Personal assistants in the entertainment and related industries have unique careers that present complex challenges. However, many do not realize that they are afforded many of the same legal protections as other workers. If you have questions about your rights under federal and state law, a Los Angeles employment lawyer for personal assistants can provide you with the answers you need.
Employment Contracts for Personal Assistants
In other industries, contracts are often taken for granted. Employers often use form contracts that are signed by employees as a formality. They largely contain “boilerplate” provisions that are the same in every contract and are essentially a way for employers to protect themselves.
While employment contracts are always important, they are perhaps even more important for workers such as executive assistants, given the uniqueness of your role. Your contract is the agreement between you and the person you work for as to critical aspects of your employment. Your contract should include the following:
- Your compensation structure: how and when you will be paid, how leave will be accrued, and whether any benefits will be provided such as health insurance or retirement
- The period of time that the contract will cover and your schedule
- A detailed description of your job duties and responsibilities
- Provisions governing termination of the contract
Because of the nature of your work, your employment contract may also include provisions concerning the following:
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Social media – what you can and cannot post on your own social media feeds as well as what your obligations are for managing your employer’s social media presence
- Reimbursement of employment-related expenses
- Expectations concerning how you will conduct yourself in public when acting on behalf of your employer
To be enforceable, the contract must be signed by you and the party you are working for. Because you are likely working for a private individual, it is quite possible that they may not have a contract for you to sign. Alternatively, they may want you to sign a form contract that fails to include important provisions or does not comply with California law. That said, if you are currently employed as a personal assistant and do not have a contract, California recognizes verbal contracts. However, it is never too late to get a written contract in place.
How an Experienced Lawyer Can Help with Your Contract
An employment lawyer who has experience with employment contracts can help in several important ways:
- They can draft a contract if one does not already exists or propose important revisions or additions.
- They can explain the terms of your contract to you, explain how it will apply to your position, and identify any potential issues.
- They can negotiate more favorable terms.
- They can answer any questions you may have about your contract after it has been signed and provide guidance as to your rights and obligations.
- They can help you with any contract disputes that might arise, including negotiating a resolution or pursuing litigation.
In short, a Los Angeles employment lawyer can serve as an invaluable resource to you at any stage of your employment. They can review your contract before you sign it so that you can feel confident that it fairly protects your rights. They can enforce your rights under the contract if they are violated, and they can ensure that you get the compensation you deserve if you are wrongfully terminated.
Employment Classification: Employee or Independent Contractor?
One of the biggest controversies in California employment law is the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors. One of the reasons for this is that employees are entitled to far greater protection under both federal and state law than independent contractors. For example, independent contractors are not covered by various wage laws and generally cannot pursue wrongful termination claims. As a result, employers will often attempt to classify workers as independent contractors in order to avoid various legal obligations that they would owe to employees.
If you are currently under contract, it might expressly state that you are an independent contractor. Fortunately, your classification cannot be solely determined by your contract – there are specific requirements under California law that determine whether or not a worker is an employee or independent contractor. To properly classify a personal assistant as an independent contractor, your employer must meet each of three criteria under the “ABC” test:
- The personal assistant is free from the control and direction of the employer in connection with the performance of their work;
- The personal assistant performs work that is outside the usual course of the employer’s business; and
- The Personal assistant is regularly engaged in the same type of work that they perform for their employer.
In most cases, it is highly unlikely that a personal representative meets all three of the criteria. Most individuals likely do not meet the first criteria, as they are under the specific control and direction of their employers at all times. Furthermore, it is likely that they are exclusive to that employer and as a result, are not working for other employers in the same line of work at the same time.
It is also quite possible for these individuals to be covered by AB5 (Assembly Bill 5, effective January 1, 2020). Under AB5, those who work for their employers in their homes would be considered “domestic workers” and, therefore employees, regardless of what their contracts may state.
The bottom line is this: you may be entitled to important rights as an employee, even if your employer considers you an independent contractor. If you have questions, an attorney can explain how this might apply to your situation.
Wage and Hour Disputes: Exempt or Non-Exempt?
Another common issue is whether they are considered “exempt” or “non-exempt” employees. Non-exempt employees are those who are required to be paid according to California’s wage and hour laws that dictate things such as minimum wage, overtime, and meal and rest breaks. Exempt employees are workers who are exempt from these laws. In other words, employers do not have to pay exempt employees overtime or provide rest or meal breaks.
While almost all salaried employees are exempt, the fact that an employee receives a salary does not necessarily mean that they are exempt. There are many different factors that determine whether or not an employee is exempt from wage and hour laws.
Generally speaking, administrative employees are exempt employees. And while you are, therefore probably salaried, you should be aware that California law requires that you be paid a salary that is at least twice as much as what you would be paid under California’s minimum wage law. If you are paid on an hourly basis, wage and hour disputes can be very complicated. If you have questions about how you are compensated, the best thing to do is contact a knowledgeable attorney.
Harassment and Discrimination
Personal assistants face a very real threat of being harassed or discriminated against. You are probably already aware that it is against the law for employers to engage in discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. It is also against the law for employers to engage in harassment, including sexual harassment.
The challenge is in determining whether or not the protections afforded by law apply to them. Unfortunately, California anti-discrimination laws only apply to employers with five or more employees (federal anti-discrimination laws apply only to employers with 15 or more employees). For those who are employed directly by the person they work for, this means that they may not be protected against discrimination.
However, it is important to keep in mind that other people they employ – such as housekeepers, landscapers, and other domestic workers – may count toward the five employees required by California’s anti-discrimination laws. Interestingly, California’s anti-harassment laws apply to all employers, regardless of size.
Because of the nature of their work, personal assistants are probably more likely to experience harassment rather than discrimination. Harassment can look different in different situations:
- Harassment based on your race, religion, age, or other protected characteristics. This is often referred to as “hostile work environment” – a pervasive, consistent pattern of behavior involving derogatory or offensive comments, gestures, or other actions that make it difficult for someone to perform their job. This can also include things like unwelcome touching or groping of a sexual nature.
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment. This is where your employment is conditioned upon providing sexual favors. For example, a personal assistant may be told that they need to sleep with their employer in order to receive a raise.
Fortunately, you do not have to figure this out on your own. If you believe you have been harassed or discriminated against, an experienced lawyer can review your case and determine whether you have a claim.
Talk to a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer for Personal Assistants Today
Let us help you navigate whatever challenges you may be facing – contact Attorneys for Employees today to schedule a consultation.