. The practice ranked Metro Tier 1 for the seventh consecutive year.

U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” recognized the firm’s Personal Injury practice as Metro Tier 1 for the eighth consecutive year.

The 2022 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list recognized Minami Tamaki LLP for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must first have a lawyer recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of private practicing lawyers in the United States. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

Earlier this year, 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. These selections qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services, routinely assisting employers and employees in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. The firm’s immigration attorneys also help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships. The practice group includes Partner Suhi Koizumi, Partner Olivia Serene Lee, Senior Associate La Verne A. Ramsay, Senior Associate Angela C. Mapa, and Associates Dian Sohn and David Palmer.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. A team approach brings all the resources of the practice group to cases. This has allowed the firm to recover multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts for their clients. Senior Counsel Dale Minami founded the firm’s personal injury practice, which is led by Partner B. Mark Fong and includes Associate Seema Bhatt.

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.