Politics Magazine

Assemblyman Fox Hit with Lawsuit Over Unpaid Campaign Labor

Posted on the 26 February 2014 by Jim Winburn @civicbeebuzz

0113_reposts_politics_w100_res72 LOS ANGELES – California Assemblyman Steve Fox was hit with a collective action Friday accusing him of forcing a paralegal and other employees of his law firm to do unpaid campaign work, refusing to pay them overtime, and using his government staff to do private legal work.

Kristina M. Zahn, a former paralegal for Fox and later a secretary and field scheduler for his Palmdale, Calif., district office, claims “serial” violations of state wage and labor laws. Zahn alleges that when Fox decided to run for State Assembly, he required her to work 15 to 25 hours per week without pay handing out voter registration forms and making campaign signs.

Fox, a Democrat, allegedly dismissed Zahn’s protests, telling her that the campaign work went “hand in hand” with her paralegal responsibilities and that he could not afford a separate campaign office.

“Rather than hire campaign workers or solicit volunteers from the community, Fox was propelled into elected office thanks to the unpaid work performed by Ms. Zahn and other law office employees,” the complaint said.

Not only did Fox allegedly not pay Zahn for her campaign work, he did not pay any overtime to Zahn, who claims she worked an average of 50 hours per week. Fox paid Zahn a flat salary of about $24,000 per year and claimed she did not qualify as an exempt employee. But Zahn claims she largely performed clerical tasks, ran errands and rarely used independent judgment in her work.

Zahn also alleges Fox issued improper pay stubs that did not include hours worked, accrued vacation or sick time and listed a higher monthly salary than she actually received.

Fox also required Zahn to sit at her desk and answer phones while eating lunch and would often discuss cases with her while she was eating, preventing her from taking a full lunch break, the suit said.

“A break that involved anything other than using the restroom was a luxury,” the complaint said.

Once Fox won his Assembly seat in December 2012, he hired several of his law office employees to work in his district office, and Zahn was hired as a secretary and field scheduler paid by the state, according to the complaint. But Fox expected her to continue working at the law office, ordering her to box up files on weekends and later demanding she work on open cases during the week, the complaint said.

Zahn claims she kept his law office calendar, answered phone calls from clients, drafted trial briefs and drove to court to file documents while employed in Fox’s district office. Zahn was also allegedly told to cancel or reschedule Assembly meetings if they conflicted with Fox’s court dates, and told not to reveal the reasons for the cancellations.

“Ms. Zahn protested these directives, but Fox insisted that all his former law office employees continue to work his caseload,” the complaint said. After Zahn complained that she felt uncomfortable with the work, Fox told her “No one will know,” the complaint said.

“As a hard worker and a mother of two, Ms. Zahn deserved better than the treatment she received at the hands of defendants over a period of two and half years,” Zahn’s attorney, Benjamin Davidson of Law Offices of Benjamin Davidson PC. “It is her hope that, through this civil action, she will obtain some measure of justice for herself, and hopefully help others who find themselves in the same position as she was.”

Fox told Law360 that he had not yet read the complaint because he has not been served, but from what he has heard about the allegations, they are “defamatory” and untrue.

“There is no merit to her claims,” Fox said.

Zahn is represented by Benjamin Davidson of Law Offices of Benjamin Davidson PC.

Counsel information for Fox was not immediately available.

The case is Kristina M. Zahn v. Steve Gregory Fox et al., case number BC537105, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.

Full story by Michael Lipkin at law360.com.

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