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The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to your questions about the Jones Act, DBA, California workers’ compensation, or employment law. If you have more questions, contact us.

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  • How can I prove that my employer owes me unpaid wages?

    Knowledge & Evidence

    In order to get compensation for a wage and hour violation, you need two things: you must know how state and federal wage and hour laws apply to you, and you must be able to prove how much you have worked and how much you have been paid.


    How to Gather Evidence for a Wage and Hour Claim

    It is vital that you have concrete proof that your employer owes you wages that you have not received. Usually, this can be done in the following ways:

    Keep detailed records of the hours you work: 

    You shouldn’t rely on just your pay stub to tell you when and where you worked. Always keep your own schedule in a separate calendar that can be used to double-check your hours against your employer’s records.

    Gather any additional evidence:

    Last-minute schedule changes and shift-swapping can cause confusion in payroll, but that doesn’t excuse an employer from paying your wages. If you traded shifts or worked at an alternate location, contact the other employee or manager who can confirm the time you worked.

    Check your classification:

    Some employees are ineligible for overtime based on the income they earn or the tasks they perform. If your employer has classified you as exempt when you are not, you could be owed back pay dating all the way back to your hire date.

    Check additional pay categories:

    Employers are required to pay workers for any unused vacation or paid time off after a worker leaves employment, so always make sure your leave balances have been accounted for.

    Take note of dates:

    Not only are employees entitled to full and accurate pay, they have a right to receive these payments within a reasonable amount of time. Check your calendar closely to see if you could be owed interest on your unpaid wages as well as an additional waiting time penalty.

    After you have collected this evidence, you should speak with an attorney to determine if you have a valid wage and hour claim. Under California law, you can collect unpaid overtime for up to three years prior to the date you file your claim, so it is vital that you act quickly. Please feel free to use our website to learn how to get proper compensation under California pay laws.

    Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.

  • Can a California employer fire a worker who is out on a leave of absence?


    Unfortunately, yes. Workplaces often have their own policies regarding maternity leave, medical leave, and absences caused by family and sick leave, which should be examined carefully for any loopholes that can be used to terminate employees unfairly. There are a few laws in place that can protect workers from losing their jobs while out on leave; however, there are time limits and exceptions for each of these provisions.



    Understanding the Protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

    Employees may believe that their jobs are protected under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While this law provides employees with twelve weeks of unpaid leave each year to cope with unforeseen illness or family problems, it does not apply to all workplaces. Employees can only enjoy the protections of the FMLA if they:

    • Work at a company that has 50 or more employees
    • Have worked for the company for at least one year
    • Have completed at least 1,250 hours of work for the employer in the required year of employment
    • Do not exceed twelve weeks of absences

    The FMLA states that employees cannot be fired for taking their guaranteed weeks of medical leave, and they cannot be retaliated against for doing so. When employees return from FMLA leave, their employers are required to employ them in their former positions or in a job that is substantially similar. If the employee is on leave due to a medical disability, an employer cannot terminate the employee due to the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Not only is it illegal to discriminate against an employee with a disability, an employer must attempt to make reasonable accommodations that will allow the employee to do his or her job.

    Employers can terminate an employee for reasons unrelated to leave and can do so whether the employee is on leave or not. For example, if an employee goes over the allotted twelve weeks, even by one day, the employer could terminate him or her for excessive absences. The important thing to remember is that while employers may terminate an employee while on protected leave, the employer must provide a legitimate reason for termination that is unrelated to the leave. If your employer has unfairly denied you a position or denied your benefits, read through a copy of our free guide, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.


    Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.

  • Can I file a Jones Act injury claim if I was assaulted onboard?


    A Jones Act seaman is guaranteed maintenance and cure payments for any injury sustained on the job, including assault. It doesn’t matter if you were attacked by another crew member, a passenger, or a trespasser on the vessel—you have a right to pursue a Jones Act case for injuries caused by assault, including:

    • Fights between crew members
    • An attack involving a gun, knife, or other weapons
    • Receiving a blow or gunshot during a theft or burglary
    • Injuries caused by intoxicated crew members or passengers
    • Attacks by crew members who are mentally unstable or have criminal backgrounds
    • Sexual assaults

    Since the consequences of physical and sexual assault can be devastating, it is important that seamen know their rights when filing for compensation. These attacks can cause physical injuries that result in scarring and disfigurement, and emotional injuries that take a toll on the victim’s mental health. If the victim cannot return to work due to the stresses of injury, he or she may be able to collect permanent disability benefits from his or her employer.

    What to Do if Your Assault Was Caused by Jones Act Negligence

    It is also important to consider why the assault occurred, and if the employer or shipowner could be held liable for the attack. While an employer cannot be held responsible for every crew member’s actions, the employer should take precautions to prevent personal attacks from happening. This could mean performing adequate background checks on crew members, performing drug and alcohol testing, screening new hires for mental health issues, and investigating any history of prior violence or aggressive behavior. An employer can also be held liable for lax security that made it easier to carry out the attack, such as poor lighting in corridors or broken locks on entrances to sleeping quarters.

    If your employer knowingly hired a crew member with a history of violence, you may be able to collect compensation through a Jones Act negligence claim. Please feel free to use our website to learn more about negligence claims, as well as collecting permanent disability for the effects of your injury.


    Need Help Today?

    Give us a call. (619) 234-2833


    Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

  • Can I get California unemployment benefits if I was fired?

    Yes, if there was no misconduct.

    While many people believe that being fired excludes them from California unemployment benefits, that is not always the case. Under California law, any employees who have left employment through no fault of their own and are actively looking for work remain eligible to receive unemployment benefits. As long as the employee has not engaged in any misconduct, he or she may collect benefits after losing a job due to:


    Employees who lose their jobs due to company cuts, reductions, mergers, or layoffs are not responsible for the loss of their positions, so they are eligible for unemployment.


    Employees who are terminated for misconduct cannot collect benefits. To qualify as misconduct, an employer must be able to show that you substantially breached one of your regular job duties and that your misconduct was intentional and informed. However, if you were fired because you made an honest mistake, were unable to adequately perform your job, or you weren't a good fit for the position, you should be able to collect unemployment as long as you are looking for work.

    Resignation or quitting.

    In most cases, people who quit their jobs are not eligible for unemployment unless they can show good cause for leaving employment. For example, employees who were facing illegal or unethical treatment by their employers (such as harassment, threats, discrimination, or a dangerous work environment) can collect unemployment if they attempted to resolve the situation before leaving their jobs. In addition, employees who need to relocate for family reasons or have pressing health or personal matters may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

    How California Workers Can Get the Unemployment Benefits They Are Owed

    Unfortunately, some employers will misrepresent the terms of an employee’s separation to prevent the employee from collecting unemployment. If you were denied unemployment on the grounds of misconduct or for some other inapplicable reason, you are within your rights to appeal the decision and collect your benefits. To learn more about taking action after unfair termination, browse through our articles or read through our free guide, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard-Earned Wages Back.


    Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

  • Am I allowed to collect Social Security disability and Jones Act benefits at the same time?


    Under the conditions of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), injured seamen are not prohibited from collecting multiple types of injury payments. However, your total benefit payments can be reduced if you collect many different types of coverage.


    Injured Jones Act seamen should be wary of the following rules regarding collecting many types of injury and disability payments:

    Receiving State Workers’ Compensation Benefits:

    Eligible employees can collect both state workers' compensation payments and Jones Act payments, although any amount you receive from the state will be deducted from the amount your employer owes you. In these cases, injured sailors are allowed to collect the higher of the weekly compensation rates offered by the two systems. In addition, some states do not allow concurrent collection of workers’ compensation and LHWCA benefits, so the amount you receive can vary depending on where your case is heard.

    Social Security Reductions:

    Seamen who qualify for Social Security Administration (SSA) and Jones Act benefits can collect them at the same time for the same injury. However, the amount you receive from the SSA will likely be reduced as a result of collecting multiple payments, and you are required to notify the SSA if you receive multiple types of workers’ compensation.

    Income Tax:

    The IRS requires injured workers to report all of the funds received through various workers' compensation programs on their yearly tax returns. Although you are required to declare these payments, the IRS exempts your injury or survivors' benefits from taxation if they were paid through a federal or state workers' compensation program.


    A Jones Act Case May Be Your Best Option

    If you are receiving multiple types of injury benefits in an attempt to make ends meet, you should investigate whether your injury could have been caused by unsafe working conditions. The Jones Act allows seamen to sue ship owners for negligence, including employee mistakes and poor vessel maintenance. To find out if you could be owed more than your maintenance and cure payments, please use our website to learn more about negligence claims.


  • Are the payments I get from the DBA special fund lifelong benefits?


    Yes. As Long as There is No Change in Disability Status

    Many people are concerned about the length of time they can receive disability benefits through the Second Injury Fund (the Special Fund). Generally speaking, if you collect permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) through this fund, your DBA special fund benefits can last the rest of your life as long as there is no change in your disability status.

    However, most employees will go through periods of injury improvement or worsening disability, both of which can affect a number of their benefits. Your employer or insurer may petition for a modification of your award based on a change in your condition, causing an increase, decrease, or termination of your payments. A few common situations where an employee’s benefits may be modified include:

    Temporary Disability:

    Employees collecting PPD benefits may require treatments, rest, or surgery that will leave them temporarily unable to work. During this time, the employee should be considered totally disabled, and his employer or insurance company should modify his benefits to temporarily increase his payments. Temporary disability is paid by the employer, not through the Special Fund.

    Worsening disability:

    Unfortunately, some employees who receive PPD benefits will suffer a deterioration of their conditions, making them permanently unable to earn a living. If your injury gets worse to the point where you can no longer work, you must apply for permanent total disability benefits through the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP). You must have proper evidence of the change in your condition, such as past medical records, recent medical evaluations, and your doctor’s recommendations and work restrictions. You should also send this information to your employer or insurer to let them know there will be a modification in the amount and type of benefits you receive.

    What If My Employer Unfairly Modifies My DBA Benefits?

    You, your employer, and your insurer may all submit requests to modify a number of your benefits. If one party does not agree to the proposed changes or termination of benefits, you may request an informal conference to decide the matter or get advice from a longshore attorney on how to proceed. To find out more about getting maximum payment for a DBA injury, read through a free copy of our guide, Win Your Defense Base Act Case.


    Need help right now?

    Call us today at (619) 234-2833


  • Is my Defense Base Act injury claim confidential?


    Yes, an Employer who Shares Protected Information with Anyone Beyond Certain Pertaining Parties Could be Subject to Legal Action.

    Many contractors who are injured overseas are concerned about what will happen to their careers if they file an injury claim. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides specific protections to allow workers to collect Defense Base Act (DBA) benefits while respecting a worker’s privacy.

    3 Questions About DBA Case Confidentiality Answered

    Who can see my DBA case file?

    Your employer, the employer’s insurance carrier, and administrators at the DOL may access your case file only for matters relating to your claim. In addition, you can receive one copy of your case file for your own records free of charge. Under the Privacy Act of 1974, the DOL cannot release any claim information to additional parties without written authorization from the claimant.

    With whom can my employer share information about my injury?

    Your employer has to share some information about your accident with the company insurance agent in order to process your DBA payments. Your employer may also be required to release certain details to the DOL and has the option of discussing the case with an attorney. An employer who shares protected information with anyone beyond these parties could be subject to legal action.

    What if my employer retaliates against me for filing a claim?

    Under the provisions of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), it is illegal for an employer to terminate, demote, or discriminate against any employee for filing an injury compensation claim. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who is giving testimony in an LWHCA hearing. Employers can only terminate or refuse to hire an employee who has a history of willfully filing false injury or benefit claims.


    The Terms of Your DBA Settlement May Also Be Confidential

    In some cases, workers can pursue legal action for unpaid DBA benefits and keep the details of the settlement confidential. To find out more about getting maximum payment for a DBA injury, read through a free copy of our guide, Win Your Defense Base Act Case.



    Need Help Today?

    Give us a call at (619) 234-2833


    Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

  • What are the rules for “reporting time pay” in California?

    Any Time an Employee is Required to Show Up to Work Should Be Considered Paid Time

    Under California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Orders, employers must pay employees for unworked (but regularly scheduled) time, also known as reporting time. Simply put, any time an employee is required to show up to work should be considered paid time, even if he is not given a sufficient amount of work to cover all hours.

    Under the rules of reporting-time pay in California, if an employee is required to report to work, but performs less than half of his or her usual workload, the employee must be paid for at least half of the scheduled day’s work at his or her normal pay rate. In addition, employees cannot be paid for less than two hours on a day of reporting, regardless of the time worked.

    However, employers are not required to compensate employees for reporting time under the following exceptions:

    • If work operations are interrupted by threats to employees or property.
    • If civil authorities recommend that work be suspended.
    • If public utility services are interrupted, shutting off electricity, water, gas, or sewer service in the workplace.
    • When work is interrupted due to an act of God, such an earthquake or other natural disasters.
    • If the employee has reported but is not fit to work.
    • If the employee reported to work later than his scheduled time and was fired or sent home as a disciplinary action.
    • If the employee is compensated on paid standby status.
    • If the employee’s regularly scheduled shift is less than two hours.

    Wage Theft Is More Common Than Most Employees Realize

    If you don’t know your rights, it is easy for an employer to take advantage of you. In our free guide, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard-Earned Wages Back, we explain how employers can nickel and dime employees out of their paychecks, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of lost compensation. Download your copy today to get the facts on California wage violations.

  • Is “donning and doffing” required to be paid for by a California employer?


    In order to perform their work effectively, many employees are required to wear special clothing, such as hats, boots, aprons, and other equipment. Depending on the job, it can take over 10 minutes to put on and take off required clothing before and after each shift or breaks. In some cases, employers may insist that this “donning and doffing” be done on the employee’s own time.

    However, California employers can be compelled to pay workers for any pre- or post-shift activities that take place in service of the employer, even if the employee has not begun his principal work activities. Any tasks that are considered to be essential to the employee’s principal work activity should be compensable as part of an employee’s weekly pay, including:


    Police officers, doctors, mechanics, and other professionals who are required to wear uniforms should be paid to do so on-premises, especially if their work activities require a change of clothes mid-shift.

    Safety Gear:

    Some workers need to wear safety gear for the full duration of their shifts, such as food service workers or biochemical engineers. In many cases, the protective equipment needed takes several minutes to put on and take off, and doing so at home could compromise both the safety and sterility of the uniform. Any changing of clothes that cannot be done at home without posing a threat to the worker or work environment must be paid for by your employer.

    Shift Overlap:

    Some employees are required to report earlier than their scheduled start times in order to orient themselves about the day’s events. Nurses may be required to talk to the previous shift nurse to document medications taken by each patient, while waiters often arrive early to memorize daily specials and taste dishes to describe them to customers. Employees are often told that this time is required, but is not paid—leading to hundreds or thousands of lost wages over the course of an employee’s career.

    Preliminary Duties:

    There are occasional instances where an employer will require a worker to be on the premises early in order to unlock doors, sign for a delivery, or meet a visitor. If you arrive earlier than your usual shift to “open up,” make coffee, answer e-mails, take calls, schedule appointments, or anything else for your employer, your paid time begins when you begin work—regardless of when others arrive.

    Donning and Doffing Can Lead to Overtime Violations

    A full-time employee who has been docked pay for pre- and post-shift work could be entitled to a significant amount of overtime pay. Learn more about California wage violations in our free guide, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.

  • What’s the difference between “nature” and “extent” of a Defense Base Act disability?

    The big picture

    If you're reading this, then my guess is that you have a Defense Base Act case. And it's my guess that you trying to figure out more about the Defense Base Act and your case. I know that I often will go on the Internet and try to get answers to questions I have on stuff that I am trying to research.  I figure you do also.

    I strongly suggest that you check out my book,  Win Your Defense Base Act Case. There really is nothing like it out there.  I suggest that you go to amazon.com and check out all of the 5 Star reviews of my book.  There are dozens of 5 Star reviews of the book on amazon.com.

    What you are going to see is that the book is packed with insider information that will help you win your case. The big picture here is that now that you are injured you have a court case. You can depend on the DBA insurance company attacking you, your character and credibility. It's how they roll. They will do all of that in order to keep from paying you the money benefits that you are entitled to under the law.

    One of the key and important parts of this book is helping you to navigate the minefield that the DBA insurance company is going to lay out to destroy your case. What you probably don't know is that the DBA insurance company has tricks and traps that folks just like fall for every day.  You might be thinking, "I have a legitimate case, I'm telling the truth, I'm good."

    Based on having represented overseas civilian contractors for years and having one of the two largest DBA practices in the the world that represents folks like you - - I would strongly suggest that you reconsider.  I strongly suggest that you read my book before you talk to the insurance adjuster, sign any forms, or even hire an attorney.

    "Nature" Deals With the Duration of Time; "Extent" Deals With the Degree of Injury

    There are four different categories of disabilities that are covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA): permanent total disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and temporary partial disability. Each of these classifications carries two important pieces of information: how long you are expected to be disabled, and the extent of your injury.

    Difference Between the “Nature of Disability” and “Extent of Disability”

    The nature of your disability covers the duration of time that you are expected to be disabled (the temporary or permanent classification). The extent of your disability, however, is slightly more complicated. The extent of your disability concerns the degree of the injury (total or partial), but also the degree to which you are able to successfully function. Generally speaking, the extent of your disability is the difference between what you earned as a DBA worker (read: your average weekly wage) and your post-injury earnings.

    Your compensation will also depend whether you have suffered a scheduled or unscheduled injury under Defense Base Act law. Scheduled injuries may involve the leg, arm, hand, foot, or hearing loss. If you have injured one of these body parts, your disability award is based upon a schedule.

    If you have injured another body part, your injury is considered unscheduled. Common unscheduled injuries include the back, neck, spine, shoulder, head, or internal organs. Psychiatric trauma is also considered to be an unscheduled injury. Unscheduled injuries are based upon a wage loss concept rather than a set schedule for compensation and will depend on whether or not you are able to return to your usual and customary DBA employment.


    Need Help Today?

    Get a FREE copy of Win Your Defense Base Act Case, here. It will go through step by step what you need to do to win your DBA case and get you benefits sooner. 

    Or you can call us right now at 619-234-2833.

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